Join the ValleyoftheSuns team as we wrap up the 2011-12 season and look ahead to the offseason. Bring questions!

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"The burden for the ring won't be on your shoulders alone, young hobbit. We shall create a Fellowship of the Ring, Nine Walkers to go forth 'gainst the Nine Black Riders!" intoned that great elf-lord of nobility, he of the Elvin Gentry.

The young hobbit, little Stevo Nashins, his hair a disheveled mop after the arduous trek through the West, stood with head bowed, but an eager and determined gleam in his eye. "And what warriors would you send with me on this most perilous journey?"

"One of the Fair Ones, he from the FO, will declare who your mighty companions shalt be," stated the elf-lord, gesturing to a figure emerging from behind a far curtain.

"W-w-w-we will send some twuly gweat helpahs wif you, huh, huh, huh, huh," lisped the new speaker, a short Elmer Fudd wook-a-wike, er, look-a-like. "I will let Coach tell you."

Stevo's enthusiasm faltered at the sound of the buffoonish cartoonish character before him, but his heart stood firmly determined to battle on with whomever would walk beside him.

"Your first companions on this quest shall be an elvish long range archer, a war hammer-wielding dwarf, and this deadly canine," spoke the elf-lord, pointing to the three characters to step forward.

"What?" spake Stevo. "You mean this elvish fry-cook whose aim is questionable, this towering dwarf who had to have the faceguard of his helm modified to allow for his nose and whose handle of his war hammer is so long that it could be called 'pole-ish,' and this junkyard dog? Oh, well, I guess every band of warriors needs some second rank fighters."

"No, these will be in your first rank."

"But what of that fierce Gondorian swordsman, Boramar'e? Mighty were his sinews and prodigious were his thrusts!" exclaimed Stevo.

"Well, he turned traitor and went off to the big city of miNYs tirith to be the Man and get a Ring of his own, but he sliced open his own hand practicing his swordplay on a candle snuffer, I hear tell. It's unclear how could cut his own swordhand, but he was ever a fierce fighter."

"No, you don't get him, but here, take another hobbit on the trip!"

"What about some kind of wizard who can defend all manner of foemen?" posited Stevo.

"Er, no, we got nobody like that. How about having another hobbit?"

"There was that young Dragon from a far off land, who flamed fearsomely against the black and sable enemy of Saint Antonio a while back, burning them to the ground. What of him?" inquired Stevo.

"Oh, he was traded for a babbling brook that drifted off over the sea. Here's another hobbit to take along."

"My precious, my precious," croaked the new little brown creature.

"He's a hobbit? Why is he just clutching that rock and not sharing it with anyone?"

"That's just what he does. Look, Stevo, times have been really rough here in MiddleDesert. Hoards of treasure just don't grow on trees. We had to hock your mithril mail, and we sold your sword, Sting. But, you can wear this!"

"It's a hat..."

"It's a cap, and there's lots of space in there that will really help further down the road."

Stevo adjusted the straps of his backpack, and with a look of grim determination, once again set out on the quest for the Ring...


Meanwhile, in the next valley over, Aragorn was sharpening his sword to a razor edge, and Gandalf was honing his powers of fire and lightning, as these two agents of the Free Peoples prepared to pledge troth with Stevo in the valley of the sun, and join his search, to bring the Ring home...

The Suns can do their own Kurt Thomas fleecing.

There are a few statements that must be remembered this year in any conversation about changing the team going into next season.

Amnesty can only be used on guys who were under contract on your roster BEFORE the new CBA was signed.

The Suns are only under the salary cap for $23+ million if they renounce their cap holds on expired contracts, which means they would have no leverage over any other team to re-sign their own free agents.

And finally, for the first time since Steve Nash returned in 2004, the Suns can take on lopsided trades. For years, Suns fans have been forced to think of trades in terms of dollar-for-dollar exchanges. Or, outgoing salary dumps to teams with cap space.

In other words, the word "trade" is kind of a 4-letter word to Suns' fans thinking because its nearly impossible to outright WIN a dollar-for-dollar trade.

Well, those days are over (as long as the Suns renounce cap holds on Nash and Hill). The Suns now CAN take on bigtime salary, as well as accepting draft picks for the privilege to eat someone's big contract. The Suns can now take on a Kurt Thomas-like contract from a cap-hurt team, and get a draft pick or two for their troubles.

Do not discount this possibility in your planning for future greatness.

Remember the Oklahoma City Thunder. They kept open cap space for years, rather than spending on free agents to put around a young Durant. During that time, they acquired 4 #1 draft picks over 3 years in exchange for absorbing a mere 2 one-year bloated contracts (Kurt Thomas and Morris Peterson).

Remember the Memphis Grizzlies who needed a PF, and were able to absorb Zach Randolph into their cap for a kiss and a bag of skittles.

Remember the Boston Celtics, who were able to acquire Ray Allen for their first-round pick. A bad move by itself, but that move convinced Boston and Minny to execute the Kevin Garnett swap and win a title in 2008, one year after the Celtics had one of the worst records in the league.

The Suns can now relieve a team that needs to shed salary. In one year, the luxury tax starts escalating. Teams will be shedding big contracts left and right, and giving up draft picks to entice another team to take on their guys.

If the Suns really want to build through the draft as Babby said in the press conference the other day, then acquiring draft picks in one-sided trades is definitely a good way to go.

No comment.

There's three games on the NBA Playoff schedule for Friday, but before we get to that, how about them Knicks. The New York Knicks are now officially the worst playoff team in NBA history and they are (almost) officially done in this series. New York was back home and desperately needed a win over the Miami Heat, but instead their defensive issues were exposed right along with their lack of alternate scoring options, cohesion, depth, and coaching. LeBron James took over the fourth quarter (gasp!) and the Miami Heat rolled to a 17-point win and are up 3-0 in the series.

Goodbye, New York.

We can also say goodbye to the Dallas Mavericks who also got whooped on their home court and are also down 0-3 in their series to the Oklahoma City Thunder. If you are a Thunder fan, you have to be encouraged that your team played its best game so far on the road. They won two close ones late despite playing poorly and stepped up their game in a hostile environment. Can we call this the Derek Fisher Effect?

NBA Playoff schedule for Friday, May 4:

Atlanta Hawks at Boston Celtics at 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT on ESPN

It's not certain, but it sounds like Josh Smith (knee) will be able to go which is good for the Hawks who need every weapon they have to deal with the Celtics execution. Boston will also have Rajon Rondo back and he'll be pissed. You won't like Rondo when he's pissed (if you are Hawks fan).

Chicago Bulls at Philadelphia 76ers at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT on ESPN2

The Bulls defense was MIA in game two and now they find themselves on the road tied 1-1. They can still win this series without Derrick Rose but not if they don't get their act together and get some many stops.

Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets at 10:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. PT on ESPN

Some people think that the Nuggets will somehow play better at home and make this a series. We'll see. Don't be surprised if Kobe and friends take a game one of the next two games off, but that doesn't mean Denver has a chance. L.A. will go home up 3-1, it's just a matter of which game they lose.

For more NBA Playoff coverage, visit SB Nation's NBA hub.

PHOENIX — Lon Babby wants the Phoenix Suns to be an elite team. To him, that defines a squad “that’s going to legitimately compete for championships every year.” “That’s what we aspire to,...

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