It almost seemed like destiny, undefeated Turkey meeting up with undefeated Team USA for the 2010 FIBA World Championship. But it took every one of the 40 minutes in Turkey’s thrilling 83-82...

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El Dragon with the layup against Russia

El Dragon with the layup against Russia

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The Phoenix Suns' very own Goran Dragic finished his national team's tourney on a personal high, but his team faded down the stretch to finish 8th overall in the 2010 FIBA World Championships.

Today, Slovenia (not televised, so I'm just going on box score and writeup from the link provided above) was on a roll in the third quarter, up 50-36, when Russia got hot (or Slovenia faded) and eventually won the game 83-78. Russia finishes 7th, and Slovenia 8th. The 1-6 spots will be decided tomorrow.

Still, a tiny country with a TOTAL population of less than half the Phoenix metro area, should be very proud of their accomplishments. They finished 8th in the World (and 4th in Eurobasket a year ago), despite each time missing at least 1 important front-court player.

For his part, Goran can be proud of what he's done. 

For the tournament, here are Goran's per-game numbers: 12.7 points, 4.1 assists, 3.3 rebounds (over 9 games)

This is definitely a huge step up for Goran from previous campaigns with his national squad. He took over as his team's best all-around player. He shared the PG duties with 2-time Euroleague MVP Jaka Lakovic, starting every game in the backcourt with him and taking turns with the ball. He led the team in both points per game, and assists per game.

This is the first time he's had expectations to carry, from both the team and the media, and all in all he handled them with class and humility.

He never once tried to make it "the Goran show", instead always trying to stay within the scheme of his team's offense.

His assist/turnover ratio wasn't bad (1.5/1) but not great either. And after sputtering against tougher competition in his first 2 tries (7p, 4a against Team USA, and 5p, 2a against Turkey, who will likely meet in the Finals tomorrow), he responded well in his last 2 tough games (19p, 2a, 2r and 3 stls against Spain, then 15p, 7a, 3r against Russia).

The downside is that Slovenia lost all 4 of those games.

Still, Goran and Slovenia should be proud.

If there was a medal for the ratio between total population and World Championships finish, Slovenia would win gold.


Throughout the past two weeks of the FIBA World Championship, Turkey has thrashed every team in its path to the semifinals. Now only Serbia stands in the way of Turkey’s bid to reach the FIBA...

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Not Steve Nash. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

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Not Steve Nash. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

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The Phoenix Suns are again watching the the professionals count them out. The experts at the big media outlets have already dropped the Suns in their power rankings, taken shots at the Suns bench, over valuing Amare Stoudemire, and grading the Suns off season moves anywhere from mediocre to dismal. I've held my tongue, or fingers in this case, from busting out a vitriolic retort. This time though, I couldn't resist.

The SB Nation Bobcat fans are taking their turn disrespecting the Suns. The SB Site Rufus on Fire took a poll. And If you can believe it, some Bobcat fans think they have a better shot at the playoffs than the Phoenix Suns. I know, I know what your thinking. But It's true.

And you cannot dismiss these folk as a bunch of idiots. Fact is, these people are so knowledgeable, they've guessed 13 out of 16 playoff teams successfully the past two years.

Now, it is not my intent to start a blog war. But as some famous someone once said, "Don't start nuthin', won't be nuthin."

Now before I begin, I would like all to know that the poll didn't say that the Knicks were better than the Suns. It would be beyond preposterous to make such a statement. The poll seems to say simply, the Knicks will make the playoffs and the Suns will not. Nevertheless, i thought I would do a little comparison between the two squads just so we all have things straight. Following the brief comparison I'll get to the heart of the matter here.

Comparisons

Starters (as of depth charts dated 9/10/10)

POSITION
SUNS
KNICKS
PG
STEVE NASH
RAYMOND FELTON
SG
JASON RICHARDSON
BILL WALKER
SF
GRANT HILL
DANILO GALLINARI
PF
HEDO TURKOGLU
ANTHONY RANDOLPH
C
ROBIN LOPEZ
AMARE STOUDEMIRE

 

Steve Nash Vs. Raymond Felton

This comparison is kind of a joke. MVSteve vs. Raymond Felton. Sure, Raymond's a nice player. But, he's no Nash, and my prediction is that Amare is going to find out before any of us the difference between the two players. Need I say anymore? OK, I will. Felton ranked 25th in the league among all PG's in Asst/TO. He averages about 6 assists per game for his career. I would think that number may increase with a finisher like Amare on the squad, but let's face it, he's going to have to figure out Amare's game while overcoming his own shortfalls. And if he doesn't in a hurry we'll probably see a NY style media blitz whereby some offhand comments between the two turn into an all out war which wont help Knick chemistry, or put some numbers in the W column for the Knicks.

Jason Richardson Vs. Bill Walker

Really? Seriously? No. Walker has 64 games as a pro under his belt.  There's no reason to even compare numbers between the two. J-Rich is a proven veteran, a prototypical, multi-dimensional SG in the NBA.

Anthony Randolph Vs. Hedo Turkoglu

Randolph is a nice player and will most likely grab more boards than Turk. But not unlike Walker, we're talking about a kid with 96 games under his belt. Turk is a proven vet, a multi-dimensional guy with a high NBA IQ. And while he's most likely not going to put up Amare-type numbers, we all know Turk is a different type of player. He'll  be shuffled around at 4, 3, 2, and even 1 (point forward) at times. The Suns will no doubt be needing rebounds from every player on the court, but I'll take Turk's game over Randolph's any day. In terms of battling the boards, Turk may lose, but in terms of possessing multiple skills, and creating mismatch nightmares, I take Turk.

Grant Hill Vs. Danilo Gallinari

Gallinari can prove lethal when he gets his shot rolling, but he's too streaky right now. He ranked 125th in the league in FG% among forwards (42%). Grant Hill-60th at 48%. Of course a D'Antoni run team is going to encourage guys like Gallinari to shoot when his fingers get near the ball. Comparing FG% among the two isn't quite fair as Gallinari tossed up 200 more FG attempts than Grant. The two also play completely different games. Gallinari is expected to score and he was most likely in diapers when Grant Hill was winning championships at Duke. Hill's role includes a mid range/slashing game, playing D, grabbing rebounds, and at times, facilitating the offense. Let's not forget his locker room presence.

If you asked me though who I'd rather have on my team right now, I'd have to consider the importance of Hill's role on the Suns for the moment, knowing he is a year or so away from retiring versus Gallinari's youth and assumed ceiling. So I'll side step the head to head comparison and just say i am happy Grant Hill is a Sun.

Amare Stoudemire Vs. Robin Lopez

Well this is what it's all about right? I mean this is what the critics are pointing to when they say the Suns are no longer a playoff contender or perhaps will barely slip in. Here's where the Knicks may be stuck with a hobbling, shell of a player in 3-4 years time and the Suns will be developing a new beast. I suspect this is also why some Knick fans feel so confident in their team. Well, New York, enjoy your Amare. He'll play pretty well for you. Enjoy him when he posterizes the Anthony Tolliver's of the NBA, and enjoy him when you drop it into him down low with 3 seconds left and he muscles up a brick off the backboard as time expires. Enjoy him when in the third quarter of a tight game he gets lost in Amareland, thinking about the club he'll be up in after the game, totals 20 uninspired points and gets outrebounded by Raymond Felton. (Keep in mind I wanted Amare to stay, but we all know in different times Amare wouldn't have gotten the contract he did. Of course we are talking about the Knicks. Nevermind.)

I suppose Amare gets the advantage here based on numbers, experience, and Lopez's health (or lack thereof). But keep in mind Amare has his own issues to worry about. Keep your shades on, Amare, we wish you well.

Bench

I am chuckling again....Frye, Dudz, Warrick, Dragon, J-Chill vs. Chandler, Douglas, Turiaf, Fields, and Azubuike. Again the Knicks have a few nice players on the pine. The Suns could use a Turiaf down low for example. But as a unit, the Suns second group is one of if not the best in the league. They have chemistry, talent, and a swagger that not many teams have in a second unit. So, um, advantage: Suns.

Brass Tacks

I realize the real issue here, and it isn't a player by player comparison between the Knicks and Suns. That was kind of a masturbatory exercise or turf defense, or perhaps my own subdued anger. Here's a post from Rufus that gets to the point:

The Suns' spot (unintended pun) depends on a few things
- Carmelo: If Melo is traded, it’s likely the Nuggets will ship out another big name or two and enter the rebuilding mode.
- Yao: If Yao is healthy and plays most of the season, the Rockets should be in. Scola is playing out of his mind this summer and I don’t see why that should stop him in the regular season. Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Shane Battier, Scola, and Ming is an incredibly formidable opponent comprised of quick, sharpshooting guards and punishing low-block scorers.

(Now if I may-the following is to be uttered in Samuel Jackson's voice):

Allow me to retort.

 

Obviously the West was the stronger conference last season as a whole. Every team that made the postseason had 50+ wins. Meanwhile 4 of the East's 8 playoff squads had less than 50 wins. So while the Suns depth may make up for Amare Stoudemire's absence, they are still stuck against tough competition. As the writer above alluded to, if Denver pushes the nuke button, that's one less squad to contend with. But let's keep in mind how Denver fell apart down the stretch last season like David Hasseholhoff's hamburger. 'Melo or no 'Melo, it may not matter at all.

But the suggestion above, as I perceive it, is that if Amare's departure results in 5 or so less wins, the Suns could be on the outside looking in. This is a very real possibility. However the WC doesn't appear to have changed a whole lot. there is also a very real possibility that if Denver drops out of the playoff picture, (barring a huge surprise from someone), the only two teams that have a shot to take that spot are New Orleans (with CP3's return) and Houston. To be honest though, I don't see the Hornets surpassing the Suns. While CP3 is great, and Thornton showed some nice flashes, the gimpy Peja is another year older, Ariza reminds me of a younger, less disciplined Matt Barnes, and 31 year old David West is not going to carry a team through 82+ games alone.

The Rockets are also much improved with the addition of Yao. In fact, a look at their roster on paper and they are loaded. I could see the Rockets knocking off another squad to take one of the 8 post season spots. But do we really think Yao can stay healthy? Not me. Not for 82 games. As far as the rest, Sacramento has improved, and the clips get Blake Griffin back but it's going to be the usual suspects battling it out come Spring time.

The truth of the matter here is that the Knicks really haven't improved themselves that much. This team is building for 2012 and beyond. Adding Amare helps, but without Nash, he won't be the same. Gallinari may improve into a double double threat (he may need to with Amare attempting to rebound next to him). Meanwhile the Suns face some serious question marks, but they have the talent, depth, and chemistry, and Steve Nashness to pull it together and make another run. While the Suns can at least envision 50 wins, the Knicks will be lucky to see 35.

This is a different side of Robin Lopez. You can tell because he's smiling and talking to people.

He does have a reputation with the Suns community relations staff for being great with kids so I guess this isn't a surprise.


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