Wednesday, February 06, 2008

West Gets Better, Mavs Don't

In the wake of the big-time Gasol to LA trade, Phoenix is now apparently willing to ditch Shawn Marion for Shaquille O'Neal:

No longer confident they can win a championship with their current roster, the Phoenix Suns are close to completing a blockbuster trade that will bring them Shaquille O'Neal, a source with knowledge of the negotiations said Tuesday.

O'Neal is scheduled to travel to Phoenix aboard a private plane Wednesday and undergo an MRI on his left hip, the source said. If he passes the physical, the Suns are expected to send Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to the Miami Heat.

The trade would represent a dramatic change for the Suns, whose run-and-gun, small-ball style had revolutionized the league in recent seasons. That same style, however, has failed to bring the Suns a championship, and team officials have become increasingly skeptical about their chances of contending without giving Amare Stoudemire some help on the frontline – even though Phoenix owns the Western Conference's best record at 34-14.

The move will no doubt change Phoenix's style of play, but Phoenix's style of play has never gotten them to the Finals despite years of trying. Sensing that the window of opportunity is closing as their best players age, they're willing to risk what they have now, a solid record and a all-but-guaranteed run in the playoffs that will end at or before the Western Conference championship, for a chance at the Finals and the risk that the move either won't help or that Shaq's hip will make him a non-factor. And who can argue with that point of view? Phoenix has a crew that is annually getting eliminated by better teams in the conference. What reason would they have to think that things would be any different in this post-season, absent a dramatic trade? The Mavs have played well by anyone's standards, but not as well as they did last year, and not well enough to convince anyone that they are the favorite to make the Finals in the West. And that was before the Gasol and O'Neal trades. Now two of the best teams in the West look to have gotten dramatically better, while the Mavs are apparently willing to stand still in the belief that their current roster is good enough to not justify any changes. But given the flame-outs that the Mavs have experienced with substantially the same roster over the last two years, given the fact that two rivals have made dramatic efforts to improve themselves, it's hard to understand an argument for complacency at this point. At this point I, and most fans I think, are willing to risk what we have now-a good team that has demonstrated an inability to win big games-for a chance at a championship.

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