Will Earl Clark look better in this game?

Will the Suns get a win?

Will Alvin Gentry answer any questions about the Childress and Turkoglu deals?

What kind of cool shoes will Mr. Irrelevant (Dwayne Collins) be wearing?

Stay tuned and find out.

The Summer Suns will be facing the D-league Select Team. Last summer, they were pretty good. Even though this is their first game of this party the word is they aren't as good this year. They are coaches by Iowa Energy head coach Nick Nurse.

A complete break-down of the D-League team can be found at Ridiculous Upside.

I have no idea if this game is on NBA TV.

When Amare Stoudemire left for the New York Knicks, I started pondering the options the Phoenix Suns had at their disposal to become an upper-echelon team again. I felt they should either go after a...

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The Phoenix Suns and owner Robert Sarver came out of nowhere to make a huge splash Sunday evening, wheeling and dealing for swingman Josh Childress and shooter/playmaker Hedo Turkoglu. The general...

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Amare Stoudemire has traded purple for blue and orange...well, the orange will still be there.
 (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

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Amare Stoudemire has traded purple for blue and orange...well, the orange will still be there. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

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Welcome to the final installment of the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns player report cards. We're still using the A-F system, but to make it a bit more definitive, we have eliminated plus or minuses...
Today we change it up a bit and look at the career of the now NY Knickerbocker Amare Stoudemire.

Amare Stoudemire aka STAT aka Sun Tzu aka @AmareIsReal aka a certain... I don't know what. No matter what you know the former Suns big man as, chances are his name alone provokes some sort of emotional reaction. Loved by some, hated by others and discussed by all, Amare was always an enigma to Suns fans. We loved him for his offensive abilities and hated him for his lack of defense. We loved him for being a product of the Suns, born and raised (at least from an NBA player standpoint) right here in the desert and hated him for always wanting more. Some of us are deeply saddened to see him move on to greener (as in 'Benjamins') pastures and others are hoping the door hit him in the ass on the way out. No matter where you land on the Amare love/hate spectrum, the big man is now in New York and this is his Phoenix Suns report card.

When Amare Stoudemire came into the league, he was nothing more than an array of beautiful dunks and it was awesome. (Quick side note: go back and watch his first playoff series against the Spurs when he was playing alongside Stephon Marbury. You forget just how explosive this dude really was.) Now back to what I was saying. When he went down after getting the dreaded microfracture knee surgery, many questioned how a player who depended solely on his amazing athletic ability could rebound from a surgery that historically had completely destroyed the athletic ability of every player who had gone through it. Amare's answer: shoot jump shots every day while he was unable to do anything else and come back with one of the best midrange games of any big man in the league. Over the course of his career here in the valley, Amare went from having one offensive weapon to being one of the best scorers (in terms of how easy it is for him to score) in the NBA.

Since 2004, we have had the EXTREME pleasure of watching Amare Stoudemire run the pick and roll with 2-time MVP Steve Nash. Not only was it beautiful, but effective, as the Suns advanced to at least the second round in every one of those seasons except for the year of Shaq (granted, one of those seasons, Amare was on the bench after the microfracture surgery mentioned above, but still). But again, we all loved his offensive game; it was his game on the other side of the ball that left us wanting more. 

Amare showed flashes of defensive ability and even brilliance throughout his years with the Suns, but they always turned out to be just that... flashes. He'd rack up 7 blocks in one game only to have his man drop 40 the next. He'd pull down 20 boards one game only to respond with 3 the next. For all of Amare's offensive brilliance, his defense was inconsistent and many times just bad (mostly during games in which he wasn't being as involved in the offense as he'd like to be). When it came to Amare, this is where the argument would begin.

Being a fan of Amare, I have long argued that you can't just replace that kind of offensive brilliance. That instead of giving him away and trying to replace his offense and improving on defense, a team should try and shore up the other half of the front line with a defensive player that would allow Amare the freedom he needs on offense. That's what the Suns tried with Shaq (unfortunately having the Big Ego in the middle made it impossible for Amare to breathe) and what they lucked into when Robin broke a glass door and suddenly became one of the better centers in the West last season. So what happens when Amare is paired with a player like Robin? He blows up and destroys the league for 3 solid months, earning a spot as a 2nd team All-NBA player even though he was thought by many to be lucky to get into the All-Star game at the break!

Others argued that the price was too steep for a player whose main focus was on the offensive end of the court. They demanded that Amare become a defensive presence and when he failed to live up to their expectations, they pushed for the Suns to get rid of him. (Another quick side note: I did openly root for the Suns to get rid of Amare once and that was when the offer was on the table to send him to Minnesota for KG. This would have left a core of KG (3 seasons before he broke down), Marion (one of my personal favorite Suns players of all time), and Nash.) Back on topic. Now, Amare is gone and we'll see just how much of his offensive game is missed.

Too often in sports we, as fans, become overly critical of those athletes we watch and fail to fully appreciate what we have in front of us. When Marion was here and the Suns were considered to be one of the top 3 teams (if not the top team) every year we - I'm using a collective 'we' here even though I definitely didn't want Marion to go - clamored for a team that could play "traditional" basketball just because we had gotten a few unlucky breaks and failed to advance to the Finals. The Suns shipped Marion out and brought in the Big Ego. It took the Suns organization 2 years to respond from that disaster. For 7 of the past 8 seasons we have had the pleasure of watching a young raw dude straight out of high school develop into one of the top scorers in the league. We've watched him smash on Kandi man's head, embarrass Tolliver and cause Richard Jefferson to have a VERY bad day. Say what you want about him, but the power and fury of Amare was fun to watch and be a part of.

For the 7 seasons (and the 3 games he played in during the season of microfracture rehab), I am giving Amare Stoudemire an A. He made 5 All-Star teams, made the All-NBA second team 3 times and first team once (which he did along with Steve Nash, becoming the first PHX duo to do so) and he helped lead the Suns to the Conference Finals (meaning they were 1 of the last 4 teams standing for you non-math majors out there) in 2 of his last 4 Playoff appearances. While I did hold out hope that his defense would improve and he'd become an All-Defensive type player, there was never a single game that I wasn't on the edge of my seat just waiting for Amare to do something that would give me an excuse to be on YouTube for hours the following day. Amare Stoudemire may not be missed by all (especially if the Suns are successful this season without him), but he will most definitely be missed by me and THAT is what makes being a fan of one of the NBA's biggest enigmas is all about. 

Amare Stoudemire's Phoenix Suns grade: A

One other quick note: I apologize if this comes off a little disjointed, the original draft was roughly the size of a small novel and I had to cut it down. Hopefully the sentiment came through and if it didn't, here's an Amare montage that I like.

What grade would you give Amare for his time here in Phoenix?

  1010 votes | Results

PHOENIX - MARCH 14:  Steve Nash talks with head coach Alvin Gentry (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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PHOENIX - MARCH 14: Steve Nash talks with head coach Alvin Gentry (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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And we thought rebounding was bad before...

Seth had a GREAT writeup over at SB Nation AZ last night, which he referenced in the last poll below this. Basically, the Suns' offense is going to be more potent than ever and the perimeter defense might be the best it has ever been, as well (collectively).

But the big remaining question: if the Suns start Hedo Turkoglu at PF, will the Suns ever win the rebounding battle again?

The answer, actually, is pretty obvious (Suns will suck at rebounding), but.. and this is the good part: not quite as badly as you might have thought.

Sure, Hedo Turkoglu is the worst rebounding player for his size in the history of basketball. Really, I'm not exaggerating.

Sure, we don't have a Dwight Howard on our team to pick up his slack.

But let's look at the actual numbers:

According to hoopsstats.com, the Suns were 7th in overall rebounds per game last season, at 43.0, last season. Unfortunately, they gave up 42.3 to the other team (10th worst in the league), so their total rebound rate per game was just 50.7% of total possible rebounds.

The problem wasn't in getting rebounds, it was stopping the other team from getting so many. Especially considering the Suns had, by a wide margin, the most efficient offense in the league last year (and 3rd in history, if I recall correctly), this SHOULD translate to fewer rebounds for the opposition.

But I digress.

Back to acquisitions of Hakim Warrick, Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress to replace Amare Stoudemire, Lou Amundson and Leandro Barbosa.

How much rebounding did the Suns actually lose? In terms of grabbing rebounds, my guess is 2 fewer per game, swinging the overall rebound differential in the other direction.

Why only a couple rebounds diff, when Turk gets 5 while Amare would get 9? Because I'm assuming Turk gets fewer minutes than Amare's 34 mins per game, while Childress and Warrick (not bad rebounders) get more minutes than LB and Lou did.


 Rebs   Mins  Reb/Min Est Mins 2010-2011 Tot Rebs per game
Turkoglu          753          5,087 0.15 28             4.14
Warrick          720          3,586 0.20 15             3.01
Childress          713          4,300 0.17 24             3.98
Richardson          404          2,485 0.16 27             4.39
Dudley          286          1,384 0.21 24             4.96
Hill          445          2,430 0.18 23             4.21
Frye          427          2,190 0.19 26             5.07
Lopez          248             986 0.25 25             6.29
Dragic          171          1,442 0.12 19             2.25
Nash          268          2,660 0.10 29             2.92
240           41.23

But if the Suns want to break even, they will need major development from Robin Lopez and Channing Frye in the rebounding department. If each increases his rebound rate by 1 per game on the same minutes, then the Suns stand a chance. And if the Suns improve their defense, causing more misses by the opposing team, the margin improves further.

If not, it's 2005-2006 all over again. The Suns were outrebounded by 5 per game that season. They were the little team that could, with Boris Diaw playing PF, Tim Thomas at C and Shawn Marion at SF. Yet even that wouldn't be so bad: they still made the Western Conference Finals.

So that's your rebounding battle - the weakest link of this current Suns team, yet not as weak and you might have thought.

And if you factor in an even MORE potent offense and better perimeter defense, this team just might rival any of the decade.

That's a huge sigh of relief over the gloom and doom of recent weeks.


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