The Great Debate: Out with the old, in with the new

You might be thinking that the Miami Heat are looking pretty now that they will have the services of Shaquille O’Neal, but I implore you to think again.

The Heat sacrificed a lot for a player who might only have two or three years left, and if they don’t win a ring next year, Shaq may never win another championship.

The real winners in the whole Shaq trade are the L.A. Lakers. They get two young up-and-coming stars in Lamar Odom and Caron Butler and a proven veteran.

Brian Grant, who will fill the power forward slot for the Lakers next season, is the wily, hustling veteran the Lake Show acquired in the trade for Shaq.

Jazz fans have a particularly fond memory/hatred for Grant because of the way he owned Karl Malone every time the Jazz faced the Trail Blazers.

Grant may have lost a little something since those days, but he was a crucial force in getting the Heat into the Eastern Conference playoffs last year. Grant’s defense is almost enough to sufficiently replace the loss of O’Neal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some naive college student who thinks Shaq can ever be genuinely replaced, I just think that in a Western Conference devoid of any awesome big men, Grant will be a force under the basket.

He is a rebounding machine, and while undersized, he has an intangible quality that makes him a person you want on your team.

I have also heard rumors that the Lakers will be adding either Vlade Divac or another free agent big man before the season starts, so they will be fine in the middle.

As for the two young stars the Lakers are adding, Butler and Odom both have great futures in the NBA.

Odom had a rough start in his first couple of years in the NBA, but he emerged last season as a bona fide star capable of rebounding and scoring.

His flash is finally turning into production. The Lakers will be lucky to have such a highly talented player.

Butler is one of the best pure scorers in the league.

The Heat tried desperately to put together this deal without giving him away, but the Lakers shrewdly made sure that this deal did not go through until Butler was a part of the package. In his rookie season, Butler scored 15 points and grabbed five boards per game.

His points production dropped a bit last year, mostly due to Dwyane Wade’s emergence as a scoring threat, but Butler’s real upside is his potential to become a scoring force alongside Kobe Bryant.

So that’s what the Lakers get: a solid veteran inside post guy and two extremely talented forwards with years of production left in them. What the Lakers lose is the most overrated big man in the history of the NBA.

Sure, he might have been the most dominant center in the league a few years ago, but his age, his injuries and his terrible free-throw shooting have finally caught up with him.

Some day people will ask Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers front office guy, how he knew it was time to let Shaq go.

He might answer by saying that the Lakers hadn’t won a championship for two years or he might say something about how Shaq just flat-out refused to play with Kobe Bryant ever again. One thing is certain: Kupchak will be looked at as a genius in 10 years for making this move.

Unfortunately, the Heat now have to bear the miserable breakdown of an aging beast. They will have to listen to excuses about how Burger King and Nestle have given him a lifetime supply of burgers and chocolate, and he just can’t stop eating.

They will hear stories about his big toe, and his back, and his knees, all while they wonder if he will ever play.

Should Shaq ever actually take the court in a Heat uniform, he will resort to his bullying of smaller post players as he commits offensive foul after offensive foul.

He will abuse referees with the guilt of calling a foul on such a great center, and even worse, he will torment the basketball as his chunky fingers hurl the ball at an unsuspecting rim every time he shoots a free throw.

There are few things sadder than the breakdown of a premier athlete, and few things more embarrassing than a Shaquille O’Neal free throw.

It’s the one aspect of the game that can be beat through pure repetition and practice, but Shaq never had that kind of dedication. That’s why the Lakers are glad to have him gone-plus now they can worry about Kobe’s rape trial.

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