In the summer of "coming home", Suns point guard Isaiah Thomas has found a new one in the Phoenix Suns, a team who can help him win a lot of basketball games.
"We finally have someone when we present his jersey I won't look ridiculous in the picture," Babby quipped at the end of the presser (picture above).
Generally, joking about someone's height is taboo. Mean-spirited, even. But on the day Thomas was introduced to the media, both Thomas and the Suns had some fun with it.
"They ain't gonna be too tall," Thomas said of his young sons, who sat in the audience with their mother. "They definitely gonna be guards. (pause) They gonna be mad at me when they get older."
Thomas said this with a big smile on his face - a smile you're going to see a lot over the next four years. And now that he has a home in the NBA that embraces him with open arms, he's going to be even more giddy than usual.
"They brought me in for who I was," Thomas said. "They like me for being 5'9". They like me for being a score first point guard. And that's what I wanted. It's perfect for me with the style of play, the organization the way it is. I just want to be part of something like that."
He's so happy that he doesn't even care that he's not a starter on day one with his new team, despite being one of only six players in the NBA last season who averaged 20+ points and 6+ assists per game. That's it. Just six players did that last year.
"It is important to me," Thomas said of being a starter. "But when it comes down to winning I'll do whatever it takes to win. I want to be on a winning team. I know I have a role. It's a big part of what's going on here. I'm all for it. At the end of the day we're going to play with each other no matter who starts and who comes off the bench it's about winning."
That's a team player right there.
Thomas entered free agency with a chip on his shoulder, the same chip that's been there since he started playing basketball.
"A lot of guys in this League can't average 20 points and 6 assists in this League like I did. I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but that's tough to do. With talented guys around me, I can lead a team to the Playoffs, and I'm going to show people that, I'm going to prove people wrong. I know that being 5-9 that scares a lot of people, because that's not the prototypical starting point guard in the NBA. I'm going to keep fighting, keep working and I'm going to show teams and show people that I am a legitimate starting point guard."
"It's because I'm 5-9. If I was 6-foot, I would be signing for $90 million contract, just like him. Not to put anything on him, he's a great player and he's earned that. But at the same time, I know the politics of the game and I know what I've been through to this point. I'm 5-foot-9 and that's why I was the 60th pick. That's why the Kings keep bringing new guys in. That's the reason why. And I understand and you can't put it past that. If I was 6-foot, I would be a max player. I think a lot of people feel that way, too."
The Suns newest point guard has a lot to prove, and that won't go away now that he's cashed in with a new contract. There's a big difference between $27 million (his Suns contract) and $90 million (what Irving got). Thomas won't even be nearly the highest paid point guard on the team. Dragic already makes more than him, and within 15 months both Bledsoe and Dragic might be making nearly twice what he makes.
And even then, the Suns should still have room to sign a max player next summer if they so choose, to go along with the new "three-headed monster" that is the Suns back court.
In the meantime, the mad scientist in Jeff Hornacek is excited about the possibilities.
"Maybe we got the three-headed monster in the guards," Hornacek said. "There's going to be two of those guys on the court most of the time. Teams are going to have to plan for that and really focus."
And that's how you win a lot of regular season games and make the playoffs with a good seed - by being different than every other team out there and being good at it. The Suns proved last year they can be very effective with a two-point-guard system. Now they're doubling down.
"We are not satisfied," GM Ryan McDonough said of the 48 wins last year. "We want to not only make the playoffs but to advance in the playoffs."
In this first installment of BSOTS Throwback Thursday, we jump back to 2001 and look at an extraordinary performance by a most ordinary journeyman.
Welcome to Throwback Thursday. The dog days of summer are here, and for those unfortunate enough to not find themselves floating in the swimming pool with a cold beverage, we've got you covered every Thursday right here on Bright Side of the Sun, where we do the time warp and relive some of the more curious moments of Phoenix Suns history. Summer sucks. We're trying to make it suck less.
You know those shot-happy guards that are too small to be wings and lack the playmaking skills to handle the point, so they spend their careers bouncing around from team to team to provide the delicious combination of microwave scoring and deplorable defense off the bench?
While names like Eddie House and Aaron Brooks surely leap to mind, few have fit the mold as well as NBA journeyman Tony Delk.
The 6'1 guard played for 8 teams in his 10 year career, averaging only 68 games played per team. For his career he barely cracked the Mendoza line of NBA shooting with a cringeworthy FG% of .408. He was a little guy without a position that took a bunch of shots and managed to make some of them here and there.
He also wore numeral 00 for most of his career, which is neat.
The Suns signed Delk as a
mercenary free agent in August of 2000 in a largely trivial move to shore up their depth in the backcourt. His tenure as a Sun mostly played out the same way as the rest of his career -- he was a sparkplug off the bench that could get hot from time to time.
But on January 2, 2001, on an ordinary night in Sacramento, he went nuclear and turned in one of the most surprising 50-point games in NBA history, pouring in a grand total of 53 on the Kings.
Read on for the details.
The early 2000's were a largely forgettable stretch for the NBA. The league was at the peak of the post-Jordan hangover. Nobody could shoot, scoring was way down, and high-volume isolation players ruled the roost. Allen Iverson and Jerry Stackhouse were first and second in scoring, and neither of them shot better than 42% from the field.
The Lakers were dominant, Ricky Davis was a thing, and final scores often resembled college games. It was not a rewarding time to follow professional basketball.
As for the Suns, they did a masterful job of eventually turning the Charles Barkley departure into the arrival of Jason Kidd, but then proceeded to do a remarkably poor job of surrounding their All-World point guard with complimentary players.
Kidd was arguably the fastest player in the NBA with the ball in his hands, so naturally the Suns decided to spend a huge amount of money on the slowest frontcourt possible with players like Tom Gugliotta and Luc Longley.
They then threw $86 million at Penny Hardaway and the ill-fated Backcourt 2000, which saw Penny suit up for a grand total of 4 games in 2000/01.
The Suns still possessed a solid core with Kidd at the point, young dynamo Shawn Marion on the wing, and the always-underrated Clifford Robinson's versatile two-way frontcourt play. But with about $146 million tied up in Hardaway and the ineffective Gugliotta, their supporting cast consisted of various cast-offs, has-beens and never-weres.
Corie Blount, Paul McPherson, Daniel Santiago, Chris Dudley, Elliot Perry (part deux), Mario Elie (!!!), and Jake Tsakalidis all saw time that season, and if that wasn't enough mediocrity, a mid-season trade was swung for 34-year-old Vinny Del Negro.
It wasn't a particularly exciting time to be a Suns fan, but they were still a playoff team by virtue of their anti-Sunsian defense, which finished the 2000/01 season number 2 in DRtg under the frownage of head coach Scott
Really, I'm not lying.
After a 15-6 start to the season, they had begun to slowly fall apart like all Scott Skiles teams eventually do and stood at 18-11 on January 2, 2001.
The Kings, on the other hand, were an up-and-coming cast of colorful characters that was one Mike Bibby trade away from becoming a threat to the Lakers' supremacy. They stood at a respectable 21-8. Chris Webber was destroying everything en route to his first team All-NBA selection. Peja Stojakovic was enjoying a breakout season. Future Suns legend Hedo Turkoglu was a 21-year-old rookie seeing limited time. Lawrence Funderburke was a basketball player.
The Kings pushed the pace (2nd overall) and lit up the scoreboard, at least in early-2000's terms (their league-leading 101.7 PPG would have only been good for 13th last season). They, along with the upstart Mavs led by young Dirk and Steve, were pretty much the only team that was enjoyable to watch to the casual fan.
It was a good time for the Kings. They were young, exciting, had a positively European flavor, and had yet to be formally introduced to Robert Horry.
53 points on 20/27 from the field and 13/15 from the stripe. Most baffling of all, Delk didn't hit a single 3-pointer (he only attempted one).
Unfortunately, the Kings prevailed 121-117 in overtime despite Chris Webber only logging 7 minutes (injury?), with Peja and Vlade combining for 67 points on 24/37 from the field. Divac attempted 16 freethrows -- all of which I'm sure were the result of legitimate fouls.
For the Suns, Kidd had a most Kiddesque line of 17 assists to go with a 5/18 night from the floor.
The Suns fearsome frontcourt reserves -- Chris Dudley, Corie Blount, Jake Tsakalidis and Daniel Santiago -- combined for 51 minutes, 13 boards, 12 points, 1 block, 14 fouls, 2 turnovers and 0 assists.
Somehow it wasn't enough.
The Suns delivered a 51-win season that year, but it was about as unappealing as a 51-win season can possibly be. Kidd was arrested shortly after Delk's career night for domestic violence, and just a month after that, Clifford Robinson pulled a Beasley (the other kind) and was arrested for spliffing and driving.
They bowed out without much of a fight in the first round of the playoffs against the same Kings team, quietly losing in 4 games.
The Colangelos cleaned house that summer. Kidd was flipped to Jersey for Stephon Marbury, and Robinson was shipped to Detroit for Jud Buechler and John Wallace(no that is not a typo).
In a way, Delk's night in Sacramento was a perfect microcosm of that 2000/01 Suns team. A nice achievement, but ultimately lost in a swell of disappointment and mundanity.
As for Delk, a little over a year later he was sent with Rodney Rogers to the Celtics for Randy Brown, Milt Palacio, a first-rounder that would become Casey Jacobsen, and future all-NBA Joe Johnson. So if you're scoring at home, Tony Delk begat Joe Johnson begat Boris Diaw begat Jason Richardson begat Marcin Gortat begat Tyler Ennis.
Apparently it takes 12 years for a Tony to become a Tyler.
Delk was the third Sun to join the 50-point club, after Tom Chambers did it twice in 1990 (34 days apart) and Clifford Robinson the year prior. In 2005, on the four-year anniversary of Delk's 53, Amare Stoudemire joined the club by hanging 50 on the Blazers.
The all-time mark belongs to Chambers, who reached 60.
Last season provided a double-dose of scoring anomalies as both Terrence Ross and Corey Brewer delivered 51-point games. This of course sent the stat geeks at the Elias Sports Bureau into a frenzy, and they offered some perspective for how rare it is for such modest scorers to reach such a milestone.
Wouldn't you know it,our old friend Tony Delk had set the bar.
From ESPN, the lowest career high in scoring at the time of scoring 50+ points was a tie between Terrence Ross and Tony Delk, both at 26 points.
The lowest career scoring average at the time of scoring 50+ points was Ross at 7.4, followed by Delk at 8.0.
Basketball novices will glance at that stat years from now and assume that Ross is the more average player than Delk, but if there were any fairness in this cruel world there would be an asterisk next to Ross' name. Since he achieved his 51 point game in only his second season, he has only a fraction of the mediocre body of work that Delk had.
By 2000/01, Delk had already registered 4 seasons of meh, and was 5 years older than was Ross in 2013/14.
So, Terrence Ross, kindly step away from our Kool-Aid.
Mr. Delk, we here at Bright Side salute you, and will tell all of our friends and neighbors that you are truly the most average player in the modern era to crack the 50 point barrier. You're like a Disney film sprung to life; a testament to the notion that magical things can happen at any turn, even to the most average of us.
Rock on, Mr. Average.
The Phoenix Suns are rumored to be considering extending an offer sheet to the Detroit Piston's RFA Greg Monroe. They shouldn't.
It's difficult to imagine why the Suns would even be considering Monroe. The power forward/center does two things well: rebounding and posting up. He was a top 20 rebounder (9.3 rpg), but better yet, he did a great job of picking up Josh Smith clankers, averaging 3.1 offensive rebounds a game, which ranks 9th in the league. As far as post ups go, he's good, but not great. Monroe shoots 53% within five feet of the basket. That's a decent number, but not exactly anything to write home about when you look at fellow post-bully Al Jefferson's 62% mark. Monroe's got a decent hook shot, but it's nothing on Big Al's.
I'm not kidding when I say that these are Monroe's only two skills. He can't hit the broadside of a barn with his jump shot. Within 8-16 feet of the basket, Monroe hit a lukewarm 44% of his shots, but anything beyond that drops down to an abysmal 24%. Yikes.
The guy can't jump over a phone book, or move well laterally. His .6 blocks per game are shameful for his size. Monroe has trouble guarding agile 4's like Thaddeus Young, and doesn't quite have the strength to guard big 5's. So, with Monroe you get two things, and only two things: boards and post ups.
Could the Suns use a good rebounder and a post-up threat? Yes on the rebounding, but I'm not convinced on the post-up option. Post-ups are just not an effective way to score points, and the league is moving further and further from them. The Suns could survive with just Markieff Morris's improved post play, as they did last season. Adding a post presence like Monroe wouldn't be a bad thing, if only he could step out of the lane and hit a jump shot. But that's the problem with Monroe; he needs the lane to operate.
Monroe would absolutely eviscerate Phoenix's beautifully spaced floor. The Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe pairing is predicated on slash and kicks, pick and rolls/pops, and defenders being pulled out. With Monroe in the fold, that all goes away. He'd pull defenders into the lane, and his jump shot isn't soon luring any of them out. Monroe needs to be fed the ball in a grind it out style, so he can barrel his way through the key. He's a decent passer from the post, but he's not good enough to tailor the entire offense around him.
Moose's tweener status is problematic as well, and I'm not sure which position the Suns would put him at. If he starts at the center spot, the starting unit has zero rim protection, and the frontcourt would look pretty slow with him and Markieff. The lane would be horribly clogged on offense, with both big men contending for post positioning. I don't like the idea of Monroe at 5, but the thought of him at power forward is somehow worse. Going from Channing Frye to Greg Monroe would be disastrous for spacing, and there would be no shooting whatsoever outside of the point guard position. You can get away with one or two guys who can't shoot in the starting lineup (and only if P.J. Tucker is hitting the occasional corner 3), but three is lottery-bound.
Adding Monroe to the team would require a complete rehaul of the offense. Phoenix's offense works a lot better with a floor-stretching big man, and the defense needs a rim protector. Monroe cannot fill either of those roles; he is not worth scrapping the playbook over.
If you're not already convinced that Monroe would be a bad fit on the Suns, I haven't even mentioned the contract he'll demand. Monroe is looking for a max contract, and with Detroit reportedly expressing an intention to match any offer he gets, it would probably take a max to call their bluff, or overzealous commitment to Monroe, whichever it is. His max would look similar to Bledsoe's max, landing somewhere in the $15 million range. Considering Big Al has about a $13.7 million a year contract, a max for Moose seems like an overpay. Now, Monroe is only 24, and could still improve. But a max for a big guy that offers zilch on the defensive end seems like a recipe for trouble.
Monroe might be worth a max elsewhere, but he shouldn't be to the Suns. He could very well be a nice fit somewhere that plays a slow, grind it out pace, and has a rim protector to back him up. But that ain't Phoenix.
In addition to clogging up the paint, Monroe would stop up Phoenix's cap for the next few years as well. Assuming Bledsoe resigns for somewhere in the $12-15 range, signing Monroe could effectively take the Suns out of any big name free agent hopes in 2015 and 2016 if they plan to keep Dragic, who will be due for a pay raise.
Signing Monroe to a max contract or anything close to it would be a disaster all around. He simply does not fit on the current roster, and his play style would not fit the offense. Monroe's a decent player, but he does not belong in the valley. The Suns need to stay to course, and not spend money just for the sake of spending money. The power forward spot is a position of need after Frye's departure, but Monroe is not the answer.