All answers, I am told, point to O'Neal's rear end. His derriere wasn't what it used to be.
"His butt muscles, that was the biggest thing,'' Suns athletic trainer
Shaq's base, Nelson said, affects "everything that he does, from being able to run straight ahead, to go side-to-side, to pivoting, stuff that he does normally. Rebounding and coming down, he's got to be able to stabilize. That muscle is a very important muscle, and if that's weak then you've got a lot of other compensations.''
Shaq credits the Suns' training staff with extending his career. It employs a system called Optimum Performance Training, based on a scientific understanding of how different parts of the body help or hinder each other.
"A lot of these teams have got the old trainers, who I consider 'analog trainers,' and they just go with the stim [electric stimulation] and the sound [ultrasound],'' O'Neal said. "But that don't really work no more. Your body is like a building, and if certain things are off [in the foundation] then the whole thing's going to be off.
"I had pulled a hip muscle, and when you pull one muscle, the other muscles start to overwork. So with me pulling this muscle, all these muscles shut down, and then my ass muscles were starting to work. And that's where all the pain was coming from.''
O'Neal is bitter that the Heat didn't diagnose the relationships between his muscle groups.
"They didn't see that,'' he said. "That's the stuff that you can't see in the MRI. So they would take MRIs and they wouldn't see anything. Because of what was going on, they would make excuses -- 'Oh, he's getting divorced, his career's over, he don't want to play ... he's faking.'
"I had a freaking pain right here,'' O'Neal said, grabbing below his right hip. "I'm sort of old school myself, so I'll suck it up a few days. But then if it all hurts, give me a shot. And then usually when the shot don't work, something else is wrong. But we were taking MRIs and nothing else was wrong. I went to a so-called expert in California and he didn't know what was wrong.''
The Heat said they would not comment on O'Neal's claims here. Earlier this week, Heat president and coach
"It's really a shame that he would insult those people like that because they gave him care. They cared," Riley said. "They didn't kiss his butt. They cared about him. He can do whatever he wants to do to me. That's OK, I don't care. But those men, they tried. ... That upsets me more than anything.''
Nelson did not comment on the care Shaq received in Miami. He simply answered questions about the treatment O'Neal was receiving with the Suns.
"We figured out what muscles were tight, what muscles were weak, and we just corrected those imbalances,'' Harris said. "He had a lot of general tightness everywhere, but mainly the hip and ankle.''
O'Neal showed improvement in the first days of treatment.
"Originally, we were doing a couple of hours a day [of therapy and exercises],'' Harris said. "He even came back from the All-Star break early to get some extra work in before we got into that week of practice, which was the week that he ended up playing [in his Suns debut]. He put a lot of time in early, and now we manage it anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half a day of a combination of the manual therapy and the corrective exercises.''
Nelson said O'Neal weighed 321 pounds at the time of the trade, and he has maintained a healthy range of 324-327. The issue -- ironically for the league's strongest player -- was the strength of small muscle groups that are easy to ignore.
"He had some deficits that are common for a lot of our guys,'' Nelson said. "But for a guy that big and that strong, he definitely had some issues we needed to address.''
The Suns believe that O'Neal can be productive through the final year of his contract in 2009-10.
"I've been here a month, I haven't had to take no drugs, I haven't had to get no shots,'' O'Neal said. "They touch me, they stretch me and I do real simple weights.''
"I asked him, 'How are the practices? Are the practices long?' " Hill recalled. "He said, 'You know, boy, I can't lie to you.' I said, 'OK, thanks.' ''
One of the difficulties of acquiring O'Neal on Feb. 6 was that coach
"When you have a veteran team, you don't need to practice so hard,'' Hill said. "We've seen it all, we've done it all. The poor rookies, they probably miss out because they need to practice.''
It's Tuesday in Boston, and the Suns have just finished a short practice after losing in overtime at Detroit the night before.
"In Orlando last year -- and this wasn't a problem, I'm not being critical of
They're still figuring it out, as proved by the losses to Detroit (which didn't have
"We practiced harder at the start of the season, and we practiced hard -- not long -- in training camp and the preseason,'' Hill said. "Now you throw Shaq in after the All-Star break, you can't have two-hour practices. A lot of this stuff has been on the fly. But we're starting to pick it up.''
"We have a lot of versatility and options now,'' Nash said. "We shouldn't have as many matchup problems, and we should be able to guard the basket and defensive-rebound better than we used to -- and at the same time we should be able to push the ball on the break and get fast-break points.''
The bottom line is that this trade can't be assessed until the playoffs, because the Suns will need the remaining weeks to pull things together, and also because Shaq's half-court influence will be most important in series against the Spurs and Lakers.
"Did you ever see a three-piece suit made out of blue jeans?'' he asked, and it was true: Shaq's designer suit was made of fine denim.
The point is that the Suns don't know how to win a championship because they've never done it.
"They were kind of too serious at times, and I bring in a silly, loose attitude,'' O'Neal said. "When you're not a champion, you always hear of what you have to do, certain things you have to be, but you never really know. My style has always worked for me and I've been there [to the NBA Finals] six times. So I've got to go with my style.''
"It's just about belief,'' Nash said. "If you have someone who's been there before, it adds to your belief. Not that we didn't have belief before, but the more you add to your belief, the stronger you are.
"He's won championships, and we've never won. So we really want to push him to get one more for himself and our first to show us how it's done.''
"You never know you won it until you won it,'' Shaq said, referring back to how a last-second three-pointer by
Absolutely. The Nuggets have the third-highest payroll in the league. Owner
When I picked the Knicks to finish sixth, it was like I did it in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier in front of a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner. The other day, I was telling my friend
Gareth of Toronto should notice by all of the disagreeable letters I post that I don't expect "too much respect,'' or not even a little bit.
Jordan's team is loaded with scoring, while Russell is the only terrific defender on his team. So you would have to like Jordan's team. But what no one knows is that Magic, Larry and Russell spent two months practicing in secret just to get ready for this game. Then they all showed up to find that the referee was
First of all, if my writing were "poorly thought out,'' then how am I supposed to defend it?
It isn't poorly thought out to note that Walsh built the Pacers into an experienced 1999-2000 NBA finalist, then instantly renewed the team by trading
Now I'm going to hear from angry people complaining that Walsh shouldn't have built the team around Artest. My answer is that the team wasn't built around Artest. I'm looking at the Pacers' salaries in 2005-06, the year after the brawl, and Artest was the team's fourth-highest-paid player at a relatively cheap $6.8 million. Walsh stole Artest in a 2002 trade that landed future All-Star
NBA teams are fragile, and they collapse -- look at Chicago and Miami this year. The great thing the Lakers had going with
I reached out to three NBA advance scouts for their MVP picks and -- no surprise -- they couldn't agree on anything. They are listed here in no particular order.
"Defensively, Paul can change the game when he puts pressure on the ball, and he's strong enough that he doesn't get posted up very often. He doesn't have a lot of deficiencies, though there are times when he doesn't play the best defense.
"Kobe's great, but you take Kobe off the Lakers and they could still win 20 games. I don't think New Orleans could win 20 without Paul. Then with Paul, I look at the other stuff -- the hassle of having the All-Star Game in New Orleans, and how he made the Hornets exciting to watch so that the people who do have money are coming out now to watch them play.''
"As a playmaker, he has the experience and the recognition of what's going on, what defenses are doing to him. And he has the patience. Before, he would get more frustrated with his teammates, and there was a negative vibe going on -- he didn't truly trust his teammates and they were unsure themselves where they stood with him. It's like he's drawing everybody in now. He still has his moments of competitive outrage, but his intentions seem to be just to win. That's part of being a leader. He's not afraid to be disliked, but he is respected.''
There isn't a team in the league that couldn't make the playoffs within two years. Here's how incoming personnel boss Walsh could return the Knicks to the postseason.
• Pray for the Nos. 1 or 2 pick and use it to draft Memphis'
• Bring back
So long as the quality of his contract buyout isn't an issue, then Thomas needs to leave New York and get on with his life. There is nothing more he can do on behalf of the Knicks or his own legacy in New York, which Walsh will undoubtedly try to salvage by praising Thomas whenever possible.
Even if Walsh believes Thomas could help the Knicks in personnel matters and especially in the draft, I can't see that Thomas would want to subject himself or the Knicks to the continued abuse. I believe he wants Walsh and Dolan to succeed in New York. Thomas has to know that if he remains with the franchise in any capacity, then there will be endless speculation and gossip of divisions between him and the new regime.
I'm guessing the Knicks will say they have hired Walsh because he has a lot in common with Thomas. I've wondered how the Knicks decided on Walsh, because someone as secretive as Dolan probably isn't going to ask for a lot of outside opinions. The only conclusion I can reach is that Thomas incidentally talked Dolan into replacing him with Walsh. During his private conversations with Dolan over the last five years, I bet Thomas frequently referred back to his years with Walsh with the Pacers and all of the lessons he learned from Walsh. Doesn't that make sense? Dolan obviously respects Thomas' opinion, and so I'm sure that Thomas indirectly played a role in the decision to hire Walsh.
Here's a stat I would like to see: When the home team begs the crowd to scream during a single possession by posting video of a phony "noise meter'' on the scoreboard (which, you may have noticed, happens to go up whether the crowd gets louder or not), I would bet that the idea backfires more often than not. My own feeling is that visitors shoot an altogether higher percentage than normal during that single possession because the noise forces them to focus. They take pride in shutting up the enemy, and the home team invariably rewards the visitors' ambitions by going silent the instant the ball goes through the basket. Every time this happens, it strikes me as one of the dumbest innovations in the marketing of the modern game.