Phoenix Suns: Panic Time in the Desert?

Jeff LittleSenior Writer IFebruary 25, 2008

Three games after the trade that sent Shaquille O'Neal to the desert with lofty goals and high expectations, the Phoenix Suns are a modest 1-2.

But I think that it is too early to say that this trade was a bust.

However, I felt then as I do now that trading one All-Star for a former All-Star wouldn't work as well because the Suns would have to change their philosophy.

The Suns will still run-and-gun when the break is there; contrary to popular belief Shaq is needed to get the rebound and ignite the fast break but not be a part of it.

O'Neal was the most dominant center in the game when motivated and healthy. O'Neal is closing in on the end of his career and age, years of championship caliber play, and injuries have taken their toll, and have reduced him to really a shell of his former self.

He can be a dominant post player that requires a double team and allows Amare Stoudemire space to do damage for 15 to 20 minutes a game at best.

What O’Neal is not is a good defensive player and rebounder—two reasons why Phoenix wanted him and traded away Shawn Marion.

Marion was the Suns best defensive player and rebounder, and usually played defense on the opponent’s best guards or small forwards.

Marion's contract and surly attitude in the locker room were big factors in the trade as well. Taking a closer look at the trade I felt that GM Steve Kerr was going to be praised or considered the goat and fired based on this deal.

The Suns realized that playing small ball, as exciting as it is, wasn't going to get them to the NBA Finals. I applaud GM Steve Kerr for making a huge decision and doing the deal to acquire Shaq that looks bad right now—but the Suns do have about 30 games to right the ship and prove all the naysayers wrong.

The Suns also need to figure out what type of team they're going to be at this time. There is no confidence or cohesion at this point as they're clearly trying to find their way and mesh. Several players are adjusting to new roles and Shaq is working on getting and remaining healthy and mastering the offense.

What is not being talked about is fact that since the trade, Steve Nash has averaged fewer assists per game.

This can't be blamed on Shaq; but this team that had a number of three-point shooters on the roster now has been reduced to Leandro Barbosa and Raja Bell. As long as Raja Bell doesn't have to play defense on the best perimeter player, as well as avoid taking a knockout blow from a big teammate, the odds of success are in his favor.

Speaking of the defense; it is nonexistent and teams have recently been shooting over 50 percent from the field on them. Grant Hill and Barbosa have got to be major contributors both offensively and defensively.

The word out of Phoenix has been "patience," "we'll rally and get this thing together," and "once I master the offense we'll be fine."

The good news is the Suns will be a playoff team. However, the bad news is their lack of defense has been a problem for a while and is cause for concern.