JEFF: Rising Suns
By Jeff Falconio
There are certain cold, hard truths to life. Death and taxes come to mind. Here's another: in the five years I've been at WTMJ, Dan O'Donnell has never gotten a preseason prediction right. It's a little known fact that the old Stardust Casino in Las Vegas had to close because so many bettors would listen to the show, then bet the ranch on whoever O'Donnell didn't pick to win it all.
I mention this because every year O'Donnell touts the Phoenix Suns. Not surprising, the Suns race through the regular season every year only to fold come playoff time. What is a bit surprising is the recent acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal. My first thought was that is was a reactionary move to the Pau Gasol trade the Lakers made last week. The move should've put Los Angeles in the driver's seat to win the Pacific Division. Now it could also be said that Suns gave up too much for a guy well past him prime, banged-up, and slowly plodding toward the worst year of his career. However, the fact that Shaq is so slow might just help Phoenix in the rough-and-tumble Western Conference.
The Suns are a finesse team and that's fine during the grind of the regular season but the playoffs are different. The West has been top heavy for awhile and you can't just float through May and June. Look at the teams that have gotten out of the West in the past. San Antonio is big and physical. With Gasol and the return of Andrew Bynum, the Lakers will be able to get physical as well. So can Dallas. All these teams can beat up on the Suns. With Shaq in the fold, Phoenix will be able to slow down the tempo and turn a game into a half-court affair. You have to do that if you want to knock off the best teams in the West. The question will be can Shaq stay healthy and if so, will he be able to break through the O'Donnell Kiss of Death and carry the Suns to the Finals?