Suns center Miles Plumlee will be the first to represent the Phoenix Suns in the All-Star Weekend, as a participant of the Rising Stars Challenge tonight on TNT.

A few months ago, it appeared the Phoenix Suns had failed at this thing called the 2012 NBA Draft.

Lottery pick PG Kendall Marshall had a rough rookie season in which he didn't inspire the confidence of either head coach, Alvin Gentry or Lindsey Hunter. Hunter gave Marshall playing time in the spring, but with Goran Dragic playing so well as the starter we didn't see Marshall in his full form.

But the bigger problem was that the 21-year old Marshall didn't inspire the long-term confidence of the new front office either. You would think that a 21 year old point guard would be considered one of the cornerstones of a rebuilding project for a 25-57 team set to draft a new lotto pick every year to join him.

Instead Marshall was shopped in the offseason to every NBA team, and no one wanted him. He was finally traded as a throw-in to Washington, who immediately waived him, after getting beaten out for the third-PG spot by Ish Smith.

It just wasn't Marshall's best summer.

The Suns tried not to make the 2012 Draft a total waste though. Last summer, new GM Ryan McDonough picked up the #26 pick from that draft, C Miles Plumlee. Plumlee, though, had shown little promise in 2012-13 by playing only 55 minutes for the whole season.

Yet, the past few months have changed both players' fortunes.

Miles Plumlee has started every Suns game this season at the center position, posting a respectable 9.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 27 minutes a night. During the Suns' 10-3 December, Plumlee posted a near double-double.

As a reward, Plumlee was picked as one of 10 players to represent the 2012 NBA Draft (not bad for the 26th pick) in the Rising Stars Challenge tonight.

Marshall, on the other hand, spent two months out of basketball but became a Lakers reclamation project in early January and has posted nearly a double-double of his own (10.3 points, 9.5 assists) as a starter for the Lakers while Steve Nash was injured. The Lakers haven't won many games with Marshall - 3-13 in his 16 starts - and his defense is still suspect, but he's making a lot of shots and great passes.

Marshall came on too late to make the Rising Stars Challenge but he's proven to be a solid NBA player.

Watch Miles Plumlee in the Rising Stars Challenge tonight on TNT!

The Phoenix Suns eventually earned some All-Star weekend representation from the NBA, which by the skin of its teeth got away with snubbing one of the league’s most refreshing surprises this...

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Just like the NBA is taking a break from the regular season, I'm taking a break from my Around the Association column this week. Instead, I'm going to narrow my focus back to the organization to which this blog is dedicated: the Phoenix Suns.

This week's hot topic is Mt. Rushmore, and more specifically, which four NBA players deserved to have their faces carved into a giant rocky monument as a way to honor them as the most significant players in league history. The discussion was sparked by an interview with LeBron James and quickly spread across the interwebs. We here at SB Nation don't like feeling left out, so we decided to join in the discussion.

I kicked around a couple different angles from which to tackle this topic. I could have gone big picture and stuck with my AtA theme, doing exactly what LeBron did and naming an all-time all-NBA Mt. Rushmore. However, plenty of other outlets have already done that and I wanted to be a bit more original. I could have looked back through the history of the Suns and named my all-time Phoenix Mt. Rushmore, but there are plenty of fans on this blog who have followed this team a lot longer than I have and therefore have a better read on who deserves to be on the rock and why.

Therefore, I decided to stick to something more personal: I'm picking my own Suns Mt. Rushmore based on the year's I've been following the team: from 2006 until now.

Even while limiting myself to more or less the last decade, this is a tough cut-down for me. I'll start with the honorable mention players. These guys are some of my favorite players to watch and cheer for and are big parts of my Phoenix fandom, but they didn't do quite enough with the Suns to make the mountain.

Honorable Mentions

  • Grant Hill: Grant BAMF Hill was right near the top of y favorite players list during his time in Phoenix. When he first signed in 2007, I was nonplussed. He had gone from a surefire Hall of Famer to a guy who couldn't stay on the floor in Orlando, and at 35 years old my expectations were low. However, that changed quickly as Grant not only stayed on the floor and was effective, but he had reinvented his game. Hill became on of the better defenders in the NBA over his first couple of seasons, not to mention the veteran leadership on and off the court, the great locker room presence and, of course, the automatic mid-range game. Aaron Nelson and company kept him on the floor, and he showed how much he still had left to give to the game. From all accounts Grant is one of the best people in the NBA as well. Adding Miles Plumlee to his Rising Stars roster almost pushed him over the top.
  • Jared Dudley/P.J. Tucker: Dudley and Tucker have actually followed similar paths once they arrived in the Valley of the Sun. They both came in as no-name players, guys who played inside a lot in college and had to transition to the wing and had limited athleticism. Yet both players worked tirelessly to turn themselves into contributors. They hustled their butts off, made the scrappy plays an just did the little things to help the team win. Dudley brought a little more offensively while Tucker is a better defender, but the parallels between the two are definitely there. They have both been a lot of fun to cheer for and watch succeed. These are the kins of guys that push good teams over the top. They didn't necessarily do that for the Suns, but they've both been big parts of the Suns' recent success.
  • Channing Frye: The Frye Guy. ICMF. Buffet of Goodness (wait, what?). Channing Frye has been through a lot with this team over the last five years. An Arizona boy through and through, Frye returned to the Valley in 2009 to begin his Suns career as the replacement for Shaquille O'Neal. When Frye arrived in Phoenix, he had attempted just 70 3-pointers over the first four years of his career. In his first season as a Sun and with the encouragement of Alvin Gentry, Frye fired up 392(!!) bombs, hitting 43.9 percent of them, an just like that Frye had reinvented his game as one of the premier shooting bigs in the game. Frye was a key part of that Western Conference Finals team. Since then he has continued to work on his game, becoming more than just a spot-up shooter, and because of his shooting his impact has always transcended his individual numbers. Missing last season due to an enlarged heart and coming back strong this season has only added to his Phoenix legacy. Channing is another guy who is great of the team on and off the court, is well-spoken as a representative of the team and is a giant nerd (which I appreciate).
  • Pat Burke: Gotcha! OK, seriously...
  • Leandro Barbosa: Although LB may have taken a few stops outside the Valley during his career, the Brazilian Blur is and always was a Phoenix Sun. Barbosa began his career with the Suns as a young kid from Brazil, blossomed into a deadly scorer and Sixth Man of the Year, and now he has returned to the team as an experienced veteran (and the oldest player on the roster). Leandrinho's blazing speed and deadly perimeter shooting off the bench made him one of the biggest weapons in the NBA, as reflected by the 2006-07 NBA Sixth Man of the Year award, and he was as big a part of those Seven Seconds or Less Suns as anybody. Now Barbosa is back and has filled in admirably (considering he tore his ACL last year and was found playing in the Brazilian league) while Eric Bledsoe has been out. It's really good to have LB back in the Valley.

All right, there are your honorable mentions. Now it's time to get to the guys that made the final cut. They are the most significant players in the last decade of Phoenix Suns basketball.

Mt. Rushmore

  • Steve Nash: This is as big of a given as there is. Steve Nash is the reason I'm here right now writing this on Bright Side of the Sun. Without him, who knows what team I'd be rooting for? Mike D'Antoni was the architect of 7SOL and the players around him allowed them to play that way, but Steve Nash is the one that turned the Suns from just another high-scoring, up-tempo team to one of the best offensive teams of all time during a time when offenses were falling behind. Nash's style of play made him one of if not the most entertaining players in the entire league and he was just so ridiculously good. Toss in all the off court stuff (charitable contributions, great interaction with the media, comedic videos) and his on and off court leadership, and this was a no-brainer. It's painful to see Nash as he is now - a broken down shell of his former self in a Laker uniform - but it won't be long until he retires for good and the Suns can welcome him back home an put him in the Ring of Honor.
  • Amar'e Stoudemire: Amar'e is an interesting case. He was phenomenal in Phoenix, one of the best scorers in the NBA, yet he always seemed to leave you wanting more. However, there is no denying how devastating he was as Nash's pick-and-roll partner. In fact, the Nash-Stoudemire pick-and-roll is as unstoppable a play as I've seen. Nash's ability to shoot when you went under the screen, drive when you went over and make that pocket pass when you focus on him combined with Stoudemire's athleticism and finishing ability on the roll and shooting touch on the pop meant there really is no way to defend that. Stoudemire never became the consistent rebounder or defender that you would have liked to see from a guy at his level, but that doesn't change how devastating he was offensively and how important that scoring was to the Suns.
  • Shawn Marion: Marion is as unique an NBA player as you are going to find, and his versatility as the perfect complement to the Nash-Stoudemire pick-and-roll elevated the 7SOL Suns to greatness. Marion's ability to not only play power forward but to dominate at that position at 6-foot-7 was invaluable to that up-tempo system. Nash ran the team, Stoudemire scored and Marion did everything else: pulling down double-digit rebounds, scoring 20 points per game as a third option and strictly as a finisher, spacing the floor with his ugly yet oddly effective 3-point shot and defending position one through five on the other end. Marion did not part with the team on the best of terms, but that doesn't change how much he did for the team when he was in the Valley. Guys like Raja Bell, LeBron Barbosa and Boris Diaw played their roles and played them well, but the Nash-Stodemire-Marion trio is the reason for 7SOL Suns and what they accomplished.
  • Goran Dragic: The first three spots on the mountain went to the guys that defined the first era of Suns basketball that I witnessed. Therefore, it is only right that the final spot goes to the driving force behind the current era of successful Suns basketball. Goran Dragic etched his name onto the hearts of Suns fans forever with his 23-point fourth quarter against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2010 playoffs, but he etched his face into my Mt. Rushmore with what he has done this year. We all are witnessing how great Dragic has been this year an many words have been and will continue to be written about how good he is, so I won't spend many more here. However, it truly is incredible how far he has come and how many twists and turns his career has taken since the Suns plucked him out of Slovenia late in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft.

There's my Mt. Rushmore. Now it's your turn Bright Siders. Who makes it onto your own personal mountain? Make sure to let us all know why you picked the guys you did. It's Valentine's Day after all, and sharing is caring.

Before he teams with Reggie Jackson in the Skills Challenge on Saturday night, Phoenix point guard Goran Dragic sat down with the ESPN Radio crew of Marc Stein, Marc Kestecher and P.J. Carlesimo to...

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The most interesting parts of this story are not in the teaser. In fact, the title is what I'm using to draw you in and this is meant to share parts of intentional ambiguity, insipidness and intrigue. This isn't the movie trailer that shows the only entertaining moments in the film... it's not even a movie trailer at all.

This article brought to you by Smoothie King. With over 600 locations, including two in the Phoenix Metro area, a new level of refreshment may be closer than you realize. So, "be good to yourself" and reach for smoothie royalty.

Did my "creating intrigue by lack of intrigue" in the teaser work? I'm trying to practice some better writing techniques in the story.  See if you can notice them and let me know what you think.

I'm using this sentence as my segue.

Speaking of kings, I see an obvious endorsement deal in the making. The king of basketball and the king of smoothies.

LeBron - Dunk, dunk, dunk... "I'm the King."

Celebrity actor X ravenously gulps down smoothie - "No, this is the King."

LeBron grabs a smoothie and takes a swig.

LeBron - "Well, I guess we're both the King."

LeBron smiles.

A voice-over says "Be good to yourself." *Jim drops the mic and walks off the stage.

Then again, I can see a conflict of interest there...

But enough of that (for now). What I'm digressing towards next is the chimerical notion of LeBron James becoming a Phoenix Sun. Am I completely daft or pointlessly woolgathering? I scoffed at people who suggested this type of scenario in the past, but it actually seems like things may have shifted just slightly. Is there really a Lloyd Christmas type of a shot here?

Let's consider a couple of factors...

1. Eric Bledsoe and LeBron are total besties. I've heard they have matching tattoos. James' fawning is practically embarrassing, or genuinely older brotherly if you're not dominated by cynicism (like me). They have the same agent. They've shared a toothbrush. In all earnestness, though, are there really many other people in the NBA that it seems like LeBron would rather play with?

2. Phoenix is an awesome place to play and live part time. Great winter weather. Relatively low cost of living. LeBron needs to work on his golf game. Phoenix may not have the gravitational pull of Los Angeles, but players really like to play here and it's not a secret around the league. The organization is well respected and the training staff is unilaterally considered the best in the league.

3. The ability to be truly deified by a fan base. Yes, LeBron has achieved his goal of winning championships in Miami, but those pale in comparison to the enormity of winning one for Phoenix. If the legend of Dirty Joe LeBron James could possibly grow even larger this could be a way to do it. It would be like the inception of the Heat Index all over again, but without the cheap, fake fanfare surrounding that situation. There are fans in Phoenix that have been waiting all their lives for a banner and King would be immortalized if he helped hang it.

4. The ability to be surrounded by the best collection of talent during his career. The Suns are really perfectly situated for a star player to come in and make this league their (you know what). James is already calling Goran "Dragon." Bledsoe returning gives the Suns one of the best backcourts in the league with two improving players. Lots of other pieces. Draft picks. And...

5. Ryan McMidas. It's hard for me to imagine him doing anything that would totally blindside me. King Midas. King James. Smoothie King.

Maybe I'm staggeringly delusional with these inane ramblings, but until LeBron is inked to his next deal I'm going to live life loud and dream like an idiot.

Here's another seamless transition.

The 2014 NBA All-Star game, and ancillary festivities, is coming up this weekend and the Slam Dunk competition will once again be a travesty of its former self. People who we'd really rather not watch will gather at Smoothie King Stadium, home of the Pelicans, and participate in an even that used to be must see tv and is now an afterthought.

BTW, how bush league does Smoothie King Stadium, home of the Pelicans, sound? Am I the only one who thinks... "Is this a Double A baseball team?" Err... I mean... Smoothie King is a great name for a stadium!

*Warning this next part is copy/pasted from an email I sent about this topic in a group thread that nobody responded to.

I was just thinking (something I'm not very good at) in the wake of LeBron James' dunkfest...

Why don't they incentivize players to enter the competition by offering a prize donated to charity for the winner?

Call it the $1,000,000 "Enter Sponsor Here" All-Star Slam Dunk Challenge with the money being donated to a charity of the winner's choosing. Couldn't that put some pressure on guys like LeBron to enter? The NBA could even help shoulder some of the burden of the prize as part of its NBA (sorta) Cares program since they would get better ratings...

Players could enter and a "panel?" could select the best entrants. I would definitely set aside time to watch a dunk contest with LeBron, Durant, Griffin, George, Howard, etc. in it.

Going further, why not have each entrant in the competition sponsor a fan that was selected based on voting for the starters in the All-Star game? A free trip to the game for each finalist and a cash prize for the ultimate winner as well as a picture with the check, trophy and winner. Hell, bring a class of kids from a local school to be involved and get swag. You know, something absolutely incredible.

Or they could stick with the barely watchable, lazy shill that they've been rolling out lately. Either way.

Notice the grace with which I shift gears.

Since I like to beat horses (they don't have to be dead, but don't tell People for Eating Tasty Animals) I'm going to go ahead and throw this out there just to see if it resonates.

There have been a lot of stats floating around evincing how beastly the Dragon has been this season, but I want to be a snowflake and put forth my very own for consideration. By cherry picking the most favorable sets of data I can make my factoid seem quite impressive. If Goran Dragic continues his incendiary pace, which has actually been gaining momentum recently, he will end up with historically great numbers. Not great numbers with respect to his current set of peers. Historically great.

In NBA history there have only been 25 seasons in which a player has posted better numbers in the triumvirate of points per game (20.3), TS% (.613) and WS/48 (.206) than what Goran is averaging now. That's seasons, not players.

Here's the list if you'd like to peruse it, but I've listed the players below.  The season finder was being insolent, so there's actually a season for Malone and one for Kareem that don't really qualify.

One second, let me take another quaff of my delicious Smoothie King smoothie. Damn, that's smooth. I love the high protein almond mocha. Now here it goes...

Wilt Chamberlain

Michael Jordan

LeBron James (1) *currently on pace for second **active

Kevin Durant (1) * currently on pace for second **active

Charles Barkley (5)

David Robinson

Magic Johnson (2)

Karl Malone

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2)

Kevin McHale (2)

Adrian Dantley (2)

Amar'e Stoudemire (2) **active

Bernard King

Brad Daugherty

Dwight Howard **active


Pretty impressive company, right?  Among active players it's only LeBron, Durant, Amar'e and Howard.  That would make Goran the only active guard.  What if we throw in Goran's 6.2 assists?

Then it's just Michael, Magic, Wilt and LeBron (and coming to a theater near you... the Dragon - there's the movie trailer).

What's great is that Dragic is on an ascending trajectory and has a history of improving each year as the season progresses. He might actually move up that list. This season may put him among the pantheon in terms of efficient volume scoring while being a multidimensional threat as a distributor.

Now I will elegantly glide to a related topic.

This is just a logical lacuna to help differentiate between the transition and the launching of my new campaign to spread the word that...

Goran Dragic is having an All-NBA caliber season.

The Suns have been doing an inadequately insufficient job of promoting Goran so I think it's time for an intervention. Who can help them breathe some fire into this campaign? Perhaps the individual responsible for the new Smoothie King hit commercial in the making...

Here's an idea, let's (and by let's I mean you, Phoenix Suns) make sure people know how to say the One Man Fastbreak's name. Push the Dragon theme and teach people that it's Dragic like Dragon- the same g sound. Even the national media guys can probably catch on and start pronouncing his name correctly if it gets shoved down their throat enough times. Instruction by repetition might be the only way that works with people that specifically talk about and broadcast basketball for a living. Without these instructional tools they can't be expected to know the pronunciation of the pretty damn easy name of a guy who's becoming one of the better players in the league.

Then, keep running with the Dragon theme. When people think Dragic they should be envisioning fire and brimstone while he's flying down the court ready to go medieval on his opponents' ass. Name recognition.

It should be easy to fund project Dragon Fire with the buckets full of cash the Suns are piling into closets thanks to paying Goran pennies on the dollar for his staggering production.

If they want they can even use my body art to help the cause.


Yes, that's my shoulder. I'm actually still getting work done on this.  It's not complete. And I sh&^ you not, I have a Phoenix on my other shoulder. Isn't it serendipitous how the passion of my sporting life mirrors the symbolism for these mythical creatures and what they represent? Even I can see ways that this could be exploited.

And I'm an idiot.

Why not get busy with some art and graphics to tie the Phoenix and Dragon concepts together?  This stuff practically markets itself. Here's one I did below that creates a bond between Goran and the Gorilla (that's G Twice, like Going Gorilla and my man Gerald Green). Now do this with the Phoenix and the Dragon.



It's like a mirror image.  Coincidence?  I think not.

I was going to delve into a few more things, but I think I can save you from a fate worse than death them for next time. That would be the next weekly installment of an article that posts on a wildly unpredictable basis.

Rant complete.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article towards Smoothie King are those of the author and do not reflect those of SB Nation and Bright Side of the Sun... even though if you cornered them off the record I'm sure they'd admit they're absolutely delicious. The author has not received any financial compensation for any part of this article, but would entertain any offer for monetary considerations including, but not limited to, bribes.

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