Archive for the ‘Phoenix Suns’ Category

Worthwhile analysis of two NBA games

November 21, 2008

When Kelly Dwyer [BDL] gets the fat part of the bat on the ball … which is generally acknowledged to be the single most difficult action to do proficiently in all of team sports … there’s a good chance that said sphere is going yard.

Without an excessive reliance on hard & fast empirical statistics, i.e. either ‘new-age’ or ‘old school’, when he simply conveys what he sees happening on the floor, in a general sense, from each of the participants, and his arrows’ strikes are true … as they are in these two specific instances, concerning last night’s Celtics/Pistons & Suns/Lakers match-ups, respectively:

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Behind the box score, where the C’s don’t let up and Detroit does
Exhibit A
Coaching matters. Stern decisions have to be made, and a lot of that “buck stops here” nonsense actually helps. It helps drive away excuses, and it helps to make you cringe should you have to spit out “we’ll get ‘em next time” after the game. If it hurts to say that, you’re on the right track. If you’re shrugging your shoulders, then something is missing. And I don’t care that the season is 82 games.

So when you see the Piston reserves acting like pampered former All-Stars, or Detroit failing to close out on shooters, or stepping into open lanes in order to make sure that the open lanes cease to be open lanes, you have to wonder when the buck is ever going to be able to stop.

This isn’t to say that Detroit played the same poor way the entire night, far from it. They just did it long enough to lose handily again. That’s the difference between a pretty good team that occasionally plays great and … the Celtics. The Celtics are just about always there.

Exhibit B
Winter is the architect of the Lakers’ offense, and likely the strongest principle of his famed Triangle offense is the way players are supposed to penetrate the defense. With a pass (preferably, because that means there is an open player somewhere in the teeth of that defense), a drive, a shot, or a rebound.

The last two may not seem like the best moves overall, because shots over the top of the D and ugly offensive rebounds don’t seem to go hand-in-hand with the spacious and aesthetically-pleasing Triangle offense.

But these things are important, especially when the player creating the penetration is among those (like, say, the Laker youngsters that come off the bench) who might not be the most structurally-sound Triangle denizens. There’s a reason Derek Fisher starts, you know.

So there LO is, shooting the ball, or getting into the lane for a lefty runner or hook that might not fall. Not only is his per-game numbers way down from last year, but his per-minute numbers have taken a dive as well. Even with all those chances to pad his stats among the bench corps. And yet, he’s helping. So, so much. Don’t let them convince you that he isn’t.

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it’s a pleasure and a treat to read the man’s prose about the game, and how it works at this level of competition.

First-rate stuff, right there, by the one, the only KD.

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Tough ‘talk’ … from a NBA coach’s perspective

November 14, 2008

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”Anonymous

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With the ‘taunting‘ that took place in the Raptors vs Celtics game, earlier this week, and the ‘skirmish‘ which then developed in the Rockets vs Suns ‘tussle’ … What qualifies as authentic Toughness, in the NBA today? … is a pertinent subject.

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Mitchell’s tough talk
“We want to be tougher from the standpoint of playing tougher defence, but I don’t get into that toughness thing,” Mitchell said. “The NBA has rules and no one is going to let you physically beat anyone up, and you can’t get into a guys face and trash talk or wave your finger in a guy’s face,” he added, clearly taking a shot at the crew that officiated the game in Boston on Monday and let Kevin Garnett do just that without being penalized.

“For me that stuff doesn’t mean anything,” Mitchell said. “For me toughness is executing. Going to set picks when you are supposed to set picks. Make hard cuts. Run the floor. Those types of things. Being mentally tough for me is when the game comes to a grind, being able to execute. That other stuff is more for the cameras. You really want to find out who is tough? Meet me behind the arena or in a back alley where it’s just you and I. Then you find out who is tough and who is fake tough because the camera is on.”

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Know that this space agrees 100% with the perspective of the Raptors’ head coach.

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Of particular interest, though, is the extent to which, the sentiments expressed by yours truly, sometimes, elsewhere in the blogosphere [in this case, yesterday] …

Sixers exact revenge as Wings waste Big 3 effort, Comment #119

… have a n almost magical way of preceding [by a day or two] echoing that which a real life NBA coach has to say on a specific matter.

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The good people at RaptorsRepublic.com are off to a fine start with their new venture.

This corner of the net would simply encourage all Raptors fans, everywhere around the globe and beyond, to drop by and participate freely in the lively exchange of thoughts and ideas which happens there daily, concerning the fortunes of this franchise.

Where for art thou Phoenix?

November 10, 2008

Actually, it’s a super interesting process …

Whither the Suns: An Update

gradually becoming more and more active on-line, in a variety of different places.

Making the correct decisions in the Valley of the Sun

October 24, 2008

What a difference a year makes … when you add a new head coach to a veteran team.

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Suns starting Barnes at small forward
“Grant brings a lot to that second unit with a lot of stability as a veteran with possibly two rookies on that second unit,” Porter said. “He can relieve some of the pressure that Goran (Dragic) may get at times and I like Grant to have the ball in his hands. That’s one of his strong points – to make decisions and make plays.”

With the goal to limit Hill to about 25 minutes per game, Hill would have sat for long stints if he started. Instead, he must adjust to a bench role after doing it only eight times in a 705-game career.

“I don’t mind it at all,” Hill said. “One of the things we talked about at training camp was our depth can be a weapon for us. You look at the Lakers and their second unit did wonders for them coming in a lot of times to extend a lead and provide a spark.
“Hopefully, we can wear you out as a team and continue to hit you with talent and guys who can make plays.”
Porter likes Barnes’ shooting range to spread the floor while still having a solid wing defender.
“It didn’t really matter to us,” Barnes said. “Once my shots start falling, I can help stretch the floor. I can help Raja (Bell) out there because this league is full of two and threes who are scorers. I’ll just bring a lot of energy.”

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Those who under-estimate the Phoenix Suns this season will be in for a rude awakening, both, in the regular season and at playoff time … given:

i) This new role for Grant Hill;
ii) A reduced role for Shaquille O’Neal;
iii) The additions of Matt Barnes, Alando Tucker, Robin Lopez, Goran Dragic, Sean Singletary & Louis Amundson; and,
iv) The arrival of Terry Porter, with his focus on Rebounding, Defense & Team Offense.

If they eventually fall this season, sometime in May … let’s say, to the Lakers’ juggernaut, it will not be because they are once again ill-equipped to go the distance as they’ve been in seasons past under the premise of Seven Seconds or Less.

Thus far, every decision the Steve Kerr/Terry Porter tandem has made, in an effort to re-tool their once mis-directed team, has moved the Suns closer to realizing their long term goal of reaching and then winning the NBA Finals Series.

For the 1st time since the 1995-1996 season, this team has the type of Marquee Players, QUALITY DEPTH throughout the roster, Coaching & Style of Play it takes to be considered a Legitimate Contender for the League Championship.

Worthyfying Amare

October 21, 2008

If the question is …

Can Amare Stoudemire become a real life James Worthy [Lakers’ HOFer] clone this season for the Phoenix Suns?

Courtesy of TrueHoop

Goggles alone can not make Tha Man.

Goggles alone cannot make Tha Man.

Then the likely answer is …

Only if Shaquille O’Neal can also transform himself into a working version of a venerable Kareem Abdul Jabbar [the Lakers’ other bi-spectacled HOFer], circa 1987-1988, who regularly played 79-80 games for the LakeShow during the twilight stages of his historic NBA career, while still putting up solid numbers like these.

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Then, again … considering this is a League Where Amazing Happens, on the regular, and Anything Is Possible … who’s to say what lies ahead this season, in the NBA, when The Game Happens Here.

Filling in the gaps for the Suns

September 20, 2008

Further to: Whither the Suns in the Western Conference 

A report yesterday indicates that a new ‘Starting 5’ is on the way, in Phoenix, this season …

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Barnes expected to start; Hill to come off the bench
” … in a roundabout way, Matt Barnes adds depth to the team, as he will be starting and Grant Hill will move to the bench this season.

This last point just about floored everyone in attendance [at the Suns’ Fantasy Camp], but it sounds like this is what Coach Porter and Hill want to do [according to Suns’ President Rick Welts, who addressed the campers directly].”

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If accurate … it’s another step in the right direction for the Suns, by the Terry Porter/Steve Kerr tandem, as the following new line-up:

STARTERS:
1 – Nash
2 – Bell
3 – Barnes
4 – Stoudemire
5 – O’Neal

SUBS:
1 – Singeletary
1 – Dragic
1/2 – Leandro Barbosa
2/3 – Hill
3/2 – Tucker
4/3 – Diaw
4 – Amundson
5 – Lopez

is a better balanced set-up than Mike D’Antoni’s prior alternative versions.

UPDATE: Confirmation that Grant Hill would be on-board with this proposed shift in Phoenix. [Wed Sep 24 2008]

Whither the Suns in the Western Conference

September 16, 2008

At the beginning of last season, this corner forecast the precipatous decline of ‘Seven Seconds or Less … and then went on to proclaim early-on that, after 3 years at-or-near the top of the Western Conference, knocking on the door of the NBA Finals, Phoenix WOULD NOT EVEN MAKE IT OUT OF THE 1st ROUND OF THE PLAYOFFS LAST SEASON …

* NBA Playoffs Preview [2007-2008]
* Legitimate Contenders in the NBA: Part IV
* Eclipse of The Suns: An Update
* Hubris, The Big Aristotle and the Phoenix Suns
* Eclipse of the Suns

which is precisely what happened.

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Looking back on 2007-2008 …

Q1. What exactly did the Suns accomplish, since the start of last season?
A1. By …

* Replacing Mike D’Antoni with Steve Kerr [former PG with the Bulls & Spurs]
* Adding Grant Hill [6-8, 225]
* Replacing Shawn Marion [6-7, 230] with Shaquille O’Neal [7-1, 325]
* Replacing Mike D’Antoni with Terry Porter [former PG with the Blazers]
* Retaining & then elevating Alando Tucker [6-6, 205]
* Adding Robin Lopez [7-0, 255], Matt Barnes [6-7, 226], Goran Dragic [6-4, 180], Sean Singletary [6-0, 185] and Louis Amundson [6-9, 225]

they’ve changed the entire culture of the organization … AND dramatically improved their chances of returning to the upper echelon of the Western Conference next season and beyond.

That’s what they’ve done in Phoenix over the last 12 months.

Whereas, last year at this time, the Suns were an ALL OFFENSE, NO DEFENSE & POOR REBOUNDING team, using a bandjo-tight 8-man rotation … with almost no legit chance to ever win four [4] consecutive series in the NBA playoffs [what it takes to claim the title!] … as they head to training camp this year … this is NO LONGER the eternal and/or external make-up of this team.

THIS TEAM, this season … with the line-up it can now put on the floor, night-in and night-out:

STARTERS
1 – Nash [6-3, 178]
2 – Bell [6-5, 215]
3 – Hill
4 – Stoudemire [6-10, 249] 
5 – Shaq
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KEY BENCH SUBS
1 – Singletary [or Dragic]
2/1 – Barbosa [6-3, 202]
3/2 – Tucker [or Barnes]
4/3 – Diaw [6-8, 235] [or Amundson]
5 – Lopez
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RESERVES
1 – Dragic [or Singletary]
3 – Barnes [or Tucker]
4 – Amundson
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HEALTHY SCRATCHES
3 – Piatkowski [?]
4/5 – Marks [?]

is as deep and athletically talented as any other outfit in the Western Conference,

this side of the LA Lakers, and

has a solid chance to return to the Western Conference Playoffs … WITH a legit opportunity to win a round or two and, possibly, advancing to the WC Finals, once again … as an upper echelon team, in the NBA.

By returning the focus in Phoenix to what makes for a championship calibre product, in this League … i.e. a commitment to REBOUNDING, Team Defense and a Balanced [higly structured] Team Offense … Steve Kerr may have accomplished in just one season at the helm something which Jerry Colangelo, Bryan Colangelo & Mike D’Antoni [before him] were NOT able to do over the course of their careers in the ‘Valley of the Sun’ … i.e. transform this team into a LEGITIMATE CONTENDER for an NBA championship … i.e. please see, What it takes to win the NBA Championship.

Which is not an easy feat … working for an owner with the reputation of one Robert Sarver.

Q2. Could it be … ‘The Rising of a New Sun[s] in Phoenix‘ this season? 
A2. Yes, Sir, indeed … it just might be that exact thing.

Suns sign a back-up PG

August 18, 2008

Dragic headed to Phoenix

In comparison to some prospects who do not want to ‘risk’ working out for a NBA team prior to the Draft … with an attitude like this:

This young man [6-4, 200 lbs] has a chance to make it in the ‘Valley of the Sun’.

I was practising with the national team, because we have qualification for Olympic Games. Then my agent called me. He said, ‘You must go to Phoenix.’ So … so, 6 [AM] in the morning I pack my stuff and I go to Paris, Paris to LA, and LA to Phoenix … so I was trying like 15 hours … so, I’m exhausted … but, but I have strength for this, so … Like this is my life, basketball, so … I’m going to do everything that takes. Goran Dragic

Eclipse of the Suns: Critically Acclaimed?

May 2, 2008

If you’re a regular reader of this space, you already know that the window of opportunity for this specific Group of Phoenicians was closed well before the recent goings-on in the Valley of the Sun

NBA 1st Round Playoffs

Gm. 1: SAS 117, PHX 115
Gm. 2:
SAS 102, PHX 96
Gm. 3:
SAS 115, PHX 99
Gm. 4:
PHX 105, SAS 86
Gm. 5:
SAS 92, PHX 87
San Antonio wins the series 4-1

and includes the goary details found right here …

A requiem for the S.S.O.L. Era in Phoenix 

… which re-traces expertly how it is ‘these Tragic players’ have arrived at where they are today, apparently, ready to dissolve their relationships with one another … permanently.

While the vast majority of the content in that specific piece is indeed accurate, there remains one central (three-pronged) notion with which this corner of the blogosphere must raise an objection:

Part A
“Well, that’s OK that they didn’t win the title, at least they were critically acclaimed!

Part B
In other words, it didn’t really matter that they never won a championship, … We would always remember them fondly and feel like they were more successful than they actually were.

Part C
Maybe the Suns didn’t win a championship, but we’ll remember them 100 times more fondly than the brutally efficient and hopelessly bland Spurs …

Au Contraire
When the NBA’s history books are written, and then re-visited again and again, generations from today, it will indeed ‘matter‘ a great deal that these Phoenix Suns were unable to win a championship and, in fact, never even reached a single NBA Finals.

In reality, each year that goes by will further dim the scorching light which emanates today from this form of ‘Sun(s) Worship‘ and instead will illuminate the (formerly and erroneously much-maligned) brilliant dominance of the San Antonio Spurs (winners of 4 NBA championships in 9 years, and still counting) and their transcendant Head Coach (Gregg Popovich, aka ‘Air Force One’) and (unassuming) Superstar Player (Tim Duncan, aka ‘The Big Fundamental’).

In no way, shape or form will the NBA’s history books ‘critically acclaim’ and/or reflect a reality other than this:

1. The NBA championship is won by the team that best combines the 3 Phases of the Game … i.e. Rebounding, Defense & Efficient Offense … in a balanced manner.

2. The League MVP Award was won in consecutive years (’04-05 & ’05-06) by the best Offensive Point Guard in the history of the NBA who … with outstanding ambidexterity, exceptional horizontal athleticism, supreme hand-eye coordination, spectacular ball-handling, passing & shooting skills … developed into the most prolific ‘Pick & Roll/Pop’ Artist the League has ever known, when allowed to ply his craft in a ‘Full Throttle’ Offensive Transition Attack and culminating in a dynamic ‘4 out/1 in half-court alignment’ (rarely ever used in the NBA), in conjunction with teammates who could shoot the ball proficiently and/or finish at the rim athletically.

3. The most ‘fondly’ remembered teams in NBA history are the ones whose names appear in the furthest left column on this specific list … NBA Finals: All-time Champions.

4. The San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers were the two ‘Critically Acclaimed‘ teams during the 1998-2008 era in the annuls of the NBA.

THE problem with the current Raptors

April 24, 2008

Let me ask you these two questions:

If you flipped TJ Ford for Steve Nash (let’s say in a fantasy world) … do you think the Suns would stand a snowball’s chance in h*ll of getting past the Spurs this year?

How about the Raptors vs the Magic?

If your answers to those two queries are a resounding,

No Way, Jose!

and

Like, for sure, dude!

then you’re beginning to see that the major problem with this team is that … unlike what happened in Phoenix when Colangelo, Jr. COMPLETELY LUCKED OUT that Steve Nash WANTED to return to the Suns when Mark Cuban cut him loose BECAUSE NASH’S WIFE & KIDS ALREADY LIVED IN THE PHOENIX AREA (not because BC is a top notch GM who knows what he’s doing) … THERE IS ONLY ONE STEVE NASH AND HE ISN’T PLAYING FOR THE RAPTORS, JUST YET.

Steve Nash is/was the architect of Phoenix’s rise from the ashes … which Bryan Colangelo orchestrated with their once-proud team … no one else.

Because Steve Nash wanted to live in Phoenix, he signed with the Suns when Cuban said, “Thanks but no thanks, Stevie boy, I don’t think you’ve got what it will take to Win a Championship for me with the Mavs, at the price you’re asking.” FULL STOP.

Because Steve Nash is the best ‘Pick & Roll/Pop’ PG in the History of the NBA (so sayeth an authority like Mark Jackson, during the Suns/Spurs Game 2 match-up) … when Colangelo fired Frank Johnson (who he had previously picked to run the Suns) and appointed Mike D’Antoni … IT WAS D’ANTONI WHO INSTALLED THE SUNS’ 4 OUT/1 IN OFFENSIVE SYSTEM, tailored specifically for Steve & Amare (who is the perfect under-sized but super athletic Center to run that system) and deserves 2nd billing on the Suns credit roll for their resurgence as a first-tier franchise in the NBA.

If not for Colangelo’s decision NOT to re-sign Joe Johnson … Phoenix might well have its 1st NBA title already.

Then … “when the going actually got tough” in Phoenix and daddy was out as the principal owner … that’s when the ‘Golden Boy’ decided to ‘Bolt the Ship’ and head for greener pastures … in mid-season 2006 (think about THAT for a second or two) … for the comfy ‘international’ confines in The Great White North, with free reign to call the shots AND a Big Ticket contract.

Want to know THE reason this version of the Raptors isn’t quite ‘tough enough’ to get the job done in the post-season?

When a fight breaks out (like it did in Phoenix) … what does a really tough ‘hombre’ decide to do … FIGHT or RUN?

(what did Colangelo, Jr. do in the Valley of the Sun?)

7 Seconds or Less … is the Coward’s way to play NBA hoops … and will never ever be rewarded with the championship.

The old Boston Celtics … with my MAN, Bill Russell at the CORE … and the ShowTime LAKESHOW … with my MAN, Earvin at the CORE … both shot it plenty quick enough to rack up devastatingly Big scoring numbers but neither operation would EVER have been referred to as TOO SOFT to get it done in the playoffs … cause their success was built upon a BALANCE between

OFFENSE … DEFENSE … and, most important of all … REBOUNDING,

not an “offensive philosophy of 100 shots per game”.

MLSE does not know what it’s doing AND should not be in the business of running ‘pro sports teams’ in Toronto … cause they KEEP HIRING THE WRONG PEOPLE to head up their basketball & hockey operations (e.g. see the current debacle with Anaheim’s GM, Brian Burke).

As the old Chinese Warlord could tell you from his personal experience … the strategy that works best when training an army of men … is decapitating the heads of the two most favoured concubines appointed to lead the masses in the first place.

(know who the concubines are in this case?)

It ain’t rocket science, to be sure … but, dem Chinese Warlords sure did know what they were doing … when it came to BUILDING & MAINTAINING their Dynasty.

Food For Thought … as always.

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In Peace, Victory & Excellence.