The Real Truth Behind Shaq's New Youth

Jeffrey SantonAnalyst IFebruary 23, 2008

Shaquille O'Neal has been moved back to the West and will be contending for another title there with the Phoenix Suns.

Many speculated whether the move by Sun's GM Steve Kerr was appropriate due to Shaq's bouts with injuries and lack of speed. The Sun's run up and down the floor with the best of 'em and their game plan revolves around it.

To many, the image of Shaq's lethargic, injured, slow-moving 300+ pound frame in a Sun's jersey, high-flying up and down the court was inconceivable. The media wire began buzzing off the charts with perplexity, trying to rationalize the initial move.

Steve Kerr is held in high regards by man around the league and his basketball IQ is said to be excellent, disabling the majority of analysts to definitively choose a side once they stepped back from the initial shock of the move.

Bottom line is,without knowing what Shaq you were going to get, you can't truly evaluate the move. Overwhelmingly,like so many other moves made in all of professional sports,you simply must wait and see.

Thus far, Shaq has played two games with the Phoenix Sun's, and while its early yet, Shaq looks to have new found youth.

Playing for Miami this entire year, the only part of Shaq's body I have ever seen make contact with the hardwood was the bottom of his size twenty three sneakers. In two games with the Sun's, he's been diving for loose balls and making life tough for both the camera man under the hoop and floor seat spectators alike.

Heart rates tend to rise like an adjustable mortgage when a man of that size is heading for your lap. One must ask where this surge of hustle and heart came from.

There are a few factors possibly contributing to Shaq's newfound zest. The first being that players often have a new found motivation on a new team. Let's face it: He wants to earn his new hometown fans' respect as well as that of his teammates. One has to wonder if Shaq quit bringing a full effort to Miami games due to a lack of inspiration, understandably driven when your team is obviously out of contention. 

From day one of the season, however, Shaq never showed me the inspiration that he seems to have obtained in this change of scenery. Even when your name is Shaq, a $22 million salary should give you some drive and, whether you have to fake it or not, some effort as well.

While Shaq had nagging injuries all season in Miami,  it's somewhat amazing how the "healing of a dealing" can work.

A nagging hip injury that began right around the time the Heat looked to be finished had plagued him for a couple months. A nagging quad was causing problems before that. Sure, the rest of the all star break had to help a bit, but can anyone say for certain that Shaq wasn't robbing Miami blind?

D. Wade, who has been the leader of the Miami Heat, and Shaq appeared pretty chummy to the naked eye prior to this year. One could have classified them as friends, whether they were simply public relation buddies or whether it was a genuine friendship.

That being said, a friend would not call you out publicly if he believed you were truly suffering the misfortune of being sidelined with an injury. Wade called Shaq out publicly for his dismal play in an attempt to either get Shaq playing to the ability Wade knew he was capable of or in an attempt to call the media police to ensure justice to the extraditing of millions of dollars from the team.

Wade was attempting to revive some respectability.Shaq missed most of the following games and, let's be honest, if his injury was not, in fact, legit, then he may be eligible for an academy award for playing a washed up, injured basketball player well past his prime limping to the finish line of his career. 

But, if Shaq continues to play at the level he has been playing in these two games with Phoenix, there's no absolute certain way to assert that Shaq was truly injured enough to miss all those games to exhibit that level of underperformance. 

Not from the perspective of the stats, but from the questionable effort level. The stats thus far do not demonstrate that Shaq was depriving Miami effort that he's now offering Phoenix, however; if you have watched the difference in play, it's overwhelming.

Highlights of Shaquille O'Neal  diving for loose balls in a Miami jersey certainly weren't flooding my television set. Shaq's new found youth brings some question to his character.

Does he simply play when he feels like playing? Will he suffer another hip or quad injury if the Sun's are not a top contender in following years?

In no way can anyone know with certainty whether Shaq's injuries and lackluster play in Miami was a choice. The more he dives and screeches across the hardwood with the Sun's, the more viewers are persuaded to wonder.