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Phoenix Suns Stuck

In Neutral

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Channing Frye struggled to find his shot early in the 2012 season. Image by Keith Allison and used under the terms of a Creative Commons License.
About Halfway Through The 2012 Season, The Valley’s NBA Franchise Is Mired In Mediocrity, Chasing A Playoff Spot


By Bob Goodwood
Modern Times Magazine

March 1, 2012 — For the previous seven seasons before this shortened NBA campaign came to a running start in January, fans of the Phoenix Suns were treated to championship contending basketball that will undoubtedly be remembered as the Steve Nash Era.

When the little guy from Canada ‘re-arrived’ in 2004, and teamed-up with the emergence of a 19-year-old from Florida (where art thou, Amare?) the Phoenix Suns were championship contenders for an unprecedented run in team history. The past sells itself: two Western conference title appearances in 2005 and 2006, another two great showings in 2007 and 2008 followed by the disaster of 2009 thanks to the tumult of the Mike D’Antoni fiasco. While the team missed the playoffs in 2009 for the first time since 2003, they might have been able to shake off the problems Terry Porter created early in the season if Stoudemire had not nearly gone blind.

Optimism was still high and 2010 proved it. Nash and Stoudemire, aided by Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Channing Frye and an emerging Jared Dudley brought us back to within a win of the NBA Finals in 2010.

Then owner Robert Sarver saw fit to not resign Stoudemire and 2011 showed who the Suns are now: too good to make the lottery, yet not not good enough to have a chance at a title.

Basically, they are a team in neutral. They have little chance of winning anything this season.

Marcin Gortat was a great pickup and a necessary one but he is no Amare Stoudemire.

(By the way, Mr. Sarver, Amare is still playing at a high level — maybe you should have guaranteed that contract after all. If you did, you wouldn’t be worrying about empty seats right now.)

So now the Phoenix Suns are saving up for the off-season. It will be one where they will look for some more shooters and a power forward (ahem, Stoudemire, ahem).

There have definitely been some bright spots. Markieff Morris is a great draft pick. Steve Nash and Grant Hill are still delivering at a high level and Marcin Gortat has been all that could have been hoped when Richardson was shuttled to Orlando for him.

There are many things that from the outside, though, that makes one wonder if the season is all but lost without a roster change. It is unlikely that Nash would be moved, but if the Suns can find the right deal, it wold not be a suprise to hear that Brown, Josh Childress, Hakim warrick, Robin Lopez, Ronnie Price or Sebastian Telfair might be moved. There is still the impending return of Aaron Brooks to consider — his rights, at least. The next 30 days should be really interesting in that regard, but generally, they have been an uninspired, flat group.

They are 7-9 at home. Channing Frye is just now finding his shot — lets hope he didn’ misplace it during the All-Star break. They can’t find a consistent scorer to complement the pick and roll of Nash and Gortat. The Polish Hammer leads the team with a little more than 15 points a game, but Nash is next at nearly 14 points per game and is followed by Jared Dudley with about 12 points per game. Everyone else on the squad, it seems, is averaging nine points per game. For a team with defensive liabilities ad typically gets hammered on the boards, scoring is at a priority. But for whatever reason — talent, motivation, whatever — they can’t get the ball in the hoop enough.

The Michael Redd pickup seems like a good one, but the Shannon Brown experiment has been an utter failure. The team needed another shooter but what they got was some bench-clearing dunks. When he has the ball its usually a good time to get some popcorn.

The list of Phoenix Suns problems can go on and on (and even could delve into the rotations and motivations of Head Coach Alvin Gentry.) But since the team called a closed-door meeting earlier this week to work out any misunderstandings on the squad and in the locker room, lets just leave it at that. No matter what has been, there is still a lot of season left and one good run gets you right in it.

And so might a trade.

Bob Goodwood lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.
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