Mercury Storm Back To Beat Seattle And Advance To WCF

Phoenix was a serious underdog headed into this game and were down big early. They fought back with defense (gasp!) and the game came down to the wire.

WCF against either San Antonio or Minnesota starts Thursday.

If you missed this game on ESPN on Monday, and you have access to ESPN 3, do yourself a favor and watch at least the fourth quarter.


Did seeing Jason Kidd get a ring change Grant Hill's priorities?

Phoenix Suns free agent small forward Grant Hill figures to have a few teams vying for his services once the NBA lockout ends and free agent signing period commences. The team that continues to be mentioned as a frontrunner should Hill choose to leave Phoenix is the Miami Heat. Most recently, HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy said this in a chat:

I’ve been told a few times this summer that Grant Hill wants to join a contender, and that there’s mutual interest in Miami. If he’s able to win a title, that would certainly help his case for the Hall of Fame, but I think he makes it regardless.

Hill made a telling statement in July after seeing Jason Kidd, the man with whom he shared rookie of the year honors in 1995, win a ring with the Dallas Mavericks: "You definitely want to win, especially when you see somebody you are kind of linked to and somebody you have known for many years get there. I don’t have too many more years left, so we have to wait and see. But it would be nice to do what [Kidd] was able to do this past season."

Before that statement from Hill in July, it was widely assumed among the Suns fanbase that he would finish his playing career in Phoenix. Suns owner Robert Sarver has announced his desire to re-sign Hill, and Hill's family resides in the Phoenix area. In addition, Hill's injury-riddled career has been rejuvenated in Phoenix, as the Suns training staff has worked its wonders, and he has been healthy enough to play in 313 out of a possible 328 regular season games in his four seasons in Phoenix.

More.....

It's easy to see why the Heat would be interested. Hill has been a bargain in his time with the Suns, providing leadership, strong defense and efficient if unspectacular offense, at the salary of only $10M total over four seasons. Last year, Hill averaged 13.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 30.1 minutes per game, and often was asked to guard the opposing team's biggest offensive threat, players ranging from Derrick Rose to Blake Griffin.

From the Suns viewpoint, Hill is a fan favorite, team leader, provides more value than his simple stats show and, I must restate, his salary has been beyond reasonable. His low salary demands also appeal to a Heat team that has precious little cap space.

I love Grant Hill, you love Grant Hill, everybody loves Grant Hill.

And yet still, the more I think about this, the more I think it might make sense for all involved if Hill went to the Heat. Why would a 39-year old player want to play out his career on a Suns team that's going nowhere? And, given the Suns' current situation, what do they want with an old role player at the end of his career? This is especially true when you consider that the Suns have Josh Childress and his similar skillset languishing on the bench with his large salary, ready to step in.

Before anyone throws out crazy trade scenarios of what we might get from the Heat in exchange for Hill, let me say again that Hill is a free agent. The choice will be his, and if he wants to leave, the Suns will get nothing in return but a small amount of salary cap space.

I'd also like to pre-emptively kibosh comparisons to the Steve Nash situation. While Nash and Hill are co-captains, and many Suns fans see them in the same glowing terms, Nash is possibly the greatest player in Suns history (definitely in the conversation, at least). He's a Suns legend. For all his qualities, Hill is not that. He's had a Hall of Fame career, but he's merely been a solid role player with the Suns. Watching Hill walk away would not be the same as watching Nash walk away, at least not in my eyes.

Should Grant Hill decide he'd like to stay in Phoenix and try to return the Suns to relevance, I'd be happy with that. Hill remains a solid contributor, and is one of the class acts ever to play in the NBA. However, if he decides to go to a contender such as the Heat, I'd understand and wouldn't be all that upset. He doesn't owe the Suns any more than what he has given the team, and I would tip my hat, thank him for his time as a Sun, and wish him well on his way out.

What would your reaction be if Grant Hill left the Suns to sign with the Heat?


David? Hello? You haven't told me where the next meeting is yet...  (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Phoenix Suns fans are fairly unanimous in their distaste for Robert Sarver, managing partner of the team's ownership group. They feel, rightfully so, that Sarver's mismanagement and disloyalty has led to the disintegration of a proud franchise and championship-contending roster.

National media take potshots at Sarver whenever possible. Local media and fans too. Heck, even current players during a lockout!

Sarver appears to be a difficult boss. Some of the nicest guys in all of sports - heck, in all the world - have voluntarily walked away from their jobs in the past 18 months without even having a new job in place. Steve Kerr. David Griffin. Rick Welts. Going years back, you can add in Mike D'Antoni, Jerry Colangelo (senior advisor at the time) and Bryan Colangelo. Really wonderful people. All gone of their own accord.

And this while Sarver was a key voice in the decision to lock out players this summer while the NBA tries to totally change the NBA salary structure. For some reason, he was not a fan of losing money while some of his fellow owners made boatloads.

And now rumors have surfaced that Robert Sarver has continued stomping his foot and pounding the floor. If not for Sarver's meddling last week, commissioner David Stern would be publicly hugging union president Derek Fisher right now, the NBA would be back in business and players would be preparing for training camp.

Is it possible that players, front office staff and NBA executives could name a WORSE owner in the NBA, if a poll were taken right now? I doubt it.

Does Robert Sarver care that people don't like him? I doubt that either.

Before I go any further, let me set my own record straight. Regular readers probably believe that I'm a fan of Sarver. Of all the writers on this blog, I'm the one most likely to defend his latest decision. I agreed with the decision to offer Amare only partial guarantees in his contract. I agreed with the decision that the 2008 Suns were "stale" and that Marion was the most logical piece to move amongst Nash, Stoudemire, Bell, Barbosa, Diaw and him. And I agree that the current NBA system heavily favors the largest markets, leaving teams like the Suns praying for leftover scraps.

But I am not an apologist for Robert Sarver, the person. Neither am I a hater. I simply have no opinion of him as a person because I've never met him. 

All we have to go on are the opinions of media, which by definition is third-hand knowledge. And that assumes the writer of the story had first-hand knowledge themselves, which is almost never the case. They have sources, who have sources. Which means that anything we read online is likely 5th or 6th-hand knowledge.

Ever play that game where you have people pass along a story by whispering it in the next person's ear? By the third or forth ear, the story has changed. Now if you factor in the personal motivations of each of those folks...

Case in point: all week, heck all summer, we've been under the impression that Robert Sarver would be a big fan of a hard salary cap. And even last week, he was supposedly the one who derailed an attempt by Stern and the players to keep the soft cap in place. Sarver wants a hard cap. Rich owners like Jerry Buss want a soft cap so they can monopolize talent. And Stern just wants the money to start rolling in again.

Makes total sense, right?

Well, read this article from NBA insider Chris Broussard over the weekend. He basically threw that whole notion out with the bath water.

This illustrates the complexity of the situation, and why the "large-markets-are-doves/small-markets-are-hawks’’ equation doesn’t work. For instance, while it’s long been reported that Phoenix’s Robert Sarver is a hawk, two sources close to the situation insist he’s one of the biggest doves in the ownership ranks.

WTF, right?

According to multiple "sources", the owners are close to agreeing on a massive increase to revenue sharing, yet still want a hard cap before they implement it.

Is it possible that Sarver has insisted/negotiated on the revenue-sharing part, but it's the big-market owners (who would do most of the "giving" side of the sharing) who want a hard cap in order to further increase profits before giving it away to guys like Sarver and Michael Jordan?

The reason for this seeming contradiction is related to the enhanced revenue-sharing system the league will implement. The big-market owners will bear the brunt of the new system and, according to sources, some of them are adamant about having a hard cap so that if they must share revenues, they’ll have more money from which to pull. 

"The big markets want to revenue share but not with their current profits,’’ one of the sources said. "Instead, they want to share from the profit they would get from a harder cap.’’ 

After all this time, is it possible that our assumptions regarding Sarver's motives were totally wrong? Uh, probably not. He wants to make money, just like Buss and Cuban.

But our assumptions of how exactly he's going about it are probably complete conjecture.

Heck, even local media are forgetting reality in their articles to condemn Sarver:

...the only thing small market about Phoenix is Sarver, who paid a fortune for the team and won't suffer significant short-term losses to win a championship.

That is total BS. Phoenix is, at best, the 12th largest revenue market in the league. And when did it suddenly become cool to bash Sarver for spending too much money to buy the team? That's like bashing me and millions of other people for spending too much on my mortgage before the housing bubble burst. It's okay to bash Sarver - just use real facts when doing so.

If I take the person out of the equation, I am left with this understanding:

  1. The Phoenix Suns are in a mid-to-small NBA market (depending on your rule set, Suns are around 12th-16th in market size).
  2. Under the current salary structure, in place since the late 80s, the Suns have won 0 championships.*
  3. With the exception of one team who drafted Robinson and Duncan in the 90s, only the big markets have won multiple championships in that time span.
  4. Again with the prior exception, it is widely understood that you can't win a championship without wild spending.
  5. Only big markets continue to earn a profit while spending wildly.
  6. Only one team wins a championship each year.
(*yes, they MIGHT have won a championship in the mid-2000s but we will never know. Any number of other things could have just as wrong as the things that actually did go wrong)

Contrast this with the NFL model and you've got a big reason why the owners SHOULD want to change the structure. We can condemn Sarver all we want for not going broke to win, but really in an objective world SHOULD he have to lose money when a handful of his brethren are rolling in the dough? 

Check out this wonderful article by Andrew Brandt, a former NFL front-office person who now is a widely respected writer.

As with the NFL collective bargaining negotiations, the overriding issue is the split of revenue, from which all other issues flow. Despite the rhetoric, the two sides are moving closer on the most important item on the checklist. Three weeks from a real deadline, that is significant and should not be minimized.

As with any negotiation of this magnitude, much like the NFL, the devil is in the details. The NBA is insistent on a hard cap, or at least a significantly harder cap, as a way to achieve profitability off the court and competitive balance on it. Thus, in the NBA's view, the hard cap primarily affects both distribution of talent and distribution of money.

 

Brandt compares the NBA model with the NFL and NHL models, and firmly believes that the latter models are stronger for the league AND not as worrisome for players as you might think.

The NBPA's position is that were a hard cap instituted, non-marquee players would have to accept lower salaries and nonguaranteed contracts. This may be true, but it would depend on a few factors. Were the salary floor raised along with the cap ceiling, lower-budget teams, which will always struggle to attract superstar talent, would be forced to pay much more than they do now. This would flow through to the entire league, not just the upper echelon of players.

Right. A hard cap coupled with a hard floor would keep NBA players in business. Shorter deals with buyout clauses would help owners get out of cap-killers (the NHL now has 1/3 or 2/3 buyout clauses, depending on years in league, in every contract).

Look, no one likes Robert Sarver. And he very well might be the worst owner in sports. And after getting what he wants - more cash, hard salary ceilings - he will probably still screw up the Suns' future.

But you have to recognize this: Robert Sarver is not afraid of putting a target on his back to fight for what he wants. He reportedly is fighting tooth and nail to give himself a level playing field with the other NBA franchises. By doing so, he is taking away the built-in excuse for losing.

At that point, all the blame would rightfully belong on his shoulders, where it currently resides anyway.


Perhaps it’s not saying much in a league in which Al Harrington can go for 46 and 12, but Jared Dudley put up some nice all-around numbers during the first week of the Impact Competitive...

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That's right! We've got some actual basketball to watch. The 2011 EuroBasket Tournament. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, "This is a boring event, just a bunch of amateurs...". Wrong! How many NBA players can you spot in this photo? Yep, four!  And as you can see, one of them happens to be the great Boris Diaw in typical Doris fashion. Brings back memories, doesn't it? See, this is no amateur event, its got pros. 

Now hit the jump and I'll give you the info. 

First is the Bronze Medal Game between Russia and the F.Y.R of Macedonia. Afterward, France takes on Spain for the Gold Medal. 

Schedule

Games are on Sunday, 9/18.

Russia vs Macedonia at 7:30 AM PDT
Spain vs France at 11:00 AM PDT

Both games will be streamed on ESPN 3

 

Bronze Medal Game

(9-1) Russia vs (7-3) Macedonia 

Russia

Key Players: Andrei Kirilenko and Timofey Mozgov as well as former NBA player, Victor Khryapa. 

Strengths: Russia is perhaps the best defensive team in this competition. They rank #1 in both steals and points allowed. On offense they have good ball movement as evident by their 2nd place ranking in assists and 3rd place ranking in FG%. They go 9-10 guys deep and everyone knows their role. This is a true team. 

Weaknesses: They don't rebound the ball very well and it's what killed them in their lone loss to France on Friday. Also, despite their good ball movement, they're really just a decent offensive squad. They have no scorers. They don't have that guy who they can throw the ball to and expect to get to the line and draw a foul. That is why they only rank 12th in both free throws made and attempted. Now, that may be better than half the teams in this tourney, but that's only because the rest suck (no offense). 

Overview:  This is still a very good group though, but they rely too much on their defense. However, it's to no fault of their own. They just don't have the weapons to be good offensively and so they have to rely on defense. Hey, it's worked out so far as they've had much success, and now here they are fighting for a medal. 

F.Y.R of Macedonia 

Key Players: Bo McCalebb and Pero Antic.

Strengths: They're the best 3pt shooting squad in this tournament and they're good defensively, but not on par with Russia. They've got that underdog thing going for them though. 

Weaknesses:  Not a good offensive team. They rely too much on the 3-ball. 

Overview: Too be honest, I don't know much about them and so I'm probably not giving them the credit they deserve. What I do know is that they've been the biggest surprise in this competition. Nobody expected them to be here and yet, here they are. That shows me they're no pushover. 

Game Prediction: Russia won the last matchup vs Macedonia due to a game winning, buzzer beater from Sergey Monya. I expect this to be a very competitive and intense, defensive contest. I enjoy watching the Russian team play, so my best bet is on them. Russia takes home the Bronze winning 67-60. 

 

Gold Medal Game

(9-1) Spain vs (9-1) France

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Spain

Key Players: Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Jose Calderon, Marc Gasol and former NBA player Juan Carlos Navarro.

Strengths: Spain has it all. They've got a good PG, they've got good shooters, rebounders, defenders and they've got Pau Gasol. They're about top 5 in every category and they're loaded with NBA talent as you can see above. 

Weaknesses: I don't think they have one, so I'm going to make one up. They're too confident. Their only loss in this Tournament was due to a 4rth quarter choke in which they gave up a 55-49 lead, allowing Turkey to go on a 16-2 run. 

Overview: For the last 6-8 years, Spain has been one of the top 3 countries in basketball next to Argentina and the USA. Nuff said. 

France

Key Players: Tony Parker, Joakim Noah, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw. 

Strengths: France can score and they're athletic. That makes them a very intimidating team to guard (Just ask Russia). They too have some good, quality NBA talent. 

Weakness: Their defense is kind of average, but their offense makes up for it. 

Overview: I don't know much about these guys, I've only seen them play once and that was during a win against the undefeated Russians, 79-71 on Friday. Of course, I have to assume they're pretty good. I mean, I don't even need to see their record, just look at those players. Parker and Noah? If they had these guys actually play for them in recent competitions, who knows what they could have done!

Game Prediction: In their last meeting, Spain crushed France 96-69. I don't think that's how it'll play out on Sunday. There is a chance Spain comes into this game too confident and lets France get up on them early. However, I doubt it. This is the Gold Medal Game were talking about! This is for their country!  For that same reason, I don't expect France to just lay down like they did in the last outing. This is their chance to redeem themselves and there's no better opportunity to do that then in the Gold Medal Game!

I expect this to be an exciting one, but someone other than Parker and Noah from that French squad is going to have to step up. And guess who that player needs to be? Yep, Boris Diaw.... Well, good luck France. 

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