Inside Scoop: Phoenix Suns
JSun here, filing in for PhoenixStan. He’s been pretty busy busting-up Twitter phonies. He got the Suns’ Propaganda Machine into such a fervor that they started sucking up to him, attempting to quiet him, Principal Skinner-style. The Suns turned the Twitter-Table and made everyone forget about the earlier chicanery. He’s even sucking up to Steve Kerr – placing the “Kerr Moron Meter” on the internet but setting it aside in person. It’s similar to the story of when my wife met John McCain several years ago – don’t get me started on that story.
On a night when Stan would’ve normally been blasting Kerr, Amare and Porter or calling into question Barnes’ penchant for cheap shots and JRich’s falling-down drunk shooting night, he is placated by Shaq-ovic shaking the hand of Sun of Stan.
Nothing But Claw: Everyone knows Steve Nash is your point guard, but will the team find a backup for him this season? They’ve tried Leandro Barbosa, Goran Dragic, and Dee Brown, yet neither of these players have seemed to get the approval of Terry Porter. Is there a concern among Suns fans that Nash might wear down before the playoffs?
JSun: The Suns do have Barbosa and Goran Tragic (as dubbed by Basketbawful) backing him up. What you’re asking is if the Suns are going to find a competent backup point guard. I think those are few and far between in the league and those that are good backups usually want to start and/or are still young but look like they could start someday. In the past, it was tough to attract someone because everyone knew that Mike D’Antoni does not give anyone on his bench consistent minutes unless you’re an out-of-shape croissant-eating, non-shooting Frenchman.
Barbosa is a serviceable back-up, but he struggles in court vision and decision-making; furthermore, he is much more effective as a 2-guard. I’ve often likened him to a Brazilian soccer striker – he really likes to score. And he’s good at it. Unfortunately with Richardson, Hill, Barnes and Barbosa at the wings (Alando Tucker has promise, too) he’s going to get the most minutes as backup point.
Goran Tragic was hyped as this year’s backup and the heir-apparent to Steve Nash. It was probably too much to put on him. Reports from the Suns indicate that he’s a normal European that will take time to develop and not the instant impact player we were lead to believe. I heard a Steve Kerr interview in which he admitted that perhaps the Suns’ management was a little to optimistic/hopeful and not realistic enough. He’s part of the plans for the future, but probably not the present.
Dee Brown was a bit confusing. My theory is that he was responsible for Richardson’s DUI. Steve Kerr said it was a financial move. Terry Porter expressed pleasure and hope that Brown may return. Someone who knows more about salary caps, luxury taxes, 10-day contracts and the waiver wire will have to explain that one to me.
NBC: Since December, Shaquille O’Neal has been posting the best stats for any centre besides Dwight Howard. What’s caused this resurgence of sorts?
JSun: Allegedly, Aaron Nelson and the Suns’ training staff is the Fountain of Youth. Nash, Hill and Shaq are playing well and playing well beyond their expected useful life expectancies. We (really, “I”) like to call Nelson the Gluteus Maximizer. Apparently, Shaq’s ass was too weak. He’s been putting in the time in the weight room, the massage table and other esoteric physical therapies getting his ass back into shape. Because of his ass deficiencies, his lower back and hammies were in trouble. He is more explosive and athletic than last year.
The Suns have also made more of an effort to go to him offensively. Steve Nash learned how to pass into the post on an angle and the team is working on feeding him in the post. That took a while to get there.
Defensively, he’s playing a little bit more like a soccer-style “sweeper” in the middle of the lane.
NBC: Earlier this season Ama’re Stoudemire caused some turmoil when he declared he wanted to be the man. Has this since died down? Has everyone in the Suns locker room gotten over this?
JSun: I don’t know that anyone ever paid that much attention. Terry Porter came out and said Amar’e was taking the most shots and playing a ton of minutes. No one else said much. Shaq has taken over as the floor leader. He’s leading by example and has been the most consistent player on the squad. We’ve had a lot of discussion about this on our site. Stoudemire is still a great offensive talent and a great finisher and I, for one, like to see him touching the ball at the end of the game. He’s developed into a good passer and everyone over here loves the high-post assists he’s been making.
His team, though? No.
NBC: What’s your take on the Jason Richardson deal? Any sellers remorse after seeing Boris Diaw play so well for Charlotte?
JSun: I’m glad you asked. Going back to November/December of 2007, I’ve been saying that Raja Bell was washed up. Bell is the reason I got off the fence and decided to buy season tickets (I was at the playoff game against the Clippers to see his three in front of the Clips’ bench). However, him leaving was addition by subtraction. He was trouble in the locker room and disruptive at practices – now that he’s gone, Suns’ staff has said as much.
Boris Diaw just couldn’t return to his 2005-2006 form. Many theories abound. Some suggest that he couldn’t play next to Stoudemire, that he needs the ball to be effective. Some suggest he got fat (figuratively and literally) from cashing in on his one good year in the league. Others suggest he spent way too much time trying to score with underage, chubby, American girls. It was just so frustrating waiting for him to turn it back on. He showed us glimpses but never delivered. Maybe he figured turn-about was fair play. We just had a love-hate relationship with him.
I think everyone here will agree we’re glad he’s doing well in Charlotte. He gave us a great playoff run in 2006. It was just over.
NBC: Has the team finally settled on Grant Hill as their starting small forward? It seems they keep bouncing between Matt Barnes and Hill as their starter.
JSun: Hill is the starter. He just wasn’t effective coming off the bench. Meanwhile, Barnes’ numbers are similar enough either way. Barnes has always been a bench guy and Hill’s always been a starter. It works now and I doubt they turn back.
NBC: Robin Lopez is only averaging 11 minutes per game this season despite O’Neal not playing every game and the team limiting his minutes. What’s your take on Lopez’s rookie season?
JSun: First, he’s only averaging so many minutes because of Shaq missing games. In the games that Shaq plays, he rarely appears.
PhoenixStan was in Las Vegas this summer and he tells me that Lopez played very well. After all, he was put on the Olympic-team practice squad. Apparently, he’s got more offensive game than we knew about. He’s also a talented shot blocker. That being said, he commits stupid fouls and hasn’t figured out where he’s supposed to be on the offensive end of the court. Summer League is one thing and the NBA is quite another.
Many of the fans on our site want to give Steve Kerr a Moron Point every time Fropez walks on the floor. It’s hard to argue with that right now. However, I’m still hopeful that in 2 to 3 years we’ll have an above-average center. My take on Fropez was that Stoudemire simply needed an above-average center to play defense, get boards, score on put-backs, clog the lane and absorb fouls. Ask yourself this: “Who played center next to Karl Malone?” I’ll be happy so long as he’s a better player than Greg Ostertag.
NBC: Jared Dudley has seen his minutes drop since his arrival in Phoenix. What’s the story behind this? Is it just a matter of him being stuck behind Barnes and Hill?
JSun: First, he was playing for the Bobcats and moved to the Suns. That will cause a drop. And, yes, he’s behind Barnes and Hill. Terry Porter has suggested he might see some time at the 4-spot. Therefore, he’s also behind Stoudemire and “Lighting Lou” Amundson (although I’m partial to Lou Skywalker).