don't know," he says, calling over assistant trainer Mike (Cowboy) Elliott.
"What's TFL stand for, Mike?"
fasciae latae," says Eliot. It's an important muscle in the rotation of the
hip, the one that was locking up on Shaq, and has to be freed each day by
TFL," says Shaq. "It was kicking my ass."
TFL could also
stand for Tons of Freakin' Laughs, something else Shaq has brought to the Suns,
a team in need of a light touch. For all the questions about O'Neal's game, do
not discount the power of chemistry in the formulation of this deal: Phoenix
brass wanted what D'Antoni calls "a pop" in the locker room, some
indefinable lift, and no one provides pop like Shaq. The coach needed another
strong locker-room ally, and Shaq is famous for embracing new coaches. Nash
needed someone to remove the daily burden of catering to the media. Stoudemire
needed a veteran in his ear to talk about things like defense and, well,
defense. Hill didn't really need Shaq for anything, but he was squarely behind
the deal: During the 2003--04 season, when Hill was out of the Orlando Magic
lineup with an injury, Shaq gave him the keys to the gym in his Isleworth
mansion so that Hill could work out alone. "Shaq had a big TV mounted on a
wall behind the basket, and I used to shoot free throws and watch the late West
Coast games," says Hill. "I was hurt, but those are fond memories."
Hill breaks into a laugh. "Shaq always told me that if I got a new deal, he
should get 10 percent."
That may be all
the credit he gets even if this trade, one of the most surprising in NBA
history, produces the franchise's first championship. O'Neal will play less
than 30 minutes a game. He is not being asked to go out and defend on high
pick-and-rolls, as he was in Miami. He may average about 10 points, 10 rebounds
and 10 get-out-of-the-ways (so that Stoudemire can barrel down the lane). Not
only will he not get the ball in crunch time, but at times he may not even be
on the floor.
fine with me," says Shaq. "Don't tell me I can't change. Don't tell me
I can't help this team. This is a new chapter in a new book. I'm just one of
the guys writing it."