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Rumors are swirling that the Phoenix Suns are interested in trading for Josh Smith. These rumors started in 2004 and have come to a head only yesterday in a report by Alex Kennedy. While John Gambodoro tweeted that these rumors are false, Suns fans have been on the Smith bandwagon so long it almost seems as if Smith has been a member of the Suns his entire career.

Smith has long been a Suns fan favorite for his high-flying aerial assault combined with his hard-nosed defensive ability. The Suns traditionally have lacked the gritty, bad-boy mentality and Smith certainly could bring this to the franchise in one swooping dunk. The recent rumor probably served to get his fan-base in Phoenix excited only to ultimately be disappointed that it won't actually happen.

"Why?" you say.

Well, let's break this down logically from both sides.

For Atlanta, they have made the classic Sarver [defined as holding on to an asset past the point of having any leverage]. The Hawks braintrust refused to trade Smith over the past few years, mostly because they have produced enough wins to be enticing, but not enough to get over the hump.

Last season, Smith had a career year, producing almost 20/10 per game and a career high in assists. A wise man would have seen the writing on the wall at this point in Smith's career and traded him at his peak. Instead, they chose to stay the course with Smith because they were winning, and chose to find a way to dump the terrible Joe Johnson contract.

Now, Smith is in the last half of the last year of his contract and ATL finds themselves in a pickle. Smith certainly has value around the league and a large number of teams will show Smith some love. I also believe there are a few that would willingly overpay him, possibly making him a MAX player. Atlanta now finds themselves in the same jam that the Suns will be in next season with Marcin Gortat - a good player with value who will command more money than they are worth from another team, who is more than likely to go without the team receiving anything back.

For the teams figuring out how to deal with a guy who might leave, it is about extracting the most value from the situation when you have little leverage. For the team interested in trading for or signing a player, it is about waiting it out and leveraging the other team's impatience. For Atlanta, they made the mistake of letting it get to this point and now have a desperate situation in hand.

The problem is that Smith believes he is a MAX player. Much like Amar'e felt in his final season of his Suns contract, Smith has this firm belief that what he has done [and can still do] in his career warrants being paid as if he is a top 10 talent. Yet from outside of the inside of Josh Smith's head, that production just doesn't seem to add up to what a team would need to pay him. Smith is eligible as a nine year veteran for a raise equaling 30% of the cap [expected to be $59 million]. In a sign and trade deal, he can get a four year deal starting at $17.7 million in his first season and a maximum of 4.5% raises each year. This equates to a four year $76 million contract [rounding up].

While some suggest that Smith is a franchise alpha, I would scoff at that description. Josh has managed a consistent level of play over his nine year career - to his credit. But that nine years show a track record of exactly who he is. Smith is basically a 16 point, eight rebound guy who takes a bit too many threes, but does bring a defensive presence. I am not sure how anyone can mistake that for a MAX franchise player.

The table below shows the top 70 salaries in the NBA for the 2013-14 season.

Table_medium

At a maximum salary, Smith's deal would place him at 14th in the league between Rose and Durant. Um, something is not right about that statement. Other than Rudy Gay being way overpaid, I am sure you could say that Smith is not in the company of any of the players above him. But looking at the next 20 or so players, it is hard to say that Smith is their equal as well. Sure, some guys are overpaid [as a result of getting deals done before the CBA - Okafor, Boozer, and Deng to an extent]. But are you going to seriously argue that Smith is better than David Lee right now. Is James Harden $4 million less of a player than Josh? How do the Spurs get away with paying Tony Parker $12.5 M? The fact is, Smith is already overpaid at $13.2 M. His teammate, Al Horford, is making $12 million, and if money were eliminated from the equation, who would you rather have?

So from the money perspective alone, maxing out Josh Smith is equivalent to maxing out Joe Johnson - DUMB! While I understand there are teams that get desperate and overreach on players, usually you want to do that on guys that are young, haven't put a lot of miles on their body, and have a track record of improvement leading up to the deal so you can justify that the player will have huge upside. Smith is not that player. He is younger, but has already played nine years. He has steadily put up the same production for the bulk of those years and there is absolutely no reason to think that will change for the better.

The rumor with the Suns was that it would have to include Gortat, Dudley, Beasley and a couple of picks. None of that makes sense. Yeah, I can see throwing Gortat to the wind here, but why would you throw in Dudley? Why would anyone think putting Beasley in the deal makes it workable from ATL's end [they don't want him, do they?]? A couple of picks? What?

Smith is an unrestricted free agent in approximately three months. If you are going to sign him to a maximum deal, why would you use assets that could be used in other deals for a guy you could outright sign this summer? Wouldn't it make more sense to keep all of those assets [unless they really want Beasley - sure, we will do that], sign Smith to a max deal [although I wouldn't, but let's just suppose here we did], make a few other moves to get some wing help and draft some young guys for the future. Certainly adding Smith, trading Gortat for something, and drafting a couple of lotto picks turns our fortunes around much better than trading everything we have for a maxed out Smith.

From ATL's standpoint, it is obvious they want value for Smith. Yet they have little ability to get much more than some cap relief and possibly a thrown in player/pick. Even if they could extract Gortat from this, why would they want Beasley?

Basically, none of this makes any sense to me. If Gambodoro is right - the Suns want none of this. If Josh Smith is a target, the Suns should throw something at him this summer, but shouldn't overreach. Adding Smith would be nice [at say, $8-12 M over 4 years], but maxing him out only kills our ability to do anything real down the road.

Poll
Do you think the Suns should pursue Smith?

  393 votes | Results

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A win tonight by the Phoenix Suns would put them at 4-2 under Lindsey Hunter. Sure, three of those wins would be against losing teams, but you have to play the schedule in front of you.

But tonight won't be easy. In fact, it's not even likely.

The Dallas Mavericks have the Suns number. They just beat the Phoenix Suns last Sunday night in Dallas (110-95) as well as in Phoenix in December (97-94) and have won 10 of the past 11 meetings overall.

Any way you slice it, the Suns have not played well enough against the Mavericks lately. They just haven't.

Could tonight be any different?

Well, it's possible that Dirk Nowitzki won't play due a strained right adductor muscle.

"It's just Father Time, bro," Nowitzki said. "Stuff happens. I never pulled a muscle in my whole career. There's always a first one."

O.J. Mayo is still the Mavericks' leading scorer at 17 points per game.

Shawn Marion is reprising his old self lately by going for 18 and 17 in last night's last-second loss to Golden State.

Dallas is coming off a back to back, so they might be tired.

Check out the Mavericks stats here.


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
O.J. Mayo 41 35.8 6.4 14.0 45.7 2.1 5.0 42.5 3.3 3.8 85.9 0.6 3.1 3.8 4.1 2.8 1.3 0.3 2.5 18.2
Dirk Nowitzki 14 29.1 5.1 12.4 41.0 1.1 3.1 37.2 2.7 3.5 77.6 0.6 4.9 5.5 2.2 1.3 0.4 0.5 1.4 14.0
Darren Collison 40 31.3 4.6 9.6 48.1 0.6 1.6 35.9 3.1 3.6 88.0 0.2 2.6 2.8 5.1 2.3 1.5 0.0 1.8 13.0
Chris Kaman 39 24.3 5.6 11.1 50.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.4 1.7 79.4 1.6 4.7 6.3 0.9 1.7 0.3 0.9 2.3 12.6
Vince Carter 41 24.8 4.2 10.1 41.8 1.8 4.9 36.8 2.0 2.4 81.8 0.6 3.4 4.0 1.9 1.2 0.9 0.6 2.8 12.3
Shawn Marion 34 29.8 4.4 9.2 48.2 0.3 0.9 32.3 1.2 1.4 83.3 2.2 5.9 8.1 2.6 1.6 0.8 0.6 1.7 10.4
Elton Brand 37 21.8 3.2 6.6 47.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.1 1.4 80.4 1.9 4.5 6.4 1.0 0.8 0.5 1.3 2.8 7.4
Brandan Wright 26 15.9 3.3 5.2 63.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.3 60.0 1.0 2.0 2.9 0.7 0.5 0.4 1.0 0.8 7.4
Jae Crowder 37 17.5 2.0 5.2 37.6 0.9 2.8 31.7 0.8 1.4 60.0 0.5 1.9 2.4 1.2 0.6 0.9 0.1 1.8 5.6
Dominique Jones 24 12.8 1.4 4.1 34.3 0.0 0.4 11.1 1.3 1.9 65.2 0.7 1.0 1.8 3.3 1.5 0.6 0.0 1.2 4.1
Dahntay Jones 41 13.6 1.0 3.0 35.5 0.2 0.8 24.2 1.3 1.7 78.3 0.3 1.2 1.5 0.5 0.4 0.2 0.1 1.6 3.6
Bernard James 21 10.9 1.3 2.7 49.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.1 66.7 1.3 2.0 3.3 0.0 0.4 0.2 0.9 1.1 3.4
Mike James 6 10.5 1.2 3.8 30.4 0.3 1.3 25.0 0.3 0.7 50.0 0.0 0.7 0.7 1.2 0.7 0.2 0.0 1.3 3.0
Rodrigue Beaubois 30 11.7 1.1 3.5 31.1 0.3 1.4 23.8 0.4 0.6 76.5 0.2 0.9 1.1 1.8 0.6 0.4 0.1 1.2 3.0
Jared Cunningham 8 3.1 0.8 1.8 42.9 0.3 0.4 66.7 0.3 0.3 100.0 0.1 0.3 0.4 0.1 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.4 2.0


And check out the Suns stats:


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Goran Dragic 39 32.2 5.0 11.2 44.7 1.3 3.9 31.8 2.7 3.8 71.1 0.7 2.1 2.8 6.1 2.3 1.5 0.3 2.6 14.0
Luis Scola 41 27.6 5.6 11.8 47.0 0.0 0.2 10.0 2.0 2.5 76.9 2.0 4.3 6.4 2.4 1.5 0.8 0.5 3.2 13.1
Shannon Brown 41 27.2 4.8 11.3 42.1 0.9 3.1 28.6 2.0 2.3 84.2 0.7 2.0 2.8 2.2 1.5 1.1 0.3 1.7 12.3
Jared Dudley 39 30.8 4.4 9.0 48.3 1.5 3.8 39.3 1.9 2.3 82.0 1.2 2.5 3.6 2.8 1.4 1.1 0.1 1.6 12.1
Marcin Gortat 41 32.2 5.0 9.4 52.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7 2.5 66.7 2.2 6.7 9.0 1.3 1.6 0.7 1.9 2.2 11.6
Michael Beasley 37 21.5 3.7 9.9 37.6 0.7 2.1 31.6 1.3 1.8 72.3 0.9 2.7 3.6 1.9 2.0 0.4 0.6 1.5 9.4
Markieff Morris 41 20.2 3.2 7.8 41.1 0.5 1.6 28.8 0.8 1.2 67.3 1.6 2.8 4.3 1.3 0.9 0.9 0.8 2.5 7.7
Jermaine O`Neal 32 15.6 2.5 5.4 47.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.3 1.7 77.8 0.9 3.2 4.1 0.6 0.9 0.4 1.2 2.1 6.4
Sebastian Telfair 40 18.1 2.2 5.7 38.3 1.0 2.5 39.6 1.0 1.3 78.0 0.3 1.4 1.6 2.6 1.3 0.6 0.2 1.9 6.3
P.J. Tucker 39 20.6 2.0 4.4 45.9 0.2 0.7 33.3 0.6 1.0 61.5 1.2 2.3 3.5 1.0 0.6 0.5 0.3 1.8 4.8
Wesley Johnson 16 7.4 0.9 3.0 31.3 0.4 1.3 33.3 0.1 0.2 66.7 0.2 0.8 1.0 0.3 0.2 0.0 0.3 0.5 2.4
Luke Zeller 11 3.3 0.6 1.6 38.9 0.1 0.3 33.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.5 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4 1.4
Diante Garrett 6 5.0 0.3 0.8 40.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.3 50.0 0.0 0.5 0.5 1.2 0.7 0.3 0.0 0.2 0.8
Kendall Marshall 11 4.6 0.3 1.0 27.3 0.1 0.5 20.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.7 0.5 0.1 0.0 0.3 0.6


For more Suns coverage, check out the Bright Side home page. We're KILLING IT lately!

Time: 7 p.m. MST TV: FSAZ Lindsey Hunter calls the Phoenix Suns a work in progress and coming off a comeback victory against the Los Angeles Lakers two days ago, the team has a good reason to be...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
UPDATE: The video has been pulled from YouTube, most likely due to rights issues related to the music used in the production. At least we got to see it for a few hours.
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Is it the haircut? "No."

Was it the hand injury, from early in the season, finally healing? "No. Still hurts."

Was it a bad relationship with Alvin Gentry? "No. Alvin's relationship has been great."

Is Hunter bringing out his talents? Truth be told, Beasley's turnaround began three games before Gentry left the team.

What is it then? "I don't know."

None of us really do. But it may have something to do with getting older, looking in the mirror and realizing you're letting time slip away.

Michael Beasley's lowest point of the season, possibly his career, came as he turned 24 years old.

Michael Beasley turned 24 on January 9, 2013. On that night against Boston, he played only 5 minutes (1-for-2 from the field). It was his fourth of five straight games playing fewer than 10 minutes.

Playing ANY game under 10 minutes had happened only 6 other times in his first 4.5 seasons in the NBA - four with Minnesota, two with Miami.

So a stretch of five straight under-10-minute games may have been Beasley's wake-up call.

His career had started out so promising, from dominating college ball to starting for two years at power forward on a playoff-caliber team in Miami. But then off-court issues derailed his focus and the honeymoon period was abruptly over.

Miami shipped Beasley to lowly Minnesota for a bag of Doritos to make room for LeBron James and co. and Beasley never really recovered his game. He was slotted at the small forward position and became a jump shooter who took low-efficiency shots and did little else on the court. Eventually, he was let go as a free agent.

The Suns signed him to try to revive his career and have put a lot of time and effort into his development as a basketball player. Suns GM Lance Blanks staked his reputation on Beasley's success by giving him a three-year contract before the rest of the league even had a chance to blink. Blanks has developed a close relationship with Beasley, as did everyone else.

"From Lon [Babby] to Lance to boss man [Robert Saver] to Alvin [Gentry], everyone's been great," Beasley said when asked about his relationship with the team and front office.

Beasley mentioned Lindsey Hunter's efforts as well, referring to him as a friend off the court all season who would work him out night and day and join him for meals a couple times a week.

Asked specifically if his relationship with Alvin Gentry was strained, Beasley scoffed. "No," he said. "Alvin's relationship has been great. We were friends."

The support has definitely been there, but his play went into the tank. His production was poor, his plus/minus was worst in the NBA (points differential when on the court vs. off the court) and his minutes dwindled.

But the something happened.

Three games BEFORE Alvin Gentry left the Suns, Michael Beasley began to break out of his slump. He played well in his first minutes against Chicago and stayed in the game, making 10 of 14 shots and finished with 20 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time. He followed that up with 14 and 11 against OKC in 25 minutes.

But the Suns lost those games just like most of the others that preceded them, finishing a bad road trip with a 13-27 record and no light at the end of the tunnel.

At that point, Alvin Gentry announced that the Suns were going to play their young guys more minutes, but only gave Beasley 15 minutes and left the rest of the kids on the bench while the Suns lost to Milwaukee at home. The mood in the press room and locker room was as low as it's ever been.

Gentry was out, Hunter was in.

Since Hunter took over, Michael Beasley's distribution of minutes has been remarkably consistent despite Beasley's production being up and down from game to game. He got 22, 22, 22 and 19 minutes before breaking out against Los Angeles and being rewarded with 34 game-changing minutes.

"Lindsey's definitely letting me play more," Beasley said. "Even after bad shots."

Against the Lakers, Beasley started on a rough note with 2 unforced turnovers and a blocked layup attempt before he could even break a sweat. But Hunter left him out there and Beasley turned in his best game of the season.

"My biggest thing with guys," Hunter said. "Don't look to the bench. If you make a mistake, so what. 'I took a bad shot.' So what? You're going to take more of them. Let's get a stop."

This sounds a lot like Goran Dragic's rookie season when Alvin Gentry took over midseason from Terry Porter and told Dragic to stop looking at the bench every time he made a mistake. Dragic blossomed after that and still credits Gentry for his development.

Now the same may be happening with Beasley.

He said he's been "waiting for this opportunity all season. Just playing with it. Definitely a different confidence level than when you're playing not to mess up. More risks, more rewards."

I am sure that Alvin Gentry, like Terry Porter before him, would say they gave plenty of opportunities to their young guys but that the kids didn't step up. And I am also sure that Beasley and Dragic would agree.

But when a new guy takes over and says they love you the way you are, warts and all, sometimes that lightens the burden and allows you to excel.

This may be fools gold. I am sure prior coaches - Pat Riley and Rick Adelman - thought they'd gotten through to Beasley many times, only to see him fade away again.

But at least for now, the Suns get to reap the rewards of a focused, difference-making Michael Beasley. Just like it was drawn up.

"To see the steps that he has been making," Hunter said after practice yesterday. "It's great to see him smile again. Really going at it at practice has been even a surprise for us. He's been down, and it's nice to see."

***


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