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NBA PM: The Phoenix Dilemma
Posted By Bill Ingram On September 1, 2011 @ 5:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
For some NBA teams, the prospect of a missing a few games next season isn’t such a bad thing. As the current HOOPSWORLD poll (found on the main page) shows, most NBA fans feel the lockout will actually help some of the older teams, and particularly the Los Angeles Lakers. If Kobe Bryant only has to put his knee through 50 games instead of 82 it would seem to increase the Lakers’ odds of getting another championship before Kobe moves on to life after basketball. The same can be said of Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs, Jason Kidd and the Dallas Mavericks, and a few other teams, as well.
The aforementioned teams already have the bulk of their core units in place and are ready to contend almost from the word go. But what about the other teams? What about the teams that need significant roster moves, or have difficult situations to address before the start of the 2011-12 season comes around?
Few teams have as many significant questions to answer as the Phoenix Suns. It’s been well documented, of course, that managing partner Robert Sarver’s financial issues have gotten in the way of the Suns’ title hopes. Head coach Alvin Gentry was able to convince Sarver to keep Amar’e Stoudemire around for one more playoff run, but even after Stoudemire helped the Suns get all the way to the Western Conference Finals two seasons ago he was shipped out at the very next opportunity. The question now is whether to finish the job of blowing up the team or hope that by some miracle the key veterans who are still around can help the Suns get back to contention before they retire.
The first issue the Suns have to address is whether or not to bring back free agent forward Grant Hill. It would be easy enough to assume that Hill, who will turn 39 in October, would prefer to chase a championship elsewhere, but that’s not necessarily the case. In an extensive interview with HOOPSWORLD last April, Hill said he has mixed feelings about moving his family across the country, even if it means a shot at a title. But will the Suns, who already have more than $65 million in committed salary for next season, dig a little deeper to keep Hill in town? Hill is the consummate teammate, and if he decides he wants to stay in Phoenix he would be a valuable asset in helping the Suns as they look to develop a new core of players. For his part, Sarver has made it clear he wants Hill to retire as a member of the Suns.
One thing that could help the Suns keep Hill around is to let Vince Carter go. The Suns acquired Carter in the trade that sent Hedo Turkoglu to Orlando last season, but Carter has a $4 million buyout that the Suns could exercise and save themselves more than $12 million. It’s extremely unlikely the team simply chooses to keep Carter at his $16 million+ price tag, but an agreement reached with his agent before the lockout commenced gave the Suns more time to make that decision. The Suns now have the ability to buy him out and negotiate a cheaper contract for next season, much as the San Antonio Spurs did with Richard Jefferson last summer, or they could buy him out and let him walk. In the event that the entire 2011-12 season is missed, the Suns wind up owing Carter nothing. One way or the other, whatever action the Suns take in addressing Carter’s situation could be the key to keeping Hill around a little longer.
Last but not least, there is the Steve Nash situation. Nash has been one of the best point guards in the NBA for years, and it seems a little unjust to force him to spend what could be the last year of his career on a team that is a long shot to make the playoffs. The assumption was that after the Suns let Stoudemire go, Nash wouldn’t be far behind. The Suns organization has repeatedly denied any inclination to trade their team captain, but that was also the case before Stoudemire was sent first to Houston (in a trade that was submitted seconds too late to meet league approval) and then later to New York.
So what do the Suns do with Steve Nash?
The easy answer is to keep him and let him play out the final year of his contract in the city that has come to love him so. Nash can help groom Aaron Brooks, who is believed to be his successor after the Suns traded away Goran Dragic last season, and perhaps with Nash’s help Brooks can evolve into a star-quality point guard. Brooks wants to stay in Phoenix, and if the Suns clear some cap space with their Carter move it would allow them to keep him in town. The Suns could also choose to trade Nash, who would draw a great deal of interest from contenders who are looking to get over the top. Nash is playing good soldier, saying he wants to finish his career in Phoenix, but it seems highly unlikely that a fierce competitor like Nash would really be happy ending his career without another shot at a title (or perhaps even the playoffs).
Other than that, everything is just peachy in Phoenix. No issues whatsoever.
This is a turning point in the history of the Phoenix Suns. They were on the verge of a championship just two seasons ago and now they are two moves away from completely rebuilding. What should the Suns do going forward? Try to make one more strong playoff run, or accept the inevitable and rebuild? Let us know in this special HOOPSWORLD POLL!
Yao Puts Hall On Hold
Yao Ming didn’t have to retire. That’s the simple truth. Whether or not anyone believes Yao could ever return to his form of two seasons ago, there is little question that with the right amount of rehab he could have been a contributor once again on some level. That’s not what Yao wanted, though. He didn’t want to make the Houston Rockets to put their future plans on hold based on the hope that one day he would be their foundational player again, and Yao didn’t want to risk returning just to have another injury derail his career permanently.
That’s just not who Yao Ming is. He’s a proud man. He’s a fiery competitor and doesn’t walk away from a fight when he can walk, but he also isn’t one to hang around and fight the inevitable. Yao took the honorable way out, stepping away before he might be asked to leave.
Immediately after Yao announced his retirement the questions began about how we define Yao’s NBA career. There’s no question that he has had a tremendous impact on the global game of basketball and that his contributions warrant a spot in the Basketball Hall Of Fame, though there are still questions about whether or not Yao’s performance with the Houston Rockets, defined as much by his injuries as anything else, should inspire the team to retire his jersey.
Today Yao once again took the high road, asking the Hall Of Fame to table his nomination for the time being. Yao’s agent, David Huizinga, conveyed Yao’s desire to hold off on any talk of the Hall Of Fame.
“He (Huizinga) indicated that Yao has great respect for the institution and equal respect for those elected before his consideration,” Hall of Fame President John Doleva said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. “He just feels that it’s too soon to be considered as a contributor.”
Yao Ming may no longer be an active contributor to the game of basketball as a player, but he will absolutely continue to contribute to the global game as an ambassador for the sport. Rest assured, the time will come when even his humility won’t be enough to keep him out of the Hall Of Fame.
Nowitzki, Kaman Dominate Eurobasket
The NBA may be locked out, but NBA stars are getting in some good work as the Eurobasket tournament gets underway this week. Already we’ve seen strong performances from Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Andrei Kirilenko and Tony Parker lead their respective teams to early wins, while less than stellar showings from others cost their teams games. Here’s a quick rundown of the early action from Lithuania.
Spain has the most NBA talent on its side, boasting a starting lineup of Marc and Pau Gasol with Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fernandez in the backcourt rotation and Serge Ibaka coming off the bench. Rubio was a complete non-factor, but Pau Gasol dominated, scoring 29 points and tying his brother for team-high rebounding honors with seven as Spain downed Poland, 83-78. Rubio played 16 minutes, going 0-5 from the field and failing to score. Pau Gasol also scored 20 points earlier today as Spain went 2-0 in the first two days of competition.
Danilo Gallinari and Andrea Bargnani combined for 37 points, but didn’t get enough help as Italy fell to a very balanced Serbian team. Nenad Krstic scored a game-high 23 points as Serbia went 2-0 by following up their win over Italy with a win over Latvia.
The NBA-laben French team had a great first showing, with Tony Parker scoring 31 points, Boris Diaw adding 14, and Joakim Noah and Nicolas Batum chipping in 10 apiece in a win over Latvia. France then took on Israel, and walked away with an 85-68 win behind Parker’s 21 points. Batum added 15.
Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki scored 25 points and LA Clippers center Chris Kaman added 18 points and 10 rebounds as Germany manhandled Israel 91-64. The NBA front court duo then leveled Italy with Nowitzki scoring 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to Kaman’s 17 and 17. Gallinari had 17 points in the loss for Italy, but shot just 26% from the field.
Andrei Kirilenko recorded 20 points, 11 rebounds and four steals in leading Russia to a 73-64 win over Ukraine.
Enes Kanter looked good in each of his Turkish team’s first two games, tying Hedo Turkoglu for team-high honors with 14 in their win over Portugal and adding 11 points in 16 minutes as Turkey beat Great Britain. Luol Deng recorded 22 points and eight rebounds in the loss.
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