Thursday, June 5, 2008

Kerr doesn't feel like trying too much

“I worked with Flip (when both were TNT analysts) and like him a lot. I think he’s been a really good coach in the league and done a good job everywhere he’s gone,” Kerr said. “(But) we’re pretty far in our process. … We really feel good about it, and I don’t feel like changing course altogether and just doing something that’s totally out of the blue.”

So that's Steve Kerr speaking there. None of the coaches phoenix is considering are likely to be grabbed off the market anytime soon. Why is he not going to consider Flip Saunders? He doesn't feel like it? Talking to Flip Saunders would be "totally out of the blue"? Did he not realize that Saunders was on the hot seat and that the playoffs were going on? What!??

It sounds to me a little like Kerr doesn't feel up to the task of explaining to his prospect(s) that there is someone else in the picture that warrants consideration. If Saunders is not right, just say so Steve. This is very un-GM behavior.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Top Seven reasons the Suns will win it all this year

Including some you may not have considered:

7. The Gordon Giricek signing

Phoenix stumbled on a better-than-average defender who happens to feel his very best running in the Suns uptempo system. Raja Bell was consistently getting killed under the basket by Carmelo Anthony in the recent Nugs-Suns matchup. Giricek was inserted as a "we'll try anything" attempt to slow down Anthony -- he immediately threw his body into Melo and forced a turnover as the Nuggets tried to feed him the ball... He's also a pretty good shooter, and a relatively athletic addition to the roster, which was needed after the Trade.

6. The Boston Celtics.

They look well on their way to securing the #1 spot in the East, and the best record overall. If there is one team that would give Phoenix fits in the playoffs, it's Detroit. But if the Celtics do their part, the Suns won't see the Pistons. And if they do, here's hoping it's a Pistons team that is worn out from having to grind out a 7th game in Boston. The Suns can beat the Celtics. Amare pisses KG off because his offensive game is more complete, and KG responds by forcing it against Amare (and Shaq).

5. The Grant Hill signing

Stealing Grant Hill away from Orlando for roughly 2 mil a season allowed the Marion trade to happen without neutering the Suns. He is an all-around player, reliable defender, more capable of creating his own shot than Marion, and he finishes well on the break. He's also a perfect insurance policy in case Leandro Barbosa were to lose his mind in a playoff game..

4. The Lakers will fail to integrate Bynum

As you know, he won't be back until the first round of the playoffs. If he was a 30 year old veteran superstar, I'd be concerned about the comeback. But I would like nothing more than to see the Lakers get jettisoned in the first round because of an inbalance caused by Bynum's return... and I can see it happening. I can also see the Lakers winning it all NEXT year, but that's a different article that I'll never write.

3. Trade effect: Diffusion of responsibility

Bringing in Shaq relieved Steve Nash of a tremendous amount of "championship burden". One of the problems of the Shawn Marion situation was that, to go along with his well-noted under-appreciated status, he also wasn't assigned much responsibility for playoff failings. This fell on Nash, and to some extent, Stoudemire. But with this new roster, there is more than enough accountability -- Since O'neal's arrival there is the increasing feeling that everyone has a stake and responsibility in making this run.

2. Amare's recovery from knee surgery.

Yes, Stoudemire came back last year, and yes, he made the all-star team -- but last year, I'd watch the guy play, and he was putting up numbers and helping the team, but there was a lingering, legitimate feeling that he just hadn't fully regained his explosiveness. I don't feel that way this year. And I dare say, the time off was indeed beneficial to his mid-range jumper, which is now among the deadliest and purest in the league. He is the complete offensive package and BY FAR the best offensive big man in the league.

1. Suns' level of play will rise the most in the playoffs

The Suns have looked like a team trying to break through in different ways all season long. After the Trade, one of the biggest adversaries the veteran Suns face is regular season scheduling -- back to backs, road trips, 4 in 5s... this is all but eliminated in the playoffs. Their new look will allow them to match up against anyone -- this is the single most important characteristic a team needs in order to survive the west. And who is going to be hungrier than the Phoenix Suns?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tim Legler sets record for most contradictory, noncommital analysis yet offered this season

This is the year of the NBA fan, truly. Analysts and experts all over the country are practically living on an exclusive diet of crow. But there is a clear way around being proven hopelessly wrong, and that is to not clearly express an opinion at all. I bring forth exhibit A, Tim Legler's most recent article on the daily dime. Here is a truncated version -- the order in which sentences appear has NOT been modified. I've just taken some fluff out, which has been replaced with (...).

"The Houston Rockets have won 21 consecutive games? I mean, for the last nine games of the streak we are talking about Tracy McGrady and a bunch of solid role players... Those skeptics that believe the Rockets will fade down the stretch and get bounced in the first round regardless of their seeding may be eating their words six weeks from now. This team can win in the postseason if they get the right matchup. In that regard, they are no different than any of the other Western Conference teams.
...Simply put, they are the best overall defensive team in the NBA. But with that said can the Houston Rockets actually do some damage in the playoffs? The answer is yes, if they get paired up with Dallas, New Orleans, Golden State, or Phoenix. As far as the Spurs, Lakers, and Jazz go, each of these teams has the necessary combination of talent, scoring balance, discipline, defensive impact, and coaching prowess to take care of business against the Rockets... The Rockets are a serious threat in the West. They are the underdog, without a doubt."

-End of ridiculousness.

Uh, what? Dude, any team that is matched up against Golden State (8-seed) or Dallas (7-seed) looks like they will have a nice shot at advancing. As for New Orleans, they are a wild-card, as it remains to be seen what kind of playoff performer Chris Paul will be, not to mention how the Hornet's injury situation will hold up. Phoenix, on the other hand, has been to the western conference finals 2 of the last 3 years (last year, their 2nd round match-up with the Spurs was the finals). Houston, not so much. Until it happens, I believe it foolish to predict that a perennial contender will be eliminated in the first round by a perennial first-round loser. (But they won't play in the first round, because Phoenix is making a run at the Rockets and Lakers for 1st place in the conference.)

The Rockets have won an insane amount of games in a row in an insane conference. If you want to entertain me, write an article about why the Rockets will win it all this year, Timmay. I don't need to read about how everyone has a chance.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fueled by 42-14 2nd quarter, Suns erase Kings from universe

I'll admit, this game hasn't ended yet, so I cant' tell you what the final score was. But right now it is so bad that if I wasn't a pathetic get-a-life loser (see previous post), I wouldn't even know who was on the court for the Suns. One thing is for sure, the swagger is most definitely back, and once the Rockets lose a game, look for all the "experts" to jump right back onto the Phoenix bandwagon. Glad to have ya.

Giricek (9-14 FG, 4-7 3pt, 23 pts, 5 ast) and Barbosa (6-8 FG, 2-2 3pt, 17pts) once again had splendid outings tonight. Amare was unstoppable as usual, and Nash had 8 assists to only 2 turnovers. The offense is back in full swing, and our defense is the best in the league... for one quarter at a time. But hey, if you can play defense for one quarter and take a 28-point lead, that should be enough to win most games.

One final note: The Spurs and Jazz lost. I can almost hear Phoenix scratching their way into the top 4.. More coverage to come!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Quick Link: Why what Im doing is impossible

This is why it is hard to start a blog. I've gone to the liberty of highlighting Bob Costas' description of, well, me. I don't live in Albuquerque though.

''I understand with newspapers struggling and hoping to hold on to, or possibly expand their audiences, I understand why they do what they do,'' Costas said. 'But it's one thing if somebody just sets up a blog from their mother's basement in Albuquerque and they are who they are, and they're a pathetic get-a-life loser, but now that pathetic get-a-life loser can piggyback onto someone who actually has some level of professional accountability and they can be comment No. 17 on Dan Le Batard's column or Bernie Miklasz' column in St. Louis. That, in most cases, grants a forum to somebody who has no particular insight or responsibility. Most of it is a combination of ignorance or invective.''

What bothers Costas -- and he's not alone -- is Internet and talk radio commentary that ``confuses simple mean-spiritedness and stupidity with edginess. Just because I can call someone a name doesn't mean I'm insightful or tough and edgy. It means I'm an idiot.

``It's just a high-tech place for idiots to do what they used to do on bar stools or in school yards, if they were school yard bullies, or on men's room walls in gas stations. That doesn't mean that anyone with half a brain should respect it.''

The rest of the article.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Suns show they can run with warriors

The Suns did what Dallas couldn't in last year's playoffs -- play a small lineup against the Warriors and come away victorious. This was a game in which Shaq was a non-factor, except to keep Amare out of foul trouble in the 1st half. It was also a game in which Marion would have been useful, but the Suns picked up the slack. I would have liked to see them slow it down against Golden State, but we'll take the win and build on that. Barbosa, despite a sequence in which he missed 3 wide open 3-pointers in a row, showed improvement.

Suns-Warriors Box

Warriors game, halftime update

I'm not impressed from what I've seen of the Warriors. Their defense is porous and their half-court offense isn't always effective. If the Suns can cut down on turnovers and get Shaq involved in the 2nd half to rebound the ball a little bit, this will be a win. The old way to deal with running teams like the warriors was to wear them down. I'd really like to see more Shaq and Amare, and then get Bell and Barbosa involved on the perimeter.

Warriors game, 1st quarter impressions

What we're seeing so far is the Suns trying to match up small against the Warriors. Shaq hasn't seen much action and it's an up-tempo game. This is an uphill battle. I think the Suns need to insist on integrating Shaq into the game and imposing their will on the Warriors. On the plus side, Nash was just quoted as saying "We're all in love again".

And Giricek records his first 3-pointer as a Sun! Entertaining game so far!

Are the Suns Vulnerable to Running Teams?

Tonight's 10:30 PM match-up (on TNT) with the Warriors at home will test Phoenix's transition and perimeter defense. And the Suns will need to limit their turnovers in order to control this game the way they have the previous two. If the Suns can find a way to involve Shaq in this game and pull out a victory, I'm willing to accept that our future is starting to look bright. Expect more coverage tonight!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Our past 11 games: What if we kept Marion?

Our record has been 5-6... What would it have been had we kept Marion?

Game 1: February 20th, vs Lakers -- Loss
With Shawn Marion in the lineup, the Suns went 1-2 against the Lakers, sans Gasol. And Andrew Bynum didn't even play in the lone Suns win. I think we can still notch this one in the loss column. 0-1

Game 2: February 22nd, vs Boston -- 1\2 win, 1\2 loss
Now this is a tricky one, isn't it. Boston appeared to have played one of its worst games of the season in this sloppy contest. On the other hand, Phoenix's defense did look more secure as a result of the slow pace and the presence of Shaq. This would have been a tough win with Shawn Marion. I'll give them half. 0.5-1.5

Game 3: February 24th, vs Detroit -- Loss
Given the way the Pistons were playing and have continued to play, I can't imagine the Suns turning around the game that officially set off the Shaq-disaster alarm bells, even with Shawn Marion AND Shaq on the team. 0.5-2.5

Game 4: February 26th, at Memphis -- Win
Win. 1.5-2.5

Game 5: February 27th, at New Orleans -- Loss
With Shawn Marion in the lineup, the Suns were 0-2 against New Orleans. This game was the 2nd half of a back-to-back. Tough loss. 1.5-3.5

Game 6: March 1st, vs Philadelphia -- Win
This was probably a good example of a game in which Shaq's wasn't able to help the Suns, and his lack of integration hurt them. I'll give the Marion Suns this win. 2.5-3.5

game 7: March 4th, at Portland -- Win
Considering the 3 days rest the Suns had before this game, and the fact that the Suns have been a perennially excellent road team -- 3.5-3.5

Game 8: March 5th, at Denver -- 1\2 win, 1\2 loss
This was a game in which Marion's athleticism was sorely missed, and the best reason not to worry was because it was the tail end of a back-to-back. As such, statistics forbid me to grant the Suns a full W on this one, so I will split it. And dealing with decimals is getting really annoying. 4-4

Game 9: MArch 7th, vs. Utah -- Win
The Suns were 1-0 against Utah with Marion in the lineup. The Suns' loss to Utah came with Marion and Nash sitting out, and it was a blowout. Oops. I'll still give us this home game after a day of rest. 5-4

Game 10: March 9th, vs San Antonio -- Loss
Phoenix was 1-1 against San Antonio with Shawn Marion in the lineup. In the Suns victory, Marion had 9 pts and 6 rebounds. The Spurs were missing Tony Parker in both games. Any Suns fan has to believe, after watching Tim Duncan go 6-19 and score only 17 pts, that Shaq was a key factor in this win. 5-5

Game 11: March 11th, vs Memphis -- Win
Win. But the win with Shaq was pretty impressive too. 6-5

6-5. If you accept this breakdown, then the Big Experiment has cost the Phoenix Suns 1 game in the western conference standings. Agreed, every game matters, but I'll sacrifice 1 game if the team continues to jell and improve.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Exclamation Point to the Spurs Victory -- Memphis

Very nice. Without this blowout win over Memphis (71-41 at halftime!), the win over the Spurs would have hung there, unresolved. Like a sentence fragment. On top of everything else to feel good about, Giricek broke through for 18 points on 9-14 shooting. We might start to see him finagling minutes away from Diaw/Barbosa. Good.

One point of criticism: Yet again Barbosa's +\- was the worst of the top 7 in the lineup. I smell point guard duty in the 3rd quarter..

Why do I only smell it? Because I didn't see the game. Which reminds me to tell you, I'm working on finding ways to catch more than just nationally televised Suns games and will have more solutions in the next weeks. If all goes well I should be able to funnel the huge revenue from this site into the necessary resources to shadow the team all over the country. Or something.

First ever post -- Leandro who?

Does anyone remember.. Who was the hands-down, no-brainer choice for 6th man of the year last year?

Barbosa's points, assists, FG%, and 3pt FG% have all declined since his emergence in the 2006-2007 season (Suns fans knew he was good in 2005-2006). Most notably though, Barbosa has consistently looked lost when asked to play point, and has looked even more spaced-out since The Trade. Why?

Barbosa is a young, fresh face whose English skills were limited when he arrived in the NBA in 2003. The best way for coaches (most notably Mike D'antoni's brother Dan) to communicate with him MUST have been to simplify his role. He was told something like, "Run and try to score, Steve will find you in the open court and you will blow by everyone for a layup. In the half court, hit open 3-pointers. Also, maybe try to play some D. The end."
Well that worked from 2005-2007. What the Shaq trade did was cement a change in philosophy from being a fantastic, somewhat one-dimensional team, to being a (who knows how good), multi-dimensional team. Barbosa's role at two-guard is more complicated, more elegant now. It requires a sharper decision-making process and a surge in basketball IQ on Barbosa's part. He used to be like a mini-bazooka that Steve Nash could fire at the opposing team, and while I'm sure we will see flashes of that, Barbosa really needs to learn to define himself now.

Barbosa is not a point guard. Stop playing him at point.

I'd like to just end there because it would provide some dramatic contrast, but I suppose some explanation is needed. In the last 6 games, with Barbosa on the floor, the Suns are -44 in point differential. And I don't have the time to formulate this statistic, but it appears at a glance that the games in which Barbosa's personal differential are acceptable are those in which Steve is logging 38+ minutes. Which means Nash is running the point. Here's an easy way to track the domino effect:

When Barbosa runs the point, he looks lost. When he looks lost, the rest of the team looks lost. When the Suns look lost on offense, they look comatose on defense. And they lose.

Marcus Banks is gone and was a bad fit anyway, DJ Strawberry hasn't earned coach's seal of approval yet, and I respect that. So who is a legit backup point guard to Steve Nash? Nobody. But there is a certain monsieur that could play pretend for between 8-12 minutes a game and probably not squander leads or dig the Suns into the ground. Yes, I mean Boris Diaw. He WAS a point guard, you know.

Armchair coach decision of the day -- use the following lineup when Nash is resting:

1 - Diaw
2 - Bell\Barbosa\DJ
3 - Hill\Bell
4 - Skinner\Stoudemire
5 - Shaq

Have Diaw feed the post, end of story. Don't lose a big lead, don't build a big lead. Just wear the other team down physically, play solid defense, and wait for Nash to return. If nobody else can guard their point guard, just put DJ in for defensive duty. Have him play rough.

And, try to sign Brent Barry.