So the Knicks miss out on Grant Hill, and I profoundly do not really give a care- he’d have been using up minutes which younger players can use, and the chances of him being on the next good Knicks team were nil. Donnie Walsh may have a point about wanting veteran/character-based leadership for the team in the lockeroom, but Hill’s not the only non-asshole old guy out there.
The weird part of this is the idea that he resigned in Phoenix because- they’re extending Steve Nash? What? This is a team which sold off Shaq for nothing, reportedly has a deal in place to get rid of Amare Stoudemire, are cost-cutting all over the place and have been for years, and yet they want to bring back a 37 year old Grant Hill and extend a 35 year old Steve Nash for reportedly $11 million a year for 3 years, all while denuding the team of the weapons he needs to be most effective? It’s possible I’m deeply ignorant here, but if you’re trying to rebuild, why not just exercise your team option on Nash for this year and then trade him, similar to the Boozer situation in Utah (though that was a player option)? If you were going to keep Nash, why not keep/try to get a team around him that might have competed? The only way this reads as logical to me is if they somehow think this is a sop to their fans- “yeah the team sucks and we disassembled two contenders for financial reasons, but at least Steve is still here!” And that doesn’t even cover why Nash wanted this deal when he could have entered the free agent market next year as the best player available at one of the most crucial positions and had his pick of contenders to play for at a still-excellent salary. Maybe it was all about the money to him; maybe he expects next year’s cap to be as bad or even worse than rumored.
Whatever the reason, he appears to have locked himself into the NBA’s haunted house, a team possessed by the spirits of past contenders who died unjustly.
Oh c’mon now, this is reaching a really ridiculous level of trades so far. Quick write up with a lot of PER shorthand, it’s been a long day and I’m tired:
– Jason Richardson ($12 million and change this year, 13 and change next, 14.5 in his final year in 2010/2011)
– Jared Dudley Do-Right (rookie deal for $1.5 m through 2009/2010, team option and qualifying offer subsequently)
– 2010 2nd rounder.
– The satisfaction of indulging their panic.
– Boris Diaw ($9 m a season through 2011/2012)
-Raja Bell ($5 m a season through 2009/2010)
– Sean Singletary (half mil, one year)
– A new crop of players for Larry Brown to despise and later trade for pennies on the dollar.
I’m getting to this one late enough to note that the conventional wisdom has this as an enormous win for the Suns. Hollinger hits all the bases on that analysis, so I’ll just chip in a few other thoughts:
– Charlotte is witnessing the issue of what happens when weak executives who are facing the axe and know it are allowed to hang around. Michael Jordan is failing with his second team and has become, probably for the first time in his entire life, a punchline within the sport. Larry Brown has been failing downwards since he left the Pistons on bad terms, suffering a humiliating stint in New York and now being reduced to first begging for a job and being largely passed over, then desperately lunging for a gig at a team which is well on its way to being Grizzlies East. Both men, Brown especially, seem to one degree or another desperate to “win” “now” which often leads to all sorts of bad decisions including wild trade rumors, overvaluing of Veteran Presence even when it’s attached to role-player talent, future cap-screwing deals like the one for Nazr Mohammed last year, unfortunate draft picks like Adam Morrison, and a general sense of flop-sweat desperation around the team. The Knicks used to be a classic example of this around the time Zeke was trading for Zach Randolph, and it’s taken the hiring of a strong executive with a mandate to build for the future to break the cycle of desperately trying to take one more shortcut to victory. Will Charlotte ever get that kind of executive? Unfortunately probably not until Larry’s made another trade or three on his way to a 30-52 season.
– The Suns are currently 22nd in the L in defense, with a 106.0 DEff. That’s probably not going to go up. Richardson better have his shooting boots packed.
-Using PER as a simple shorthand, Raja Bell is in the midst of declining for the third straight year down to 9.27 currently where 15 is average. He’s 32. No Buys. If you’ve watched him in the last year or so you can tell his athleticism is waning and his defense with it, and while he’s a good enough shooter to retain value as a spot up guy and he’s certainly not a BAD defender, he’s basically a useful spare part at this point and not a serious building block.
– To define “building block” by the way, let’s say, again using PER as shorthand, a guy in the top 6 of his team. Richardson was 2nd on the Cats, Dudley was 7th though had played three times the minutes of one of the guys above him (Shannon Brown). Diaw was 8th and Bell 11th on the Suns, with only one low-minutes fluke above them (Louis Amundson). That’s some nice trading work, Larry.
– If this trade is going to work at all for the Cats, Diaw’s going to have to wrap his head around the idea of being an important player for the first time in a long time. With the exception of the year Amare Stoudemire’s knee went kerblooie and Diaw stepped in with a 17.31 PER, he’s been infamous around the league for ghosting through games and seasons barely tapping into the talent he possesses. Rarely, among that sort of player, he’s not lazy at all; he’s just unselfish to the point of actually hurting his team as he won’t assert himself on offense. He’s only 26 and I imagine Larry Brown is talking himself into the idea that he’ll be the coach to finally get Diaw to play with an aggression which would make him dangerous given his combination of passing skill, touch, quickness, etc., and maybe Larry will be right (although I wouldn’t bet on it). He’d better be, because if Diaw won’t contribute the Cats are another injury to Gerald Wallace away from being unwatchable.
Overall I’d say it’s a mild win for the Suns which tells us things we already knew: Phoenix is desperate to shake things up and will fire every shell they can at this situation to win now (that bit about desperate executives could fit Kerr in some respects), while the Bobcats are getting the Larry Brown treatment with all its warts; whether its virtues will appear as well remains to be seen. One other mild positive for Phoenix which I will note: the chances are very high that this will not work out in the sense of making them a contender this year. Assume it doesn’t; they’ll enter next year with Shaq, Nash, and Stoudemire all in their probable final years if Amare decides to test the waters and declines his player option. They’ll have Richardson, Barbosa and Robin Lopez in place as useful young building blocks with a lot of options on how they could entice Stoudemire to stay on, as without taking him into consideration a quick calculation suggests they’ll have only about $23 million committed in 2011, I’d say the little bit of salary flexibility they give up in this deal post-2010 is easily worth securing the best player in the deal, especially when he’s only 27.
Found in the comments of a Truehoop post, from “pwn4suns”:
‘”Apparently you don’t actually watch Suns game. I do, although it’s becoming increasingly unwatchable and intolerable and I’m about done after years and years of watching every single game.”
I really feel for Suns fans, at the moment. There’s few things that can suck worse for a fan than to watch the slow dissolution of a team which could have, should have, nearly did win a title, but ultimately never quite closed the deal. Knicks fans have obviously been through it at the end of the Ewing years (twice really, with the end of the Oakley-Starks-Mason Riley version and then the LJ-Houston-Spree Van Gundy version), and Nets fans have been through a form of it with the two finals teams which couldn’t make it all the way. Suns fans have it, in some ways, even rougher; the Knicks have two titles in team history, the Nets have their ABA glory and were so desperate at the time that fans focused more on what they suddenly had than on what they missed out on, but the Suns have always been solid and have been thisclose to a title before in ’93, but once again, missed out. And the way this current team build is fading is particularly ugly. The Knicks at least went out with a bang of sorts with the lockout year finals run; the Suns are watching their team die slowly while becoming a disjointed parody of what they once represented, an ugly team which shows more fight in the press than on the court and whose personality clashes over the last couple of seasons have been Kremlinological book fodder. People used to care most about Steve Nash winning MVPs; now they wonder who Shaq’s talking about in his twitter updates.
And still they won’t quite go away, yet. As ugly as last year’s Heat were, that season at least had the virtue of putting a clear endpoint to the Heat’s contending days with that build; this year’s Suns by contrast are probably, for all their issues, a low level playoff team. A 7 or 8 seed. An also-ran. And if they go out in 6 or 7 games to the Lakers or Spurs, can’t you just see Steve Kerr trying desperately to reload for just one more year? Isn’t he almost forced to by the additional year of Shaq’s contract? And yet, is there any way this kind of aging, badly designed team could possibly be any better next year than this? Fact is they’re probably stuck in this kind of half-life, the white dwarf of a burnt-out aging contender, unless they can find a sucker to take some of their big bad veteran contracts off their hands…and who would be dumb enough to do that….
My condolances, Suns fans. It’s going to be a few more years before you can really start to rebuild. Good luck.
Well, I’m an idiot. I wrote a bunch of bullet points during the third and early fourth quarters, before the Nets became AWESOME CONQUERORS. Somehow, I failed to anticipate them following an 18 point quarter with a 43 point quarter. Here are those, rest of the thoughts to follow:
– Shaq looked moderately better tonight than he did against the Heat, but the only real reason for the difference was Steve Nash, who unlike apparently everyone else on the Suns roster can throw a decent entry pass. The Nets defended the big man the same way the Heat did, largely fronting him with Brook Lopez. They did send double teams much more quickly than the Heat did because Shaq was getting more touches in decent positions.
– Bobby Simmons was covered for large chunks of time by Steve Nash, which is a PG renowned for bad defense trying to guard a big small forward. Simmons’ final line: 24 MP, 2-8, 1-5 from 3. 5 points. I believe he only posted Nash up once or twice, which is not a good sign; neither is that Lawrence Frank was the one to move away from the mismatch, pulling Simmons for Jarvis Hayes.
– Yi Jianlian vs. Ryan Anderson is an interesting contrast to watch on the court. If you want to understand the term “basketball IQ”, and why it can’t really be taught, watch this pair for a game or two. Anderson has good anticipation and is a pesky, ball-slapping defender without gambling excessively. He moves well on the court especially without the ball, sensing where to be in order to give the ball the option to move to him, and his athleticism is good enough for his shot to make him a threat. Yi, meanwhile…well, some men you just can’t reach. There was a stretch of this game in the first half when, in a span of 4 minutes, he managed to botch two handoffs, wildly overpersue several non-shooters on the perimeter and collide with his own man trying to defend a screen/roll. All night he would ball watch and pay no attention to his man when his man was moving without the rock, and that man was AMARE STOUDEMIRE. This led to several colossal dunks, as did Yi’s habit of alternating between charging the man and getting blown past on the dribble, and laying 6 feet off and watching an easy jumper go it. Oh, and on one play in the 4th quarter he misjudged a screen/roll so badly that he, zealously closing down the man setting the pick, was whistled for a foul when he wildly swung his hands into the ball carrier who he was totally oblivious to. I recognize Stoudemire is as hard a man to guard as there is in the league, but this was still tragic stuff. He’s twice the athlete Anderson is and almost as good a shooter, but he’s just not got an intuitive understanding of the game.
– It’s also worth noting that Anderson had a crappy shooting night (4-10, 04 from 3), but never let that effect the effort he put out in other aspects of the game. That sounds like a little thing, but for a lot of guys and most rookies it’s rare. Brook Lopez has been the same way.
– Lopez twins guarding each other: high comedy. They were going at each other in the exact manner you would imagine they did as kids in the driveway, with about twice as much energy and thrashing about as the standard cagey, coiled-spring NBA matchup. These two desperately trying to dunk on each other was the easy highpoint of the game.
The real story of the night ended up being Devin Harris, however. 47 points in 41 minutes, 14/25 from the field, 17/17 from the line, 2/3 from beyond the arc, 7 boards, 8 assists, only 4 turnovers, and he ended his post-game interview with “Thundercats, hoooooo!” This is a great, great man. He’s totally come into his own this year, putting up a PER of 26 and change over a previous career high of 17ish, and a huge part of that is a TS% of 60.2% over two previous years at just about 57. He still has excellent quickness and ability to draw contact, but he’s also got far more confidence in his jumper which makes him truly deadly. Throw in that he’s slashed his turnover rate while using far more possessions than ever before and you have a guy whose individual play is suddenly at an elite level. When you take those numbers in the context of the way he’s made the Nets his team, and the way he carries them in games like this, and you start to realize that he’s in the process of making the leap from good sideman to potential franchise player. If this is truly his new performance level, he’s probably one of the 5 best points in the league.
Oh, and he’s signed for a good contract for the next 4 seasons after this one. And the Mavs still owe the Nets an unprotected first from the deal which brought him to town. And the Nets, in their rebuilding year, are above .500 (for the moment). Not. Too Shabby.