Thursday, May 26, 2005

Behind The Scoreboard
By Claude Vinson

Is Shaquille really injured?

In the cool world when you are trying to slip something past someone by veiling the verbiage, you are “blowing smoke.”

I have already mentioned a couple of times that the Miami Heat’s Shaquille O’Neal is blowing smoke. And you have to admit that that is a pretty big smoke stack. Well, there is at least one player in the NBA ranks who agrees with yours truly. There are indubitably more, but just one was vocal about it.

Ben Wallace of the reigning Detroit Pistons thinks that Shaq has never been more healthy. And before I go on, let’s allude to the fact that anyone can be hurt, but, consider a 7-foot-1, 327 pound giant, being sidelined the major part of five weeks by a thigh bruise. The reality of it is, aside from obvious swelling, how do you factually determine a “thigh bruise?’

Looking back, at the beginning of these playoffs the rumor was started that the Big Man was ailing. The story got fed into the system and it hasn’t left the media since. Also remember that in the semi-final series, he was slow getting started but put on a productive showing in the later quarters.

Conversely, it has never been a secret but Tim Duncan of San Antonio has played on wobbly knees all season. No one has even breathed a modicum of doubt that he wouldn’t be a hearty starter in their game with the Suns.

During the wrap-up of his interview this past weekend, Wallace ended by saying that there wasn’t anything wrong with Shaq. So the smoke didn’t get in his eyes, but how can we be sure that the Pistons aren’t using a pair of bellows? The current champs ended the regular season with between five and 10 games behind the leaders of the two conferences. They poured it on in the quarters, semis and finals, sending a “whoa, take a second look” to all the teams remaining. Were they just spewing the white stuff before the playoffs?

Just remember that the other Wallace (Rasheed) has maintained that the trophy is not leaving Detroit.

Now, it is heading towards the June crowning date. The final four is in – the Suns and the Spurs in the West and the Heat and the Pistons in the East.

The Heat’s Shaq has a score to settle with the Pistons. They kept him and the Lakers from vying for a fourth consecutive title last season when they lost in the (what else?) East Finals.

I don’t have a dog in this fight, so I am not blowing smoke. This East finals playoff is going to be an entertaining one.

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