The Suns made one of the biggest splashes in the trade market so far this, trading for Miami Heat center and former Laker Shaquille O’Neal two weeks ago. For years, Phoenix has been the prototype for fast-break basketball, a facet of their game that will almost certainly be diminished somewhat by the slower O’Neal.
However, what O’Neal lacks in speed, he makes up for with his enormous presence in the lane. With Shaq and incumbent Amare Stoudemire clogging the middle, teams will no longer be able to drive to the lane at will against the Suns. Moreover, ONeal brings some much-needed championship savvy to the Phoenix roster.
While Phoenix did not exactly need to make a move as they have won 10 of 14 games since they last played the Lakers, O’Neal’s experience will be crucial against L.A. and the Suns’ other Western Conference rivals. Phoenix has continued to struggle against the conference’s better teams, evident by their losses to San Antonio ad New Orleans in recent weeks.
Coming into tonights contest, the Lakers are only one game behind Phoenix in the standings after winning five consecutive games and six of seven since Pau Gasols arrival in L.A. In many ways, the Lakers and Suns will likely have to feel each other out as both teams will be facing off with their new rosters for the first time.
While there are certainly several subplots dominating pre-game talk, the most important result from tonight is the one that could matter most at the end of the season should Phoenix and L.A. end up tied: head to head record. Even though the Lakers lost the last time out against the Suns in mid-January, they still have a chance to take the season series tonight.