NBA@2: Suns Prepare For Life After Steve Nash?
If the Phoenix Suns have their way, All-Star point guard Steve Nash will finish his career in the Valley of the Sun. They even have a three-year contract on the table that would accomplish that goal. Unfortunately, Nash is not entirely sold on the idea of ending his career without an immediate path to contention, and as such he may decide to leave for greener, if not warmer, pastures.
On the eve of the 2012 NBA Draft, the Suns are weighing their options, and according to the Arizona Republic‘s Paul Coro, a couple of familiar names are likely to be prominent parts of Phoenix’s Plan B.
First and foremost, the Suns plan to extend qualifying offers to make Aaron Brooks and Robin Lopez restricted free agents, after which they plan to pursue former Suns point guard and current Houston Rocket Goran Dragic.
Dragic can be a free agent, as well, once July arrives, but the Rockets have their own plans for him. Not only will the Rockets extend the qualifying offer to make Dragic a restricted free agent, they also plan to match any offers he might receive from the myriad teams that are interested in him. The Toronto Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks have all been linked to Dragic, who told HOOPSWORLD he prefers the warmer climate of Texas to some of the more northern destinations that might present themselves. Dragic loved playing for Houston, and would welcome the opportunity to be a Rocket going forward. Given Houston’s talk about trading starting point guard Kyle Lowry, possibly to Toronto for the 8th pick in tomorrow’s draft, it seems Dragic will not be a viable option for the Suns.
The word around Chicago at the NBA Draft Combine was that Syracuse point guard Dion Waiters pulled out of the workout process because he has a promise from a team drafting in the first round. The first word was that the promise came from Toronto, with the aforementioned 8th pick, but after Bryan Colangelo vehemently denied making any such promise, the rumor went viral that it was the Suns’ Lance Blanks who had made the promise. Of course, the closer the draft gets, the less likely it seems that Waiters will be on the board when Phoenix picks at 13.
If Waiters is off the board, the Suns are expected to pursue a shooting guard with their first-round pick.
But where does that leave them at point guard? Aaron Brooks can start, sure, but for a team that has long thrived on Nash’s playmaking ability, Brooks would be a radical departure. Brooks can score in bunches, but he’s never been known as an elite set-up man.
The best solution for Phoenix may be to bring Nash back and have him groom Brooks to be the floor leader they need once Nash hangs up the kicks. But if Nash finds a better offer from a team that may be poised for a deep playoff run – a team like Dallas or Toronto – Phoenix may have no choice but to take a chance on Brooks rising to the occasion.
NBA Draft: Arnett Moultrie
Mississippi State junior Arnett Moultrie is expected to be a mid-first round pick in tomorrow’s draft, which is loaded with quality big men. While he accepts comparisons to LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Garnett and Kenneth Faried, he says he will be his own man when he takes the court in the NBA. Watch as Moutrie talks to the media about his game and the workout process at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago:
Walsh, Pritchard Take Over Pacers
An era is officially over in Indiana, when President Larry Bird, GM David Morway and head coach Jim O’Brien set out in 2008 to transform the Pacers and step-by-step, piece-by-piece, did exactly that. There were bumps along the way, and one of those bumps involved replacing O’Brien with Frank Vogel, but when you look back at the job the outgoing brain trust did with the team, it’s impossible to see it as anything but an unqualified success. When they came in, the Pacers had just finished a season in which they were 10 games under .500. This season the Pacers went 42-24 and have been established as a perennial playoff team, perhaps one player away from contending.
Still, change is inevitable. Bird’s aching back has made it more difficult for him to do his job, and Morway’s young family made the decision very easy for him to take a year away from basketball.
“While I deeply care about this franchise, sometimes change is important for everyone concerned,” Morway said in a team press release. “For the past year I have carefully and thoughtfully considered my personal, family and professional goals. After discussing all of these issues with our owner, Herb Simon, and Larry, I believe this is the right time to step away.”
Rest assured, Morway will be back. He told HOOPSWORLD recently that he expects to jump right back into the GM game after a year away from basketball.
Meanwhile, Donnie Walsh has stepped in to serve as team president, having been both GM and president of the Pacers earlier in his career. Walsh was the one who draft Reggie Miller and led the team to 16 playoff appearances through 2006-07.
The new GM of the team is no stranger to NBA fans. Kevin Pritchard, who was hired by the Pacers prior to the start of the 2011-12 season, served as GM of the Portland Trail Blazers from 2007-2010, during which he helped transform the team from their “Jail Blazers” era to the beloved darlings of Oregon sports fans that they had always been before. He will always be known as the man who passed on Kevin Durant to take Greg Oden, but he also built a core around Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge that looked ready to contend before the injury bug bit hard.
The Pacers will miss Bird and Morway, and owe them a debt of gratitude for the successes they enjoyed under their watch. That said, the team is in good hands going forward, and should be set to continue along their present path of improvement and push to be among the Eastern Conference’s contenders over the next couple of years.
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