On paper, Shaquille O’Neal’s journeyman route that ends at Cleveland recently can be threatening to a lot of teams from the East.
Orlando must have smelled something fishy in Cleveland, Ohio weeks after the Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA title conquest, so that the Magic engineered their own stunning deal that brought in former high-flyer Vince Carter to Florida.
But let me dissect for the moment Shaq’s new partnership with the so-called NBA “king” Lebron James.
After leading the Cavs to a franchise-best 66-16 win-loss record, a pair of series sweeps in the first two rounds against Detroit and Atlanta, Lebron and Co.’s supposed trip to the NBA Finals was cut short when “Superman” Dwight Howard and the Magic knocked them out of the “dream land”, turning what could have been a phenomenal season into a nightmarish end.
So, enter Shaq.
The 37-year-old center is a surefire attraction for the Cavs, whose front office is determined to flush in the toilet their forgettable 2008-2009 NBA campaign as soon as the “Diesel” officially joins the team’s practice.
And the Cavs’ immediate aim? Grab the NBA trophy away from Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
And that would surely be an interesting Finals plot should Shaq be able to help Lebron and the Cavs square up with Kobe and the Lakers 11 and a half months from now in the Last Dance.
However, before Cleveland even entertain thoughts of facing LA in a Finals match up, they should first set their sight on eliminating Orlando, Boston, Atlanta and even Chicago from the expected tight Eastern Conference power struggle.
Question is, “Can Shaq and his 37-year-old legs keep in step with the Cavs’ running game for 82 regular season games, and probably another four rounds in the Playoffs and the Finals?”
And can Cleveland provide enough backup big men to give breather for Shaq and preserve him in time for the Playoffs where Orlando and Boston are surely waiting?
Lebron, Delonte West and Mo Williams could surely sustain the Cavs’ running game, but watching Shaq run back for a nine-month grind would definitely take its toll on O’Neals’ body and legs.
I think if the Cavs want to last the distance in the 2009-2010 season, Cleveland needs to add up more bench support like a good back up center, a reliable power forward and some quality minutes from some players in the free agency market.
Shaq is no spring chicken. He sure can contribute as evident in his 17 points and eight rebounds average in 74 games with the Phoenix Suns last season.
But Father Time is Shaq’s biggest enemy from now on. And if Cleveland’s front office management will simply be contented with the Shaq-Lebron partnership, the probability of another frustrating season is not far for the Cavs.
Should that happen, Ben Wallace and Sahsa Pavlovic would have the last laugh.
That would be more painful than the 2009 season Playoffs meltdown.