Feb 12, 2008

National Sports Report

by Jen Slothower
NBA The big news of the week in the NBA was the two big trades that bolstered two Western Conference teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns.

Shaquille O’Neal finally found an exit to the implosion named the Miami Heat, going to Phoenix in a trade that sent Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks eastward. Immediately, cries arose that an older, oft-injured O’Neal would only hinder a team that has set the pro basketball standard in recent years for running and scoring.

Sure enough, O’Neal was not slated to play for at least a week after his trade due to a hip injury. Although he is set to play against the Dallas Mavericks on Valentine’s Day, O’Neal’s arrival may be to the Suns what a coconut macaroon is to a girl who loves cherries on Feb. 14: a good idea at first, but ultimately not satisfying.

In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant has found a counterpart to help him shed his Shaq shadow and run to another title under coach Phil Jackson. Pau Gasol arrived from Memphis in a trade for Kwame Brown, Aaron McKie, Javaris Crittenton and the rights to Marc Gasol.

Pau quickly made his mark for the Lakers, scoring 19.5 points in his first four games even as he learned the new team and offense. His addition is a certain boost to a team that was once counted out for the season before rocketing to the top of the Western Conference as Andrew Bynum became a man and the rest of the team finally gelled behind Bryant.

Phoenix is currently on top of the Pacific Division with a 36-15 record, but the team has been frustrated in its playoff runs in the past few years, failing to win the big one even with a set of strong players. Los Angeles is second with a 33-17 record as of press time Monday evening. PGA TOUR Tiger Woods opened his season with a win at the Buick Invitational, where he has had success throughout his career — six wins, including the last four in a row. The victory was his 62nd career victory, tying him with Arnold Palmer for fourth on the all-time list.

Next up was the Dubai Desert Classic, where it appeared that he would settle for a top five or 10 finish. Woods charged from four strokes down with seven holes to go, however, to win and prompt a fear in the PGA community that this year — like so many years in the past — will be his again.

Woods created a minor stir in the past month when he proclaimed that he thought it was possible to win the Grand Slam of the four major tournaments this year, something he has only come close to in the past. Contact Jen Slothower at jrslothower@liberty.edu.
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