2011-2012 season would be deja vu, all over again.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

As many of you have heard by now, there is growing optimism about a full NBA schedule this year. Ken Berger is reading unsaid words and facial expressions like a profiler. Chris Sheridan is citing unnamed sources. And then there's the phantom tweet from Roger Mason Jr, player rep for the Knicks, that was later deleted: "looking like a season".

My reaction? Depression.

As I read through the optimistic articles last night and this morning, instead of getting excited my heart sunk lower and lower into my chest. 

I can see the frustration of a frenzied free agency period during which the Suns front office looks forlornly at its empty wallets and just watches along with me on the sideline. And I don't really want to watch a dozen teams around the NBA get better and another dozen to keep their hold on 50-win seasons and high playoff hopes, while the Suns struggle to beat the Clippers. And I'm not looking forward to watching Steve Nash deteriorate before my eyes over the course of an 82-game schedule again.

The 2011-2012 promises to play out nearly exactly like the last season. In fact, there's a greater chance of regression than progression. Nearly the entire 40-win roster is signed through at least next season, and there's no money for free agents. Couple that with your best trade chips being Mikeal Pietrus and Robin Lopez, you're in trouble. Big trouble.

Sorry to be the gloom and doom here, but every day that goes by without basketball is a day that further crystallizes the notion that it's time to start over.

You simply don't build a team with a foundation of aging stars and middling role players.

My depression began 3 days ago, when role-player-extraordinaire Jared Dudley said he was trying to recruit Channing Frye, Josh Childress and Aaron Brooks to play on his impact basketball team this September. Why a bunch of role players, Jared? Why not recruit an idle Suns star or two to join him?

Then I realized - there are no idle Suns stars to recruit! Let's run through the roster. Pietrus and Marcin Gortat are overseas. Vince Carter, Grant Hill and Steve Nash are too old to run with the younger pups. Markieff Morris is an unsigned rookie. Gani Lawal and Garrett Siler just aren't good enough. And Robin Lopez... well, that's an interesting name but who the hell knows? Maybe he's in Disneyland. Not one of those guys is an all-star talent*.

*note: Gortat may make an all-star game or two, but he's not a perennial all-star talent.

*note #2: Before anyone whimpers over the loss of "all-star talent" Goran Dragic, he's not even the best guy named Dragic on his national team anymore... go Zoran!

The impact basketball "league" will be flush with in-their-prime, veteran NBA players and up-and-coming kids. The best the Suns can possibly offer are Dudley, Childress, Brooks and Frye, otherwise known as the 6th-9th best guys on a contender. Ugh. Maybe Duds can recruit an all-star talent from another NBA team to be their fifth-wheel. But then again, if they're trying to prep for the Suns' 2011-2012 season, playing with a true all-star might be counter-productive.

As mentioned earlier, the Suns' roster is set pretty well in stone for this upcoming season unless Lon Babby can turn his trash (Lopez, Pietrus, minor FA money) into treasure (a new 2-guard). But even then, the rotation of last year's 40-win team will be largely the same at 4 of 5 positions.

Best case: 75-year old Nash/Hill combo survives 82 NBA games, rookie Markieff Morris plays like Horace Grant, Babby gets a fringe all-star to play 2-guard... and the Suns win 45 games, taking the 7th seed.

Worst case: Nash goes down at some point, Hill goes down at some point, Jason Richardson signs but disappoints, Morris plays like a rookie backup... and the Suns win an agonizing 35 games. Just good enough for a crappy lottery pick. 

Yayyyy, 2011-2012 season... (sniffle)

Gani Lawal to Play in Poland

As reported by our own Seth Pollack. He has an opt-out clause so he can come back when the lockout ends, but given that he's buried pretty low on the depth chart behind Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick and Markieff Morris, it might be a good idea for him to stay over there until more opportunity opens up for him in Phoenix.

NBA Draft's Third Round Might Be Best Thing To Come From Lockout

So says Ridiculous Upside's Scott Schroeder.

"NBA teams have slowly but surely been buying into the D-League -- nine teams will control at least the basketball operations of their Development League affiliates this coming season -- in order to get more out of it. If they're able to stash a player they think might eventually be productive in the minor leagues, it makes sense that the NBA will take advantage of it (as the Thunder have already done with their second round picks)."

Phoenix Suns rookie forward Markieff Morris is still considering playing overseas, according to Morris’ agent Tony Dutt, who said conversations with a couple of the top teams in Europe and...

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Jared Dudley will continue improving, and there's no stopping him.

There's not much good news to be found in the NBA lockout, but Jared Dudley isn't letting it stop him. He's been one of the leaders among NBA players finding other work in the US while the labor dispute rolls on. Dudley has been one of the primary spokesmen for the Impact Basketball tournaments, the first scheduled for next week.

According to the Arizona Republic's Paul Coro, Dudley will play in an Impact tournament, along with 40-60 other NBA players, including Stephen Curry, John Wall, Zach Randolph, Stephen Jackson and Kyle Lowry, starting Monday, September 12 and running through September 23.

Dudley says he will try to recruit fellow Suns Josh Childress, Channing Frye and Aaron Brooks to play on his team, as the tournament attempts to keep NBA teammates together on the same team. The games will be broadcast on the internet, will contain only NBA players and be played by NBA rules.

This league (they're making a point not to call it a "league", for legal reasons) might be entertaining but, more important than that from a Suns fan viewpoint, Dudley is showing himself to be a leader. This is what we want from our players, isn't it? Dudley could be leaving to play overseas, or simply staying at home and working out, but instead he's taking the initiative to play games against real NBA competition and inviting his teammates to do the same.

I don't know what impact (pun intended) this tournament, and potential future Impact tournaments, will have on CBA negotiations, but I very much like the fact that Dudley is doing all he can to get his work in. Many of us here don't want Dudley as starting SG next season and would prefer him as 6th man, but he won't be denied quite so easily.

As per Coro:

Dudley has three-hour sessions at Impact six days a week in the off-season for shooting, playing games and lifting weights. The clientele, such as Rudy Gay last week, challenges him as he aspires to start next season for Phoenix. A slot could be open at off-guard with the Suns expected to waive Vince Carter once a collective-bargaining agreement is set, if not come up with a creative trade alternative for him.

I'm eager to see Jared Dudley continue to improve himself. As great of a role player as he's been for us, he still has plenty of doubters as he tries to become a starter. I'm one of those doubters but I'll be happy to be proven wrong, and Dudz is working his way to do that.

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