Still Waiting on Shaq

Shaquille O'Neal didn't seem to be slowed by his hip injury in his first practice as a member of the Phoenix Suns, but it's uncertain exactly when he'll make his game debut.

He's unlikely to play in the team's next game, but if he does, the 15-year veteran may need a running start.

An up-and-down, fast-paced game is expected on Wednesday night when the new-look Suns hit the road against the Golden State Warriors in a matchup of the league's highest-scoring teams.

Oddsmakers from have made Golden State -2 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 231.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 87% of bets for this game have been placed on Golden State -2 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

The battle for the top spot in the Western Conference took an interesting twist when Phoenix (36-15) traded Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to Miami for the 14-time All-Star a week ago. On Monday, O'Neal practiced with his new team for the first time.

"It was different. It was very intense," said O'Neal, who hasn't played since the Heat lost to Cleveland on Jan. 19. "I learned a lot. Now I can see why they can go at the pace they play at. When you just do short bursts like this, then you can save it all for the game."

After practicing again Tuesday, O'Neal realized he could use more time learning the offense before joining the Suns in game action.

"I want to be a little more in tune before I step out on the court, because as you watch this team without me, they're like a great flowing machine," O'Neal said. "I don't want to be the kink in the machinery."

Suns coach Mike D'Antoni doesn't want to rush O'Neal into the lineup with just two games remaining before the All-Star break, but would not rule him out of Thursday's game against Dallas.

"He's not quite ready," D'Antoni said. "He wants to be comfortable with the offense. He knows it's going to be a big splash when he goes out the first time."

At less than 100 percent, O'Neal would seem likely to struggle keeping up against Golden State (31-20). The Warriors and the Suns both score more than 109 points per game - every other team in the league is under 107 - and their last three meetings featured even more scoring. Phoenix has averaged 120.3 points while Golden State has scored 119.3.

But the Warriors have won the past two contests, both in Oakland. Suns forward Grant Hill described Golden State's 129-114 win on Nov. 26 as a "track meet."

When the Suns do get O'Neal in the lineup, that could open things up offensively for Amare Stoudemire. The All-Star has been dominant lately even without O'Neal, averaging 28.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks over his last four games.

He had 31 points and 13 boards in Phoenix's 108-107 win over Washington on Sunday.

"Amare is really good," D'Antoni said. "He's blocking shots, he's running, he's shooting - and just his attitude. I can't say enough about him."

Despite the teams' high-scoring games, Stoudemire is averaging just 14.7 points in his last three meetings with the Warriors.

Steve Nash has 11 double-doubles in his last 13 games against Golden State, averaging 17.8 points and 11.7 assists.

The Warriors (31-20) are five games behind the Suns for the West's best record, but in the ultra-tight conference, that has them simply fighting for one of the conference's final two playoff spots at the moment.

Golden State has won four of five and eight of 11, and like Phoenix, also topped Washington in its most recent game. The Warriors came back from a 23-point deficit to win 120-117 on Monday behind 41 points from Stephen Jackson, who was playing on a bad ankle.

"Unbelievable, a lot of guys wouldn't have even played," coach Don Nelson said. "We said during the timeouts that we'd go to (him). He had the hot hand and we ran some stuff for him and he was the man."

Jackson is averaging 30.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in his last two games against Phoenix.

He and Monta Ellis have been an explosive 1-2 punch lately. While Jackson has averaged 25.9 points over the last seven games, Ellis has averaged 25.2 in his last nine games while shooting 61.6 percent.

Ellis is averaging 24.8 points in his last five contests against the Suns.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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