Shaq, there's a RING at the door
by Dan Le Batard Miami Herald This is why Shaquille O'Neal was brought here -- for this, for tonight, for the most important game in the history of the Miami Heat franchise. He was not brought here to have his worst playoff game ever and then afterward vanish, redundantly. He was not brought here to make all those jokes about being sexy in good times and then leave congested Dwyane Wade to speak for him in bad times. He was not brought here, in times of turbulence, to get himself and his franchise fined for his 330 pounds of pouting in silence when now, more than ever, his fragile team needs his voice to be loud and defiant, chest and chin and championships out there for all to see. It is one of the strangest sights in sports -- Shaq, shrinking -- but now would be a pretty good time for the angry giant to reappear, as the local earthlings question their superhero's remaining strength more than ever. Shaq, there's a ring at the door. You going to answer? He arrived here by parade, a first, and then promised another. It is a mere four victories away. The Dallas Mavericks are young, strong and impressive. But they do not have him. They may think they are good enough to be champions, more so than ever today, but there is only one person on that court when the ball goes up tonight who knows he is good enough, who has the substantive and empirical proof.
THE COACHOff to the side, Pat Riley has championships, too, but that was a long time ago. Going on two decades now. So Riley will do what his lost Heat players will do tonight, what hope-leaking Heat fans will do, what just about everyone on this planet who ever comes into contact with Shaq always does. Tonight, Riley will look up to him. It is why Riley brought O'Neal here -- to simplify the game by tossing everything to Shaq. The ball, the franchise, the expectations, the millions of dollars, the hope, the championship. Here, Shaq. Catch. Double teams? That's the smart play by Dallas. Make Miami's perimeter players do something. Let Antoine Walker shoot all he wants. It gives Miami less margin for error, away from the rim with shaky hands in a game that matters to only one team tonight. Dwyane Wade can usually make opponents pay for that, but he hasn't done it yet in two games on this stage. Where has his jumper been? Where has he been? Expect 30-plus points of assistance from him tonight, maybe 40. Expect the best playoff game you've seen from him this season. But everything starts, as it always does on the Heat, with Shaq. The double-team is only something he has been beating all his life. You think he hasn't seen it before? The only thing that hasn't happened before is him scoring five points against it. There's only one guy in the league Wade has always wanted to dunk on without success. Shaq. Upon Shaq's arrival here, Wade tried to dunk on him in a practice. Once. Shaq put him on his back. And that was the end of that. Wade has never tried again. That would be the Shaq Miami needs tonight -- prideful, strong and knocking down all who covet what is behind him. Shaq, there's a ring at the door. Can you get it? Shaq cares deeply about his legacy. As of today, he isn't better than Tim Duncan, just more famous. Both have won three championships. Both have been Finals MVP three times. You can make the argument that Shaq, given his unprecedented size and strength, has underachieved. Shaq can separate himself from Duncan by winning with a different franchise. When Duncan was put in this position, by this same Dallas team, season on the line earlier in the playoffs, he responded with the best playoff game of his career.
NOT WHAT HE WASO'Neal isn't what he was. That's not criticism, just fact. He is no longer the guy who can give you 42 against Indiana in The Finals or 36 points and 20 rebounds against Ben Wallace. He keeps saying he'll do it when it matters most, but that's tough-guy bravado, today's Shaq borrowing credit from yesterday's. Alonzo Mourning promised an Angry Shaq Sunday for Dallas, and all the Mavericks got was Miami's seventh-leading scorer on the Heat's side of the boxscore. Fact is, Shaq's playoff numbers are almost exactly the same as his regular season numbers, which were lower than they have ever been. He doesn't have a switch he can turn on with vengeance, not anymore anyway. Yes, he pulled a game out of his past to eliminate seventh-seeded Chicago on the road with 30 and 15, but that used to be something he might average this time of year. Excellence is a habit. We are what we repeatedly do. It was Shaq who said that, dubbing himself The Big Aristotle. He can repeatedly do 30-15 less than ever before. And Dallas is not Chicago. Dallas is Chicago on steroids.
PLAYOFF ADJUSTMENTSPaul Silas essentially said on ESPN that Riley is no good at making adjustments in the playoffs. Silas is an unemployed coach, yes, but he also is the guy who, as coach of the Charlotte Hornets, swept Miami the last time Riley was in the playoffs. Riley's usual adjustment is to ask his team to be meaner, to be tougher, to care more. That's not enough now. What he needs his team to be, more than anything, is better. Miami can't and won't win against this Dallas team shooting 41 percent, as it did Sunday. That number has to get closer to or above 50, which is where Shaq can still put it when he is controlling a game. Shaq, there's a ring at the door tonight. People are starting to wonder if you still live here, if anyone is home. You going to answer? Or you going to leave it to Dirk?
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Ја само ова би го додал на текстот на Ден:
Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted One moment would you capture it or just let it slip? His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud He opens his mouth, but the words won't come out He's chokin, how everybody's jokin now The clock's run out, time's up over, bloah! Snap back to reality, Oh there goes gravity