Before he teams with Reggie Jackson in the Skills Challenge on Saturday night, Phoenix point guard Goran Dragic sat down with the ESPN Radio crew of Marc Stein, Marc Kestecher and P.J. Carlesimo to...

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The most interesting parts of this story are not in the teaser. In fact, the title is what I'm using to draw you in and this is meant to share parts of intentional ambiguity, insipidness and intrigue. This isn't the movie trailer that shows the only entertaining moments in the film... it's not even a movie trailer at all.

This article brought to you by Smoothie King. With over 600 locations, including two in the Phoenix Metro area, a new level of refreshment may be closer than you realize. So, "be good to yourself" and reach for smoothie royalty.

Did my "creating intrigue by lack of intrigue" in the teaser work? I'm trying to practice some better writing techniques in the story.  See if you can notice them and let me know what you think.

I'm using this sentence as my segue.

Speaking of kings, I see an obvious endorsement deal in the making. The king of basketball and the king of smoothies.

LeBron - Dunk, dunk, dunk... "I'm the King."

Celebrity actor X ravenously gulps down smoothie - "No, this is the King."

LeBron grabs a smoothie and takes a swig.

LeBron - "Well, I guess we're both the King."

LeBron smiles.

A voice-over says "Be good to yourself." *Jim drops the mic and walks off the stage.

Then again, I can see a conflict of interest there...

But enough of that (for now). What I'm digressing towards next is the chimerical notion of LeBron James becoming a Phoenix Sun. Am I completely daft or pointlessly woolgathering? I scoffed at people who suggested this type of scenario in the past, but it actually seems like things may have shifted just slightly. Is there really a Lloyd Christmas type of a shot here?

Let's consider a couple of factors...

1. Eric Bledsoe and LeBron are total besties. I've heard they have matching tattoos. James' fawning is practically embarrassing, or genuinely older brotherly if you're not dominated by cynicism (like me). They have the same agent. They've shared a toothbrush. In all earnestness, though, are there really many other people in the NBA that it seems like LeBron would rather play with?

2. Phoenix is an awesome place to play and live part time. Great winter weather. Relatively low cost of living. LeBron needs to work on his golf game. Phoenix may not have the gravitational pull of Los Angeles, but players really like to play here and it's not a secret around the league. The organization is well respected and the training staff is unilaterally considered the best in the league.

3. The ability to be truly deified by a fan base. Yes, LeBron has achieved his goal of winning championships in Miami, but those pale in comparison to the enormity of winning one for Phoenix. If the legend of Dirty Joe LeBron James could possibly grow even larger this could be a way to do it. It would be like the inception of the Heat Index all over again, but without the cheap, fake fanfare surrounding that situation. There are fans in Phoenix that have been waiting all their lives for a banner and King would be immortalized if he helped hang it.

4. The ability to be surrounded by the best collection of talent during his career. The Suns are really perfectly situated for a star player to come in and make this league their (you know what). James is already calling Goran "Dragon." Bledsoe returning gives the Suns one of the best backcourts in the league with two improving players. Lots of other pieces. Draft picks. And...

5. Ryan McMidas. It's hard for me to imagine him doing anything that would totally blindside me. King Midas. King James. Smoothie King.

Maybe I'm staggeringly delusional with these inane ramblings, but until LeBron is inked to his next deal I'm going to live life loud and dream like an idiot.

Here's another seamless transition.

The 2014 NBA All-Star game, and ancillary festivities, is coming up this weekend and the Slam Dunk competition will once again be a travesty of its former self. People who we'd really rather not watch will gather at Smoothie King Stadium, home of the Pelicans, and participate in an even that used to be must see tv and is now an afterthought.

BTW, how bush league does Smoothie King Stadium, home of the Pelicans, sound? Am I the only one who thinks... "Is this a Double A baseball team?" Err... I mean... Smoothie King is a great name for a stadium!

*Warning this next part is copy/pasted from an email I sent about this topic in a group thread that nobody responded to.

I was just thinking (something I'm not very good at) in the wake of LeBron James' dunkfest...

Why don't they incentivize players to enter the competition by offering a prize donated to charity for the winner?

Call it the $1,000,000 "Enter Sponsor Here" All-Star Slam Dunk Challenge with the money being donated to a charity of the winner's choosing. Couldn't that put some pressure on guys like LeBron to enter? The NBA could even help shoulder some of the burden of the prize as part of its NBA (sorta) Cares program since they would get better ratings...

Players could enter and a "panel?" could select the best entrants. I would definitely set aside time to watch a dunk contest with LeBron, Durant, Griffin, George, Howard, etc. in it.

Going further, why not have each entrant in the competition sponsor a fan that was selected based on voting for the starters in the All-Star game? A free trip to the game for each finalist and a cash prize for the ultimate winner as well as a picture with the check, trophy and winner. Hell, bring a class of kids from a local school to be involved and get swag. You know, something absolutely incredible.

Or they could stick with the barely watchable, lazy shill that they've been rolling out lately. Either way.

Notice the grace with which I shift gears.

Since I like to beat horses (they don't have to be dead, but don't tell People for Eating Tasty Animals) I'm going to go ahead and throw this out there just to see if it resonates.

There have been a lot of stats floating around evincing how beastly the Dragon has been this season, but I want to be a snowflake and put forth my very own for consideration. By cherry picking the most favorable sets of data I can make my factoid seem quite impressive. If Goran Dragic continues his incendiary pace, which has actually been gaining momentum recently, he will end up with historically great numbers. Not great numbers with respect to his current set of peers. Historically great.

In NBA history there have only been 25 seasons in which a player has posted better numbers in the triumvirate of points per game (20.3), TS% (.613) and WS/48 (.206) than what Goran is averaging now. That's seasons, not players.

Here's the list if you'd like to peruse it, but I've listed the players below.  The season finder was being insolent, so there's actually a season for Malone and one for Kareem that don't really qualify.

One second, let me take another quaff of my delicious Smoothie King smoothie. Damn, that's smooth. I love the high protein almond mocha. Now here it goes...

Wilt Chamberlain

Michael Jordan

LeBron James (1) *currently on pace for second **active

Kevin Durant (1) * currently on pace for second **active

Charles Barkley (5)

David Robinson

Magic Johnson (2)

Karl Malone

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2)

Kevin McHale (2)

Adrian Dantley (2)

Amar'e Stoudemire (2) **active

Bernard King

Brad Daugherty

Dwight Howard **active


Pretty impressive company, right?  Among active players it's only LeBron, Durant, Amar'e and Howard.  That would make Goran the only active guard.  What if we throw in Goran's 6.2 assists?

Then it's just Michael, Magic, Wilt and LeBron (and coming to a theater near you... the Dragon - there's the movie trailer).

What's great is that Dragic is on an ascending trajectory and has a history of improving each year as the season progresses. He might actually move up that list. This season may put him among the pantheon in terms of efficient volume scoring while being a multidimensional threat as a distributor.

Now I will elegantly glide to a related topic.

This is just a logical lacuna to help differentiate between the transition and the launching of my new campaign to spread the word that...

Goran Dragic is having an All-NBA caliber season.

The Suns have been doing an inadequately insufficient job of promoting Goran so I think it's time for an intervention. Who can help them breathe some fire into this campaign? Perhaps the individual responsible for the new Smoothie King hit commercial in the making...

Here's an idea, let's (and by let's I mean you, Phoenix Suns) make sure people know how to say the One Man Fastbreak's name. Push the Dragon theme and teach people that it's Dragic like Dragon- the same g sound. Even the national media guys can probably catch on and start pronouncing his name correctly if it gets shoved down their throat enough times. Instruction by repetition might be the only way that works with people that specifically talk about and broadcast basketball for a living. Without these instructional tools they can't be expected to know the pronunciation of the pretty damn easy name of a guy who's becoming one of the better players in the league.

Then, keep running with the Dragon theme. When people think Dragic they should be envisioning fire and brimstone while he's flying down the court ready to go medieval on his opponents' ass. Name recognition.

It should be easy to fund project Dragon Fire with the buckets full of cash the Suns are piling into closets thanks to paying Goran pennies on the dollar for his staggering production.

If they want they can even use my body art to help the cause.


Yes, that's my shoulder. I'm actually still getting work done on this.  It's not complete. And I sh&^ you not, I have a Phoenix on my other shoulder. Isn't it serendipitous how the passion of my sporting life mirrors the symbolism for these mythical creatures and what they represent? Even I can see ways that this could be exploited.

And I'm an idiot.

Why not get busy with some art and graphics to tie the Phoenix and Dragon concepts together?  This stuff practically markets itself. Here's one I did below that creates a bond between Goran and the Gorilla (that's G Twice, like Going Gorilla and my man Gerald Green). Now do this with the Phoenix and the Dragon.



It's like a mirror image.  Coincidence?  I think not.

I was going to delve into a few more things, but I think I can save you from a fate worse than death them for next time. That would be the next weekly installment of an article that posts on a wildly unpredictable basis.

Rant complete.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article towards Smoothie King are those of the author and do not reflect those of SB Nation and Bright Side of the Sun... even though if you cornered them off the record I'm sure they'd admit they're absolutely delicious. The author has not received any financial compensation for any part of this article, but would entertain any offer for monetary considerations including, but not limited to, bribes.

In this weekly segment, I discuss some thoughts on Eric Bledsoe's free agency, the sad end of Steve Nash's career and more.

The Suns are heading into All-Star break with a slight bit of disappointment coming from Goran Dragic's All-Star snub and from a hard-fought loss to the Miami Heat earlier in the week.

However, things have been overwhelmingly positive for the Suns this year. The team has surpassed approximately 100% of the everyone's expectations in order to win somewhere around 2590245% more games than they had been projected to before the season began. Basically every single player on the roster is having the best year of his career, Eric Bledsoe emerged as a young star before his injury and Goran Dragic showed the NBA why he's the most underrated player in the league after said injury.

Things continue to look up for the Suns. The team is seemingly involved in nearly every trade rumor that pops up due to Phoenix's status as a "buyer" (with Emeka Okafor's valuable contract) andEric Bledsoe is expected to return in the near future.

So for now, cheer on Miles Plumlee and Goran Dragic during this weekend's Rising Stars game and Skills Challenge, respectively, and brace yourselves for a whirlwind of trade rumors before the February 20 deadline.

Let's now take a look at some random Suns-related content that has recently floated around various parts of the internet and some of my musings.

Link of the Week: Suns will "absolutely" match any offer Bledsoe receives


Phoenix Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby was a guest on the Doug and Wolf Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM this Tuesday. When asked about Eric Bledsoe's future in Phoenix, he reiterated the franchise's plans to match any offer Bledsoe will receive in his restricted free agency this summer.

This is likely an attempt from Babby to dissuade GMs of other teams from wasting their time and efforts on Bledsoe this July so the Suns can save some money. However, I still believe at least one team will present a max offer sheet to Bledsoe--and one is all it takes. I also think the Suns will remain true to their words and match any such offer.

But in the words of the venerable Missy Elliott, is it worth it? Let me work it:

Too many fans hear "max contract" and assume things that aren't necessarily accurate. In the NBA, not all max contracts are the same. Take a look at the breakdown of the different types of maxes players in the NBA can receive (from the NBA Salary Cap FAQ):


Since he's coming off a rookie contract, Eric Bledsoe is eligible to receive 25% of the salary cap in the form of a maximum contract. I do believe that Bledsoe has shown enough this season to not only command such an offer sheet from another team, but to push the Suns to match one.

To take a closer look at the flexibility the Suns will have this summer after retaining Bledsoe's contract, I added a sheet to the spreadsheet above ("Bledsoe & Tucker extensions") with projected extensions for him and PJ Tucker. I gave Bledsoe a maximum contract starting at the 2013-14 max salary of $13.7 million, while Tucker receives a Jared Dudley extension of $4.25 million per year in this scenario.

In such a situation, the Suns would field the current roster minus Okafor, Kravtsov, Christmas and Barbosa and would have a total payroll of just under $50 million. With the 2014-15 salary cap projected to be over $60 million, the Suns would have over $10 million in cap room after these new contracts for Bledsoe and Tucker. They would be able to use that room to sign drafted rookies, go after free agents or retain flexibility for a blockbuster trade in which they could take back more salary than they'd send out.

The possibilities don't just end there. If Ryan McDonough and co. are determined to chase a major free agent this summer, they could potentially sign one before going over the cap to retain their own restricted free agent, Bledsoe. This scenario would require to retain Bledsoe's cap hold of about $6.6 million,  sign a free agent first and then match an offer sheet for Bledsoe. Although they'd be over the cap for the 2014-15 season, such maneuvering could give Phoenix about $8 million in addition cap flexibility this summer.

The bottom line is that the Phoenix Suns will have plenty of flexibility this summer, even with a mini-max contract for their mini-LeBron.

Video of the Week: The Sad Decline of Steve Nash

I understand that many Suns fans still refuse to acknowledge Steve Nash's presence because of his current existence on a Lakers roster. I know that a lot of people who adored him for so long still dislike him today after he requested a trade nearly two years ago to a hated rival just a week after claiming he'd never be able to don the purple and gold because he considered himself to be "old school."

I get that. I really do--I was one of those people for a long time, and still partly am.

But bear with me here.

Steve Nash is the reason I am a basketball fan. He is why I turned on a Suns game in 2005, didn't change the channel and never looked back. If it weren't for his years in purple and orange, I might have never begun watching sports and I may never have immersed myself in the terrible, wonderful and beautiful world of being a crazed fan. It may sound overly melodramatic, but I don't think it's a stretch to say I would not be the fan I am today nor the person I am today without a skinny Canadian dude who looked nothing like a prototypical NBA athlete for all of his 17 years in the league.

Steve Nash is the reason I became a fan of basketball, and he's the reason I became a much bigger Phoenix Suns fan than a Steve Nash fan.

This is why it makes me sad to watch that tremendous Grantland feature above (you should also give this great accompanying column by Bill Simmons a read). After rooting for the Lakers to fail through all of 2012-13 and reveling in the disastrous outcome of that much-publicized squad, I realized this year that one feeling overshadows all others when I think, watch or read about Steve Nash: nostalgia.

I have such fond memories of his years in Phoenix--and always will--that I feel sad every time I hear of Nash's latest setback in LA. This was a guy that I idolized through all of my teenage years, only to feel a confusing amount of anger when he seemingly "betrayed" Suns fans in 2012. That anger turned to indifference when Nash suffered his first injury in LA and indifference became pity after last summer as I watched him try to overcome injuries and contribute to a miserable 2013-14 Lakers team.

Now, I feel neither anger nor indifference to Steve Nash. As the 40-year old attempts to recover from yet another physical setback, I watch in fond memory of the player he once was for my favorite team. I may no longer consider him to be the "can-do-no-wrong" hero I naively thought he was when I was younger, but I now have admiration for the old man trying to prove he's more than just an overpaid, forgotten former star. As a selfish and nostalgic fan, I just hate to see Nash end his career this way, no matter the colors on his jersey.

I'm not trying to say that Suns fans who prefer to ignore Steve Nash or continue to dislike him are wrong in anyway--they're not. But as someone who owes so much of his fandom to Nash, I think I've come full circle and am hoping for him to physically recover to the point of being able to retire when he wants to, not when Father Time wants him to.

Terrible Goran Dragic Photoshop of the Week

In my quest to get Goran Dragic to file a restraining order against me commemorate Goran's stellar play this year, I've taken to making really awful photoshops of him. On a related note, I should point out that I don't really know how to use Photoshop, so when I say "awful," I've never meant it more.

This week, I'm presenting How to Train Your Dragon, co-starring Jeff Hornacek as the masterful coach who has tapped into The Dragon's immense potential, resulting in the best play of the latter's career:


I'm sorry.

Tweets of the Week

Unreal: @Suns' @Goran_Dragic has scored 20+ pts in career-long 7 straight games, averaging 26.9 pts (.627 FG%, .633 3FG%) over this stretch.

— Ben York (@bjyork) February 11, 2014

Suns President Lon Babby on the trade deadline: "We are all in agreement in the principle of, 'Don't be blinded by instant gratification.'"

— Jeramie McPeek (@Jeramie) February 11, 2014

Man I love this Suns team. Tough, fast and well coached. One of the best stories in the NBA this year.

— Steve Kerr (@SteveKerrTNT) February 12, 2014

Goran Dragic is the first in nearly a full year to score at least 34 on as few as 13 shots...

— Matt Winer (@matt_winer) February 9, 2014

Jesus, the Suns now have a better record than the Warriors. Can Jeff Hornacek win MVP rather than Coach of the Year?

— Akis Yerocostas (@Aykis16) February 9, 2014

Goran Dragic with a career high 34 points on THIRTEEN shots. And one giant middle finger to the All-Star game.

— BrightSideoftheSun (@BrightSideSun) February 9, 2014

@MikePradaSBN @SBNationNBA ... Goran Dragic, starting guard for the East. Make it happen, people.

— Doug Eberhardt (@ebehoops) February 13, 2014

Preposterously Premature Playoff Picture

The Miami Heat played a big role in affecting the West standings this week. LeBron James dominated in Phoenix to eke out a close win over the Suns and buried the Warriors the very next night with a nasty fadeaway three-pointer. King James of the East had his way with the West.

The Mavericks have jumped over both Phoenix and Golden State to hold the 6th seed in the West heading into the All-Star break, while the Suns are 7th and Warriors are 8th. It's going to be a wild ride to the postseason, folks.

Western Standings

Oklahoma City Thunder 54 42-12 .778
San Antonio Spurs 53 38-15 .717
Houston Rockets 53 36-17 .679
Los Angeles Clippers 55 37-18 .673
Portland Trail Blazers 53 36-17 .679
Dallas Mavericks 54 32-22 .593
Phoenix Suns 51 30-21 .588
Golden State Warriors 53 31-22 .585
Memphis Grizzlies 52 29-23 .558
Minnesota Timberwolves 53 25-28 .472
Denver Nuggets 51 24-27 .471
New Orleans Pelicans 52 23-29 .442
Utah Jazz 52 19-33 .365
Los Angeles Lakers 52 18-34 .346
Sacramento Kings 53 18-35 .340


I haven't done a Solar Flares in a while so I thought I'd change it up a bit this time. Any other news you'd like to share? Any suggestions for what else you'd like me to do/include in these weekly segments (I'm open to anything!)? As always, feel free to discuss below.

In this week’s Throwback Thursday, we go back to Game 7 of a first round series against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2006, when Leandro Barbosa scored 26 points to lead the Suns to a 121-90 win....

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A lot of names are being linked to the Phoenix Suns over the past couple of weeks, and even more will come out soon. But you have to look past the name to get to the real value of any deal.

Every team in the NBA wants to foist their overpaid, underperforming and/or inefficient player on the Phoenix Suns in exchange for instant money savings, future cap relief and draft picks. Makes a ton of sense for those teams.

But does it make sense for the Suns?


Macallan Signatory Vintage

Josh Smith ($54 million through 2017). Carmelo Anthony ($44.7 million through 2015). Rudy Gay ($37.2 million through 2015). Zach Randolph ($35.1 million through 2015). Thaddeus Young ($28 million through 2016). Jeff Green ($27.1 million through 2016). Omer Asik ($16 million through 2015).

These guys are all heavy on the wallet and there's better out there for less money.

All of those players could likely be had for Emeka Okafor ($14.5 million, expiring, 80% paid by insurance), cash and a one or more of 6 first round draft picks in the next two years.

On the surface, it sounds good. The Suns could add a player for the playoff run this season without giving up any current talent.

Yet, the Suns would be tying up their salary cap for the next 1-3 years AND giving up a young player(s) in the 2014 or 2015 draft for the privilege.

And, that would make it much harder to sign any younger players ready to break out, or to acquire big-name players like Kevin Love.

Jim Beam

Carlos Boozer ($32.1 million through 2015). Gerald Wallace ($30.3 million through 2016). Kendrick Perkins ($18 million through 2015).

Costs more than you'd think, but the taste is a dime a dozen.

These guys could be had for "just" Okafor's expiring, 80%-covered contract, but still you're tying up next year's cap to get them.

There is a reason these folks are on the trade block. They don't do enough for their current team to justify keeping them. Ryan McDonough went on record last summer saying the Suns were looking for keepers. These guys are not keepers.

Just the other day, Lon Babby said, "We are all in agreement in the principle of: ‘Don't be blinded by instant gratification.'"

Cross all of these guys off your list unless they are part of a bigger trade that gets the Suns a long-term piece to their puzzle. A star. If Kevin Love is walking through that door, sure it's worth adding a bad contract to get him as long as you're not gutting the team of Dragic or Bledsoe.

Seagrams 7

Pau Gasol ($19 million, expiring). Ben Gordon ($13.2 million, expiring). Richard Jefferson ($11 million, expiring). Luol Deng ($14.2 million, expiring). Anderson Varejao ($9 million, with 2014-15 non-guaranteed).

Not as heavy as the others, and they won't weight you down in future years. But the taste is a little bitter anyway.

Now you're getting into players who won't hurt the cap in future years, so it's okay if they are not keepers. Once June hits, their impact on the team could easily be over.

Deng or Varejao would clearly upgrade the team this season, helping a playoff run and possibly cementing their value for future seasons.

But Deng or Varejao would require a draft pick or two in return. Is it worth giving up future picks if these guys don't stay past this season? And if they did stay, is it worth giving up future cap space AND picks to get them now?

That's why you might hear about players like Gasol, Gordon and Jefferson "on the Suns radar" in the coming days. None would (likely) require draft compensation to acquire, all would easily fit into the Okafor/cap space equation and all are clear NBA players who could help a playoff run at least marginally.

But are those guys true upgrades?

Does Gasol provide a higher win potential than Channing Frye and/or Markieff Morris? Or Miles Plumlee and Alex Len? Maybe, but no guarantee.

Does Jefferson provide a higher win potential than P.J. Tucker or Marcus Morris? Probably not.

Does Gordon provide a higher win potential than one of Ish Smith or Leandro Barbosa? Not likely.

Ryan McDonough said the other day he won't make a trade just to make one. He won't dump the salary savings of Okafor in exchange for someone else's full salary just for the sake of the transaction.

Crown Royal

(yes, that's a shameless product plug)

The Suns are most likely holding out for something better. They want to make the playoffs this year - why not? - but they don't want to impact the overall upward trajectory of the team. Assets are only assets if you use them right.

It's okay to eat into future cap space and give up youth if you're acquiring talent that is clearly better than anyone at that position on your team and can stay for a few years.

Lon Babby tells me that the Suns would love to enhance the current roster AS LONG AS it doesn't hinder their future flexibility. If the transaction acquires the star, or further sets the stage to acquire a star, then go for it.

But if all the transaction does is marginally improve the current team while hurting the future, then there's no way that deal gets done.

Wait for Kevin Love, or someone of that caliber.

Short of that, don't do anything to hurt your position in July.

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