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Is Shaquille O'Neal the Missing Piece?

Nearly every sports fan was well aware that this past NBA season, LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers were the real deal.

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After all, they not only easily won the Central Division, but also posted the NBA’s best record at 66-16. After sweeping the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the playoffs, then the Atlanta Hawks in Round 2, the Cavs were set to face the Eastern Conference’s third seed, the Orlando Magic.

I expected King James to lead Cleveland to the Finals to face Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, but the Magic had other ideas. Although a dramatic buzzer beater and strong performances by LeBron and Mo Williams temporarily kept the Cavaliers in the series, the power provided by Dwight Howard on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court allowed the Magic to prevail over the NBA’s best team in six games.

Why did the Cavaliers lose? No player in a Cleveland uniform was big enough or strong enough to keep up with the mighty Dwight Howard. Now, that has changed. The Cavs have the potential to be even better than last year. They picked up one of the best big man in NBA history, and it only cost them a second-round draft pick and $500,000. I’m sure everyone in Cleveland will be happy to welcome their newest player: Shaquille O’Neal.

There is no doubt in my mind that Shaq will prove to be a huge asset to the Cavaliers. He is strong in the paint and will be counted on to play defense against the NBA’s top big men, like Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, and Yao Ming. In his career, he has averaged 2.3 blocks and 11.2 rebounds per game. In other words, O’Neal is an answer to the problems that Cleveland faced in the 2009 Playoffs.

But although everything seems good, I can already see where problems may form in the future.

One question is how will Shaq blend in with the star of Cleveland, LeBron James? When LeBron James walked off the court without shaking hands with the Orlando Magic after the Cavs were eliminated, it showed that he is a sore loser. He likes being the king on and off the court. Before every home game, LeBron throws a handful of powder into the air and has seemed to capture the media of Cleveland.

What about Shaq? He’s an All-Star on the court too. He even has his own ways of stealing the camera, like before the All-Star Game last year when he danced with the winners of America’s Best Dance Crew, the Jabbawockeez. I can see the fight for the spotlight as a problem between these two new teammates.

Second of all, there may be on-the-court issues as well. If the Cavs continue their mind-set of “get the ball to LeBron James so he can score”, where will that leave Shaq? I believe this will result in fewer shooting opportunities than Shaq wants. Could this result in a rivalry between Shaquille and LeBron, much like the one formed between Shaq and Kobe in L.A.?

Well hey, it worked out for the Lakers, who won three championships with Shaq and Kobe. Hopefully, this new dynamic duo will succeed in giving Cleveland fans what they want: a 2010 NBA Championship.