Peter Pan in Converse: Shaq and the Suns Face D-Wade's Miami Heat Tonight

On tap tonight in Miami: basketball at its most poetic and primal.

Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade, the NBA's most elegant player, will provide the athletic iambic pentameter.

A couple of aging but still dominant alpha bulls named O'Neal -- the Heat's Jermaine, the Suns Shaquille -- will bang their wide bodies in the paint.

It'll be lovely and brutal and, regardless of the implications for Suns playoffs hopes, it should be fun to watch.


D-Wade, the league's top scorer at 29.2 per game, is our fave NBA player outside Planet Orange. He shoots beautifully, but he'll also take it to the hole. He's clutch personified, and he's got an A-1 head on his shoulders. Not least, he almost singlehandedly dismantled Mark Cuban's loathsome Dallas Mavericks in the Heat's 4-2 NBA Finals win over the Mavs in 2006. His game-three heroics, especially -- he scored 15 in the fourth quarter to keep the Mavericks from taking a 3-0 series lead -- cemented our man-crush on the fifth-year pro from Marquette. After two years of battling shoulder and knee injuries and being written off in some corners -- not ours, BTW -- Wade has returned to top form this year, and is a viable MVP candidate. That might be bad news for the Suns on this particular night, but it's been great news for fans of the game.

Speaking of returning to form, Wade's former Heat teammate Shaq -- who was written off in most corners before his trade to Phoenix -- has been on a Godzilla-size rampage for the last few weeks. He battled one of the league's top young studs, Orlando's Dwight Howard, to a draw last night in the Magic's 111-99 victory over the Suns.

In Miami, the 7-1, 325-pounder, who'll turn 37 on March 6, will be facing another hefty dude in Jermaine O'Neal, who gives up two inches and 60-some pounds to Shaq, but has six fewer years in NBA mileage on him. The Heat sent former Suns Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to the Toronto Raptors for the oft-injured Jermaine on February 13, figuring (rightly) that they'll need some sort of tree stump in the middle to compete with the league's top teams down the stretch.

The Big Stump should get a mighty test from the Big Cactus, and with D-Wade soaring above the fray like Peter Pan in Converse "Wades," well, like we said, it should be a blast.

Tip's at 5:30 p.m. tonight at American Airlines Arena. TV: My45 (cable 9). Radio: KTAR-AM 620. More info: www.nba.com/suns.

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