Fans want absolutes. Is Lindsey Hunter the coach or not? Is Lon Babby the President/GM or not? Is Lance Blanks coming back to run the draft another time or two, or not?
The players want to know, too, but they are more focused on the summer break at this point or upcoming free agency.
I'm sure the ones most interested in knowing are Lindsey, Lon and Lance. But they can't afford to spend any time thinking about it (though you know they do anyway).
It's the fans who think about it way more than is probably healthy.
But whether Hunter is coming back next season matters not, at least not yet. First, the front office has to be in place with new contracts. Otherwise, why go through a coaching search that might have to be done all over again? No new GM or President is going to want to be saddled with a head coach he/she didn't pick.
Lindsey Hunter's interim head coaching contract most likely expires on the last day of the season, before Lon Babby's, and certainly before Lance Blanks. What happens to Hunter on April 18? Does he revert to player development coordinator again, pending a coaching search? Or is he released entirely from Suns employment? That call is Robert Sarver's to make, and it almost certainly won't be a decision to make Hunter the permanent coach with a brand new contract before a lot of other decisions are made.
Not if Sarver is still considering making changes in the front office.
Babby's contract does not expire until after the draft and the first month of free agency. Blanks' contract goes for another year beyond that, but we all know that only matters in context of paychecks. If Babby is gone, Blanks is certainly gone. If Babby stays, it's still possible that Blanks is out. I mean, just look at this roster he's assembled. The second-worst winning percentage in franchise history, folks.
"Every player on this team is a guy we wanted to be here," Babby said in preseason. He felt (and I felt as well, showing how much I know about chemistry and talent) that this team was more talented than last year's.
Blanks and Babby brought in NINE new players this season, returning only one guy given full starter's minutes all season long (Marcin Gortat). The others - Jared Dudley, Markieff Morris and Sebastian Telfair - all saw their minutes cut over the course of the season (Channing Frye missed the entire season with a heart condition).
This truly is Blanks and Babby's team. And Hunter is truly Blanks and Babby's coach.
"You've got to have that leadership," Lon Babby told KTAR/Arizonasports last week in a radio interview. "You're looking for that coach [to lead the team]."
"I don't want to speak prematurely," he admitted further, when prodded. "But I think we're getting some of that from Lindsey Hunter. We can talk about that at the appropriate time, but I do think we've made progress in some of that area.
"Is the leadership at the same level as it was before [with Nash and Hill]? No. We are constantly keeping our eye on that. You cannot have a rudderless ship, and we've got to make sure we don't have a rudderless ship. From right up here with me and Robert, on down to the locker room."
It's up to Robert Sarver to decide how strong and true the rudder named "Babby and Blanks" has become. Lon is careful to use "we" in any context of team evaluation. He is not alone on his island, and doesn't want to be portrayed that way. Blanks made the call on Hunter and the last two draft picks (Morris and Marshall). According to Babby, all of them made the call on Gentry and on the team itself last summer and for the past three years.
But if it's a question of bringing in new talent evaluators or losing his job, will he break ties from Blanks and Hunter? Will he care about the job enough to compromise character and integrity? Who knows.
It's also unknown WHEN the decisions will start being made, beginning with Lon Babby.
It's certainly possible that Sarver rides out this current front office through July since they are already under contract, but is that likely? Is it likely he has a new staff inherit the work of the prior regime without the opportunity to shape the roster before their first season in power?
Sounds crazy, but he's done it twice before. He did it in the disastrous summer of 2010, when Babby and Blanks were not hired until the heavy lifting had been done already, absolving them of any blame but also castrating them for 1/3 of their contracts. He also kind of did it in 2006 when Bryan Colangelo went to Toronto. Sarver simply promoted D'Antoni to GM without engaging in a GM search.
The only time he hired a President/GM in a timely fashion (ie. before the draft and free agency) was in 2007, when he hired minority owner and broadcaster Steve Kerr to run the front office ahead of longtime assistant GM Dave Griffin. But that wasn't under the gun. He simply stripped the tag from Mike D'Antoni and put a rookie in place.
So sure, it's possible that Sarver won't hire a new permanent front office until late summer, after the heavy lifting once again. He clearly doesn't (or, at least, didn't) think a permanent, veteran GM is vitally important during the draft and free agency.
We can assume Sarver and Babby will have a heart to heart on Babby's next contract when the season ends, and not much beyond it. The smart play is to decompress a bit and wait a couple weeks before sitting back down to discuss their future. That way, you're not working on adrenaline. That's what got Mike D'Antoni in trouble. He quit before stepping back a bit.
But if it's Lon's decision, he will have them collect their thoughts a bit before making any decisions.
"I have made some notes in a journal that I keep," Babby told me two weeks ago. "So that when I sit down with Robert I'm not going on what happened that day but on what happened all along. And hopefully Robert will do the same."
If the two decide to part ways, though, don't put it past them to keep Babby in the office until his contract ends. Babby is a man of integrity who values honoring contracts. It's certainly possible he and Blanks remain in their positions until Babby's ends.
Which just delays the hiring of the new President, new GM and new coach until late summer.
The Suns Gorilla has long been known to put out "maximum effort" on the basketball court. For more than almost 40 years, he has run around, leapt, flipped and generally done whatever it takes to rile up the US Airways crowds at otherwise dull events.
Basically, exactly what the Suns need when the shot clock is running.
Practices are closed to the public, but hush-hush rumors abound among people "in the know" that the Gorilla was out the on the court, running drills to show the players out how match his level of effort every second he's out there.
He wasn't barking orders, I assume, since he has no voice. So I can imagine him animatedly gesturing players into position throughout the drills.
After practice, Suns brass was reportedly so impressed that the Gorilla has been retained as "Effort Coordinator" for the remainder of the season.
Details, attribution and actual facts to follow soon.
In addition to the Jays, I was able to see games featuring Duke, Georgetown and San Diego State and the NBA Draft prospects those teams featured. I also was treated to the show put on by Dunk City (No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast for those that don't follow the tournament), but that's a different story.
First, here is my take on the potential lottery picks.
Quote: "During the recruiting process, I knew we were getting a player that was extremely versatile, that I thought would be able to have success in a lot of different areas on the basketball court at both ends ... He's continued to progress, he's gotten better ... He's a person that can control a game in many different facets." - Georgetown head coach John Thompson III
As a possible top five pick and potential target for the Suns, Porter was the player I was most excited to see. I was counting on seeing two games of him considering his Georgetown team was a No. 2 seed taking on a lowly No. 15 seed in the FGCU Eagles. Unfortunately, Dunk City had other plans and Porter was sent home early. But I still got to see one game from Porter, and although it wasn't his best, I came away impressed.
Georgetown's public practice was one of the more boring ones that I watched on Thursday, as John Thompson III kept things simple for his team with some basic skill work. The one thing I took away from it was that Porter has really put in a lot of work on his shot. He was a 22.6 percent 3-point shooter a year ago as a freshman, but he knocked down almost every shot he took in practice, from all over the floor.
In the Hoyas' game against FGCU, I got to see less of the shooting and more of everything else. The bad part is Porter had one of his worst shooting percentages of the season, going just 5-17 from the field and 2-6 from downtown for 13 points. However, these numbers are way below his averages of 48.0 and 42.2 percent and I'm writing this off as a just bad game, albeit at the worst possible time. He even missed a couple bunnies that normally are an easy two.
There was one great sequence in the second half where it looked like he was finally coming alive. He threw down a nice dunk, hit a 3-pointer on the next possession, made a nice pass for an assist on the possession after that and then broke up an alley-oop on the other end. It was an impressive sequence showing off a variety of Porter's skills, but just when it looked like he was taking over, the Hoyas stopped going to him.
However, despite his offensive struggles, he was still able to put up a double-double and I was very impressed with his rebounding ability. He has great length, good hands and a nose for the ball, which are essential traits in any great rebounder. He pulled down nine of his 11 boards in the first half, and although he only had two offensive rebounds in the game, he was in position for several more had he gotten better bounces off the rim. Rebounding should continue to be a plus for him at the next level.
He didn't really impact the game in a big way in any other area, although he did make some nice passes on offense and make a few plays on defense.
Overall, Porter appears to be a very versatile prospect who can contribute in multiple ways. I don't think he's a franchise changer or even a number one option. However, I do think he is going to be a very solid starter and perhaps an All-Star one day. Tayshaun Prince, Nicolas Batum and Andre Iguodala are players I would compare him to.
Final Thoughts: Porter didn't have his best game, but based on what I've seen I would be in favor of the Suns drafting him somewhere in the 4-8 range. He's not our franchise player, but he is a great piece to have on the team as the rebuild continues.
Quote: "Mason has just developed; he's worked really hard since last spring to develop a better offensive game inside, and he's got good touch, and one of the key things he does out there is pass ... he's had a really great year for us." - Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski
Plumlee is a prospect the Suns might have an interest in if they receive a late lottery pick from the Lakers. He is an athletic big with good size and a game that took a huge step forward this year.
I hadn't paid very much attention to Plumlee's free-throw stroke before, but that was the thing that stuck out to me most in Duke's public practice. He has a weird hitch before his release, and I'm surprised he's even a 67 percent free-throw shooter.
Unlike Georgetown, Duke managed to win their second round game against Albany so I got two looks at him.
Plumlee was too big and strong for the Great Danes to handle, and he finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, missing just two of his 11 shot attempts. However, I didn't feel like he was as dominant as his numbers would lead you to believe. Plumlee did show a nice sky-hook, and he threw down a couple impressive alley-oops (they threw him a third but the ball was over the cylinder when he grabbed it). However, he struggled with the Danes doubling him in the post in the first half and ended up with four turnovers. A lot of his baskets were also due more to his guards penetrating and collapsing the defense than anything he did. He just had to wait under the basket for the pass and finish.
In the second game against Creighton, Plumlee was pretty much a nonfactor as he was neutralized by Gregory Echenique. Plumlee finished with a pedestrian 10 points and five rebounds, while dealing with foul trouble all game. Plumlee only took seven shots, largely due to Echenique's defense. Plumlee simply could not move Echenique and get the post position he wanted, and he didn't even try all that hard. As Creighton head coach Greg McDermott put it, "I didn't think Plumlee wanted any part of Gregory down there." Echenique is about as strong as any player in college basketball, but Plumlee's inability to assert himself against good defense is troubling.
Plumlee does appear to have decent handles and is a pretty good passer for a big man, which is a plus. There was one play against Albany where Plumlee went to work posting up, drew a double-team and threw a pretty behind-the-head pass to his wide open teammate near the basket, who unfortunately missed and cost him the assist.
Overall, Plumlee is a solid player. He's a great athlete who can finish around the basket and rebound at a high rate. However, while his back-to-the-basket game has drastically improved, I don't believe he's going to be a consistent go-to option in the post in at the NBA level. He's a role player, and I don't think he will ever be much more than a decent starter. I think he's comparable to players like Kris Humphries, Meyers Leonard and Jason Thompson.
Final Thoughts: If the Suns get the Lakers' pick (likely No. 14), Plumlee is one of the players worth considering, particularly if they choose a wing with their own pick. However, if a player with more upside is available I'd have no problem passing on him.
The seven-layer dip that the Phoenix Suns (23-51) season has become added another flavor to the dish with what some are criticizing as blatant "tanking" late in the season.
@ Utah Jazz- L (103-88)
vs. Sacramento Kings - L (117-103)
vs. Indiana Pacers - L (112-104)
The dip is of the pre-made, pre-packaged variety and this weeks layer was like that sour cream substitute that reheats awkwardly making the entire dish inedible. That is the taste left in the mouth of fans after this past week.
There was a subtle (not so subtle) tactic played out this week by the coaching staff in sitting Goran Dragic. In an 82 game season that is filled with bumps, bruises, and nagging injuries there is no questioning a player sitting out two games to get back in good health. Completely in-bounds.
However, there is something to be said about sitting your best player who is fully healthy, ready to play, and when the two games happen to be against two teams that, if they lose, benefit the Suns long-term cause.
It has been mocked ad nauseum over the past few days in the national media, so I guess any press is good press was not entirely accurate. Losing to the Jazz gives them a half game on the Los Angeles Lakers, who owe their pick to the Suns if they miss the playoffs. The Jazz are battling them in the standings. The Kings are battling the Suns in the standings. If they win the Suns create a full game of separation in the lottery standings. Both were accomplished last week.
2013 NBA Draft Update
Right now the Suns are slotted in the 4th spot in the Lottery Standings and 30th via the Miami Heat. For the lottery pick, the New Orleans Hornets (won four of six), Sacramento Kings (won two of three), and Washington Wizards (won 8 of 13) are moving the other way giving the Suns some comfort and separation in having solid odds of finishing with a bottom five record.
Lakers are in the playoffs today, Jazz own the tie-breaker over the Lakers which puts them in the playoffs today, but the Dallas Mavericks are surging to rally back into the race. It could get real interesting this week leading down to the final stretch.
Lakers (38-36): vs. Mavericks, vs. Grizzlies, and @ Clippers
Mavericks (36-37): @ Lakers, @ Nuggets, and @ Kings
Jazz (38-36): vs. Blazers, vs. Nuggets, vs. Hornets
On a side-note the NCAA Tournament has reached a Final Four that will showcase potential lottery picks Trey Burke (Michigan), Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse), and Glenn Robinson III (Michigan). It will also feature Gorgui Dieng (Louisville), Russ Smith (Louisville), Tim Hardaway Jr. (Michigan), Mitch McGary (Michigan), Chane Behanan (Louisville), and C.J. Fair (Syracuse) as potential late first-to-early- second round prospects for the Suns to keep an eye on.
Two games, two starts, and 23 total assists for Kendall Marshall. The results were not ideal as both games ended in defeat, but Marshall showed promise in the games. It is really easy to mock the rookie as a lottery pick that is not producing at a high level right away, but the steady improvement over the season is noticeable if you are willing to look for it. Getting on the court and having playing time helps in the process.
First 9 Games w/15+ Minutes: 4.2 PPG (42.1%) 3.8 APG 1.7 TPG
Last 7 Games w/15+ Minutes: 7.0 PPG (37.5%) 6.28 APG 2.57 TPG
The more recent games are a smaller sample size, but the numbers across the board are better. Marshall is shooting more (10 more total attempts) and playing with much more confidence.
As a franchise the Suns have lost 50 or more games only seven times (including this season) showing remarkable consistency. This team is the second fastest to 50 losses for the Suns, ever. Only the 1968-1969 team that lost 66 games did it faster, by nine games to be exact. This years Suns lost their 50th game in the 73rd game of the season and are four losses away from owning the second worst record in franchise history.
A look at three different players on the Suns for the week forming a good, bad, and a surprise either way each week.
Player of the Week:
Luis Scola - 17.7 PPG 5.3 RPG 0.3 APG 0.7 BPG 56.8% FG
In the absence of Dragic the Suns next best offensive weapon stepped up to score 45 points, shouldering the offensive load. Scola did not lead the team to a victory in either of the games, but his scoring was the difference between losing by 30+ points. Even in this week, in typical 2013 Suns fashion, Scola finished the week with an 8 point forgettable performance.
Previewing the Week Ahead:
Wednesday, April 3rd @ Los Angeles Clippers (49-25)
Friday, April 5th vs. Golden State Warriors (42-32)
Sunday, April 7th vs. New Orleans Hornets (26-48)