From the depths of the Pacific Division, terrifying monsters have risen. At this moment, the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors stand towering over the Valley of the Sun and much of the...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
The Phoenix Suns have assigned Diante Garrett to their D-League affiliate, the Bakersfield Jam. The former Iowa State guard has only appeared in six games for Phoenix this season. Garrett played with...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
20121007_jel_se9_174

Last summer, the Phoenix Suns' President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby originally had no intention to trade Steve Nash to a rival team like the Lakers. After some haggling and googly eyes from the Candian wunderkind, he and Managing Partner Robert Sarver eventually relented, in exchange for what appeared to be a bevy of low draft picks.

No lottery protection in 2013

Lost in the despair of such a depressing move was what turned out to be a stroke of genius: the Suns insisted on NO LOTTERY PROTECTION on the 2013 pick. (confirmed once again today by Lon Babby directly to me)

Back then, it didn't matter. The Lakers were going to win 70 games, so the pick would be of little value. It was a pipe dream to think that the Lakers would miss the playoffs THIS season, but there was certainly hope that the 2015 pick could be a good one with only top-5 protection. Gasol, Nash and Bryant were getting older, after all.

But whether a pipe dream or not, credit the Suns FO for making the Lakers agree to remove lottery protection from the 2013 pick. They didn't have to ask for it, or require it. But they did.

Just like Sam Presti insisted on removing lottery protection from the 2008 and 2010 picks Steve Kerr handed Seattle/OKC in 2007 for taking on Kurt Thomas. Ultimately, OKC only got a couple of picks in the 20s from the Suns, but giving away those picks without protection proved to stunt the Suns growth in ways not entirely obvious at the time of the trade. The Suns couldn't "tank" or rebuild for years even if they wanted to because their draft picks were someone else's.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. And we're gellin' like Magellan.

Lakers struggling to win games

Lo and behold, the Lakers are struggling even now. They sit at 15-20 at the moment - 5 games under .500 with almost half the season in the books.

To make the playoffs in a typical year in the West, the 8th seed needs at least 46 wins in an 82-game season.

For the Lakers to get 46 wins, they would have to finish the year on a 31-16 run starting RIGHT NOW. The longer they wait to notch a run of wins, the harder it will be.

(As a side note, the Suns - who have played one more game than the Lake show - would have to go on a 34-11 run of their own to finish with my preseason prediction of 46 wins. LOL)

I can definitely see the Lakers getting better, but 31-16 means they have to get a LOT better. With Dwight Howard looking very stiff while still recovering from back issues (after his shoulder heals), Pau Gasol getting underutilized in lieu of Metta World Peace at the 4 for spacing purposes, and the season dragging on for oldsters Nash and Bryant, well... 31-16 would be quite the turnaround.

Add in a much tougher schedule for the Lakers in the second half than the first half and the effort seems even more daunting.

Low playoff chance

Basketball-reference.com gives the Lakers only a 27.7% chance of making the playoffs today.

The top 6 playoff seeds are fairly well set (Clippers, OKC, SA, Memphis, Golden State, Houston), the worst of whom (Houston) only has to go 25-21 the rest of the way to finish with 46 wins. Each has a 90+% chance of making the playoffs, per basketball-reference. However, Houston is on the road for 25 of those 46 games, and is only 7-9 on the road this season, so there's that.

Denver should make it easily too. Denver has an easy second-half schedule, with 27 of their last 45 at home (where they are 12-2 on the season), and only needing a 25-22 finish to get to 46 wins.

The Lakers' toughest competition to make the playoffs as an 8-seed comes from Utah and Portland.

Minnesota (without Love for 8 weeks), Sacramento, Dallas and New Orleans appear to be out of the picture.

(note: with Minnesota's trek daunting, note that the Suns would not get their pick this year if they miss the playoffs. The pick would roll over until Minny makes the playoffs, hopefully in 2014 when the draft is deeper.)

Portland is young and prone to wilt under pressure, like Houston did in prior years. Utah is a mishmash of vets and youth with no superstar to carry them.

Basketball-reference.com gives Utah a 50.1% chance to make the playoffs at this point, but only gives Portland a 15.9% chance.

But even if Portland goes just 24-24 (after their 19-15 start), the Lakers would have to go 29-18 or better to beat them to the 8th spot. Portland has 25 home games left (where they are 12-4) vs. 23 road games (where they are 7-11 so far).

Utah has more veterans and made the playoffs last season, so they appear to have the best chance for the 8th seed.

Even if Utah goes 19-18 to finish the year, the Lakers would have to go 28-19 to beat them out of the 8th spot.

The Lakers have to start winning. And fast. Right now, the Lakers are 11th in the West, which gives the Phoenix Suns their first round pick at #12 overall. Couple that with the Suns' own pick, currently at #5 overall, and the future looks brighter than it did last month.

So start rooting, gulp, for the Portland Trailblazers and the Utah Jazz!!!

(and, for Houston not to lay a second-half egg either)

20130108_kkt_ah7_552

The Suns are 12-25 and have lost 10 of their last 11 games with no relief in sight. They have effectively ended any pipe dream of sneaking into the playoffs and at this point will be fortunate to finish the season with 30 wins.

When things go south it's completely expected that players will get frustrated and the team will begin to splinter. Alvin Gentry, who has plenty of experience coaching bad teams, knows this which is why his media comments lately have been filled with talk of "staying together".

Well, it looks like the inevitable might have happened. This team is either over the mental cliff or right on the brink. You decide.

Paul Coro's postgame report from Boston gives us these quotes:

Dragic said some of his teammates "don't care," but he obviously did by the look on his face after going through 41 minutes against Boston's full-court pressure from an older team.

"We got three guys battling on the floor, and the rest of the guys aren't on the same page," Dragic said. "It's tough. Right now, we're not together as a team."

[...]"We play well at times," Scola said. "We're just not able to play 48 minutes well. We go up and down. We're just not good enough to play that way."

"We're obviously in a negative dynamic. We believe that sooner or later something bad's going to happen. But it wasn't like that the whole year. So that could be something that is increasing the problem. Everything snowballs. We don't have confidence."

[...]Said Suns power forward Markieff Morris, the only second-half sub besides slumping Shannon Brown, "We've got to find a way to finish and score and get stops. "As a team, we've got to man up and play like men when it's time. That's including myself. We've got to have balls and the heart to make shots and get stops when we need it."

Three guys who are "battling". Hmmm. Just three? Dragic, Tucker and Scola?

Before you go all crazy calling guys out for not playing hard, calling for the Coach to be fired, and generally going into pitchfork and feathers mode, let's remember that this was always a flawed team. There was some hope at the beginning of the season that Beasley and Johnson would perform up to their lottery potential but it was always an "if" and not a certainty.

As much as we'd like to think professional athletes will fight tooth and nail regardless of the score and standings, they are human beings too and...ah screw it. I'm not going to defend them. I'm just not going to burn them at the stake either. It's hard being on a bad team.

#LotteryBallers

But hey, at least the Suns have won a game in 2013 - something the Lakers can't claim.

20120318_pjc_as8_364

It only took 2,144.9 miles for him to find it, but Sebastian Telfair has found his home in the NBA. The Brooklyn, New York native baller went straight from high school off the toughest streets in the world to the toughest league in the world. He came in with acclaim and a big contract from Adidas, but has bounced from around five different destinations before settling in with the Phoenix Suns.

Sometimes that is how the cards are dealt to you and "Bassy" as he is affectionately known as evolved from high school phenom, to draft bust, to one of the better back-up point guards today.

"I played for some pretty bad teams," said Bassy with a bit of a laugh as he thought back to his early days in the league. "A lot of times it is the right time and the right place. Where you get drafted and where you end up, it works for some guys, but for some guys you end up where it is not to be at that point in time. I have been a victim of that a little bit."

He was a victim of circumstance with the Portland Trail Blazers as well as the Minnesota Timberwolves when he was brought in there and expected to be more than what he was ready to be at that time.

The Blazers were a team in transition with minimal veteran leadership expecting Bassy to step in as a leader taking over the team, at 19 years old, straight out of high school. It was a similar situation with both Minnesota and after a brief stint with the Boston Celtics where he started 180 games combined in his first four seasons -- on three different teams in 349 games.

At that point he was 23 years old and in terms of veteran leadership the only consistent voice in his ear was Theo Ratliff who followed Bassy around to all three stops early in his career.

In four years Bassy played for Maurice Cheeks, Kevin Pritchard, Nate McMillan, Doc Rivers, Randy Wittman, and Kevin McHale. Zero consistency in coaching, in a message, gameplans, or a commitment to a young player needing guidance.

"Last year was the first veteran team I have played on," says Bassy talking about his early struggles. "Playing with veterans is important and provides structure. "It makes your job a lot easier, you pick up on veterans with things like how to carry yourself and to be consistent on-and-off the court. That helped me last year."

Since playing for six coaches in five years the structure has been there for Bassy starting only 12 games in 176 games finding his niche off the bench as a player that brings energy, defends, and while growing as a leader. Having consistency here has been a major factor

The biggest transition for me was basketball itself. I came from Lincoln High School -- a public school -- so in high school it wasn't as structured a program as a prep school or the upper high schools in the country. The practices, the shoot-arounds, the mental part of the game, there is just so much more to preparing for a game. I didn't expect all that.

That structure is in part a young player coming into his own based on his experiences like what Bassy has gone through, but also because of the structure here. He has known one coach, one general manager, and one way of playing basketball for the past two seasons. He is no longer that young, naive, 19 year old. He is a veteran.

Structure for a player starts with the head coach, in this case that has been Alvin Gentry who fought to get Bassy here two years ago.

"I think he feels an acceptance here," said Gentry. "I think he fills a need for us, I think he feels he is wanted here, and we fought to get him here. I've always liked him, his tenacity, and just his energy that he plays with."

Now that he is here the tenacity and energy he plays with has to be the spoils for younger players as the fourth oldest player and harboring the second most NBA experience on the roster. Funny to think a 27 year old is in that role as a veteran that younger players are turning to, but that is the NBA where a veteran team turns into a re-building team overnight.

"That changed fast, right?" said an emphatic Bassy. "Go from having those guys (Steve Nash, Grant Hill, and Channing Frye) for a season, enjoying it, and then going back to a young; half rebuilding team. I have to step into that role for a lot of these young guys now."

He has done that now as a mentor for younger guys on the bench like Kendall Marshall and Diante Garrett who struggle to get on the court, as well as other young guys who need to have the game broken down for them like Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, and P.J. Tucker who have to have different complex schemes pointed out to them.

It has all come full circle -- clear across the country -- for Bassy as a basketball player. He is a vastly different player and person than that 19 year old excited to sign with Adidas before taking the Blazers to a Championship.

Obviously he had a lot to learn along his path to where he is today, which is the opposite of the traditional cautionary tale that is told about the ones that do not make it through struggles. Sebastian Telfair didn't fit in a cookie-cutter or with either of his previous teams, but as a frequent victim of circumstance he is finally the benefactor of chance. A chance the Suns gave him that turned into a positive situation for the Brooklyn Baller.

Page 1255 of 2115

1255

Web Links

Sponsored Ads