A piece of the brain trust over here at Bright Side of the Sun used some serious g-chat technology to forge a real-time round table discussion about some of the issues favoring our beloved Phoenix Suns going into the 2011-12 season. Taking part in the pseudo high tech-meet up were your very own:
Seth Pollack the Great
Omaha Sun (of Omaha)
Ray of the East Bay
7Footer (AKA the Big Daddy) &
The Very Multi-Talented Eutychus
Yours truly served up 7 questions that I vow were not presented before hand. The following were the on the spot, immediate answers. Enjoy!
1. When does the lockout end?
?Eutychus: ? ?I honestly think the lockout will end within a month of the start of the season. They'll be mean and nasty... but once they start actually missing games and losing that revenue, sides will bend and deals will be made. Within a month - that's my call.?
7Footer: ? ?I don't see the lockout ending until at least halfway through the season...But I'm leaning toward the possibility that we lose the whole thing. The owners seem more than willing to stretch this out and forfeit the entire year...There is absolutely no sense of urgency to get a deal done.?
?Ray: ? ?I've got it ending closer to the holidays. Casual fans don't pay much attention to the NBA until football ends, so their real drop dead date is closer to January. But I don't see both sides having the stomach to blow the whole season up. It would be cutting off their nose to spite their face.?
Omaha: ? ?I agree with Euts. This could be long and drawn out and ugly, but the NBA can't afford to miss too much time or it's going to take a big hit. A lot of people thought the NFL would miss games when the lockout first started, but 1 preseason game is all that was missed. The closer they get to the games, the more pressure they'll feel and the more negotiating will get done. 1-2 months. You all know I'm an optimist, however, so take it with a grain of salt.? Ray has a good point with the NFL. I didn't really consider that.?
Ray: ? ?I'll be shocked if the whole season is lost.?
Eutychus: ? ?same here - after the season the NBA had last year... It would be redunkulous to intentionally lose that momentum/profit?...yes yes on with the games
?#2? Assuming the lockout ends, and knowing the Suns FO, how many FA's are signed and at what position?
Eutychus: ? ?I would say MAX 2 FA's are signed - for one - THEY BETTER RESIGN FA BAMF, and the second is probably somebody to fill the vacant crevasse left by one Vince Carter?
?Ray: ? ?Most likely one, and it will be a SG. Dudley needs to be a force of nature off the bench, and signing a starting SG would allow for that. Second choice is PF to allow Frye to back up both C and PF, but I think there is a bigger need at SG. I can't tell you who that player will be. Afflalo is an obvious choice, but other guys might come free depending upon the new CBA.?
Eutychus: ?P.S. - the NFL FA frenzy was crazy after the lockout was lifted... I would be using my amazing logic skills to suppose that the NBA would probably see something similar given some new shiny rules.
?Seth: ? ?Sun's wont have much $ to spend? assuming cap doesn't increase
Wil: ? ?Seth-do they go for 2 guard??
Seth: ? ?See here.
7Footer: ? ?I think we re-sign Grant first...That seems like a pretty easy decision and there seems to be mutual interest as well. Another position I think we are going to have to address is still the PF position. Markeiff might be a nice addition, but as a rookie I have doubts that we would lean on him to be the guy. He is going to need to develop and learn to play at the NBA level, and I don't see that happening overnight. I don't think we'll go after any superstars...maybe someone like Kris Humphreys or Josh McRoberts.?
Omaha: ? ?Hmm... We'll probably see some kind of end-of-the-bench guy like Dowdell or Siler signed. Even if he's just another Matt Janning. As for rotation players, I'd hope for a SG. We may not be especially talented at the PF spot, but we do have plenty of bodies now. PF would probably be addressed via trade or not at all. Someone like Afflalo (probably not likely) or even Nick Young (I've come around a bit after visiting Bullets Forever, but also a RFA and tough to get). But I'm guessing Grant will be re-signed, and a journeyman SG that we'll settle for because he comes cheap in addition to the young guy I mentioned above.?
Seth: ? ?The Suns will be right around $60m if they bring Grant back and sign Brooks to around the $2.9m qualifying offer. That's going to be darn close to the cap if not over.? They aren't going to have the money to sign any free agents worth a darn.
Omaha: ? ?Ah, I forgot about Brooks as well.?
Ray: ? ?So, Seth, the answer is zero free agents signed and we bring back the same team, give or take??
Seth: ? ?They are at $52m with nine players not including Siler, Lawal, Dowdell, Hill or Brooks.?
Omaha: ? ?Are you including a bought-out Carter Seth??
Seth: ? ?They would have to move Lopez and another big contract to make room for any kind of decent free agent. So, more likely would be a trade of some kind.? Including the $4m to buy him out.
?#3: Do the Suns resign Brooks, and if so whats the max they spend on the guy? Also talk about why you would or wouldnt sign him.?
Ray: ? ?I would definitely re-sign Brooks, but the max I'd spend is $4M/year. The free agent PG cupboard is bare and if we don't re-sign Brooks, then what? And I like what Brooks brings. Don't crucify the guy based on his flameout with the Rockets and his so-so performance with us. He's a great shooter and speedy playmaker. We could do much worse at backup to Steve Nash.?
Eutychus: ?For me this is tricky... because I'm not sure what other - if any - quality back-up PG's will be / are out there. I say resign the brohan - but if it takes anything substantially more than the qualifying offer we've already thrusted - it would be wiser to wait. I think we're looking to make a splash in next year's FA crop of my memory of FO credos is correct.?
7Footer: ? ?I think the Suns do sign Brooks. I don't think he had enough time to prove himself yet, and I think our FO is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. His disappointing play last season could help us re-sign him for less money as well...I think the highest they'll go is around $5mil a year.?
Wil: I also think the FO doesn't pie on their faces on the deal, and agree with the sentiment that he did not have enough time to show his worth.
Omaha: ? ?I do think he gets re-signed unless the FO thinks they can use his money to snag another FA. I don't love him as a player, but he is a talented scorer who might be able to make sure the team doesn't stop scoring every time Steve takes a seat. It will be interesting to see who might try to steal him away. A lot of the teams with perceived holes at PG have guys close to Brooks' level or have young guys that they are developing for the future (SAC-Jimmer?). Don't ruin future cap space, but don't let him go for nothing.?
Ray: ? ?I don't really agree with you,7footer, that Brooks was disappointing. Maybe expectations were too high? For a backup PG, I thought he was OK, and much better than who he replaced.?
Eutychus: ? ?I'm not gonna buy that he was "much better" than Dragic.?
Omaha: ? ?He was a bit more stable, but he wasn't that much better.?
Ray: ? ?By any measure, he was, Eutychus. Dragic was a disaster last season.?
Seth: ? ?I don't think they will pay more than the QO and I don't think he's worth much more. Brooks is a gunner with one good year in an unusual circumstance and he's got a reputation for having attitude problems. If someone wants to offer him a bigger deal as a restricted free agent (assuming that system even applies in the new CBA), I would think the Suns would let him walk.? That's what I would do anyway?.
?7Footer: ?I agree he was more disappointing vs. our expectations and his potential than he was overall. I think many of us expected to see the slashing, lightning quick scorer that we saw in 09 playing for Houston...but that didn't happen.?
#4: What do the Suns do with Robin Lopez Do you see him traded? Does he have any trade value??
?Ray: ? ?Keep Lopez, unless he's a valuable trade chip or the Suns coaching staff has fully given up on him. See him as a development project with upside. Last season was probably his low point.?
7Footer: ? ?At this point I think it would be foolish to trade Rolo unless it's for a good deal. I have the feeling we are just trying to unload him to whoever will take him, and I don't think that's a smart move. He's on the last year of an inexpensive rookie deal and I think it would be much better to keep him as the back-up C and give him another season. If he plays well we may actually get some teams willing to give us real value for him in return...rather than just trading him away for next to nothing now.?
Omaha: ? ?Frolo is a difficult read. We really have no clue if he has any trade value or not. Perhaps teams not as close see him as a young 7-footer with potential, or perhaps they see him as an injured wreck. I would hope some sort of deal can be made, perhaps including Pietrus or someone, but I wouldn't count on it.?
Eutychus: ? ?I'll be honest - I have no idea what RoLo's trade value is or would be. But my question to your question is... can the Suns keep him after dangling him all over the place before the lockout? Robin's a sensitive kid, I'm not sure what kind of emotional damage has been done and if he can play and progress through it here with the Suns.?
I don't think they can. I think he's got his brothers in his ear talking about how he's being treated in PHX.
?Ray: ? ?That's a great point, Eutychus. The relationship between the Suns and Lopez might be damaged beyond repair.?
Omaha: ?Yeah Euts, I'm not sure where his head is. He's been through a lot in PHX. Multiple injuries, demotions, being called out by teammates, sucky play overall... Perhaps it's time for him to move on so he can get his career back on track??
Seth: ? ?I agree with Euts. The smart thing might be to keep him and try and find the magic he once had. But at this point all signs point to a damaged relationship. His trade value will depend a lot on his health. At some point he's going to need to get on the court and prove he has regained that incredible athleticism he showed before the back injury. That guy has a lot of value.?
Seth: ? ?The lingering question with Robin is his passion and desire to play basketball and be great. I don't know how to answer that one.?
?#5: Can Marcin Gortat play at an All Star level for a full season? Will we see a better player than we did last season??
?Seth: ? ?Marcin Gortat is not an NBA All-Star, so no. He can play very well, however, and should be better than last year. We'll see if he's managed to improve his low post game by working for a few days with Hakeem and then basically, not playing competitive basketball all summer. If Nash is still feeding him the ball, he'll score. He's always going to rebound well, and he defends certainly kinds of players very well.?
Ray: ? ?Well, you know I love me some Gortat, and I'm bullish on his future here. All Star? Maybe. But I don't doubt his ability to do what he did for us over an extended period. He's a worker, and that's one of the things I love about him. If he can do for us what Tyson Chandler did for Dallas, I'm a happy man, and I think he can do that.?
Eutychus: ?I have a ton of confidence in Gortat - he's a self-motivated beast. He's already shown us he's working hard this offseason by seeking outside help to improve his game. I will be sad if he doesn't continue is Double-Double-Domination. And if his play doesn't earn him All-Star votes/consideration... I will vomit on the NBA.?
7Footer: ?I think Gortat is just getting started. Last season was definitely his breakout year, but I saw so much room for improvement on his part...and with his work ethic and attitude, I think he only gets better. Gortat may already be at the ceiling of his physical potential, but his potential to master the game still has a lot of room for improvement. I think he will definitely play at an "All-Star" level next season...I see him as one of the few bright spots we have to look forward to.?
Eutychus: ? ?Seth is a Gortat-hater. I thought we needed to clear that up for the record. Just kidding! I love you Seth.
?Omaha:? ?I think we will see a better player. All-star... I'm not so sure. There are so many PFs that put up big numbers and that somehow end up on the team as back-up or even starting Cs, his chances are slim. Tim Duncan and Pau Gasol will probably make the All-Star team regardless of the season they have. Gortat will put up very good numbers, but not big enough to overcome the names of those two and others like them. And we've seen plenty of PFs named the back-up C so unless he's a starter he'll probably lose out to someone like Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge.?
Seth: ? ?The Tyson Chandler comparison is a good one. Very valuable role player, yes. All-Star, no.?
And by the way, THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT
?Omaha:? ?I do think we'll see a slightly more consistent jump shot and a slightly improved post game. He's not going to come back with a Dream Shake, but something he can bust out now and then when the P&R is getting too predictable would be nice and not outside the realm of possibility IMO.? But Robin Lopez could be an All-Star, right? (SARC?)
Eutychus:? ?I think he needs to work on his style-dunking.. like throw in a few statue-of-liberties or a 360 tomahawk every once in a while.... ah I miss Amare?.
7Footer: ? ?Yeah, for the record I think he plays at an All-Star level...but I don't necessarily think he will make the All-Star team. And yes, his time with Hakim should really help him improve in the post!?
Seth: ? ?Robin has (had) the physical tools to be an All-Star but not the make up. Gortat is the opposite. Anyone know how we can put Gortat's brain into pre-back injury Robin Lopez?? That's a monster!
7Footer:? ?Geez...I meant Hakeem!?
Eutychus: ? ?lol?
Omaha: ?I don't think Stern would allow it.?
Ray: ? ?Hakeem was a bad MF-er. If you haven't already, check the youtube clip I posted on my last story.?
Seth: ? ?Gortat has none of the natural footwork? it's like teaching someone to dance they can learn the steps but can they "feel" the music?
? ?Omaha: Great comparison Seth. I can't dance at all. And I mean that literally. ZERO musical ability.?
#6: How big of a factor does Markieff Morris become next season? Does he hit the ground running and make a significant contribution? Or does he sit the bench for the most part??
Seth: ? ?Somewhere in between but it's very hard to say.?
Eutychus: ? ?Assuming the season starts on time (I know, a big 'if') and MM gets some consistent playing time, I think we'll fully know the answer to that within 3 weeks of the start of play. Given our FO's recent track record with rookies - the leash will be short. I will be beyond SHOCKED if he's given significant minutes for the entire season.?
Omaha: ?I think he'll start out on the bench, but slowly work his way into the rotation as the season rolls on. He kind of is what he is - he doesn't have a whole lot of developing to do. As long as he can pull down some rebounds, play some defense, and knock down the occasional jumper I think he'll earn some back-up minutes. I'll be doing PHX in my rookie series pretty soon, so I'll address it in detail a bit more then.?
Ray: ? ?I've come to really like Markieff's future in Phoenix, but his immediate future? Not so much. He's going to miss summer league, training camp and preseason and then will have to beat out Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick and Gani Lawal for minutes. I see a lot of bench time in Markieff's immediate future.?
7Footer:? ?I see Markeiff as a role player for us. I think he is fairly NBA ready, so that will help, but I don't think he is going to come in and light up the stat sheets. A lot of this will depend on how much (if any) of next season we actually play. He will need some time to develop chemistry with his teammates, and a long lockout will undoubtedly affect him.?
Omaha: ? ?Another injury to Robin (if he sticks around) could give him minutes by default. I know Channing is a horse and can play 40 mpg if we need him to, but that's definitely not ideal. Unless Gani has somehow developed a ton since he tore the ligament (not sure that's possible) Kieff could be the next guy up.?
?#7 What can we expect from the Suns next season, assuming there is one? Talk about who performs well, who disappoints, and what we can expect from this team.?
Omaha: ? ?Expect a long answer.?
Seth: ? ?I'm not going to answer this yet. There's too many questions about what the roster will look like to say how the team will do. I do have a hard time thinking that the team will win more than 40 games. It's a transition year until 2012 when they get some real cap space.? But who knows, maybe the new CBA shakes things up and they end up with another star player somehow.
Eutychus: ?I'm going to say, barring any massive injuries we can hope for an 8th seed in the Playoffs and expect a lottery-pick. I'm not going to get my hopes very high for a lockout-marred season where we're basically expecting a mediocre team from last year to continue in mediocrity. Am I expecting massive improvements from last year? I should be.. but the reality is - no summer league - no training camp - no preseason - no major personnel changes - that all calls for ugly basketball and a lot more of what we saw last year. (I was hanging out with Scott Howard today... that's not true but it's an excuse for my pessimism)?
Wil: Can't we get through a story without a mention of Scott Howard? That kid's ego is already larger than Lopez's freakin' afro.
7Footer:? ?Assuming we have a season of some sort...I think the brightest spots will be Gortat, Nash, Frye, and Dudley. I think Grant continues to be a leader, a great teammate, and an important player, but I think he will be used more sparingly going forward. I think Childress finally emerges as a reliable player at the 3 and will take more of Grant's minutes. I see Dudley starting at the two for the time being unless we bring in another two-guard...but with cap issues I'm not sure we can afford it.?
Ray: ? ?I see a 45 or so out of 82 games win team. Nash is Nash, Hill is Hill (assuming we keep him), the stability I hope for will help. Dudley and Frye will probably be even better with defined roles. Gortat should be improved. Last year was looking up after the trade, then Frye got injured, then Nash got injured. But, as Seth notes, there are so many unknowns now that it's hard to say.?
Omaha:? ?We won, what, 40 games last year? And that was with serious turmoil? Most non-Suns fans and national media people have written PHX off. The Sun has set for good yada yada. As I said, I'm an optimist and a Nash believer. I realize the team doesn't have the talent to necessarily challenge for a deep playoff run. I don't think an 8th seed is out of the question. Give Nash a more stable team around him. Give us an improved Dudley, Frye, and Gortat. Give us a healthy Childress. Give us some adequate play form the back-up PFs. Give us a more comfortable Brooks. Give us some improved defense. I think that's enough together with Steve to give us an above-.500 team.?
Ray: ? ?What Omaha said.?
Omaha: ? ?That's cheating.?
Ray: ? ?Sorry, but there's no rec function here.?
Seth: ? ?The issue is Nash's health. Every year now the amount of time he can play at full strength goes down and down.? (12 hours later, Wil completely oncurs with Seth's statement here.)
7Footer: Well, the biggest issue I see facing the Suns is the inevitable life after Nash...Right now we have no answers.
Extra Bonus Comment Section
Ray: ? ?We haven't discussed the Humphries/Kardashian wedding yet.?
Omaha: The Nash question is why I'm hoping Brooks can come back and give us something. He has to be a better PG than Dudz.
Seth: Setting the bar low, there, huh
Omaha: If I wanted to do that I would have said Dragic.
7Footer: Dragic was supposed to be that guy, but I really don't think any of us expect Brooks to be the long-term answer...So we're right back to square one. We have one more season with the G.O.A.T. and after that we are going to be in trouble if we still haven't found our guy.
Omaha: 7Footer, go away. We can do a life-after-Nash chat some other time when I can't be here.
Omaha: That's an interesting laugh Seth.
Seth: I have underwear older than you... and don't think i won't mail to to you either
Ray: Wow, Seth's underwear in the mail, moving to the top of the list of things I don't want to happen.
Omaha: You have a to-to as well as 20-year-old underwear Seth?
Wil: its tutu, Omaha.
Mike Prada over at SB has published a post ranking NBA coaches top to bottom. While my instinct is to take guys whose franchises have tons of cash to spend on talent, and rank them near the bottom, it is no given that talent=championships. The Mavericks, for example, have the luxury of Cuban and his bank account, but they only recently broke through. For a coach to corral the egos to formulate a streamlined squad, focused on one thing-winning is pretty difficult. So, Rick Carlisle at #2 doesn't bother me much. Pops at #1 seems accurate although I dislike him as a person. He continues to win with an aging squad while developing some randoms into key contributors. Personally, I'd have a difficult time not putting Scott Brooks between 1-3 as his team is very young. Young an crazy talented, yes, but still, to keep them in line and winning isn't a cake walk.
And now, for what y'all have been waiting for. Alvin Gentry...Here is Prada's blurb:
19. Alvin Gentry, Phoenix Suns (13): Again, the fact that a guy like Gentry is so low is telling with the level of talent in the league. The work he did in 2010 to lead the Suns to the Western Conference Finals was particularly noteworthy, and he's forgotten more about player-to-player psychology than I will ever know. That said, I do think the lack of development from Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic is a bit troubling for someone who is known for making the most out of an individual's talent. Also, while he's been dealt some pretty awful hands in Detroit and with the Clippers, he still only can point to one year where he coached anything close to an elite team.
Some of the comments I agree with, and some I disagree with:
Totally agreed. Alvin is a player's coach. He's kept the locker room together even amid the annual Amar'e Stoudemire trade orgy, as well as some significant changes both in the FO and on the court. The players trust, respect, and like Alvin which keeps them trying, even when the front office puts together a less than mediocre group of talent.
Disagree. I won't disagree that the Suns have serious problems developing young talent. But really, how much young talent has Gentry been allowed to hold onto for more than a couple of hours? Earl Clark? Isn't he in China? Blame Steve Kerr, don't blame Gentry for that train wreck. Robin Lopez has battled injuries for two years, and not just nagging little things, but a back injury which will likely continue to plague him for as long as he plays, and foot and knee injuries that kept him off the court for several weeks. How often do athletes get injured then immediately return to their own top form? Not often. And for Robin, it's a totally different story. He of the broken glass door and continued temper tantrums and God-knows-what-else needs more than a coach to sort him out. Maybe blame Gentry if he were a shrink and gave RobLo the wrong psyche meds.
As far as Dragic goes, again I don't blame Gentry. Many of us hated the trade, but let's be honest, Goran had plenty of chances to solidify his spot as backup to Nash and heir apparent, but aside from a few excellent performances and streaks of consistency, he was never consistent enough to be counted on. What went wrong? You tell me, but it wasn't a lack of talent. It was clear Goran's confidence level and decision making ability was all over the globe. At some point the same voice from the same coach start's sounding like Charlie Brown's teacher: you need a change of scenery, and that odd "toe cut on glass" injury that was never fully explained didn't help his cause. Now whether Goran Dragic should have been traded or not, that's a different discussion for a different day.
Agreed. He lost Amar'e, lost his GM who was bent on signing Amare and continuing the winning, and then he got Hedo/Warrick/Chill and Lon Babby dumped on him. He didn't complain, he made no excuses. He worked with what he had and that's why Alvin Gentry deserves a higher ranking than Mike D'Antoni, Mike Brown, Frank Vogel and a bunch of others that are ranked higher than him.
I suppose a little optimism is a good thing. Of course delusions and optimisim are two completely different things.
Today, in a show of deluded optimism, the Phoenix Suns announced their preseason schedule, set to begin October 11 against the L.A. Sterlings at U.S. Airways Arena. The schedule features two games a piece against the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trailblazers, one in Vancouver, Canada, where Steve Nash would in theory attract a large, raucous crowd.
Of course, none of this will happen now will it? Have a look or a chuckle, or, if you are at work, try not to chuck your coffee mug at the monitor while calling David Stern lil' Darth Vader.
Tues., Oct. 11 L.A. Clippers US Airways Center, Phoenix 7 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 15 Portland Trail Blazers Rose Garden, Portland 7 p.m.
Mon., Oct. 17 Portland Trail Blazers Rogers Arena, Vancouver, Canada 7 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 18 Golden St. Warriors ORACLE Arena, Oakland 7:30 p.m.
Thurs., Oct. 20 Denver Nuggets US Airways Center, Phoenix 7 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 23 Denver Nuggets Pepsi Center, Denver 6 p.m.
Tues., Oct. 25 Okla. City Thunder US Airways Center, Phoenix 7 p.m.
All times Phoenix time
Oh and hey-you people who can, like, you know, alter computer images and stuff...I'll give one of you a free 16 ounce Dr. Pepper for the best image of Stern as Darth Vader!