20121206_ajl_as8_054

Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby remarked in October that this team is more talented than a year ago, but the results don't reflect that yet. True enough, they are only 1 game worse than a season ago (8-14 after 22 games), but the 7-game streak and despondent roster appear much less optimistic than a Nash/Hill-led team of yesteryear.

Robert Sarver gave a vote of confidence to Alvin Gentry yesterday to ESPN.com and to USA Today Sports.

"We've got confidence in our coaching staff and we're not considering making changes," Sarver said in a telephone interview Monday.

"Things can turn quickly in this league."

Neither players nor coaches have a clear plan to success, beyond playing better and trusting the system more. But it's difficult for the coaching staff to trust the players if they're inconsistent, and it's difficult for the players to trust the coaches when they're in a losing streak.

Sometimes, it's just not the best mix of players. You need players with both big time talent and consistent effort to win in this league.

Maybe that kind of player is currently on a different roster. It's Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby's job to see if that's case. And being in the last year of his contract, it behooves him and the Suns to do something this season when they still have time.

SB Nation Arizona's Kris Habbas recounted a discussion with Lon Babby after practice today at US Airways Arena.

Babby would not quantify the teams interest level in making a move, but one thing he did state is that he does not want to wait until the trade deadline to make a move.

The team would prefer to pull the trigger on a move sooner if there is a trade to make. The team is listening to inquiries and making calls however to gauge interest in potential moves with the current assets they have.

You can keep beating your head against the wall, or you can make changes.

The key is not to make change for the sake of making change. There's no point changing anything on the roster unless it gets you (a) better individual talent right now or (b) better individual talent in the future. The Suns have all the role players they could ever want.

Either commit 100% to rebuilding, or commit 100% to making the playoffs now.

Marcin Gortat

Don't expect the Suns to trade Marcin Gortat for two or three more role players. If Gortat is traded, it's got to be for a better future asset than he currently is at his peak. The Suns should not sell low on Gortat. They should require teams to give up assets worthy of a 15 and 10 player on a meager contract for this season and next.

Michael Beasley

Don't hold your breath on this one. Beasley had little interest on the free agent market, and likely has even less interest now that he's proven (so far) that he can't make it work on his third NBA team. Couple that with a $6 million/year salary through 2015* and you've got the worst trade asset on the team.

*In the new CBA, a team can release a player and spread his contract's cap impact over twice the remaining years plus one - meaning that Beasley could be released at the end of the season and only count as $2.5 million per year for the next 5 years on the cap. IF that's what it comes down to, if Beasley does not improve.

Goran Dragic

You have to at least consider trading your best player when that best player is not an All-Star. Just like with Gortat a year ago or Nash three years ago, the Suns have to consider trading a guy at the peak of his value.

Dragic would be an excellent #2 or #3 on a playoff contending team, but he is not a #1. His contract is reasonable and his talent is evident. He is also young enough for a rebuilding team to acquire (ie. a team with a lottery pick to give away).

Do you consider trading Dragic for a younger potential All-Star, or a lottery pick?

For me, I keep him. He loves the Suns and is a great player to have on your team because he's always willing to give it everything he's got.

Luis Scola

Luis cannot be traded until at least July 1, 2013. So no, Scola is going nowhere.

Markieff Morris

He's young and affordable and shows flashes of good, starting-quality talent. Just the kind of guy to package with another player to trade up, especially if your return is a better Power Forward who would take Morris' minutes anyway.

Jared Dudley

He is Mr. Average and Mr. Consistent. Everyone in the league knows what Dudley provides - 40% three-point shooting and all-around good play. Dudley has a stellar reputation around the league as a glue guy, and could bring back more future talent than he provides this year's Suns. The problem is that Dudley is most valuable to a contender and contenders don't like to give up good assets. Maybe a future #1?

Everyone Else

All the other guys are fringe NBA players who won't bring back anything of value. Their greatest asset is being included for salary reasons.

Let's take a look at the salaries of all players for the next three years.

Suns-salaries_medium

As you can see, the Suns have only committed $42 million to next year's books, NOT counting the cap holds for their draft picks. More on draft picks later.

The $42 million also only includes the half of Brown's contract that is guaranteed.

Items in yellow are team options or non-guaranteed salaries. Only a fraction of Scola's 2014-15 salary is guaranteed, and according to Shamsports.com the Suns have a team option on Beasley's third year. Now this is news to me. I worked hard all summer to find out if the contract was guaranteed, and all indications were that all three years were. But Shamports is generally right, so... I am putting in another query to the Suns for further clarification.

The Suns have no bad contracts, but they also have very few enticing trade pieces.

Gortat, Dragic and Morris are their most valuable assets, which makes them the least interesting to give away.

The other thing to consider as trading pieces are their upcoming draft picks.

Draft Picks

The Suns have a very interesting set of draft picks coming up in 2013, with all kinds of conditions on them. But listed below in the most likely scenario:

2013 Draft:

  • Top-10 pick (Suns own pick)
  • 15-25 pick (worst of Minnesota or Memphis*)
  • 25-30 pick (worst of Lakers or HEAT**)
  • 30-40 pick (Suns own second round pick)
  • 45-55 pick (Denver's second round pick)

That's five picks, all bunched together. Three of them in the first round. There are some conditions:

*Minnesota must make the playoffs for this pick to transfer in 2013. Otherwise, it rolls into the first year they do.

**If by chance the Lakers MISS the playoffs this season (they are 9-12 right now), the Suns get their pick outright. LOL.

Those picks, as well as their likely-lottery 2014 and 2015 picks and Laker's unprotected 2015, are good trade assets to give teams who want to meet their "I need to get a first-round pick to appease my fans" trade requirement - just as the Suns did with the Robin Lopez and Steve Nash trades and countless other teams have done as well.

There you go Suns fans.

Ready, set, rosterbate!

156814073

Sarver couldn't have been more clear in saying the Gentry's job was not only safe now, but that he would be the coach all season. We know what that means...pack up, Alvin.

Not to question Robert's authenticity, but we must given how many times in sports an owner or GM made such a statement only to have the opposite happen. Sarver himself said the Suns wouldn't trade Shawn Marion only weeks before trading Shawn Marion for Shaq.

Words matter.

In a more recent example, Lakers owner Jim Buss expressed support for Mike Brown and spoke about "patience" just ONE DAY before the axe fell.

Would Sarver go back on this statement made to USA Today's Sam Amick?

As NBA teams struggle, their coaches' seats get warm

"(Gentry) is not an issue for us this year," Sarver said by phone. "We're not looking to make a (coaching) change." Asked repeatedly if he was saying Gentry would be the coach at season's end, Sarver said "yes."

Regardless of how you feel about the job Gentry is doing, it's pretty important for sports teams to be as honest as they can with their fans. In other words, Sarver has now committed to Gentry this season barring some kind of mega disaster.

Amick also addressed the Beasley situation, adding this to the discussion:

The nature of Beasley's role is at the root of the problem. Despite the fact that he was added to be a leading scorer and the closest thing to a star that the post-Steve Nash Suns had, there is an internal sentiment from some that the team has played more effectively when his role is limited.

This certainly sounds more reasonable than throwing around the word "toxic" as was reported yesterday. Maybe it's just a matter of interpretation, but "toxic" is a strong word to me that implies more than just failings on the court.

Following the Phoenix Suns’ loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, Marcin Harasimowicz of Przeglad Sportowy caught up with Marcin Gortat for a second round of pointed tidbits following...

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Here's the tweet from Shaun Powell:

Suns source: Michael Beasley is "toxic," team in tailspin, could lead to major shakeup.

— Shaun Powell (@Powell2daPeople) December 10, 2012

There's no denying the Suns are a "team in a tailspin" but would they go so far as to completely bench Beasley and ice him out of all playing time? The guy had one nice game off the bench and one not good game off the bench. That's not exactly a good sample size.

As for being "toxic", that doesn't exactly ring true unless there's a lot of dissatisfaction from his teammates about Michael's shot selection, low efficiency and porous defense. Those things aren't important, right?

Could he be traded at this point? Who would take him and why?

Then again, "major shakeup" could mean something else entirely like a change in the coaching staff or front office. It's not like Lance Blanks is getting a lot of support right now either (see this tweet from Ced Ceballos).

Then again (again), this is one tweet from a guy with no history about breaking Suns news.

We'll just have to wait and see how this plays out, but in the mean time, the Powell tweet generated plenty of sarcasm and derision towards the Suns front office as evidenced by this comment from ESPN's Zach Lowe.

Breaking news: "Suns realize Michael Beasley is actually Michael Beasley."

— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) December 10, 2012

Poll
What should the Suns do with Beasley?

  424 votes | Results

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Poor Marcin. He's not getting the touches and looks that he wants. He's getting benched in favor of Jermaine O'Neal and he's not happy about anything right now including his own level of play.

At least in this interview he focuses a bit more on himself but he's also clearly been instructed to watch his mouth which was also evident after Sunday's loss to the Magic when he dropped a "no comment, next question" when our own David King tried to ask him how he felt about the rotations and minutes he was getting.

Here's an idea, Marcin: man the f%ck up.

We know how you are when things are going well. Show us what kind of leader you can be when things aren't going your way. Play hard on every possession regardless of how many times your number gets called and good things will happen, fans and coaches will respect you more, and just maybe your team might win a game.

The following transcription comes to us from Adam Ko?cielak from the blog, The Gothic Ginobili. You can follow Adam on Twitter at: @AdamKoscielak.

Here's the interview as transcribed by Adam (thanks, Adam!):

Przeglad Sportowy's Marcin Harasimowicz is at it again, interviewing Marcin Gortat and letting him voice another batch of concerns.

Here's the interview, from after the Clippers game on Saturday. (link to the original: http://nba.przegladsportowy.pl/Koszykowka-Marcin-Gortat-a-NBA-Marcin-Gortat-a-Phoenix-Suns,artykul,153517,1,299.html)

Przegl?d Sportowy: The Suns are in a tough spot, something that coach Alvin Gentry also talked about. You lost six games in a row.

Marcin Gortat: That's true. 6 losses and it doesn't seem like we're going to break this streak in the next game. This is a tough moment, not only for the team, but also for myself, for my career. I'm going through tough moments. It's situations like these where you have to show mental strength and think about what we can change. I need to train hard every day and hope for the best.

How would you explain the teams streaky play this season? For three quarters you were neck in neck with a top-notch team in the NBA, the Clippers, only to waste it in three or four minutes.

MG: Unfortunately, there are some "black holes" in our games that are hard to logically explain. There are moments in which it feels like somebody turned off the power. As if someone pulled the plug. We compete, we fight, we try, and then suddenly they go up a dozen points and we either mount a comeback, or it's too late.

Coach Gentry admitted that he's still looking for an optimal lineup, and he himself doesn't quite know how to use certain players. Your team is really going through a lot of changes all the time. Is Gentry looking for a perfect balance?*

MG: Maybe, I can't really say anything about that.

In some games you score a lot of points, for example 22 against the Trail Blazers and 18 against the Knicks, but you also have games like the one in Staples Center against the Clippers. Why?

MG: It's mostly because various players play different roles and have different playing time in every game. The team isn't crystallized. It doesn't have everyone knowing his role. Nobody's really sure how many minutes he'll spend on the court, whether he even gets a shot. We're still at the point of finding our strong suits.

How can you correct this?

MG: First and foremost - by practice. We can talk about how much (shots? playing time? t/n), and what we want in the locker room before and after games, but it isn't working so far. Only hard work in practice will let us eliminate our mistakes and fix our play.

You mentioned that you are going through some hard times? How do you plan on breaking through this crisis?

MG: Talking to the people that are close to me, that helped me built my career, or were close to me when I was growing as a basketball player. I'm capable of showing a high level. I have no other choice, but to look for a place to me in the team and fight for what's mine. It's really hard this season, though. This is an important mental test for me. I need to stay strong and focus on basketball. I can't be discouraged by things that happen in my team. It's not easy. This is the first time I'm in a situation like this in my career. Physically, I feel well. Maybe my aggressiveness has faded, but you know why? Because in one game, I play well, and in the next, I don't, while in the third one, I don't play at all, and in the fourth, I'm suddenly getting a bunch of passes. There's no consistency. I think that might be affecting me.

In the game against the Trail Blazers, you've shown that you can play a big role in the Suns offence.

MG: First of all, I believe I'm a good basketball player. I showed and confirmed that many times already. I don't need to argue with anyone about it, or repeat it ad nauseam. I know my worth. I believe in myself, but at the same time, I'm waiting for a chance. I don't give up, if I did, I wouldn't be myself.

*Please note that the first part of this question is formatted into Gortat's answer in the Polish version, but is, in fact a part of the question (note the "your team" line)

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