After attending Shaq's debut for the Phoenix Suns against the Lakers, I came away with a few perceptions of Suns' fans. The main thing I learned is, they're all very nice. Which is, you know ... nice, if you're there rooting for the road team as I happened to be. It doesn't create much of a home court advantage though.
The building definitely had a playoff atmosphere, and Suns fans remind me of Clippers fans, only with a much better team to root for. They're just happy to be there, cheering everything and getting loud whenever Club Ced, the team's current emcee, requests it of them. And the place got plenty loud the couple of times that the Suns went on their runs to cut into the Lakers' lead, but it wasn't a menacing kind of loud I've seen in other arenas that will intimidate the road team. It was simply ... noisy, and didn't really seem to prevent the Lakers from reclaiming momentum whenever they asserted themselves. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just an observation of how the fans in Phoenix seem to be a very cheery group of individuals.
So to help Suns fans keep their positive outlook on things, I thought I'd provide a handy guide of what to expect from Shaq while he's wearing your team's 32. After all, managing expectations can lead to a much happier experience at the arena, so here are some things to keep in mind while rooting for the Big Fella.
Shaq misses free throws. A lot. The guy is a career 52% free throw shooter, and is at only 47% this season. So there's no reason to get yourselves all worked up when Shaq heads to the line, and lose your voice screaming "Awwwwwww!!!!!" in disappointment when he misses. Just expect him to miss, and if he happens to hit one, you'll be pleasantly surprised. Letting out a groan of "Uhhhhhhhhh" after several misses in a row however, is acceptable.
Shaq commits offensive fouls. Shaq is, in case you hadn't noticed, a large individual. He's also gotten slower and less agile in his old age, causing him to occasionally run someone over or hit an opposing player with an elbow when he makes his move to shoot. This is not the referees screwing you, it's simply a fact of life. Remember, we're talking about someone who was on the verge of setting the all-time record for fouling out of consecutive games. It's going to happen, so save the boos for when Steve Javie comes to town.
Shaq will not play a full season. Ever. You might be thinking "well, duh" at this one, but I'm just reminding you that during the course of an 82-game regular season, Shaq will miss a large chunk of those games with questionable injuries. He's done it his entire career, and he's already missed a few since becoming a Sun. For the remainder of the year, you might be okay. But come next season, don't expect to see Shaq playing anywhere north of 50 games.
Shaq is an ego maniac. Nobody loves Shaq more than Shaq. It's cute at first, beginning with wisecracks at the press conference, and the media sucking up to him at every turn hoping for some more hilarious, quotable remarks from the Big Comedian. Now the down side: Shaq's an ego maniac. So if there's any criticism even remotely lobbed in his direction, you can expect a hearty, biting response. It's happened with former teammates, former owners, and even members of the media. Shaq's all fun and games, until someone actually points out something negative about him that hits too close to home. When he blows up at some point, don't say I didn't warn you.
Shaq will very possibly help your team get to the Finals. Thought I'd leave you with something positive here, and that's the fact that in all probability, Shaq will help you to (at some point) get to the Finals. He did it in Orlando, he did it four times in Los Angeles, and he did it in Miami. Even in his older, more injury-prone state, Shaq is still Shaq: a huge force that can be completely dominant at times. And considering he's now playing with the likes of Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, he's not even the focus of the other team's defensive schemes anymore. Yep, with a loaded Suns team like this, Shaq could definitely be the piece that pushes them over the top and into the Finals. Just remember Suns fans, if that does happen, it's all downhill from there.