By Craig Kwasniewski
Shaq's thumb injury, surgery and 8 weeks of recovery might actually benefit the Cavs in the long run. Bear with me Cleveland, I know it's tough being a fan of any professional sports team out there especially with the repetitive stomach punch moments over the years and all the LeBron rumors, but this thumb injury might be a good thing.
Shaq's at the very tail end of his professional career. The number of quality games left is a finite number, he literally has only so many bullets left in the chamber. And like most veterans, he's knows enough about his body to realize that this might be his last shot at title number 5.
So why waste quality games on the last few weeks of the regular season? The Celtics are struggling with age, the Magic still seem to be missing something chemistry-wise and Atlanta is definitely a year away from being a championship contender. As long as LeBron's on the floor the Cavs are a sure lock at the number 1 seed in the east. All they need is just enough quality minutes from the Varajao/Powe platoon until March 22nd when Ilgauskus returns from his trade sabbatical. That's 11 games over that span with only two of them against quality opponents (Boston and San Antonio BOTH at home).
The thumb injury gives Shaq time to rest, recover and be ready for a grueling run to the title. So he misses the first round, you're telling me that a LeBron, Jamison and Z frontline wouldn't breeze by say Miami or Milwaukee (Charlotte will move up to a 6 seed, scaring all of New England with a crazy Celtics-Bobcats series... I can't wait)?
Shaq is with the Cavs for three reasons: to get past Dwight Howard, to match the Lakers and their length and to win a title. These won't come along until mid-May when Shaq returns. We're talking at most 14 games of playoff level effort from Shaq, basically the same number of quality games he has left in the chamber.
Late in his career, Shaq has always found stretches in the long regular season to take time off with nagging injuries and recharge the battery. Phil Jackson always pointed out that The Diesel never really cared about the regular season until after his birthday on March 6. Maybe the injury is unexpected, but the rest and the need to recharge the batteries for an long playoff run is just what the doctor ordered.
This is a good thing for Shaq and the Cavs.