Even as the Suns struggle to begin this season, we should be encouraged by the notion that the their success last year is attributable to team chemistry, more so than individual success.  The potential to redevelop and improve that chemistry is more available than a superstar player. Obviously, both chemistry and star players are needed in order to succeed in the NBA (and chemistry creates stars just as stars create chemistry), but it is rare that a contender leans more on cohesiveness and synergy than on the play of big name players as the suns did last year.  As the maxim goes, the NBA is a superstar’s league. 

On the court, teams need superstars as their go-to in pressure situations; off the court, teams and the league need superstars, for while winning may make a team popular in their home city, fans overseas buy jerseys for the name on the back, and it is hard to sell shoes with team chemistry.  These needs combine to create a feedback loop which perpetuates the trend toward superstarism, resulting in the “big three” paradigm which is so en vogue.

However, teams that adopt the superstarism cannon as a blueprint for success expose themselves to a high risk of backfire, as demonstrated by Miami’s early season struggles and New Jersey’s disappointing summer.  In the case of Miami, the problem lies in a lack of accountability.  Accountability is essential to developing a team concept;  Miami’s players and brass are too immature to immediately replicate the success of Boston or San Antonio big threes.  There is no lack of accountability on those teams, neither within their roster nor their management.

This summer, we joked that Miami wasn’t the only team to get a big three.  The Suns added Babby and Blanks to Gentry, forming a big three that made the losses of Steve Kerr and Amar’e Stoudemire that much easier to bear, right?  (Yeah, right) But personally, while a piece of me died when we Amar’e departed, and losing Kerr was as baffling as it was unnerving, I was intrigued by Sarver’s initiative to develop a new management structure, and mildly impressed by the roster moves he made.  However, as the day of a potential mid-season roster move approaches, I worry that the FO big three will suffer from the same issue of accountability facing Miami, but with less talent on the floor to compensate for it.

For fans, it is understandably easy to scapegoat Sarver for any FO move that is made this season.  His reputation as a basketball layperson will forever stick, and, in the offseason he decided to try and fix a team that wasn’t actually broken.  He made the roster moves and signings he made, and there is nobody else to hold accountable for that (though Babby seemed to be a silent partner).  But Sarver owns the team, and is not going anywhere.  He still wields the veto power, but he will rely on Babby, Blanks, and to some degree Gentry to develop a strategy to improve this team.  The FO have to work with what they inherited: decent personnel and contracts. They have the flexibility to make a move if one is called for.

But who will take the lead, and upon whom will the blame fall if a bad move is made?  With this management structure, there is much less accountability and transparency than when Kerr was the guy.  From the day he accepted the job, Steve was under tremendous pressure, unfairly because he was tethered to Sarver’s short leash.  He took risks, made mistakes, learned from them, and improved.  Kerr kept honest and open relationships with the players and the coaching staff with whom he collaborated, and he was usually accessible to the fans media.  Trust is essential to the team chemistry the Suns had last year.  Chemistry was essential to their late season surge and Western Conference Playoff Berth.  And it all starts from the top.

Now, the only person in the Suns hired brass that I believe has the trust of the players is Gentry.  The other two heads of state have been lurking beneath the surface of this team all season.  Babby resembles a shrewd politician.  His answers to the few questions he’s been asked are polite, tactful, and predictable.  He has been a powerful figure in Washington.  He’s defended attacks on former presidents. He is under the thumb of a banker. “Team President” really is the appropriate title for this guy.

Blanks, him I don’t know much about except that he is coming in from one of the more dysfunctional front offices in the league.  I can’t help but wonder if he has the title of GM only to give this team some semblance of the normal front office structure.  Blanks is a specialist in talent scouting and communicating with players, we are told.  Babby is a CBA expert and has been on the other side of the negotiations for much of his career.  We are told that together, they will be able to have more of an impact than one GM, as they can draw from their expertise.

I hope that this experiment works, and that the Suns will emerge with a competitive advantage after the new CBA, given that is a reason for the change in FO structure.  But because the Suns are a team without the superstar talent it takes to compete at a high level in the absence of the type of cohesion they had last year, it is all the more essential that this FO can hold themselves accountable.  If they aren’t, the players, coaches, and fans will lost trust in them, and it is in those instances that teams panic and mistakes are made.

It will be interesting to see what this rookie front office does within the next few months.  Of course, it could be said about any period since Shawn Marion’s contract year, but this season is a pivotal juncture for this franchise.  They aren’t yet rebuilding, but they are thinking about the long-duree more than in recent years.  If the Suns remain a middling team, the fans will demand a superstar.  Their immediate needs are interior defense and and rebounding, but above all that the Suns need improved chemistry, which without a superstar available is their brightest prospect for becoming a great team.

What I’m most worried about is this front office feeling that they need to adopt the superstarism mentality in order to win and sell tickets.  Remember, they weren’t in place when Sarver let Amar’e walk; had they been, maybe Amar’e would still be donning orange.  The free agent market is stagnant, which will inflate the value of players at its top.  The Suns have dispensable pieces, but those are not the pieces that other teams will want in exchange for a star big man.  To improve this team, the obvious (but wrong) answer is to obtain a superstar player as fast as possible.  That player will have to have a bigger impact than Amar’e, which is NOT realistic.

What is realistic, though, is that the Suns use their greatest asset- chemistry- to improve and become high seed playoff team, maybe with a non-blockbuster move that improves the team in the areas they need.  The front office will be responsible for valuing this asset as high as I think the fans and coaches do, and as much as Kerr did last year. This is indeed a superstar’s league, and the superstar is as much a creation of the fan’s imagine as it is the creation of those in the board rooms.  Chemistry is the creation of the team alone, not marketing execs, and it cannot be achieved without the dedication of every significant party in the organization.  I don’t really know who these front office guys are, but I hope they individually hold themselves accountable for what happens this season.  If they don’t, Babby’s underlings (Blanks, Gentry, or the players) could become fall guys for President Babby’s rookie mistakes.


PHOENIX — About three weeks ago, Earl Barron sat at home contemplating whether at age 29 he should stick to his dream of returning to the NBA or just head back overseas where lucrative offers...

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PHOENIX — As he departed for the arena Friday afternoon, Channing Frye told his wife that the Suns had to win tonight’s tilt against the Indiana Pacers. Then with his mother and college head...

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U go, Channing, U Go! (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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U go, Channing, U Go! (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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It would have been easy for the Suns and us fans to let this one go, remarking, "well they got in at 4 A.M. from the Bay Area, second night in back to backs, ok, I can accept defeat." But we all would have known that this game was one the Suns should have won. The Suns are simply better than the indiana Pacers.

So now we Phoenix faithful can rest easier tonight knowing that the Suns won a game they shouldn't have lost.

Channing Frye led all scorers with 29 points off of 11-16 shooting, including 5 threes, while tossing in 3 blocks, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals to boot. A tiny Indian tear drips down my cheek as I write this recap, knowing that Frye is doing what the smart people said he couldn't do in his prior life as a Knick and Trailblazer. The guy is playing D. He's really playing D!
Our Phoenix Suns play best when they get contributions from many sources. And tonight was perfect example:
  • JRICH 21 and 5
  • Nash 12/11/5
  • Hill 8/2/2 and a mammoth +17
  • Dudz played inspired ball and dropped 12 points along with 3 boards, 2 steals and 2 assists.
  • Dragon shook off 5 To's and hit for 9/6/4
  • Hell man, even Earl Clark saw some minutes and played decently well
On an night when the Suns had every excuse to lose a game, they sucked up some pride and won it. Danny Granger was awful, and we can credit the Suns D for his 2-13 night. We can also credit the Suns for forcing 25 Pacer turnovers which resulted in 22 Suns points. The Suns also benefited from 33 free throw attempts, in which they sunk 24 free tosses. The Suns were out rebounded by 10 tonight, but in the end it didn't matter. They D'd up when it mattered, made shots down the stretch, and seized the momentum in the second half and outplayed the Pacers.

What the crap is a Pacer anyway?

A good win. Aw screw it, a great win. While we can all make the excuse that the Suns are searching for the right chemistry: the right guys playing together at the right time, the bottom line is that every game matters. No, I am not saying every game is a must win. No, No, No. However, when the Winter fades and the playoff hunt begins, every game will matter. And a victory in November could make the difference between an 8 seed and a no seed. So my friends, beating the Indiana Pacers at home is something to feel good about.

And now, in case you missed it, here were some wonderful quotes from our respected friend, Eddie Johnson:

"Earl Clark can play this game...It's only a matter of time before he gets some consistent minutes." 
"You could probably give Granger a tennis ball and he couldn't throw it into an ocean." 
"Jason Richardson's been in the zone for like 8 months."

Indeed, Eddie. You could tell me the Earth was flat and i would believe you. 

LINKS: 

Suns Find Energy For Second Half Comeback, Beat Pacers 105-97: SB Nation:

Say what you want about it "only" being the Pacers, this was a good win for the Suns thanks in large part to another great all-around game from Channing Frye. Take that Earl Watson, where ever you are.

Pacers vs Suns coverage

Pacers vs Suns recap

Pacers vs Suns boxscore

Indy Cornrows

[Note by Seth Pollack, 12/03/10 10:37 PM MST ]

Audio: Gentry postgame 120310

Game recap w/ lots of quotes:

 

Channing Frye's Big Game Lifts Phoenix Suns Over Indiana Pacers, 105-97 - SB Nation Arizona
"I thought it was a really good team win...It was probably as good of a win as we've had all year, considering the circumstances. The style of basketball and quality of basketball that (the Pacers) play, you know, they got a win at Miami, they got a win at the Lakers. They've been playing well. It was a great win for us," Suns Coach Alvin Gentry said

 

Play of the Game Breakdown

Phoenix Suns Play Of The Game: Nash To Dudley To Hill - Desert Dirt - SB Nation Arizona
The Phoenix Suns were leading 97-92 with two minutes remaining and the ball. Needing a bucket to help secure the win, Steve Nash ran a high pick and roll. The high pick and roll has long be the Suns standard go-to play but this one was quite a bit different.

 

Game Notes

1st Qtr

  • Wait, why are the Suns intro's going first? That's weird
  • Goran said he got about 4 hrs sleep last night. Same for Grant
  • Lots of empty seats tonight. I guess Phx doesn't hate the Pacers all that much after all
  • Frye's feeling it early. All five Suns points
  • Josh McBob taking / hitting outside shots? WTH is that about. He's supposed to just be a thug life guy
  • Suns got bailed out on that call. No way Hibbert fouled Barron
  • Second foul on Hibbert, this one legit but stupid. No way Barron was going make that reverse layup
  • McBob cooling off from three, Frye not
  • There's EB using those long arms to win an extra possession....and there's EB trying to pretend he can create his shot of the bounce like JRich. Stay within yourself, big guy
  • OK, so enough of the pick and pop with Earl. Give him some more time on the floor before asking him to score the ball
  • Suns getting a lot of calls their way so you can live w/ the questionable Grant Hill O-foul
  • Uh oh, McBob on fire again...if you call one shot on fire and for him I do
  • Bench time a bit early in this game....back to back
  • Suns bench getting brutalized by TJ Ford, ugh. Really ugly, sloppy, funky, smelly and crappy play
  • 28-20, Pacers. Suns outscored 11-0 to end the quarter. Bench gave up 9-0 run

2nd Qtr

  • Better job by bench to start qtr, Dragic trying to take charge of the mess. Suns bench at least score 4 pts which is 4 more then they scored in the 1st quarter
  • Dragic three in the face of Solomon Jones...he looked a bit livelier pre-game than I've seen him. Happier perhaps
  • Not sure who's idea it was to post up Josh Childress on Mike Dunleavy but it failed miserably. How about iso Warrick on Solomon Jones at the elbow
  • Hedo not hitting shit
  • I think the league has figured out that Jared Dudley really isn't quick enough to stay in front of anyone
  • Nash and friends back in with 6 min to go and a 41-32 Pacer lead. Suns bench -9 which ain't what the team needs on a back-to-back
  • So much for better defense, Suns given up 44 points with 5 min to go in the half
  • Dudley gonna come in for Hedo who's sucked up the joint tonight
  • JRich left wide open for a transition three. Brandon Rush answers right back which mathematically isn't going to help close the 12-point Pacer lead
  • Time out, Gentry. Down 52-42 with 2:40 left in the half. Guessing Gentry is saying something like - PLAY THE DAMN GAME AND CUT THIS F#$KING LEAD BEFORE THE G-DAMN HALF
  • Pacers 7-11 from three which is a lot of they've mostly been wide open
  • JRich bailed out w/ that call
  • This crowd is not helping anything...dead quiet
  • Good to see TJ Ford healthy and playing well...that neck injury thing a few years ago was scary
  • Suns getting to the line tonight...15 FTA's
  • Great deflection by Dudley. That one goes up on the board in the locker room
  • 6-2 run since timeout...scratch that, Rush 3 makes it 6-5
  • Hibbert hasn't played but 5 min and the Suns still down 59-52 at the half

3rd Qtr

  • Barron got completely picked and let Hibbert get a wide open dunk
  • Fucking McBob insane 3-pt shooting. 4-5 on the night, he's a career 28.6% but is shooting 36.4% this year so...OK, not as fluky as I thought
  • Smart move by Frye to attack the rim instead of take the open J. Hibbert was way out of position and picked up his 4th foul just 2 min in
  • 24 sec violation on the Pacer, good D by the Suns. Defense is back!!!
  • OK, I think we can all agree that Barron can't finish around the rim, but we knew that so lets move on
  • Suns on a little run, cut it to 67-65. Getting some stops
  • Barron with the aggressive move on the pick and roll draws 3rd foul on McBob. Can't finish but if he could, he'd be making $8m / yr and not the min on a non-guaranteed contract
  • T for Barron after complaining about a non-call. He got blocked, legit. Probably was mad at himself for the weak ass up move
  • Nash has some great head/shoulder fakes..freezes TJ Ford but missed the 8 footer
  • Earl Clark coming in for Earl Barron...shoot, was hoping for the Double Earl
  • Nash has had some bad turnovers and missed a lot of easy looks. Tired Canadian
  • Dragic in...he needs to take over this game and bail Steve out
  • Frye hit a three but I was more impressed with the defensive rebound on the other end
  • Tie game off Channing's three. Front-running Phx crowd finally responds
  • Much better quarter for the Suns, 76-74 Pacers. Suns win qtr 22-17

4th Qtr

  • Gentry's not giving much of a leash to Warrick, Turkoglu or Childress lately
  • Hedo back in now though, let's see what he got
  • Frye on FIRE, 25 points. 5-7 from three. He did not want to get out-shot by McBob
  • TJ Ford mid-range game getting it done
  • At that might have been the best Earl Clark move we've ever seen. Attack and pass to open Frye for a dunk
  • Very nice energy and hustle from the bench unit now, crowd appreciates same
  • Clark staying in after time out, he's been marking Granger. Pressuring him tight and getting blown by but the help has been good
  • Good example there of why Dragic and Hedo can play well together. Hedo runs pick and roll w/ Clark which forces defense to rotation and collapse, kick out to Dragic who attacks the out of position defense
  • That was a nice, brave, aggressive move from Hedo on the break, easily could have pulled up but dribbled right into the hard foul
  • Earl back in for Earl....crowd applauds Earl
  • Suns up 86-84 w/ Nash and Hill and JRich on bench
  • Hibbert takes a shot to the face and drops like a stone...not idea what happened to him but his up
  • Hill back in to check Granger, Nash and JRich still on the bench. Warrick MIA
  • JRich and Nash coming back in
  • Frye three
  • Dragic really needs to hit those FTAs
  • Nash and JRich in, 4:45, 91-88 Suns
  • Another rebound for Frye
  • JRich set up by Channing Frye block, kicking it in gear now but still 4:04 to go and only 6 pt lead
  • Good defense but gave up the OReb
  • Dudley 3!! He's playing w/ his old fervor
  • 97-92, 2:20
  • Ooooh, aaaah That was a beauty of a play by Nash, Dudley and Hill. Want to see that replay
  • Poor Grant Hill's legs are shot tonight
  • JRich w/ dagger three. Ball game, 101-94, 50 sec
  • Love that Gentry has the balls to bench a guy like Warrick if he's not playing well and look for the hot hand or at least the guys that will bring energy
  • Very nice win, very very nice


 

This Will be a Good Win.


 

 


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