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I just watched 42 (which I highly recommend to any movie afficionado) and contemplated the implications on a debate of this subject. Are people born with enmity in their hearts, or is that largely something that is taught to them? Back when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier on April 15th, 1947 there was still a great deal of animosity solely based on skin color.

Skin color.

A large segment of people lived with seething hatred festering inside of them like a corrosive agent gnawing away at their morals and philanthropic nature. Were these people born hating people that were different than them, or was it something ingrained in their character by countless experiences and teachings growing up? Isn't it likely that their predecessors were equally brainwashed into similarly abhorrent feelings?

Fast forward to the modern day. Racism and discrimination, while still not completely stifled, have severely dissipated as new generations have been taught more tolerance, acceptance and open-mindedness.

Did people just innately stop hating as much or did the pernicious message change to something more altruistic? I believe it was the latter. Just as people were taught how to hate, now they have been taught how to live harmoniously with their fellow man. If hate can be taught, if kindness can be taught, why can't effort? While nature definitely plays a role in shaping a person's life, I believe that nurture is a much more compelling force.

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For another example, let us lean on the scenario provided by the curious Randolph and Mortimer Duke in the epic movie "Trading Places." Watch it if you haven't. The Duke brothers made a bet - they would take a person (Louis Winthorpe III played by Dan Akroyd) of culture, privileged upbringing, and impeccable pedigree and attempt to turn him to a life of crime and depravity by changing his environment and circumstances. At the same time, they would transplant a common criminal (Billy Ray Valentine played by Eddie Murphy) who received none of the benefits bestowed on Louis into Louis's former life which the Dukes dispossessed him of. Billy must reverse trajectory and become an upstanding citizen.

The amount of the bet: one dollar.

The two unwitting subjects in the Duke's diabolical experiment experience tumultuous change under the circumstances as Billy ascends and Louis plummets. Only when Billy becomes aware of the Duke's nefarious plot do the two join forces to decimate the Duke's lives in a well deserved example of turnabout being fair play. The tandem also makes a bet. A bet about whether they can get rich while exacting their revenge.

The amount of the bet: one dollar.

Trading_places_medium

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I could give many more examples that support my argument, but somewhere in here I have to fit in a little bit of Suns' basketball discussion.

Can effort be taught? Is it possible to coach inspiration? I think so.

I have personally experienced people gain motivation and pertinacity based on an environment change. I witnessed this dynamic during my time in the Army, especially at boot camp. I have been on sports teams that have come together and barely resembled the incarnation that began the season. I have seen people grow and change. I believe it happens.

There have been times during the recently (and mercifully) finished season where I feel the entire team quit. Going all the way back to the 117-77 drubbing by the pathetically miserable vaunted Detroit Pistons, through the 10 losses by 20+ points during Lindsay Hunter's tenure, there have been times when the lack of effort has been palpable. The team quit.

These instances were compounded by a noticeable lack of effort and dedication from several players on a regular basis. The heart of many players on the roster came into question... Let's look at some of them individually.

Goran Dragic - While Goran has been at or near the top of the effort pyramid, there have been times where he was visibly frustrated and exasperated. This led to a sense of detachment at times, but I don't question Goran's dedication.

Luis Scola - Luis is similar to Goran in the respect that his effort was only compromised by some of the results and the actions of his teammates. He hung his head in vexation over the state of the team, but rarely hung his head on the court.

P.J. Tucker - He assumed Dudley's role as the most tenacious player on the team. Maybe he siphoned off some of Jared's energetic demeanor? Tucker won earned the team's hustle award and was always playing hard, even in the most dire of circumstances. He looks like a player that realizes his NBA career depends on his ability to outwork every other player in the league.

Marcin Gortat - Marcin can be fickle. Sometimes he's engaged, and other times he's checked out. It's fairly transparent when Gortat is fluctuating between truculent play (which we all want out of him) and passivity (which we get more of than we want). To his credit, Marcin realizes his role in the quitting culture the Suns created this year. Changing the culture... way to go Suns.

Jared Dudley - He may have taken the biggest step backwards in terms of hustle on the court, which is somewhat staggering based on the fact that he has made a career out of being indefatigable. Not to say that Jared is the root of the problem, but he just didn't seem to be the same player this year, especially in the second half of the season when his role was diminished.

Jermaine O'Neal - Jermaine seemed to be grateful to get the opportunity to play a productive role in the NBA again, but I still felt his play was uninspired at times. Fault me if you will, but I've never gotten the impression that O'Neal's career has been marked by unparalleled commitment. O'Neal did play well, but perhaps some combination of fatigue, injuries and personal issues may have influenced my opinion.

Channing Frye - I believe Channing would have been right near the top of the totem pole had he been able to play this season.

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Now that I've moved through the players who play with excellent to middling inspiration, here's the remainder of the Suns' motley crew.

Diante Garrett (played a whopping 149 minutes), Hamed Haddadi (see Garrett, Diante), Markieff Morris (plays when he feels like it), Wesley Johnson (floats like a butterfly, stings like he doesn't give a f...), Marcus Morris (benched for indolence and insubordination), Kendall Marshall (is he confused by the speed of the game?) and Michael Beasley (whose apathy strangely elicits episodes of stabby rage).

So basically the Suns players over 26 show far superior effort on the court than the players 25 and under. That doesn't adumbrate very favorably for the future of the team. Is there any way to change the culture? In a positive way this time...

I've seen coaches inspire their players and draw out potential they didn't even think they had. I've seen people change from listless to bought in. I've seen people who nearly quit on life become renascent. I've seen people change so much I hardly recognized them. But not all people are capable of that kind of metamorphosis.

Here are the four areas the Suns need to focus on to elicit the right kind of change on this team.

1. Find a coach that can motivate his team, especially the younger and more easily influenced players still in a formative stage. If Hunter's not that guy then get rid of him. It sure didn't look like the team tried harder for him than it did for Gentry. But his evaluation is a topic for a different time.

2. Get better veteran leadership. For all the talk over the course of this season, there didn't seem to be a player in the locker room capable of taking the helm and steering the team in the right direction. The Suns need a player, or a couple of them, that can take charge and lead the team.

3. Sh..can the malcontents having a detrimental effect on the team. Michael Beasley is right at the top of the list, but I wouldn't stop there. I DO NOT want Beasley around our young players, especially the Suns' draft picks this summer. Stretch his ass and send him on his way.

4. Take an organizational stance that won't tolerate apathetic players. Accountability starts at the top. No more players of questionable mental fortitude. Bring in the right kind of guys. Make it completely pellucid that the type of behavior we witnessed this season WILL NOT be tolerated.

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I think the culture can be changed if the team takes a largely divergent approach from what we've witnessed this season. I think the team can create an environment that helps players succeed instead of stagnate. I believe that effort can be taught. I believe that people can be inculcated into new outlooks and ways of life as long as they are receptive and teachable. We can all learn. We can all transform.

The team especially needs to reach out to the younger, more impressionable players. Players who feel entitled based on the fact that they have been catered to their entire lives leading up to their NBA careers. At least some of them can change when provided the proper motivation. The right instruction. The right attitude.

If the Suns can actually achieve the culture change they've professed is in the works, I believe they can foster an environment where players experience growth and are taught how to play the right way. It can happen.

I'll bet you a dollar.

It’s hard to break from the belief that Lance Blanks brought Lindsey Hunter to the Phoenix Suns to eventually become the coach. And while I often don’t jump on board with the argument of...

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This is not a piece meant to admonish Lindsey Hunter in any way. Hunter went 12-29 as head coach of a Phoenix Suns team which was seriously lacking in talent, chemistry, and motivation. Coming in as...

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Since all of you guys were slacking with respect to creating a fanpost for this (shame on you - you know who you are), I have taken it upon myself to create this thread for us to make our predictions. I will use the same format that was brilliantly constructed by a person of great ken and perspicuity, and actually plagiarize portions of his inimitable work by method of cut and paste.

Here's how to play: Choose the winner of each series and the number of games each series will last. You will be awarded 2 points for each correct series winner and 1 point for correctly guessing the number of games. For example (these are my picks):

Western Conference

Round One

OKC over Houston, 4-0

Lakers over Spurs, 4-2

Denver over Golden St., 4-2

Memphis over Clippers, 4-2

Round Two

Denver over Lakers, 4-2

OKC over Memphis, 4-1

Round Three

OKC over Denver, 4-2

Eastern Conference

Round One

Miami over Milwaukee, 4-0

Knicks over Boston, 4-1

Indiana over Atlanta, 4-1

Chicago over Brooklyn, 4-2

Round Two

Miami over Chicago, 4-2

Knicks over Pacers, 4-3

Round Three

Miami over Knicks, 4-2

NBA Finals

OKC over Miami, 4-2

Point totals will be displayed after each round and the story will be front paged as the results are updated. Please omit the spaces between your picks in order to truncate the comments section. Make sure to be pellucid with your picks. Ambiguous entries may be disqualified. No entries will be accepted after tip off of the first game tomorrow (Saturday 4/20).

Good luck everybody. You'll need it to depose last year's victor. Me.

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Despite his job being up in the air, with no word either way from management, interim head coach Lindsey Hunter offered up what could very well be his last press conference as coach of the Suns.

On the day that other coaches were fired, including Lawrence Frank and Byron Scott (as well as Doug Collins already being out), the Suns coach was still taking questions and waiting for answers.

The mood was tentative and somber. The usually affable but sometimes combative coach was open and honest about his situation, giving media the sense that he knew this could be his last media session. At one point about ten minutes into the session, PR director Julie Fie tried to steer media away from asking Hunter question after question on his job status, but he answered every question anyway.

"I enjoyed it. I learned a lot," he said of the experience this season. "Very valuable to me getting the experience. Although we didn't win as much as I would have liked, I think there are a lot of positives that happened during my tenure here.

"And I'm just looking for the next step now."

He was asked further about that next step, and offered a candid response.

"Well, I'm going to relax a little bit," he said. "Go watch some AAU basketball, coach my kids and wait and see."

Has heard anything from Lon or Lance yet on his future? "None at all."

Then he put on the tougher facade you have to put on when your future is at someone else's mercy.

"I'm not even really pressed to think about that," he said. "I'll be constantly putting things together, my thoughts and things on paper. Just the typical basketball summer. I don't feel any urgency at all. I trust that they know what they're doing upstairs. They'll make the decision when they feel they need to."

Hunter does not know what criteria will be used when considering his performance, but he hopes it's not just wins and losses. Alvin Gentry was fired for going 13-28 with this club. Hunter was 12-29.

"It better be a lot of it!" he said, to a lot of chuckles. "If it's just wins and losses, I don't have a chance."

Then, as is Hunter's way, he followed the quip with a more complete, yet less complete, answer.

"I'm really not worried about that part of it," he said. "Whatever is supposed to happen, will happen. It's a hard question for me to answer. I'm not the guy making the decision."

Hunter has come to the point where it's okay to admit how far he had to come as a coach, from the first game where he didn't even call a single offensive play.

"I went from not holding the clipboard at all to totally taking over at the end, so that's a big jump," he admitted. "I think throughout the losing, that made my stomach sick at night but I enjoyed the coaching. That's what I do."

Point guard Goran Dragic said Hunter still has a lot further to go in the play calling area.

"We only had two, three actions," Dragic said of the difference between Hunter and Alvin Gentry. "Teams would scout us and make it difficult to run those actions. Alvin always had a play he could draw up to get a good shot."

As far as positives go, Hunter cited the development of three of the younger rotation players.

"Hopefully for the future this will be a step forward in their careers," he said. "Wes Johnson, and Kendall [Marshall] and Markieff [Morris]. Those guys really got a chance to play some meaningful minutes. Those are the small victories."

Hunter's biggest problem may have been not having strong-minded veterans on the team to keep the young guys focused. As a rookie head coach, you're already behind the 8-ball when it comes to respect. If none of the vets are the type to influence the young guys, then you've got nothing.

Marcin Gortat talked of this deficiency (not leaving himself out), and Hunter mentioned that's an area Dragic could develop further.

"That's something he realizes he needs to work on," Hunter said. "He's such a fiery natured tough kid that he often exploded instead of talking through things, and that's part of maturing."

Hunter talked of needing balance on the team, in terms of personality as well as talent. The Suns had none of that this year.

"I've learned to be careful with that," he said. "In the beginning as a young guy, I would always want guys like myself. But you can't have a whole team of rowdy, defensive rough necks. They wouldn't score but 60 points a game, but they'd be good defensively.

"You can't have a bunch of guys out there that's ready to fight every night. It a mix and match. I've learned that. Somebody has to put the ball in the hole."

He also realizes that a set rotation is the real need for a team to be successful, but that you can't just name a rotation for the sake of it.

"You always want a definitive rotation so guys know what is going on," he said. "In the situation we were in, it was tough because we weren't consistently playing well. And when you're not consistently playing well you try to find combinations of guys that can. And unfortunately we were doing that quite a bit. It kind of goes hand in hand. If you think you've got five guys who can consistently get a win, you go with that. We were searching."

At the end of the conference, Lindsey said goodbye.

"Thanks ladies and gentlemen," he said. "Maybe I'll see you, maybe I won't."

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