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Tonight's Game: Phoenix Suns at Orlando Magic

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Per the Orlando Sentinel, please note that tonight's Orlando Magic / Phoenix Suns game will be broadcast on Sun Sports; it was originally scheduled to air on FSN Florida.

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Phoenix Suns main logo
Orlando Magic main logo
34-25 43-16
March 3rd, 2009
Amway Arena
7:00 PM
Sun Sports / NBA TV
Probable starters:
Steve Nash PG Rafer Alston
Leandro Barbosa SG Courtney Lee
Jason Richardson SF Hedo Turkoglu
Grant Hill PF Rashard Lewis
Shaquille O'Neal C Dwight Howard
Previous Meetings:
December 12th: Suns 113, Magic 112

Ed. note - My colleague erivera7 did a pregame podcast with Phoenix Stan, of Bright Side of the Sun, SB Nation's Suns blog. Give it a listen, won't you? - BQR

Former Orlando Magic center Shaquille O'Neal is a man of the people. He aspires to work in law-enforcement after his basketball-playing days are over, and he's connected with hundreds of thousands of fans via his Twitter.

However, it appears as though Shaq is not a man of Dwight Howard, the Magic's current All-Star center. Howard says O'Neal is one of the few legends who has never offered him advice, and that he has treated him coldly throughout his career. While it's true that O'Neal is by no means obligated to share what he knows with Dwight, it does seem strange that he's treated him with hostility, even contempt, saying the following in an interview with The Sporting News

Every street he is driving down in Orlando, I have been on that street. Every night club, every restaurant, I have been there and done that. Until he wins three, four championships, then we can talk about him. But right now, he is just like every other big guy. You can run and jump, but you haven't won yet.

Shaq defies conventional analysis, not that I'm a qualified clinician anyway, but one nonetheless gets the impression he's jealous that Howard has leapfrogged him in the hearts and minds of most NBA observers, not to mention Magic fans. The fact that Howard has also appropriated Shaq's "Superman" moniker must also irk him. Is he worried about fading from memory? He insists he can continue to post gaudy 30-point, 10-rebound games until he retires. I think it's a case of a prideful man protesting too much, as it were. It sounds like I'm railing on Shaq here, but the truth is, I love him. He's great for the game of basketball. All I'm saying is that I hope he gets humiliated tonight.

When Shaq's comments were posted on this site yesterday, some readers were irritated with the passivity with which Howard responded to them:

That's just how I feel. I don't know if he was taking shots or what he was doing, but that's fine with me. He's Shaq and there's nothing I can do about it.

Maybe we'll see a mean streak in Dwight tonight. Need I remind you that Howard's remarkable 45-point, 19-rebound, 8-block effort against the Bobcats two weeks ago was largely due to his anger with himself for a miserable performance (4 points, 7 rebounds, 6 fouls) in an earlier meeting with them? Shaq's dis, coupled with Howard's offensive and defensive struggles against the Diesel throughout his career (for instance, Shaq has made nearly twice as many field goals as Dwight in their head-to-head meetings, despite playing fewer minutes, while shooting a higher percentage from the field) could be enough motivation to fuel another monster performance by Orlando's newest franchise center.

When accounting for the clash of the titans, the exciting finish in the first meeting between these teams this season, the animosity the Orlando crowd will have for O'Neal and Grant Hill... it's going to be one whale of a game. Don't miss it. Tip's at 7. Go Magic