Shaquille O’Neal rediscovering Superman with Phoenix Suns
After spending the past two seasons stuck in the phone booth with weight problems, off-court controversies and injuries, Shaquille O’Neal has returned to superhero form in 2008-09. While he no longer saves the day with 30 points and 10 rebounds per night, the post has stabilized the middle in Phoenix …
The original Superman is back.
After spending the past two seasons stuck in the phone booth with weight problems, off-court controversies and injuries, Shaquille O’Neal has returned to superhero form in 2008-09. While he no longer saves the day with 30 points and 10 rebounds per night, the post has stabilized the middle in Phoenix.
Why, at nearly 37, is he enjoying a renaissance?
Health matters. And O’Neal has stayed injury-free for three reasons. First, he reported to training camp in decent condition, instead of using October to get in shape. Second, the team has wisely limited minutes and rested him on nights with back-to-back games. And finally, the club’s trainers have a history of preserving older players like O’Neal.
Phoenix has simplified things. In Miami, as the second star, he had to produce big numbers every night for the Heat to win. Right now, O’Neal’s only has to plug the middle and play with superstar Amar’e Stoudemire, two-time MVP Steve Nash, and the high-flying Jason Richardson. By having realistic expectations, the Suns have helped their big-man.
O’Neal, though improved health and a new role, seems poised for a return to the upcoming All-Star game. This is fair. After all, averaging 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists for a 21-13 team warrants a selection to the mid-season classic. His charm and elder statesman status makes this a no-brainer.
Best of all, this season has provided some much-needed good publicity. Remember, O’Neal’s image had taken some hits. There was the never-ending feud with Kobe Bryant, a messy ending in Miami, an even messier separation with his wife, and, worst of all, a stalker charge and restraining order filed by a mysterious Atlanta woman.
O’Neal is nearing the end. He has another season or two left. Thankfully, his recent play has reminded us of the Superman and world champion we loved.