The ongoing disaster in the desert

After firing head coach Alvin Gentry, little but the prized training staff remains of the once proud Suns. Then 13-28, the Gentry’s Suns were suffering not from poor coaching but nearly a decade of self-sabotage from the organization’s leadership. Then, in choosing an interim head coach, GM Lance Blanks bypassed longtime assistants Dan Majerle and Elston Turner in favor of Player Development Coordinator Lindsay Hunter, who has no coaching experience at any level. Majerle was so incensed that he quit, and Turner hasn’t attended Suns practices or games since. To bring this time of ignominy to a close, Jermaine O’Neal reportedly got into a “heated verbal argument” with Blanks though both have downplayed the issue.

The juggernaut that was the Seven Seconds or Less Suns has finally succumbed to the harsh desert conditions. It is convenient to point to 2008, when D’Antoni left to Coach the Knicks, as the beginning of the end, but that ignores the fact that they went to the Western Conference Finals in 2010 under Alvin Gentry. It is convenient to point to 2012, when Steve Nash was at last traded to the Lakers, as the beginning of the end, but that ignores the two playoff-missing seasons before he was traded. No, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we can see that the Suns have been in retrograde ever since 2004.

A look at the wins and losses would suggest the Phoenix Suns are a well-run organization. Since Robert Sarver bought full control of the team in 2004, they’ve done won 61% of their games, advance to three Western Conference Finals and propagate the most well-known offense the league has seen since the Triangle. But the examining process, not just results, reveals that, under Sarver’s tenure, the Suns have run the cheapest and most

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Peyton Manning and the spread pick-and-roll

Peyton Manning is often described as a wizard, and genius, and all that may be true. But as Grantland’s Chris Brown writes, he didn’t earn that reputation by mastering complex plays.

His story on Manning and the Bronco offense that No. 18 imported from his time with the Colts got me thinking about, what else, basketball, and specifically about the effecitiveness of the spread pick-and-roll offense.

The obvious NBA parallel to Manning and his simple-but-unstoppable “Dig” and “Dag” plays (more on that in a bit) is Steve Nash, who captained the best offense in the NBA for a number of years relying almost exclusively on the spread pick-and-roll and the occasional quick-hitter.

The reason that the spread pick-and-roll worked so marvelously for the Suns then and continues to be an effective look today for teams like the Knicks, Spurs and Rockets, is that it’s a simple play that can only be defended a few different ways. So, when an offense runs it over and over, it has the opportunity to figure out how the defense is going to approach that play and then can react accordingly. Here’s Brown on Manning’s offense:

By using a small number of personnel groups — typically either three wide receivers and a tight end, or two wide receivers and two tight ends — it limited the number of possible responses from the defense and made it easier for Manning to diagnose its weak spots from both a speedy no-huddle (used whenever a defense tried to substitute) and a regular pace of play.

The small number of plays essentially put the full offense at Manning’s disposal at any time, and by combining few formations with few plays, both veterans and newcomers to the offense had their acclimation eased by the small

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Mama There Goes That Meme: Lakers Hang a Banner in August

Beckley: No small market pity party here, this was an awesome moment for the NBA. The Nuggets, Lakers and 76ers all get more interesting, Andre Iguodala finally gets out of Philadelphia and we get to stop caring about what happens in Orlando. Whoohoo!

Now on to Showtime. The Lakers now have two former MVPs, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and a seven-foot Spaniard with the skill of a guard and deft touch of a spinal surgeon.

Aside from the age of the parts, what strikes me about this roster is how seemingly conventional it is.

Steve Nash is pointiest guard of the last decade. Defenses must now duck for dunking PGs, but it’s flightless Nash, not Derrick Rose, who defined the position within the modern NBA offense because of how adroitly he ran the pick-and-roll.

Kobe is the team’s and league’s shooting guard. He took more shots than anyone in the NBA last year … SHOOTING IS RIGHT IN THE JOB DESCRIPTION.

At Pau-er Forward (wince), Gasol! He’s excellent around the rim and can make midrange shots. He’s not a stretch four, he’s just a tall 1990s power forward.

And in the middle, Howard is a proto-futuristic defender and an effective blunt-force weapon on offense.

Where’s the weird small lineup? The non-traditional positionality?

This isn’t what great NBA teams in 2012 look like, is it?

No explanation. (By @AnthonyBain)

Ethan: Traditionnnnnnnnnnnnnnn. Tradition! Tevye approves of this Lakers roster, as it conforms to a century of what we thought ideal basketball should be. He’s further enthused that the trade makes life difficult for the NBA’s Russian-owned franchise.

I sense that the Twittering classes are overreacting to this deal a bit. Is it probably awesome for the Lakers? Duh. Does it make Los Angeles a prohibitive favorite? Unjerk that

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Why Ray Allen might not care about Boston fans

Many are shocked that Ray Allen would “betray” his Boston fans. “Judas Shuttlesworth,” they call him. That’s a clever jab, one that’s also funny because it places the stereotypical Massachusetts sports lover at the Last Supper table, serene expression, open palm protruding out of his beer-stained Sawx jersey.

Steve Nash left for the Lakers, the archetypal hated team to those Nash-loving Phoenix fans. Dwight Howard probably uses a metaphorical Magic fan voodoo doll as an insole.

The aftermath of fan slight prompts punditry on how athletes just don’t get how much we love them, or about how they just don’t love us like we love them. I disagree with both notions. My guess is that pro athletes understand the depths to which we love them, but also perceive that the love as false, or worse, unsettling.

Think about it from their perspective. In the absence of knowing someone, how much should your affection matter to that person? And if you don’t know that person, then what is that love? It can be obsession. It can be misplaced narcissism. Fans are body snatchers, living vicariously through these men until the bodies break. At that point, the vessel is discarded, exchanged for a newer, springier avatar by which to romp around your TV screen in.

Ricky Rubio’s draft night was an informative, formative experience for me. The two of us experienced it together, though Ricky probably doesn’t remember my name. I was his draft escort, the PR sherpa who was charged with dragging him through hours of repetitive English interviews. His hatred of that night was palpable. Perhaps he sees my stupid, sweating face in his nightmares. I have an inkling as to what else Ricky might also glimpse in those dark dreams.

It’s a vision that still haunts me.

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Steve Nash to the Lakers, Suns to the bargain bin

Steve Nash is going to the Lakers. This is going to hurt the Suns and help his new team.

I know that’s stunning analysis but seeing this deal just shows how different the two franchises are. Their paths are headed in opposite directions, not because one is rebuilding and the other is reloading, but because they’re operating on two entirely different planes of existence.

The Los Angeles Lakers are vultures. I mean that as a compliment. The Lakers know their market and know their strengths as a destination. You can talk about the market and claim that’s the reason for their success, and to a degree I can’t disagree. But when you look at the Clippers in the same market and without the same success, you have to look deeper into what the Lakers are good at doing.  Continue reading “Steve Nash to the Lakers, Suns to the bargain bin” »

Can we stop spending Steve Nash’s money?

Steve Nash is coming to save your franchise. I know your team is over the cap, but he’ll take the mini-mid level exception. Why? Because money doesn’t matter to Steve. Because Steve’s the easy-going dad who trundles down the Whole Foods aisle with a bag full of red quinoa. Because Steve likes Radiohead, and you like Radiohead. Because winning a title obviously means more than anything in the universe to Steve Nash, loyal soldier of Sarver misfortune.

Not so fast!

Steve Nash is still killing it, and could get upwards of $10 million per year for a short term deal on the open market. Teams like the Knicks and Heat would need Nash to take a contract in the three million per year range, per the mini mid-level. So Nash-hopeful fans are assuming he’ll give up, say, seven million dollars of his money, per year to a private, cold-hearted business. Would you be shocked if Portland offered Nash to three years, $35 million? Then don’t be shocked if he rejects three years, nine million from Team Dolan.

It’s just so much fun to imagine, though. Editors have certainly pushed the Nash-to-big-market storyline on me, and I’ve buckled. Such Nash wishing unfortunately makes little sense in the actual world. The idea of “giving up money” is largely abstract to us, and it’s conveniently not our money. The statement, “All he has to do is give up some money” rarely comes with any acknowledgement that some dollar amounts are larger than others. Ya, I could see a player giving up a million or so to play where he wants. But $20 million? Who does that?

My best guess is that the “Who does that?” question can be answered, “Probably not Steve Nash.” Remember, this is someone who left his good

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Watching Steve Nash

Steve Nash is 38, skinny, slow, white, and has terrible hair. His eyes are so wide set that people have theorized they may actually increase incredible peripheral vision thus aiding his legendary passing. Two or three times a game, Nash will curl off a high screen to the free throw line and, without breaking stride, elevate about nine inches off the ground and shoot and often swish the kind of runner that would get 99.2% of the league benched for the rest of the game. He also has this weird ability to shoot an almost flat-footed yet fading away seven-footer with the exact same form he uses on pull-up 27-footers.

It goes without saying that he’s an incredibly weird player. This is part of the entertainment factor.

As I often do whenever I watch Nash — now or 10 years ago– I react to these kind of plays like someone reading a Snapple “real fact.” I’m pretty sure you can’t power a bullet train with its passengers’ brain waves…then again Steve Nash did just bank-swish a running left-handed hook shot over Tim Duncan.

Yes, I was watching the Suns, who should really be an out-and-out terrible team, hang with Duncan’s (now Tony Parker’s) Spurs. Somehow, it was another classic; these teams continue to hold significance for one another that is belied by their respective places in the league.

From 2004-2010, the Nash-lead Phoenix Suns and Duncan-dominated San Antonio Spurs had the best rivalry in the NBA. They were almost poetic in their diametric opposition. Duncan and the Spurs: so successful but so difficult to enjoy (for many); Nash and the Suns: unable to take the final step but widely regarded as the most entertaining team in the NBA.

Duncan had all the physical tools. He was the ACC pedigree

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So white guys “do the most with the least?”

In the NBA’s general manager survey, the three leaders for “Which player does the most with the least?” are what you might consider white. Though Luis Scola may not be “white” by some metrics, I’m not sure a league that deems a fellow Argentine’s move “the Eurostep” cares to parse that. Put it this way: The NBA is four-fifths black and the top three vote getters are not of that group. Kevin Love leads the pack and Steve Nash makes the list out of habitual obligation.

In 2010-2011, four of the five leading vote getters were not black. In 2009-2010, six of the seven leading vote getters were not black. In 08-09, it was four of six. The names change, but the pattern remains: A disproportionate amount of Caucasian players get cited as wringing their potential for all it’s worth.

The question itself is a bit vague. Most with the least? Weren’t Steve Nash and Kevin Love fathered into comfortable existences by professional athletes? What about Dwyane Wade muddling through his mother’s crack and heroin addictions on Chicago’s South Side? He seems to have optimized his life pretty well.

I hazard that, “most with the least” pertains to athleticism. In theory, these GMs could choose plenty of over-achieving, mediocre black athletes in a four-fifths black league. But it’s assumed that “athleticism” is black, almost by definition–in part because this athletic league is four-fifths black. I don’t think I’m stepping out of bounds in saying as much, not when there’s a classic sports movie titled, “White Man Can’t Jump.”

In 2006, after a long college night, a friend slurred, “Magic Johnson is Luke Walton with ‘black guy athleticism!’” It remains the dumbest statement I’ve ever heard, even with the circumstances considered. Magic Johnson was a basketball genius whose skills

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Dream trade: How Steve Nash to the Clippers could work

As a man bearing an unhealthy obsession with Steve Nash, last week was terribly difficult for me. A series of articles about the tenuous situation between Nash and the direction of the Suns franchise came out and I wasn’t invited to the party.

Let’s recap last week’s Nash musings:

Tom Haberstroh said they should.

Beckley Mason argued a trade might not be what’s best for the franchise.

And Trevor from Unofficial Review said they should trade him to the Clippers.

I’m going to steal all their best points and combine them into one I like to call “my opinion”. Like Tom, I think the Suns should trade him. Like Beckley, I think it has to be for a particular set of pieces that doesn’t keep them stuck in Mediocrityville and like Trevor, I agree the Clippers are an intriguing destination.

I’ve flirted with the idea of Nash on the Clippers but backed off when I remembered their owner green-lighted trading a lottery pick to save 12 million dollars.

But to hell with precedent! This lockout crap is depressing as all get-out so why not take a shot at constructing a world in which Nash headlines an exciting young team in L.A?

The Trade: the Suns get…

Trevor’s deal is solid, but I believe there’s a better one out there that nets a far greater return for Two Time. Since we can’t speculate on how a new CBA could affect salaries and trades, let’s assume that the new deal keeps things the same or similar to the old system and go from there.

The Suns, as Beckley pointed out, would most likely need to accumulate young, still developing assets and/or picks with another expiring deal in their return for any deal involving Nash. While the management has been on record

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Should Phoenix really trade Steve Nash?

For a guy who’s earned more than $107 million before turning 40, dances on stage at awesome concerts and plays soccer with international legends, Steve Nash elicits an impressive amount of sympathy.

The reason, of course, is that he plays an supremely charming style of basketball yet appears destined to languish in the Phoenix desert– sand choking his final gasps (he’d probably use that breathe to praise and thank the Suns faithful, his teammates and trainers, and even give a shoutout to some towel boy, then do it again in Spanish).

It’s hard to watch such brilliance go begging for a ring each year and the future blackens by the moment. For half a decade, his franchise has failed to pay or draft anyone worthwhile.

In that time, Nash’s skipping, slithering style patched over a ragged roster, but now the team wallows in “NBA purgatory” (new cliché of the summer!). You know, that place so the Pacers have been keeping cozy for the past seven seasons; not good enough to win in the playoffs, not bad enough to get franchise-altering lottery pick.

So moving Nash seems like a happy marriage of both individual and corporate interest. As ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh lays it out, trading Nash gives the Suns a chance to bottom out and Nash the opportunity to compete for a ring with a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Haberstroh lists some intriguing talents that Phoenix could possibly receive from a team looking to “win now.” Big time players like Tony Parker (with Tiago Splitter) and James Harden (with Serge Ibaka) are mentioned as possible prizes.

The problem there is that moving Nash for younger talent amounts to swapping out an older, borderline elite player, for a younger one on a team that still needs to be

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