Suns trade “The Big Disappointment”


Shaquille O’Neal seems to be dubbed with a new nickname every time he opens his mouth.

The Big Aristotle. Shaq Diesel. The Big Cactus.

As he moves on to become The Big Sidekick next to LeBron James after the Suns dealt him to Cleveland on the eve of the draft pending league approval, don’t forget to add The Big Disappointment from his none too brief tenure with the Suns.

Shaquille O’Neal brought the Magic to their first-ever NBA Finals, he brought the Lakers a three-peat (and it would have been more if he didn’t also buy his own ticket out of town), and he brought the Miami Heat a championship as well.

All Shaquille O’Neal brought the Phoenix Suns was one measly playoff victory after the team had fallen behind 3-0 in a series that was basically over.

When the Suns dealt the glue of their contending teams for him a year and a half ago and Shaq held up his one finger yet to feel the warmth of a championship ring, the Suns were expecting a bit more than that.

Now he’s gone, off in the night as the rest of the league waits for the draft to descend, leaving with as little surprise as there was shock when he was originally traded for.

In his place the Suns are receiving nothing but salary relief: a soon-to-be-released Sasha Pavlovic, a possibly soon-to-retire Ben Wallace, a 2010 second-round pick and $500,000 in cold hard cash.

The best way to describe Shaq’s tenure in Phoenix is that Shaq was that rectangular-shaped Lego piece that you keep trying to jam into a square hole. Sometimes you can cram a piece of it in there and pretend like it works, such as what happened during the short-lived “Seven Seconds or Shaq” Era, but at the end of the day the piece just doesn’t fit.

You almost wanted Alvin Gentry to submit to a lie detector test when he kept talking about how great it was to be able to throw the ball down low to the Most Dominant Ever.

The thing is Gentry’s Suns are built to run guys like Shaq off the floor. Sure, it was nice to get a few easy buckets once in a while, but the Suns cannot compete with Nash and Shaq guarding the opposition’s pick-and-roll when his offensive game doesn’t mesh either.

On one hand, this is a case of addition by subtraction in that now Amare (assuming he’s not dealt either) is free to operate on the low block by himself, and Nash won’t have to worry about mouths to feed, he can just play Phoenix Suns basketball and whoever’s open shoots the rock, just like old times.

As for what the Suns tangibly get out of this?

A pile of money large enough for Scrooge McDuck to dive into.

First off, Pavlovic will be waived before he even can get to Phoenix. Only $1.5 million of his $4.95 mil deal is guaranteed, a savings of $3.45 mil times two because of luxury savings for a final savings of $6.9 million.

Those savings balloon to $10 million when factoring in the differences between the salaries the Suns are taking back and Shaq as well as luxury savings, not to mention the half mil Cleveland is throwing in.

The second-round pick obviously doesn’t really matter with the Cavs expected to be among the NBA’s elite next season.

The big question mark here is whether or not Ben Wallace retires and what kind of buyout he would take.

Ben Wallace in his prime would be a godsend for the Suns, running the floor in transition and protecting the rim.

The Ben Wallace the Suns are getting is an athletic shell of the Ben Wallace we remember from his Detroit days, so if Wallace spends next year in the Phoenix area then Suns fans better hope that it’s in Sun City.

After the playoffs ended, Big Ben hinted at possibly be willing to walk away from his entire salary, and if nothing else he should be game to give up a huge chunk of that.

Obviously, this also puts a huge hole in the middle in Phoenix (as if that’s anything new). Only Amare, Robin Lopez and Lou Amundson remain, which is pretty scary for Suns fans considering Amare’s uncertain health.

The Suns must add a big man either through the draft or free agency. B.J. Mullens now becomes an option at No. 14, although let’s hope the Suns pass on the raw seven-footer in favor of a more established small forward.

This means Robert Sarver 100 percent absolutely must put his money where his mouth is and pick up at least a quality backup big in free agency, if nothing else, with some of the money saved in this deal.

The reason why I wrote about this trade as something I wanted the Suns to do immediately after Cleveland lost to Orlando is because we all knew Sarver was going to make a move, be it dealing Nash, Amare or Shaq. He just wasn’t going to take that big of a luxury hit for a borderline playoff team, like he did last year with not even a postseason trip to show for the sixth-most expensive squad in the NBA.

Trading Shaq is by far the best one of those scenarios, and if he keeps the rest of the team intact and adds the lottery pick and another piece in free agency (a big man), then the Phoenix Suns should reestablish their old identity as a devastating running team that knows exactly what it is (unlike last year).

That’s not to say the Suns won’t miss Shaq (who is surprisingly quiet on Twitter as of this writing).

He’s such a character and one of the best showmen in the league. I for one can’t wait to see all the antics he will pull with LeBron, and I’m happy that he now has a legit chance to win another ring with another superstar swingman.

It’s kind of ironic that the Shaq Era was such a failure when Shaq himself did everything that could have been expected of him as a third-team All-NBAer this past season, and his health was even better than advertised as well.

It’s just this proves that the Phoenix Suns changed forever on Feb. 7, 2008, when Shaq joined the roster.

In short, it just wasn’t meant to be, and the Suns really haven’t been the same since, although maybe the deal only accelerated the Suns’ downward slide from contenderdom that possibly would have happened anyway.

Shaq brought pranks, a trip up the career scoring list and more nicknames than one blogger can remember.

But when he wins just one more playoff game than your grandmother, you can’t help but call his tenure in Phoenix “The Big Disappointment.”