Tag Archives: Kelly Dwyer

Looking Forward: Phoenix Suns

We all used to love the Phoenix Suns, but things changed a bit last year. Under Terry Porter until the All-Star break, the Suns failed to meet expectations. The new coach was given the unenviable task of trying to change the Suns’ identity. Instead of an all-out running attack, Porter wanted to play a more controlled style of basketball. Less quick shots, less chaos, more defense, more rebounding.

It didn’t work. They slowed the pace down a little bit, but their defense got considerably worse. Players such as Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa seemed downright frustrated at times, not knowing when they had the green light to shoot. The offense wasn’t the same and the players weren’t comfortable (despite Steve Nash’s genuine effort to make it work). Their roster wasn’t capable of becoming a lockdown defensive team, especially after the Jason Richardson trade, and it came as a surprise to no one when Porter got the axe and was replaced by Alvin Gentry. Sure, Shaquille O’Neal put up great numbers (with and without Amar’e Stoudemire in the lineup), but it wasn’t necessarily best for the team to make him a focal point. Even with the improvement under Gentry, the Suns remained a mediocre team and missed out on a playoff berth by 2 games.

This summer, the Shaquille O’Neal experiment was put to rest when he was moved to the Cleveland Cavaliers for salary relief. Matt Barnes headed to the East, too, signing with Orlando. All the Suns have done is re-sign veterans Steve Nash (36 in February) and Grant Hill (37 before opening day), draft forwards Earl Clark and Taylor Griffin, and sign free agent Channing Frye. My initial thought about all this: “What exactly are they doing? Do they even have a plan?” These are not moves I should endorse. They’re not ones that will put the team back where it belongs, legitimately in title contention. They’re not ones that will ensure future financial flexibility, planting the seeds for rebuilding. Rather, they are lateral moves, keeping them in a spot where they have just enough talent to make the playoffs if things go right. When I thought about it, though, I realized I was happy that they had kept Nash, happy they’ve pledged to keep the run-and-gun style going. It’s because, at this point, I just don’t want to see him in another uniform.

Here’s some of what Kelly Dwyer said about Nash in his top 10 point guards of the last decade list:

We play to win, I guess, but we’re also playing because it’s fun. Nobody says, “I’m going to go down to the Y later this afternoon to try and contribute to a winning cause.” We say, “I’m going to go play basketball,” a game, a game that’s fun. You’ve seen this dance before.

So, he’ll get burned on D. And at the end of the day, other players will have more points, rebounds, steals and assists, even. But man, isn’t his game something to behold?

Take this quote and apply it to the whole team. They have flaws. Obvious, season-shortening flaws. We know they are going to be overmatched, some nights. In a cold, rational world, the smart thing would unquestionably be to blow this thing up and start over. Ditch the veterans, develop young guys, rebuild. We live in the real world, though, a place where Phoenix Suns fans would be distraught if the franchise abandoned its fiery Canadian saviour. It’s really a shame that this franchise fell short of winning a title this decade, and it’s a shame that this year’s team won’t measure up to those of years’ past. Still, they’ll be fun for another year or two, and that’s what we want.

I can’t honestly say I’m very excited about the 2009-2010 Phoenix Suns. I can’t even say I find them that interesting, beyond seeing if Amar’e can successfully come back from eye surgery and start playing defense again. Still, I know I’m going to end up watching a ton of their games and I know I’m going to love it. They might not be the Suns of old, but they’re still worth our time.



Filed under Free Agency, Looking Forward, Phoenix Suns, Trades

Looking Forward: Los Angeles Lakers

Last year’s Los Angeles Lakers had the talent to go down as one of the greatest teams in NBA history. As a result of shoddy point guard play and another injury to starting center Andrew Bynum, they didn’t end up all over the record books (aside from coach Phil Jackson surpassing Red Auerbach’s mark with his 10th NBA title as a coach), but they were still good enough to win 65 regular season games and win the NBA championship. Not bad, methinks.

Heading into the offseason, the two big question marks around the champs were what would become of their two free agents, Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom. You likely already know what went down – Ariza’s agent was offended by the Lakers’ initial offer, so he signed in Houston and the Lakers replaced him with Ron Artest. Odom likewise balked at what the Lakers offered him at first, then the team then took its offer off of the table, and Odom flirted with the Miami Heat for awhile. Fortunately, the two sides came to their senses eventually and stopped the shenanigans, agreeing on a three-year contract with a team option on the fourth year, which could net Odom $33 million.

My views on the Ariza for Artest swapped mirror Kelly Dwyer’s. Artest is a good player, but he’s not at all the right person for the Lakers’ triangle offense. He shoots too often and too inefficiently, he breaks plays, and he doesn’t contribute enough when playing off the ball. Defensively, he’ll still be good, but Ariza is probably a bit better at this point. I’m not saying the swap means the Lakers can’t win a title this upcoming season, not by a long shot. Just saying that I would have rather seen both players stay with their respective teams.

You’ve got to applaud the Lakers for keeping Odom, though. I was terrified they were going to lose him and lose a huge part of their team. This guy was an absolute joy to watch last season. He’s perfect for the triangle and brilliant defensively. He’s an extremely versatile player whose impact is felt all over the court, in many aspects of the game. If he was gone, tremendous pressure would have been on Luke Walton to run the offense with the second unit and on Andrew Bynum to stay healthy for the entire year. Laker fans had to be extremely relieved when he finally re-signed.

Moving onwards to next season, I think these Lakers have to remain the favourites to win the chip. You don’t need me to tell you anything about Kobe Bryant’s game, but he’s turning 31 on Sunday and will still be in his prime this year. Pau Gasol’s in his prime too and he is the best power forward in the game. Same goes for Odom, who is without a doubt an elite player despite his inconsistency. Andrew Bynum, who will still be only 22 when the season starts, is one of the best young big men in the league and if he stays healthy he’ll make the Lakers an even stronger team than they were last season. That is scary.

This isn’t to say that the Lakers are entering the season without question marks. Ron Artest is obviously the biggest one. After that, it’s the point guard situation. Nothing has been done yet to address this weakness, so we have to assume the Lakers think that Jordan Farmar’s regression last year was a fluke. I’m not sure that I’d want to bank on him and Derek Fisher for another season if I was the Lakers, but they managed last year, I guess. The competition should be stiffer, as the Celtics, Cavs, Magic, and Spurs all look like legitimate threats now. I’m certainly not saying it’ll be easy for the Lakers to win it all again. Still, with Bynum returning to this ultra-stacked team, would you bet against this group? I wouldn’t.


Filed under Free Agency, Looking Forward, Los Angeles Lakers