In a strange, sordid affair Antonio McDyess is forced to choose between the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets. He did not make it easy.

Before Amar'e Stoudemire delighted Suns fans with his explosive dunks and seemingly endless promise, there was Antonio McDyess.

Many current Suns fans probably remember McDyess as a partial starter and reliable jump shooter in either San Antonio (2009-2011) or Detroit (2004-2009), but my friend there was a time where he was a Phoenix Sun - and fun was had.

But this story isn't about any of that - this story is more about the circumstances of his insane departure from Phoenix.  But first some background.

McDyess Background

Antonio McDyess was drafted #2 overall by the Clippers in the 1995 NBA Draft after two seasons at Alabama.  On draft night he was dealt to Denver for 15th overall pick/white person Brent Barry and future NBA Sixth Man of the Year Rodney Rogers.

The 1995-96 Denver Nuggets were two seasons removed from their shocking upset of the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1994 NBA playoffs and had been a playoff team in 1995 as well.  McDyess joined a fairly talented roster consisting of Dikembe Mutombo, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Jalen Rose, Bryant Stith, and LaPhonso Ellis but the team slumped to a 35-47 record and missed the playoffs.

McDyess however had a very successful rookie campaign, starting 75 games while averaging 13.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, and earning All-Rookie 1st team honors.  Bernie Bickerstaff gutted the roster in the 1996 offseason (fabulously detailed here by our sister site Denver Stiffs) which resulted in Denver falling to 21-61 but McDyess having an opportunity to blossom into an 18.3 point per game player while chipping in 7.3 rebounds per game.

In the 1997 offseason, Denver sought to enter into a contract extension with McDyess - who was going into the last year of his deal - but with the two sides unable to reach an agreement (this article suggests Denver offered 6 years, $70 million) , Denver explored its trade options.  They were able to find a willing partner in the Phoenix Suns.

In a 3-team deal amongst the Nuggets, Suns, and Cavs these teams acquired the following;

Suns:  Antonio McDyess, 2005 1st round draft pick (Sean May - if you're wondering, this pick was dealt to Charlotte so that the Bobcats would select Jahidi White in the expansion draft.  Seriously).

Nuggets:  1998 1st round draft pick (Tyronn Lue), 1999 1st round draft pick (James Posey), 2000 2nd round draft pick (Dan McClintock), 2001 1st round draft pick (Joe Forte), and 2002 2nd round draft pick (Rod Grizzard).

Cavaliers:  Wesley Person, Tony Dumas

At a cost of 3 first round picks (and only 2 net) the Suns had a 23 year old budding star.

The Phoenix Year

The 1996-97 Suns were a team in transition.  They'd traded Charles Barkley to Houston in the 1996 offseason and for a couple months fielded a lame duck team of spare parts.  Rollin Mason covered the early season 1996-97 Suns roster quite well here.

On December 26, 1996 the Suns changed the direction of the franchise by dealing the recently acquired Sam Cassell, along with Michael Finley and AC Green to the Mavericks for Jason Kidd.

After a collarbone injury in his first game delayed Kidd's Suns career by several weeks, the All-Star guard returned and the Suns were able to finish 22-10 and make the playoffs.

Heading into the 1997 offseason, the Suns added McDyess and to go with him signed Cliff Robinson and George McCloud.  Those three new acquisitions when paired with a full season of Jason Kidd, the bald shooting stylings of Rex Chapman, and the bench play of Danny Manning (he would win the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year) took off and won 56 games.

Those wins were good enough for 4th in the Western Conference and earned the Suns a date with the San Antonio Spurs in the 1st round.  Unfortunately for the Suns, in a familiar refrain, Danny Manning had torn his ACL in the early part of April and would miss the playoffs.  Even more unfortunately for the Suns - Tim Duncan was a Spur and San Antonio dispatched the Suns in 4 games.

But there was so much reason for optimism!  Jason Kidd was 25 years old and already a two-time All-Star and the Suns had the perfect running mate for him in the wildly athletic and electric 23 year-old Antonio McDyess.

McDyess had averaged 15.1 points per game for the Suns along with career highs in rebounds (7.6) and field goal percentage (53.6%).  What warrants an additional mention is that the third year forward was better in every single statistical category in the 2nd half of the season than the 1st.

Suns GM Bryan Colangelo had this to say when asked about McDyess' in January of 1998:

"He's showing the talent and skills that made him a premier player the last two years in this league," he said. "There's so much upside to his game that he can only get better."

What could possibly go wrong?  Why nothing of course.  I mean just look at this January 1998 quote from McDyess about a Denver newspaper reporting he was planning a return to Denver:

"That's the biggest fib I've heard this year. I don't think there's any possible way I would go back to Denver," McDyess said. "I like it here in Phoenix. I just want to play and I want to be here."

What Went Wrong

Oh no.

The 1998-99 NBA season was marred by a lockout that lasted from July 1, 1998 until January 20, 1999 (free agency would begin on January 18th after the CBA was verbally agreed).  With a 50 game regular season scheduled to begin on February 5, 1999, teams had a slim period in which to set their rosters for the upcoming year.

At the outset of the truncated free agency it became relatively clear that McDyess would be choosing between remaining in Phoenix or returning to the Nuggets.

And that's when things got weird.

On Thursday January 21st, 4 days into free agency, the Nuggets appeared to have McDyess locked up and called a 3PM press conference to say so.  With the young forward still uncertain of his decision, Denver was forced to delay the press conference until 5:30, and then indefinitely.

In a 2008 interview with Chris McCosky of the Detroit News, McDyess shed some light on his struggle:

"I didn't want to sign there," said McDyess, a forward. "I sort of had an in-between mind at that point."

*Side Note:  This article from the 1999 Sports Illustrated archives heavily implies that a lot of the reason for McDyess' internal strife was Denver's pending release of his friend LaPhonso Ellis - a fact which goes unmentioned in the interview from  9 years later.

So what does any young man facing a big decision about who to date play for do?  Why he calls his ex former teammate Jason Kidd of course.  Back to you Dice:

"When I got to Denver, I just felt like that wasn't the place for me," he said. "So I called Jason Kidd (his teammate in Phoenix the previous season) and told him, 'I don't know if I want to sign here, man.' He said, 'Just stay right there and don't do nothing you don't want to do. I will be there soon.'?"

How did the heroic Jason Kidd respond?  Well he grabbed his pals Rex Chapman and George McCloud and the Suns threesome chartered a plane to Denver to rescue their buddy from the scourge of snowy weather.

After McDyess' agent was assured by Bryan Colangelo that Dice would be welcomed back in the Valley, the Suns recruiting effort was on.

In something that seems straight out of a kid's sports movie, then-Nuggets GM Dan Issel discovered the Suns cavalry was on the way and called in his own reinforcements in his head coach Mike D'Antoni, assistant coach John Lucas, Nick Van Exel, and naturally Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy.  Here's a fun anecdote:

Issel and Nuggets owner Charlie Lyons huddled with McDyess and his agents, Dutt and James Bryant, in a locker room at McNichols Arena, where a sold-out NHL game between the
Colorado Avalanche and the Calgary Flames was less than an hour away. When McDyess mentioned that Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy was his favorite player, the Nuggets brass asked Roy in for a quick pregame visit. He presented McDyess with the goalie stick he had planned to use that night.

Thanks for nothing (then-Phoenix Coyotes goalie) Nikolai Khabibulin.

The 1999 Sports Illustrated article goes into extensive detail about what happened when the Suns arrived but the short of it was that the players headed to McNichols Arena where the Avalance played and parked outside the arena waiting for McDyess to potentially come out.

Here's what happened next:

Chapman says he asked a security guard to tell McDyess they were waiting. After a few minutes a different guard returned and told him, "I just talked to Antonio, and he said, 'Beat it.'"

"I told the guy, 'You're lying,'" Chapman says. "I pressed him and then he finally said, 'Look, I'm just telling you what I was told to come out here and say.'"

McDyess himself painted a more hilarious picture of the incident in the 2008 interview:

But McDyess said Dan Issel, Denver's coach and general manager at the time, knew Kidd's rescue party was on the way, and instructed security and ticket sellers at McNichols Arena to keep Kidd and company out of the building.

"I mean, it was a blizzard outside, and they wouldn't let those guys inside the arena. They kept them out in the snow," McDyess said. "It was crazy times."

Poor shivering George McCloud and Tiny Tim-esque Rex Chapman.

Their daring hockey game rescue thwarted, the Suns returned to an Embassy Suites where they thought a 9:30 meeting with McDyess would follow.  The meeting never happened.  For one final anecdote enjoy this:

McCloud called McDyess's pager 25 times but didn't get a reply. At midnight Chapman scanned the lobby one last time and ran into Bryant, Dutt and Van Exel as they were checking in--without
McDyess. "I went up to Tony Dutt," said Chapman. "He was wearing a Denver Nuggets sweat jacket. I asked him what was going on. He told me Antonio had made up his mind to play for Denver. I told Tony that I was O.K. with that, if it made Antonio happy. I mean, he's the sweetest guy in the world. All I wanted to know was why did they have to put him through all this?"

The only thing that would make that story better is if Rex Chapman had screamed "Et tu, Tony Dutt?" at McDyess's agent at a Denver Embassy Suites in the middle of the night.

Moving On

With McDyess back in Denver, the Suns struck quickly the next day when they signed Minnesota power forward Tom Gugliotta to a six year, $58.5 million dollar contract.  To the chagrin of coach Danny Ainge, Googs had initially left Phoenix without a contract which caused him to deliver this great line about the Minnesota forward's visit:

"We had a lot of positive feedback," Phoenix coach Danny Ainge joked, "but, hey, I had a year of positive feedback from McDyess too."

Burn on you, Dice.

The Suns looked to double down on...something....when they acquired the jewel of the Bulls second three peat in center Luc Longley.

That Phoenix roster of OK-ness got the Suns a 27-23 record and a first round sweep at the hands of Portland.

McDyess would go on to blossom in the next 3 seasons in Denver, peaking as a 20/12 All-Star during the 2000-2001 season.  A barrage of injuries started the next season as during the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 seasons he would play just 10 games combined.

Denver then dealt McDyess to the Knicks in a deal where Scott Layden traded the recently selected Nene, Marcus Camby, and Mark Jackson for a guy who hadn't played in 2 years.  Scott Layden was a great GM.  Dice returned to Phoenix as a corpse in January of 2004 in the Stephon Marbury trade.

To his credit, McDyess reinvented his game nicely in his 30s with Detroit and San Antonio.


What's an alternate history like where the Suns have Kidd and McDyess growing together?  Who knows - but it would have been pretty damn fun to watch.  (Also we probably would have missed out on Backcourt 2000).

Here's some old school highlights of McDyess to give you a taste of what he was:

The last few words go to McDyess who according to McCosky's article, always regretted his decision to return to Denver:

"I was just very young then.  I didn't have anybody guiding me or teaching me better at that point. I was basically listening to John Lucas (Nuggets assistant coach). He was my mentor-adviser at the time and that's why he got there and talked to me before (Kidd) came, and I went on to sign the paper."

The relationship between Eric Bledsoe and the Phoenix Suns may be broken. He very well could follow Greg Monroe to become one of the biggest-name free agents in NBA history to take the risk of...

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Archie Goodwin is someone who Suns fans have been keeping a very close eye on. Flourishing with potential out of Kentucky, Goodwin went 29th to the Suns in the 2013 NBA Draft. The Suns were so scared of losing out on him that they traded one spot up just to make sure they landed him. There is obvious reason for intrigue.

Goodwin came out of college as one of the most raw players in the process. The best way to describe Goodwin is a term I really love, a zero guard. The way I see the term is someone who is stuck between shooting guard and point guard, which isn't necessarily a bad thing for them. Russell Westbrook (who John Calipari compared Goodwin to) is one of the better examples of this with Victor Oladipo closing in as well. These guys are freak athletes who can get to the rim just about any time, but they lack the true playmaking ability to be officially deserving of the title as a point guard. The other side is that these zero guards can't shoot a good number from the perimeter, making them off the ball at shooting guard even more difficult than letting them run the offense.

The progression of Goodwin over the next few years is what's going to determine if he becomes a true 1 or 2, or he lands in this zero guard paradigm, which quite honestly isn't such a horrible thing. Westbrook has improved on his passing in the past couple of seasons, but it's not like he's still a true point guard who doesn't go tunnel vision at times to get his own buckets. That's Westbrook syndrome though and I don't see Goodwin as a "selfish player" or whatever you want to call that. Westbrook added a killer mid-range jumper to his game that is basically unstoppable, but he's still an inconsistent shooter from deep.

So why are we talking about this when it comes to Goodwin's play for next year? It's because it is crucial for young players to recognize their flaws and work on them as much as possible.

Looking at what we learned from seeing Goodwin for an entire season so far, it's not that much new information to process. There was the early run in November where Goodwin had five games in the month playing more than 15 minutes. His highlight was a 7-10 performance against Sacramento, but in that home-and-home series the following game he shot 0-8. We saw him really succeed when head coach Jeff Hornacek let him loose and run wild. Archie played more than 25 minutes only twice last season, but in those two games he shot 17-23 combined.

The part of Archie's game that is difficult to judge from last year's tape is how much of it will translate with teams knowing what he's all about. Goodwin's ease of getting by the initial defender, making sharp cuts, and contorting his body after getting to the basket with such speed was so deadly when teams didn't adjust to it. This main feature of his game also applied to transition and picking up a few easy buckets off of steals. Those two big time performances were the perfect example of teams not being able to get a handle on Goodwin. Of course, those two teams were both very bad last year in Utah and Sacramento.

There were still the adjustments occasionally and that's where Goodwin started to really struggle. In that 0-8 game, The Kings were putting more defenders in the paint when Goodwin started to penetrate. Even with his athleticism in getting around that defense, he still had some tough finishes that he couldn't make. Sacramento was daring him to shoot all the time and there were some ugly misses in that process. It's unclear which side of Archie we would get if he was a regular feature on the Suns.

The next step in Archie's game is improving these weaknesses. Before the summer league started in Vegas last year, there was an expectation here at BsoTS on Goodwin being one of if not the best player on the roster. He was one of the high scorers on the Vegas squad last year and that plus his playing time last season should translate to him looking good this summer. Before the summer league started, assistant coach Mike Longabardi said, "we want him to do what he does and play with a lot of energy, be a great defender, cutter/slasher, playmaker."

Goodwin certainly played with a lot of energy and was that great cutter/slasher that we know of, but the other facets of his game weren't there. I wroteton during my time in Vegas and covered Archie each game, but here was my main impression.

Watching Goodwin in Vegas last month gave me zero indication that he had significantly improved his jumper or his playmaking ability. Goodwin is really freaking good at getting to the rim already so it's two skills that could drastically improve the effectiveness of his elite skill. Want to sag off of him so he can't get by you? He's hitting the open jumper. Want to crash the lane so he can't finish? He will dump the ball off to the big or find the open player on the perimeter.

Those two clear areas of need will have us bring forth ESPN's Chad Ford's scouting report on Goodwin entering the draft last year. Ford had his weaknesses as "needs to improve the consistency on his jumper, can play out of control, takes wild shots, and needs to add strength." Ford never really addressed his passing, as he instead has a strength as Goodwin being a "competitive, unselfish player". Goodwin certainly took those wild shots when the offense either broke down or he was so committed to the finish at the rim that he couldn't pass out of it. It's a very small sample size to judge from though like I said. Still, it's clear that Goodwin needs to improve there yet and there's no indication that he did in his first year in the NBA.

Is Goodwin ready for the rotation? Mike Longabardi thinks so. "He's good enough to be a rotational player in this league," Longabardi said before the summer league. "He's got to get stronger, which he is working on, he's got to get experience which he'll get in summer league. And then form there, it's going to be up to him to see how far he can go. He's very blessed with god given ability with his quickness and athleticism, that's the reason why we like him."

In my opinion I don't think Goodwin is ready for the rotation. It's clear that he is an absolute terror whenever he is attacking the basket, whether it's in the half-court or in transition. The good news for the Suns is that they have the depth on the bench now to not force Goodwin onto the floor. Assuming Bledsoe is signed, the guard positions off the bench will be filled with Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green. Also, rookie T.J. Warren is going to get a lot of shots off that bench. Tyler Ennis could find a way onto the roster as that fifth guard if Hornacek prefers the pure point who is a much smarter player and better game manager. Either way, the fifth guard position is nothing to freak out about when it comes to playing time.

Here is the good news about Goodwin. I doubt I need to remind you about this, but Goodwin just turned 20 this month. Ford said "if the Suns are patient, this could really pay off." With the new NBDL team the Suns have that we here at BSotS will be covering, Goodwin could be playing consistent competitive basketball throughout the year. Hornacek doesn't have any real reason for Goodwin to enter the rotation now unless his jumper is now magically fixed.

As a fan of the Suns you could talk yourself into being disappointed by Archie Goodwin thus far. There is a clear package of talent and we always saw those "flashes" of it whenever he got time to play last year. The problem is addressing those two areas of need and making Goodwin a slightly less one-dimensional player. In my opinion, Goodwin has another two years to figure out where he wants to go with his game before we start flipping tables and calling him a bust. That's a whole lot of time and I expect him to be a good scorer in this league whenever the opportunity for permanent playing time comes forward. That's what we know, but what we don't know is if he adds those two parts to his game. If he does, the NBA will be on high alert and start trying to figure out how the Suns added even more to their biggest strength.

Eric Bledsoe seemed to be a little disappointed on Tuesday afternoon. No, it has nothing to do with his drawn out contract dispute between his agent Rich Paul and the Phoenix Suns. His disappointment...

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Local sportscaster on Fox, Jude LaCava, dropped a bombshell yesterday on FoxSports910 - the Suns have shifted into "deal" mode with point guard Eric Bledsoe.

Yesterday, local sportscaster Jude LaCava went on FoxSports 910 radio, "The Drive", and told the world that the Phoenix Suns have now hung out the "Open for Business" sign on Eric Bledsoe's locker.

"I'll tell you this, and I think this is the first time it's reported," Jude LaCava said on Tuesday, "I do believe in my NBA sources. You can take this to the bank, so to speak, the Suns are now discussing trade possibilities for Eric Bledsoe."

"That's the new chapter to this and I wouldn't back off of that information. I think it's 100% correct."

--LaCava on FoxSports910 "The Drive"

Any objective person would agree with LaCava that the Suns have been open to trade possibilities on Eric Bledsoe since the day he was acquired. In fact, the Suns should have been open to trade possibilities on the entire roster in that time as well.

When you are a rebuilding team, you need to keep building. You can't ever sit tight, overpay to keep and think you're going to continue to improve.

"I think it's safe to say 'open for business'," LaCava said. "The decision makers, [managing partner Robert] Sarver and [PBO Lon] Babby and hopefully Ryan McDonough, they are open to that possibility. It's got to be right. It's got to be the right return in what they are looking for.

"It's to the point that if they can accommodate Bledsoe and get something they want in return, trade possibilities are very, very real and they have been discussed."

--LaCava on FoxSports910 "The Drive"

The most important thing here is that the Suns need to "trade up" with Bledsoe. There's no dumping him for prospects and draft picks. The Suns still have Bogdan Bogdanovic waiting overseas, four first rounders not old enough to drink alcohol on the roster and four more first round picks in the next two years coming to the team. The Suns don't need future draft picks.

What the Suns do need is a power forward around whom to build. Is that a player like Paul Millsap? Considering he's only got one year left on his contract, I'd say no. At least, as the centerpiece.

So who? I have no idea.

LaCava rightly says that this is still a lottery team. The Suns need to improve, not regress. Losing Bledsoe without getting equal or better value in return would be a step back, and the Suns can't afford to do that. Not now. If the Suns can't find something better, they will stay with Bledsoe even if it's on the qualifying offer.

Where the conversation derailed is when LaCava absolved Ryan McDonough of any wrongdoing in the strained relationship with Bledsoe, pinning all problems on incumbents Robert Sarver and Lon Babby.

"That's where the relationship went south in the early weeks last year," LaCava said. "The guys at the top made a decision that we're not going to extend you right away, we want to see you play first. And I think that was a bit of an affront, at least from Eric Bledsoe's perspective. And I don't think it ever recovered after that."

--LaCava on FoxSports910 "The Drive"

Rumors went around to that effect, I guess, if you considered Bledsoe a max player last summer. Remember, it was Bledsoe who showed no sign of taking a discount off his desired price. Rumors floated that Bledsoe wanted max money a year ago, and that the Suns - as LaCava said - wanted to see him play first. The Suns reportedly offered something south of 8 figures per year (under $10 million), but Bledsoe wouldn't bite.

Was that an affront to Bledsoe? Maybe. Should it have been? No. Bledsoe had never, ever played full time as a point guard since high school. He was entering his fourth year with a career scoring average under 8 points per game. Is that a max player? No.

But LaCava felt that the Suns missed a golden opportunity there.

"If you have a plan, you have to execute that plan. If you're going to go after a particular player in a trade or free agency, you have to close and commit. I'm not blaming one side or the other."

--LaCava on FoxSports910 "The Drive"

This final exchange was the worst, at least to me.

Question from radio jockey: If Ryan McDonough was able to negotiate unilaterally with Eric Bledsoe, do you think he would already be re-signed by the Suns?

"Yes I do," LaCava responded without hesitation. "I think if Ryan had his way, it would have been done last fall. That's just a hunch. The three greatest assets to this organization right now are Ryan McDonough, Jeff Hornacek and Goran Dragic. I do believe that in a perfect world that Ryan McDonough would have found a way to get this done last fall."

--LaCava on FoxSports910 "The Drive"

Sure the Suns relationship with Bledsoe is not a great one. Yet, who exactly is to blame here?

The Suns rightly didn't want to commit to the max last fall to Bledsoe. That's a smart decision.

The Suns treated Bledsoe with respect when he got hurt, never once pushing him to return sooner than he wanted to return. Bledsoe missed half the season while the Suns treaded water on the edge of a playoff berth.

And then when free agency started, the Suns wanted to get a deal done but it's been nothing but silence since a $12-million-per-year offer was put on the table. Bledsoe still wants max, and thinks a half-year of starting is all he needed to prove it.

Look, if this relationship doesn't work out then that's a shame. It's bad for Bledsoe, and bad for the Suns.

Bledsoe will be hard-pressed to find a better place in the NBA than running Hornacek's system that helped him succeed. He will be hard-pressed being the only playmaker in a traditional offense.

The Suns, on the other hand, will be a much worse team without Bledsoe. A starting back court of Thomas and Dragic is lot less scary than Bledsoe and Dragic, with Thomas off the bench.

If the Suns make a trade, it will be to trade up. Otherwise, we might just see one more year of Bledsoe followed by a teeth-gnashing, fingernail-biting summer of both Dragic and Bledsoe on the open market in July.

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