O'Neal racking up minutes
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 14, 2008 12:00 AM
Part of the adjustment process was to figure out how long the Suns would be able to play Shaquille O'Neal and how long they would want to do so.
There was a plan to work him into the Suns' mix with 20- to 25-minute appearances for starters. That never happened. If not for Tuesday's blowout and Thursday's foul trouble, O'Neal would be averaging more minutes played with the Suns than he did for Miami this season or the previous two years.
"I really don't get tired," O'Neal said. "They (the Suns coaches) don't waste a lot of energy with me practicing."
Entering Thursday, O'Neal had turned more efficient in the previous four games (20 of 30 from the field) than his first seven Suns games (25 of 48). He went from 11 blocks in the first eight games to seven in the previous three before Thursday.
"In every category, we expect a bottom line and threw out that expectation," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He's exceeded that by far for minutes played, how dominant he is, how focused he is. We didn't know we were getting all this. We've got to capitalize on it."
Thursday's matchup was interesting for O'Neal because Golden State likes to play Al Harrington at center, where he started. O'Neal's last matchup against Golden State was for Miami on Dec. 7. Heat coach Pat Riley sat O'Neal for the fourth quarter, and Miami lost 120-113.
The Suns' staff closely watches its veterans to make sure the workload does not have their output declining down the stretch of games. But playing O'Neal is the only way to improve his stamina and learn about O'Neal in potential playoff matchups.
His stamina has been a staff pleaser, and so has his work on free-throw shooting with assistant coach Phil Weber. Much of the focus on O'Neal's form is getting him to first go straight up with his release.
"He's far exceeded my expectations with his focus," Weber said.
"He's working hard and he wants to get better. He's going to get it."
Breaking news. The Suns are running the triangle offense.
"They run the triangle offense now a little bit," Golden State coach Don Nelson said. "They get into it a little bit different than the Lakers do. They get in through the flex cuts but it's still the triangle. They're going to O'Neal as a passer. It looked good the last game. I'm sure they'll do more of it."
D'Antoni said the Suns have one play that could be deemed the triangle offense.
Nelson was surprised Phoenix acquired O'Neal but is sure his former Dallas point guard, Steve Nash, will make it work.
"Great players playing with other great players always make great music," Nelson said.