NBA Sunday: Suns Eye Playoffs, Post Steve Nash
The Phoenix Suns have been one of the league’s most successful franchises over the past decade led by two-time Most Valuable Player and All-Star guard Steve Nash, but will head into training for this season without the veteran floor general calling the shots.
Nash was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in early July in exchange for two first round picks (2013 and 2015) and a 2014 second round selection. The deal officially ended an era under Nash which included three trips to the Western Conference Finals. The previous success seems like a distant memory as the Suns missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season in 2012.
Over the course of two months the Suns have completely retooled their roster by being aggressive in free agency and ambitious while working the trading block netting a team which could possibly compete for a Western Conference playoff spot in their first season without Nash.
Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby said the franchise had been gearing up for life without Nash for the past two years
“As much as we hated to admit it because we loved what this team represented, it was like watching the sands fall through the hourglass,” Babby told Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. “They were falling and the sand was getting smaller on the top. You could see time passing. Now we think we’ve turned the glass over. We don’t know what we have in the top but at least we have time and a bright new day.”
The Suns added Michael Beasley, Goran Dragic and Jermaine O’Neal in free agency. The team also tried to lure high scoring restricted free agent shooting guard Eric Gordon from New Orleans with a max level contract, but the Hornets matched the offer sheet.
But the team’s first priority was to re-sign Nash and have the future Hall of Famer end his career in Phoenix, until the financial numbers didn’t make sense going that route for a team also looking to get back into contention.
“We spent many hours with him on the topic of, ‘How could we bring you [Nash] back and what combination of players would work for you and work for us to give us the financial flexibility to pay you and pay the players we’re interested in?’ ” Babby said. “If Steve came back, we felt like we needed a high-end backup. You’d have Bassy (Sebastian Telfair) but he was only under contract for another year. You had to invest in Steve and another point guard. When you begin to do the math, it becomes obvious that it was investing too much in one position.”
The team was also able to bolster their frontcourt depth by securing veteran forward Luis Scola off of amnesty waivers from Houston and then sent center Robin Lopez to Orleans in a three-team deal which netted Phoenix a future first round pick and former lottery selection wing Wesley Johnson.
“We always said we wouldn’t trade Robin unless we got a first-round draft choice,” Babby said. “Had we played an entire season to get a No. 2 (overall, where Beasley went in 2008) and a No. 4 (where Johnson went in 2010), that would’ve depended on the bounces of lottery balls and you could never be sure what you’re getting. At least we have the pedigree of those picks. Hopefully, their talent ultimately vindicates where they were picked.”
Often times losing an All-Star talent will set a franchise back years before they’re able to rebound back into being a competitive team, but the Phoenix Suns were able to reload with enough talent on the fly to at least garner some early season playoff talk – on paper at least.
What do you think? Do you believe the Phoenix Suns have the talent to make a run for the postseason in 2013?
Isiah Thomas And The Knicks Reuniting?
It is no secret New York Knicks owner James Dolan has a soft place in his heart for Hall of Fame guard Isiah Thomas who has served as the team’s head coach and also spent time in the organization’s front office leading roster making decisions over the years.
The problem is, while still held in high regard by Dolan, most fans and observers believe Thomas’ presence in those previous stints in some ways crippled the franchise for years.
This past Friday Dolan scheduled a breakfast meeting in New York with Thomas as the former guard was headed up to Massachusetts to attend Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Since then the rumor mill has spread about a possible reunion with Thomas and the Knicks’ organization.
A source familiar with the situation says Dolan is open to the idea of Thomas returning to the organization in a yet to be determined capacity, but Thomas himself is the reason a reunion has yet to come to fruition.
“Isiah is very close with Jim Dolan but he’s told me that he’s not ready to jump back into the NBA just yet,” a source close to Thomas told Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. “There’s this perception out there that Isiah is desperate to get back [to the league], but that’s false. I think it will eventually happen but just not now.”
Two years ago while Thomas was coaching at Florida International University, Dolan attempted to hire the NBA legend as a part-time team consultant for the Knicks. The NBA quickly vetoed the move, citing a potential conflict of interest.
Here is a list of notable moves made by Thomas as a team executive with the Knicks in his last two seasons with the club (for the full list visit HoopsHype):
- Exercised the contract options on guard Nate Robinson and Mardy Collins and forwards Renaldo Balkman and David Lee through 2008-09.
- Waived guard Allan Houston.
- Re-signed guard Allan Houston.
- Signed forward Wilson Chandler.
- Selected forward Wilson Chandler (23rd overall pick).
- Traded guard Steve Francis and forward Channing Frye to the Portland Trail Blazers for guards Fred Jones and Dan Dickau, forward Zach Randolph and the draft rights to forward Demetris Nichols.
- Named Glen Grunwald executive vice-president for basketball operations.
- Signed forward Jared Jeffries.
- Signed guard Mardy Collins and forward Renaldo Balkman.
- Selected forward Renaldo Balkman (20th overall pick) and guard Mardy Collins (29th overall pick)
- Replaced Larry Brown as head coach.
- Traded guard Anfernee Hardaway and forward Trevor Ariza to the Orlando Magic for guard Steve Francis.
- Traded forward Antonio Davis and cash to the Toronto Raptors for guard Jalen Rose and a first-round pick.
- Waived forward Matt Barnes.
- Re-signed guard Jermaine Jackson and traded him along with forwards Tim Thomas and Mike Sweetney, a 2006 first-round pick, second-round picks in 2007 and 2009 and a conditional right to swap 2007 first-round picks to the Chicago Bulls for center Eddy Curry and forward Antonio Davis; named Brendan O’Connor assistant coach.
- Signed center Jerome James.
- Selected forwards Channing Frye (8th overall pick), David Lee (30th overall pick) and Dijon Thompson (54th overall pick)
- Traded forward Kurt Thomas and the draft rights to forward Dijon Thompson to the Phoenix Suns for guard Quentin Richardson and the draft rights to guard Nate Robinson.
Marcus Camby Reveals Reasons Behind Decision To Return To New York
Although nearing 40 years of age center Marcus Camby is a player who can get it done defensively and still rebounds at a very high clip. The sixteen year veteran was a highly sought after free agent option this summer that had interest from numerous teams before signing a three-year deal with the New York Knicks.
Camby says he was close to visiting the defending NBA champion Miami HEAT before being heavily recruited by Knicks assistant general manager Allan Houston who reminded him about the grueling battles they had as teammates versus Miami.
“I was on my way to Miami, about to go to the airport to go to Miami when I got the call from Allan [Houston],” Camby told Anthony Sulla-Heffinger of the New York Post. “I played with Allan for four years in New York, and he was like, ‘Just come, sit down and have a meeting with us.’ So I took the meeting with him and Coach [Mike Woodson] and they pretty much talked me out of going down to Miami to take that visit. It would have been hard for me to put on that Miami HEAT uniform, especially with all of those battles that we had back in the day. I’m happy things worked out here in New York.”
The Knicks are expected to finally get past the first round for the first time since the 2000 campaign this season, a goal which Camby feels is more than attainable.
“I feel we have a team assembled that can make a long playoff push,” Camby said. “We all know it’s going to be tough. Miami is the defending champions, and there are still a lot of good teams in the East. [But] we consider ourselves one of the top teams in the East, if not the NBA. It’s easier said than done, we have to get that continuity down. I think if I [play my role] and everyone follows suit and listens to what Coach Woodson says we should have a prodigal season.”