The Phoenix Suns maintain a proud tradition rooted in strong guard play, and exciting, uptempo basketball, from Paul Westphal and Walter Davis to Kevin Johnson and Jeff Hornacek to Steve Nash, and now to Goran Dragic. Frontcourt play hasn't always been up to those same standards. Let's enjoy some gallows humor in profiling 10 of the most disappointing big men in Suns history.
As with any list of this type, it's important we first define our terms. To make this roll call of basketball craptitude, a player had to have the following, uh, "qualities":
"Everybody thought he rode the coattails of Michael (Jordan) and Scottie (Pippen)," Suns coach Danny Ainge said, "and obviously he doesn't have all those rings if Michael and Scottie aren't on his team. But at the same time, I think he would have been a lot more effective without Scottie and Michael on the court."
In this 3:45 career highlight video, about 0:15 are dedicated to his time in Phoenix. I have nothing to add to that.
It did not take investigators long, according to Maricopa County court records, to develop a theory. They alleged that Mustaf had Hayes killed because she refused to have an abortion. Court records say the victim, who was three months pregnant, contacted a lawyer about seeking child support from Mustaf.
The victim's family and friends told authorities that Hayes, 27, said Mustaf was the father and that the former University of Maryland star offered her $5,000 to get an abortion.
When she refused, police allege Mustaf flew his cousin LeVonnie Wooten from Maryland to Arizona to kill her. Afterward, Wooten's girlfriend, who had accompanied him to Arizona, testified that while driving Wooten to California, she saw him dismantle and discard a gun piece by piece in the boundless desert.
"He has a tremendous upside because he hasn't played basketball very long. He's very mobile for a big man and can play some defense. We didn't think he'd be around (at No. 25 overall). The only reason he dropped was because of the contract situation."
Like every year, the Phoenix Suns will kick off their season by running the media gauntlet for a couple of hours. Each player moves from a group interview with all the local media to uncomfortable photo shoots to ad hoc interviews.
This year's Media Day is Monday, September 29 from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm, after which all the players and coaches will hop a bus for Flagstaff.
These couple hours are a
vitally important cool way to catch up with the players after several months off from having to talk to us. Usually, the talk is full of platitudes and optimism about the season and their personal chances to succeed. And this year will be no different.
Yet, there are some interesting story lines that could emerge with a well-timed and well-worded question.
Let's assume for the moment that he shows up. Since Media Day is two days before his contract deadline (October 1), he just might sit this one out and meet the team in Flagstaff after last minute negotiations.
But let's assume for frowns that he signs the qualifying offer sometime before September 29 and shows up in Phoenix for Media Day.
Here's how I imagine the group interview session will go.
"Eric, can you give us some insight on how negotiations broke down over the summer?"
"You'll have to talk to my agent about that. I'm just looking forward to the season and playing really well and letting all that stuff work itself out next summer."
"Were you offended at the Suns initial offer?"
"Man, I just want to play basketball. I want to play really well and focus on the season."
"Do you like playing for the Suns?"
"I just want to play basketball. I don't care where I play."
"Do you feel like the Suns treated you fairly last year during your injury and this summer during contract negotiations?"
"You'll have to talk to my agent about that."
"Do you want to be traded from the Suns?"
"I want to play where I play. I'm here with the Suns now."
"You have veto power over any trade. Do you have any destinations in mind?"
"I just want to play basketball."
"Your agent wouldn't come down at all from the maximum contract demand. Was that your way of trying to get traded."
"You'll have to talk to my agent. I'm just here to play basketball."
And so on, and so on....
I. Can't. Wait.
On the opposite end of the "fun spectrum", I can't imagine how happy Goran will be at Media Day showing off his brother if Zoran ends up signing with Phoenix.
I think it's a long shot, unless Zoran is okay sitting the bench like Dionte Christmas most of the year. He's got a stacked depth chart head of him, barring any Gortat-like trades before the season starts.
The Suns could always make room if they need to, and Zoran would be a great way to make sure Goran has just one more reason to re-up with the Suns next summer.
I don't know how good Zoran's english is, but I've heard he has a good sense of humor so I hope it's passable.
Few people are talking about these two, but the most important season of their entire careers begins now. That's why they've been in Phoenix all summer. They are each restricted free agents next summer, and a good season could spell the difference of millions of dollars per year on their next contract.
Keef is likely looking at between $3 million per year (on a bad season) to more than $10 million per year (if he blows up, becomes a 15/8 or 17/8 starter). Mook is looking on a smaller scale, but no less important to his future.
Both will have to start fielding questions about their next stop, and whether they'd be willing to split up depending on the offers or trade scenarios.
Guys like Marcin Gortat owned Media Day the last couple of years. He took the most interesting shots - both in the camera and in the microphone. Without him, the interesting interview might be dead.
But then there's Gerald Green. You might have forgotten about him because he hasn't been seen in Phoenix since the end of the season, but he's still a Phoenix Sun. While Eric Bledsoe gets hate, partially because he skipped town in April and hasn't been back, your friendly neighborhood Green Monster hasn't been seen either. According to Coro, he's still not around even now. But he's a veteran and under contract. I'm sure he'll show up next week.
And assuming he does, here's hoping Gerald gives a colorful recap of his summer and has a lot of bravado for the upcoming season.
He won't shy away from Eric Bledsoe questions, or questions about where he's going to play this season - be it shooting guard or small forward. If we can get his team platitudes out of the way ("I'll play where ever coach wants me to play") it's possible we can get some insight into where he thinks this season is going. All we have to do is shut up and let him talk.
There's no obvious starting position for him, or even 6th or 7th man. And he's got to fend off rookie T.J. Warren for small forward minutes all season. At the start, I'm sure Gerald will get good minutes but he'll have to earn them after November.
It will be interesting to see what he has to say about his free agency next year, as well. He loved Phoenix last season and thought playing for Hornacek was great. Will he vow to stay in the Valley? Likely not. You just don't do that a year ahead of free agency. But it's still worth asking the question.
Quick question: who is the ONLY rotation player under fully guaranteed contract for more than the next two seasons, at the moment?
You guessed it.
Media Day will be a blast for this kid. He'll say all the right things, and we will eat it up because he'll be one of the few who have the combination of eloquence and pedigree to talk about a long term future with the rising Suns. With a four-year contract in hand, he can afford to say he doesn't mind playing off the bench this season. We'll get a lot of quotes like this one: "It's all about winning. I want to win a lot of games and I think I can do it here."
After all the misinterpreted comments out of Slovenia lately, you can be sure Goran Dragic will be asked to clarify his comments and those of others about his future.
Will he say "I guarantee I'll stay with the Suns"? No way. But will he be more forthright on his desire to work something out in the Valley? I would think so. Dragic has never been one to hide his feelings about something, and doesn't just stick to the script his agent might have given him.
I'm sure I will talk to at least three, maybe five players who won't play a minute in 2015 for the Suns. It always happens. There are trades and releases still to be done.
But at least this year, they might head down to Bakersfield and stay with the organization all season rather than just disappear. Guys like Casey Prather, Joe Jackson and Earl Barron will have to ticket to Cali if they want it.
Last year, there definitely wasn't a big media scrum around Gerald Green who had just been the salary throw-in that summer in the Luis Scola trade. No one expected much from him. And Miles Plumlee got no more run at Media Day than Slava Kravtsov. The two went on to be major rotation players for a 48-win team. We whiffed on those two.
Who will we overlook this year? Probably one of the kids. Maybe Anthony Tolliver? Someone among that group will step up this year, but we don't know who yet.