Things could have worked out worse, just ask this guy. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns resurgence and the trade deadline strangely coincided this season which left many of us wondering what the best course of action could be for Nash and the boys. There's no doubt the team could have used some extra pieces for the stretch run and perhaps beyond. But an unlikely 7-2 stretch from March 1-15 propelled the Suns back into the playoff mix, and perhaps clouded or decided the intentions of Sarver, Blanks, and Babby.

All season the Suns brass down to the players spoke of their disappointment in the team's collective performance. And with the cold starts of Jared Dudley and Channing Frye coupled with the the poor play of the bench, anything was possible for a Suns squad that was a lock for lotterytown.

Yet slowly, things began to take shape. As the All Star game approached both the Suns organization and Steve Nash made definitive comments about his future-there would be no Nash trade, period. Unless the FO wanted to, or if Nash wanted to leave. And both sides made clear they had no intentions of splitting up the family. The Suns also made clear they were not interested in extending Robin Lopez in the final year of his contract. Since the Suns were playing such awful ball, it was easy to asses the team's trade assets, and the possibilities of improving the team in 2012.

Trading their top scorer and rebuild centerpiece Marcin Gortat had to have been off the table along with Nash. Grant Hill wasn't going anywhere as he wasn't in normal Grant Hill shape, and well, Nash wouldn't have allowed it anyway. Channing Frye was shooting 20 something percent while attempting to learn the intricacies of playing big boy defense and big boy rebounding. He would have yielded (if anything) a future 2nd round pick or less; was worth more to the Suns than any other team in the league. And like most shooters, going cold and getting hot is part of the job. Like Frye, Jared Dudley was sure to start sinking shots and playing his normal junkyard dog game.

And the bench...well, they were worthless in terms of trade value. Big men always have some value, but Robin Lopez is a special case. A few pros, lots of cons, thus very questionable value.

So while the Suns were trying to form some sort rhythm and chemistry on the floor, or, consistently score, defend, and rebound all in one game, it was clear there were plenty of needs, and no clear way to meet those needs.

Suddenly the Suns awoke after the All Star break. Hill found his legs, proclaimed himself in the best shape he had been in this season, Dudley and Frye began to hit shots, and the bench began to hold leads or extend them, instead of promptly rolling over as they had done all season. The result? Wins over Minnie, the Clips, Mavs, Lakers, Jazz, and a quality performances against WC leading Oklahoma City. And the reason for the turn around? Chemistry, cohesion, confidence. And the result of the turnaround? A possible trip to the postseason.

Why interrupt that if you don't have to? It is not to say the Suns couldn't have helped themselves with a piece or two, but at what expense? If you're enjoying your happy hour beer, why suddenly start taking shots of tequila?

I have been a very harsh critic of the Suns FO and ownership. But I have to hand it to the brass, regardless of how this season plays out, they probably made a good choice on not making a choice at all.

Conversely, things could have gone down like this...(thanks to Ben, the rest of the Bedge and Jamal Crawford):

"...I did think I was going to be traded the whole time leading up to the trade deadline, and then I come to find out that Gerald gets traded. So I’m like, OK, there are three hours left in the deadline, they’re going to make some more moves. Then Marcus gets traded. Then I get a call from Chad Buchanan (Blazers Interim GM), saying we didn’t want to trade you, that the opt-out was the thing that had us nervous, because they didn’t know if I did leave, would they get something in return, but we talked about it and worked it out. And then 30 minutes later, I hear Nate McMillan’s fired. And then I’m like wow, this is crazy. Greg Oden’s released, Chris Johnson’s waived, and all of this was in the same day. It was unbelievable. "

That sucked for Blazer fans. We should feel lucky we didn't have to deal with that.


Phoenix Suns 113, Indiana Pacers 111 The Phoenix Suns used a valiant effort to fight their way back into the playoff race last homestand. Now they must make sure they don’t give back too much...

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Time: 4 p.m. MST ┬áTV: FSAZ The Phoenix Suns used a valiant effort to fight their way back into the playoff race last homestand. Now they must make sure they don’t give back too much of that...

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The Suns (23-24) are 10th in the West right now with 19 games to go. If they are going to make the playoffs they will need to pass two of these teams:

- Dallas (27-21)
- Memphis (25-20)
- Clippers (26-21)
- Denver (26-21)
- Houston (26-22)
- Utah (26-22)

Which of those two teams are most vulnerable?

Ed Note: Also asked this question on Facebook. If you don't like us on Facebook we don't like you!


Not to worry. You can't hold this man down.

Marcin Gortat has been the Suns' workhorse this season. He's started all 47 games, leading the team in scoring, rebounding, free throws attempted and minutes per game. So solid has Gortat been in producing 25 double-doubles thus far that it was taken for granted that he'd put up close to his 15.7 points and 10.0 rebounds season averages nearly every game.

This is what makes it alarming that he appears to have hit something of a wall in the last couple of weeks. Gortat has but one double-double in his last eight games, and the drop in his rebounding is what's most remarkable as he's had a game with only 6 rebounds, another two with 5 and another in which he gathered only 4.

Fortunately, the Suns have played well during this stretch anyway, winning 5 of 8, but for that success to be sustainable, the backbone of the team will have to produce more than he has recently. Leading into this stretch of rough games for Gortat, he was playing outstanding basketball, and even with it he's been one of the team's top few players by any measure.

What's causing Gortat's struggles? And what will it take for him to get his juice back for the stretch?

Let's look back to when Gortat joined the Suns in late 2010. Thanks to our contributor Piotr Szczesniak, we learned that Gortat told a Polish newspaper that he saw it as:

"...what kind of cage I was kept in Orlando. Now I'm in Phoenix, I'm 26 and in my prime, maybe it was meant to be - be the sub for the best center in the league for 3 years, get clobbered every day by the toughest guy on earth, and then when I still feel great physically be able to show my game."

He craved the opportunity after feeling that he was "kept in a cage", and now has the opportunity. But it also includes his team depending upon him to be their primary rebounder, leading scorer and leader in minutes played in a sprint of a season that provides few breathers.

There is an analogy of a person who is thirsty and then finds water, only that the water comes out of a firehose. It applies here. Gortat wanted exactly this, but it's a lot to ask of any player, let alone one who had started only 5 games before joining the Suns. Gortat is in his fifth NBA season, and his 3180 minutes played in 102 games as a Sun is over half of his career total of 5499 minutes.

And these are not easy minutes he's playing. I've been a major Gortat supporter since his arrival and love watching him play. He's disciplined in a way that is almost military-style. Defensively, he's fundamentally sound and dependably pulls down rebounds. Offensively, he sets pick after pick, and then dives to the basket or takes mid-range jumpers off the pass. He runs the floor consistently well.

All of these tasks require a high degree of energy, and until recently Gortat showed that he is quite adept at what he calls "donkey work."

"My coach in Cologne (Germany) taught me that. He always told me that hard work got him where he's at. It's important that I started playing basketball very late and I had this hunger all the time. Other players at 18 were already tired and bored, because it was their 5-6 year of training and I couldn't wait to practice, I often came to the facility 1.5 hours before the actual training. In Germany I was also given a whole lot of theoretical knowledge and I wanted to know more and more. After all these years donkey work is just a habit..."

So, what of these last eight games? Gortat had his first true clunker of a game this season with 8 points, 4 rebounds and 4 fouls in allowing Nikola Pekovic to beat him up in a loss to the T-Wolves. We could call that just a bad night.

Against the Clippers, he went for only 8 and 6 on 3-10 shooting without Nash feeding him. In his sixth game in eight nights last night, he faced the league's premier center and dominant defensive player in Dwight Howard and was destroyed by the 3-time Defensive Player of the Year.

This isn't to excuse Gortat's poor performances, but more to explain them. If we look at any player in the league this season, they have nights when they simply didn't or couldn't bring it. Gortat has been remarkably consistent. At some point, he just won't have it in him, and this brutal stretch of schedule has been that for him.

Still, I'm confident we'll soon see the same double-double producing machine. As he said:

"Bad games will come because it's part of the job, but the key is how you react to it, dig yourself out of the hole. The journalists will surely write that the truth about Gortat came out, that all in all he is mediocre at best, that he had a lucky streak. But it's like driving the car really. The fact that you had a collision doesn't mean you forgot how to drive."

Is Gortat physically tired? Mentally tired? Probably some of each. He had a little fender bender in the last couple of weeks, but still knows how to drive. He'll be a major factor in these final 19 games for the Suns, and he'll work his ass off to get the job done.

Special Thanks to Piotr, who translated this interview in February, 2011 and contributes here consistently well.


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