Suns coach, players say they like acquisition of O'Neal Print
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Wednesday, 06 February 2008 23:58
NBA Headline News

 PHOENIX (AP) - Shaquille O'Neal smiled broadly, then stood from his seat in a suite high above the court at US Airways Center. He pointed to his ring finger and gave a thumbs up.
The crowd went crazy. The message he was sending on the big screen at the Phoenix-New Orleans game Wednesday night was clear: He intends to bring to Phoenix the championship that has eluded the Suns franchise through its 40-year history.
The trade that brought O'Neal to Phoenix on Wednesday is one of the most unexpected in NBA history, a blockbuster deal that came together in just a few days under first-year Phoenix general manager Steve Kerr.
e Suns' trademark ultra-up tempo game.
And the Suns were taking on a contract that pays O'Neal $20 million each of the next two seasons.
Yet coach Mike D'Antoni and the Suns players said they were elated, that they believe O'Neal will be reinvigorated by the move and become a crucial component of their title run.
``We feel like our players are giddy with the possibilities,'' D'Antoni said, ``and he's ready and focused. It's up to the coaching staff to do the tweaks without changing everything, and I don't think we have to.''
Steve Nash admitted he was ``shocked'' by the trade,
``If you look at what happened the last 24 hours it was incredible,'' he said. ``You go through a whole bunch of emotions. It was very unexpected, but at the same time to get a chance to play with Shaquille O'Neal is pretty exciting.''
O'Neal has been out for two weeks with a hip injury and underwent an MRI exam in Miami on Tuesday. He flew to Phoenix on Wednesday for the physical, and the Suns believe whatever ails the big guy can be cured by their doctors and training staff.
``It's a matter of flexibility in the joints and different things,'' Kerr said. ``They're very progressive with their rehabilitation and they felt very strongly that he's going to be more mobile and explosive than what he has been.''
Kerr said he, D'Antoni and owner Robert Sarver spoke with O'Neal.
here,'' Kerr said. ``Shaquille is a winner, he's a champion and he was not happy playing in Miami for a team that's rebuilding. It was not a good situation.''
The Suns' Amare Stoudemire is a friend of O'Neal and talked to him about his new team.
``He says he's ready to roll,'' Stoudemire said. ``Whatever he needs to do he's going to be down for it, and he wants to win a championship, so we're on the same page.''
O'Neal will turn 36 next month.
``There's doubts and a risk to everything,'' Nash said. ``I know that's going to be a favorite talking point for all the media, but for us the talking point is we've got an incredible, huge, talented, charismatic player in our locker room now. ... This sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun.''
O'Neal's ability to lift spirits is another plus for a Suns team that seemed joyless despite its success.
``I think the Big Aristotle is going to be fun for us,'' Nash said. ``He has a great personality and he is one of the most exciting, charismatic players we have had in this league in a long time. Hopefully he is as excited to be here as he sounds and as we are and gives everybody a big lift.''
O'Neal has averaged 25.6 points and 11.5 rebounds in 16 seasons in the NBA.
This season, plagued by injuries and going through a divorce, he's averaging 14.2 points. His 14-year streak as an All-Star choice came to an end this year.
He missed much of the 2006-07 season with a knee injury and finished that season with career lows in games (40), scoring (17.3 points), rebounds (7.4), minutes (28.4) and free-throw percentage (.422).
``It was a very, very hard decision for me. When Shaq came to the team four years ago, I always felt it was forever. We won a championship with him. We wish him nothing but the best,'' Heat coach Pat Riley said. ``We have to move on with our team. We're rebuilding. This is not the most desirable place to be right now.''
He denied that there was any lingering rift with O'Neal.
``I loved Shaq when I got him and I love him today,'' Riley said. ``I've been coaching 25 years and there wasn't anything that went on between Shaq and I that caused this. We simply looked at the big picture, where we are today, and we need to build around Dwyane (Wade).''
The addition of O'Neal doesn't necessarily put the brakes on the running game, D'Antoni said.
``Didn't they have `Showtime' (in Los Angeles) and they had a 40-year-old center (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) running down behind everybody?'' D'Antoni said. ``If he rebounds and passes, we're gone. He doesn't have to catch up.''
Marion, weary of being third fiddle to Nash and Stoudemire, asked to be traded before the season began. He didn't get his wish and, although he refused to talk publicly about it, remained unhappy with his role.
Still, his talents fit well with the fast-paced style that coach Mike D'Antoni wanted, especially with his ability to finish on a fast break. He also was the team's best defender, guarding everyone from Tony Parker to Yao Ming. Marion, who has spent all of his 8 1/2 NBA season with Phoenix, made the All-Star team the last three seasons.
This season, though, he failed to make it, while Nash and Stoudemire did. Marion has NBA career averages of 18.4 points and 10 rebounds. This season, he's averaging 15.8 points and 9.9 rebounds.
O'Neal's move west adds fuel to the already intense rivalry between the Suns, the Los Angeles Lakers and old teammate Kobe Bryant.
``Maybe now I won't be the No. 1 enemy when we go there,'' the Suns' Raja Bell said. ``That's OK with me.''
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AP Sports Writers Tim Reynolds in Miami and Larry Lage in Detroit contributed to this report.
 

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