Maybe the cold weather in the desert during the NBA All-Star weekend was an inauspicious omen for the Phoenix Suns. The Shaq Era began just a few days later, and the team has suffered its worst drought in recent memory.
What do meteorologists claim has caused this severe dry spell?
Well, it seems there has been a swirling high-pressure area building over Los Angeles.
Last night it swept through the Staples Center as the Lakers cleaned house with their co-tenants, the Clippers, 118-82 as David Stern watched.
Stern did his best impersonation of someone trying to play it cool and not look overly impressed while he contemplated a Lakers-Celtics Final series.
David, do you want to catch that saliva drooling from the corner of your mouth?
Meanwhile, the drought deepened in the desert, where the Suns blew a large first-half lead and lost to the Jazz, 126-118.
Maybe Steve Kerr should hire a Hopi medicine man to journey up to the sacred mountain and perform a rain dance to appease the kachinas.
Kerr must be willing to do just about anything right now to bring on a desert storm and end the Scourge of Shawn.
Shawn Marion, the adhesive that held the Suns together and a favorite of the kachinas who rule over the desert and those who hold season tickets, was shipped off to Miami in a trade for the Big Shaqtus a week before the All-Star break.
Before you jump to the conclusion that this is about to become a Shaq bashing, let me emphatically state that I have not come to bash Shaq but to praise him. In fact, Shaq has been one of the most productive Suns during this bleak drought.
Take last night’s game for example.
Shaq poured in 20 points while grabbing seven rebounds. As the Suns front office expected, Shaq has made Amare Stoudemire better. Last night, Stoudemire scored 37 points and had 8 rebounds.
But what Shaq hasn’t done is make the team any better. And through no fault of his own.
With Nash and Stoudemire grabbing all the headlines in Phoenix, Kerr decided that Marion was expendable and refused to extend his contract.
This rubbed Marion the wrong way as well as his kachina friends who watch over him.
Kerr felt that the dissention Marion was causing in the locker room far outweighed the benefits that Shawn brought to the team at both ends of the court. Wrong.
When Marion was on the court he brought a ten-point positive differential in scoring over those times he was not on the court.
And what about turnovers? Marion’s turnover percentage with the Suns was a meager 6.3 percent, third best in the league among power forwards.
Kerr brought Shaq in, no matter what he may say publically, to match up with the Lakers, who earlier traded for Pau Gasol.
Further disturbed by the Lakers’ contention that Andrew Bynum would definitely join Gasol in the Laker front court by early March, Kerr pulled the trigger.
Although Shaq’s presence in the middle has improved the defense around the basket as expected, Marion’s absence on the wing has weakened the Sun’s defense overall as evidenced by the Jazz, a lackluster road team, scoring 121 points.
The entire Suns organization and commentators around the NBA have been stating that the Suns need to figure out how to play with Shaq. But that is not the problem.
The Suns need to learn how to play without Shawn Marion! And it’s already too late, at least for this season.
The Suns can hope to do no better than a second tier finish in the Western Conference, but unless they can end their drought, especially at home where they have lost four out of their last five games, they will not make the playoffs.
As far as catching the Lakers, forget it.
The Lakers hold a four-game lead, but the Suns would have to make up at least five games because the Lakers have won the season’s series between the two teams and hold the tie-breaker.
This means the Lakers would have to lose at least 5 more games out of their last 20, and the Suns would have to win the rest of their games. Neither is going to happen.
The Lakers are 13-1 in their last 14. They have 13 more games at the Staples Center and only 7 on the road.
The Suns, on the other hand, are a dreadful 3-6 during the Shaq Era, losing four out of their last five at home.
The Suns have 10 games remaining at home and 10 on the road, including a rough nine game stretch in late March with seven on the road and stops in Boston and Detroit.
If they don’t get some rain soon in the desert, it’s hasta la vista, baby. See you next year.