NBA AM: Suns’ Top Priority, Re-signing Steve Nash
Suns On Mission To Re-sign Steve Nash: Since reaching the Western Conference finals in 2010, the Phoenix Suns have missed the playoffs the past two campaigns compiling a pedestrian 73-75 regular season record.
Although the club has been unable to return to postseason play, they’ve remained relevant in the league’s playoff picture over the past two seasons largely due to the presence of former two-time MVP guard Steve Nash.
But the franchise has reached a pivotal crossroads entering the offseason, as Nash will enter the summer as an unrestricted free agent. This means the primary driving force in the Suns’ success since the 2005 season could bolt to greener pastures in pursuit of an ever elusive championship ring.
For now the organization remains confident in Nash returning to Phoenix to close out his Hall of Fame career and is marching forward with the goal of surrounding him with better talent on the court next season.
“I feel good about it,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry told Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic on the chances of Nash returning. “We just need a player we can throw the ball to at the end of the game, who can get to the foul line, get us a basket or make the right play.”
The Suns have just $32 million in salary commitments on the books for the 2013 season, which gives the team more than $25 million in cap space to improve the roster this summer. The team’s mission, according to Gentry, is to re-sign Nash as top priority and then bring in quality players who can alleviate the nightly workload on the 38 year old star guard.
“I think it’s a little unfair for me to ask Steve Nash to do that night in and night out, not just for 66 games, but for 82 games next year,” Gentry added. “If we’re fortunate enough to have Steve back, and we’re going to do everything we possibly can to do that, I just think he needs some help.”
“We’re obviously going to have to upgrade our talent,” Gentry said. “We have to continue to get improvement out of our young players like Markieff (Morris). I think Jared Dudley has made improvements. We have to get Robin (Lopez) to the point where he’s consistently playing (well). I don’t think we’re a championship team. But I definitely think with the addition of a couple of guys here and there in free agency, we can get back in the mix and be a factor, for sure.”
The Suns finished three games behind the Utah Jazz this season for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. The franchise has a 0.6 percent chance to win the draft lottery which will be held on May 30.
Expect Miami and Boston Series To Get Physical: The primary calling card of the Boston Celtics since the 2008 season has been their tenacity on defense led by Hall of Fame bound forward Kevin Garnett and All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.
So it definitely comes as no surprise after the Miami HEAT shot 78 percent on their shots from inside the paint in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals that Rondo would be stressing the need of his teammates to get more physical the rest of the series. The HEAT won game one of the series 93-79.
“You go to the hole, you’re going to get fouled,’’ Rondo told Frank Dell’Apa of the Boston Globe. “You’re going to hit the deck. I didn’t say flagrant these guys, I didn’t say undercut, take them out, play dirty. It’s just basketball, you know? I don’t think nobody’s going to punk anybody. You can’t. You’ll get fined. There’s only so much you can do as far as acting like a tough guy. We’ve just got to play smart basketball and try to find a way to win a game.’’
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers agreed with his star guard’s assessment.
“There’s no way any team should get that many layups, that many point-blank shots against our defense,” Rivers said.
Once word got back to the opposing locker room, HEAT stars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James vowed not to change a single thing about how they approach the game and getting high percentage shots inside the paint.
“We’re men just like they’re men,” Wade said according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “We’re not going let nobody come in and punk us. But that’s not our mentality, to go out there and make people hit the deck. That’s something we’re used to. One thing about us, we feel we can play any way, many styles. Physical game? It’s the playoffs. It’s fine either way.”
“I mean,” James said. “I don’t really prepare for something I already think that’s going to happen every game, so I don’t have to prepare for it.”
HEAT coach Erik Spoelstra likely summed it up best.
“We think we’re a physical team,” Spoelstra said. “They’re a physical team. It still will be about the game and who plays the game better, who plays to their identity better. Our strengths and things that we emphasize won’t change from Game 1 to Game 2.”
Game two takes place on Wednesday at 8:30 pm at American Airlines Arena (Miami). Expect the series to be a lot more physical. The question is how the referees will handle the whistle going forward.
Pacers Coach Frank Vogel Thinks Brian Shaw Won’t Return Next Season: The Indiana Pacers advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2005 campaign this season.
The future is bright for the franchise with an extremely young core, salary cap room and a head coach Frank Vogel who has already earned his players’ trust and respect.
But one piece of the team’s success that isn’t likely to return next season is assistant coach Brian Shaw. The former NBA guard has been linked to numerous head coaching vacancies and is one of the hottest candidates on the market. Vogel believes it is only a matter of time before he gets the call from Shaw confirming his exit to accept a head coaching job elsewhere.
“I’d be shocked if he does come back,” Vogel told Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star. “I’m actually shocked that he’s not a head coach already. He’s got it all. He’s going to be one of the top five head coaches in the NBA for the next 10 years when he finally gets his shot, and there’s not a doubt in my mind that’s going to happen. I had high expectations for him coming in, and he flat out blew me away and exceeded those expectations, much like our team did, with everything he does. He has no weaknesses to him at all. He’s a workaholic.”
Shaw was a member of three NBA championship teams as a player and two as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was rumored to be next in line for the Lakers job after Phil Jackson retired last season, but the franchise chose Mike Brown instead.
Note on New York Knicks’ Jeremy Lin – Steve Novak Free Agency Status: An arbitration hearing to potentially restore Larry Bird rights to free agents Steve Novak and Jeremy Lin is expected to take place on June 13 according to the New York Post’s Marc Berman, who cites a league source.
Currently, the Knicks would only be able to re-sign both players using their $5 million exception. Both players were claimed by the Knicks after being waived and in the process lost their Bird rights.
If the Players Association were to win the case the Knicks would be able to re-sign both players without touching their $5 million roster exception, therefore increasing the probability of adding a notable free agent using those funds.
Quick Note On NBA Draft Lottery & Odds: The NBA draft lottery is set for May 30. Here’s what you should know about the team’s jockeying for position.
- The top three selections are the only picks decided by the lottery. After that, the rest of the first round selections are based on a team’s regular season record.
- The Brooklyn Nets will keep their first round pick if it winds up in the top three, but the Portland Trail Blazers will get it if it lands outside of this slot (part of the Gerald Wallace trade).
- The Utah Jazz will get the Golden State Warriors’ pick unless it falls in the top seven
Percent Chance: 25%
Percent Chance: 19.9%
Percent Chance: 13.8%
New Orleans Hornets
Percent Chance: 14.8%
(team has two picks, one via Minnesota Timberwolves which has 1.1% shot, their own has 13.7% chance)
Percent Chance: 7.6%
Percent Chance: 7.5%
Golden State Warriors
Percent Chance: 3.6%
Percent Chance: 3.5%
Percent Chance: 1.7%
Portland Trail Blazers
Percent Chance: 0.8%
Percent Chance: 0.7%
Percent Chance: 0.6%
Percent Chance: 0.5%
NBA Chats: There are two NBA chats on the schedule today. Salary cap guru Larry Coon will host his chat starting at 3pm EST. Submit a question for Larry here. Next up, I will be hosting my weekly chat at 8pm EST. Feel free to drop me a line on anything NBA related. You can always find our upcoming chats HERE.