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News » Shaq starting to fit in nicely in Phoenix

Shaq starting to fit in nicely in Phoenix

Shaq starting to fit in nicely in Phoenix

Game Time: Suns 96, Spurs 79

Well, I guess it's time for me to eat my words: On the basis of the Suns' whomping of the Spurs (in San Antonio, no less), Shaq has been effectively integrated into Phoenix's game plan.

But the reality is the only guy who ever successfully faced down Jordan was Bill Cartwright. Here's how it happened:

When Cartwright joined the Bulls in 1988 (traded from the Knicks for Charles Oakley) he was renowned for his defense (especially against Patrick Ewing — but that's also another story), along with his aching back, his poor rebounding skills, his inability to pass, and his rapidly diminishing ability to score. Among his peers, Cartwright was likewise celebrated for his ferocious competitive nature and his selective brutality in the low post.

In those days, Phil Jackson's version of Tex Winter's triangle offense was usually initiated by a pass into Cartwright — whose bulk and ability to seal a defender made him a reliable target. However, MJ had no confidence (and rightly so) in "Medical Bill's" passwork, so he pointedly ignored both his coaches' instruction and Cartwright's hulking presence.

Time and again, Jordan would look to move the ball elsewhere, even if Cartwright was unguarded. Until, finally, Cartwright took the situation in hand.

One day before a practice session, Cartwright approached Jordan to say something like this: "If you don't pass me the ball when you're supposed to, then I'm going to kick your butt. Plain and simple. This isn't a threat. It's a warning."

Not even His Airness wanted to mess with Cartwright. So, incoming passes from MJ became the norm, and the Bulls went on to win three championships with Cartwright at the hub of the offense.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 10, 2008


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