(SB Nation Arizona, Seth Pollack) The Phoenix Suns face (another) very important offseason. The last time they were in this position was the summer of 2010 when Amare Stoudemire and Steve Kerr left and owner Robert Sarver made a series of personnel moves as the acting GM that didn't turn out so well.
This time, it's President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby who will be in the driver's seat when it comes time to make the big decisions that will determine how fast (or if) this franchise returns to prior glory.
Babby invited the local media to the Suns' offices for a "Lunch with Lon" session that included, yes, a free lunch and then an hour-long session with the man who will determine the direction of the Phoenix basketball team over the next few months.
The meeting began (after the free lunch) with opening prepared remarks from the former trial attorney who defended the crazy man who shot President Reagan and then went into a period of direct examination of the witness.
Mostly it was a reiteration of philosophies and positions we've heard before but there was some definite news made:
UPDATE: Here's the full transcript of Babby's talk. Thanks to Mr. Haremoor for all 9,200 words!
1) Alvin Gentry has one year left on his contract but don't expect an extension any time soon. Babby extended Gentry in 2010 so his final year wouldn't fall in a lockout season and also so the two men would share the same term on their deals.
"My view is if a person has a three-year contract you assess it at the end of three years. That's how I'm going to be judged. I've talked to Alvin about it, he's perfectly fine with that, and you know, there are a lot of very successful coaches in the league right now coaching in the final year of their contract. This notion that somehow you have to always be one year ahead, I don't think it's in his best interest, I don't think it's in our best interest but it has absolutely nothing to do with an assessment of his coaching ability or his performance. He understands that. He's our coach."
2) Aaron Brooks will be a restricted free agent this summer. Because he wasn't with this team this year they can't package him in a sign-and-trade but they will extend him the qualifying offer (~$3m) to retain the right to match any offer he receives on the market.
Babby said they were unlucky that Brooks went to China when he did and that the door is still open on judging the trade that brought him to Phoenix and sent Goran Dragic and a first round pick to Houston. However, he said, if the trade turns out to be bad, the team will not make progress by looking back.
3) Robin Lopez will also be an restricted free agent this summer and Babby said, "the message I would send out is that it's quite likely, if not certain that we're going to match."
Babby said that the team was committed to helping Robin this season as he continued to recover from his back injury in March 2010 and that he was "excellent" after the All-Star break. They would like to see Lopez be more consistent but they value him as a rim protector.
Beyond those news items, Babby reiterated the team's goal is to be an elite team that competes for a championship every year. Right now, they are in a transition process to get there and determined the best way to do that was to maintain their salary cap flexibility going into this offseason.
The team could either make trades using the cap space to take on salaries or use the room to sign free agents.
Babby also said it is possible the team would end up signing one-year deals as they did last offseason which would be better than giving long-term deals to the wrong players. They are committed to remaining disciplined in that process despite heavy pressure to make moves to immediately improve the team.
"We're not going to sell false hope," Babby said.
Steve Nash back?
One big topic, as always, was free agent Steve Nash. Babby commended Nash for how he handled this season's round of trade rumors and would like him to return to the Suns to finish his career.
"We've got to go down a road with him and see if we can find a common path, a path that makes sense for him and then makes sense for us. Everyone here wants Steve Nash to retire as a Phoenix Sun, and we're going to work very hard to work with him to see if that can happen, but it's got to be not only good for him but it's got to be good for us and he understands that.
"What I would say about it at this very early stage is that every indication we've gotten from Steve is that not only is our spirit willing to make this happen, but his spirit is willing as well. That doesn't mean it's going to happen, we respect his right to look around, but we will work hard with him to find common ground and we'll see where it ends up."
Grant Hill done?
Babby gave a strong indication that Grant Hill will be back with the Suns if he decides he's healthy enough to continue playing. "I don't want to speak for him, but I can't imagine he'd want to play anywhere else...I would be extremely disappointed if he played somewhere else."
As with most anything in sports, the proof is on the scoreboard. The Suns have been a mediocre team for the past two seasons and missed the playoffs three out of their last four seasons. Babby and his staff stepped into a difficult situation but they understand they will be judged based on the results.
If the Suns want to win back their spot as the top sports team Phoenix, they will need to do it on the court. Whether they can pull that off as soon as next season remains to be seen. It won't be easy.
For more discuss of the Phoenix Suns, visit Bright Side of the Sun.
Tuesday's 2012 NBA Playoff schedule brought us one surprise that in retrospect isn't all that shocking. Of the three games played, two went as expected. Wednesday night we get three more and while we can't tell you which, we can virtually guarantee a surprise...or at least something worthy of a brief but intense Twitter Storm.
The Boston Celtics were supposed to lose the Atlanta Hawks without Rajon Rondo who took the night off to celebrate bumping an official. Instead, the Hawks predictably failed to get the job done and in the process lost Josh Smith to a knee injury of unknown severity.
In a slightly more surprising game, the Chicago Bulls defense decided to mourn the loss of Derrick Rose by not bothering to show up. The result was a home court
loss destruction by the Philadelphia 76ers. That series is now tied 1-1 and headed back to the land of the Liberty Bell where the Sixers will most likely crack under the pressure.
The only game out West featured the Los Angeles Lakers controlling tempo and beating the Denver Nuggets to take a 2-0 series lead. The Nuggets played well but are simply over-matched in this series unless they can crank up the pace to HIGH and hit a ton of outside shots.
Here's what's on tap for Wednesday night:
Utah Jazz at San Antonio Spurs at 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT on TNT. The Spurs were a bit rusty to start this game but still easily handled the Jazz. Utah is going to be hard pressed to get one win in this series and it isn't likely to come on the road where they don't play very well (11-22).
Indiana Pacers at Orlando Magic at 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT on NBA TV. The Pacers woke up in the second half of Game 2 and tied the series. They should be able to cruise through the next three with no problem. If you need to pick just one game to watch, don't make it this one.
Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies at 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT on TNT. This is the main show on Wednesday night. The Grizzlies blew their big fourth quarter lead despite being the better team. If they are for real, they will bounce back and take care of the Clips at home. They're for real.
"It's been pretty firmly established this season that Anthony and Stoudemire cannot play well together," Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference.com writes for Insider today. "Offensively, Carmelo shoots much better without Amare because he is given more freedom to create for himself, particularly in areas of the floor where both players' repertoires overlap. Further, Stoudemire's presence on the floor requires an increase in ball movement, which clashes with Anthony's preferred style of play. In short, neither player is equipped to accentuate the other's gifts; instead, they just end up stifling each other. ..."
This rumors article on espn.com goes on to make a trade suggestion. My jaw dropped.
So what teams might be interested in Stoudemire? One that immediately comes to mind is Phoenix, where Stoudemire grew up in the league and became a bright young star next to Steve Nash. It might seem like an unlikely scenario going back to the Valley of the Sun, but Stoudemire has the star power the franchise so desperately needs. Putting Stoudemire in the frontcourt next to emerging center Marcin Gortat could allow both to thrive.
I don't know what to say to this. There are so many possible angles to take. It's obvious that Amare's best days were as a Phoenix Sun (7 years in Phoenix vs. 3 good months in NY as well). Amare and Carmelo cannot play winning basketball together. Steve Nash needs his Robin back. Suns with Amare would be a contender again.
But to actually consider this would be, and is, quite mind-boggling.