Shaquille O'Neal loves giving himself nicknames, and now he's got a new one - "The Big Cactus."

O'Neal will make his Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, a team he helped lead to three straight NBA titles.

O'Neal was traded to the Suns on Feb. 6 in a deal that sent Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to Miami. The 7-foot-1, 325-pound center has not played yet with his new team because of an injured hip, but is ready for Phoenix's first game after the All-Star break.

Now, the trick will be working his way into the Suns' up-tempo offense.

"I'm going to be looking to get out like Randy Moss and Terrell Owens," Shaq said on Tuesday.

Some doubt the 35-year-old O'Neal - who has been known during his career as "The Diesel," "The Big Aristotle," "The Big Daddy," "Wilt Chamberneezy," and "The Real Deal" - will be able to keep up with his new teammates.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who coached Shaq to titles from 2000-02, is among the skeptics, saying Shaq's responsibilities will involve "taking the ball out of bounds and waiting for the other team to get back."

"He's a jokester, and that's funny, very funny," Shaq said without smiling. "Ha-ha. Very funny."

The Suns (37-16) - who have a one-game lead over the Lakers (36-17) in the Pacific Division - are convinced adding O'Neal could bring them their first NBA title.

"We're going to have to adjust slightly to his strengths," point guard Steve Nash said, "but you know where he's strong we've been weak, and that's having a big presence in the paint, taking up space and guarding the rim."

O'Neal is averaging a career-low 14.2 points in 32 games this season, and his streak of 14 straight All-Star selections also ended. He said that he doesn't plan on being the star on his new team, deferring instead to Nash and Amare Stoudemire.

"I'm more like a senior adviser so I don't like to come in here and try to take over," O'Neal said. "Just like your basic karate movie where the young guys come to the old guys with beards who have them do weird stuff to get to the other side. That's who I am, the old guy with a long beard."

Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said O'Neal will start against the Lakers, but play only about 20 minutes. After Wednesday, the Suns host Eastern Conference-leading Boston on Friday and Central Division-leading Detroit on Sunday.

"We don't have three cupcakes to start, but that's all right," Nash said. "We're going to learn a lot about ourselves and where we're going, and maybe that will give us a steeper learning curve to play against terrific teams."

The Suns won three of four heading into the break, including a 109-97 victory over Dallas on Thursday behnd 26 each from Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa.

Los Angeles resumed play after the All-Star break with its fifth straight win, 122-93 over Atlanta on Tuesday as Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol each had 23 points before sitting out the fourth quarter. The game was Gasol's first in Los Angeles since he was acquired in a trade with Memphis on Feb. 1.

Bryant dislocated his right pinkie earlier this month, but elected to forego surgery. He has averaged 30.4 points over his last five games.

Bryant was Shaq's teammate for seven seasons in Los Angeles and wasn't on the best of terms with O'Neal when he was traded to Miami in 2004. However, he insists that Wednesday's game is nothing special, aside from playoff implications.

"I do not care about that, for the last time," Bryant said. "Phoenix is at a level we're trying to get to. Even though they changed their team a little bit by trading Shawn (Marion), they're still one of the top teams in the league.

"So it's a big challenge for us, and I'm interested to see how we stack up."

Los Angeles has won two of three from the Suns this season including a 119-98 rout on Nov. 2 in Phoenix.


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