Pro and Con: Do the Suns have a chance?

With new coach Alvin Gentry’s promising a return to the Suns’ old style of play, does Phoenix have a shot in the West?

Published On:
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
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Pro:

Call the FBI. Former Suns coach Terry Porter is on the run, and he is wanted for identity theft.

Lesson learned: Don’t hitch a trailer to a Ferrari.

New coach Alvin Gentry is here, and he may return Planet Orange to basketball utopia.

He will unchain Steve Nash from the shackles of half-court dogma and let the Suns run wild once more.

The 7-seconds-or-less rule is back, folks. With it will come a deep playoff run.

Sure, it will take time. Just like a great band re-uniting, the chords and cohesion will have to be tinkered with. When it is synched, this Suns team will have a chance to advance into June.

Preposterous, you say?

Here is the Suns Western Conference Championship blueprint.

With All-Star-caliber players at four starting positions and a solid blend of role players (Grant Hill, Louis Amundson, Matt Barnes, Robin Lopez), this team is more talented than any in the Mike D’Antoni era.

When properly utilized and managed under Gentry, the Suns will rediscover the ideal balance of fast-paced transition shots and low-post lobs to the plodding giant Shaq.

With the return to ball-screens for Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire will be in “love me some me” paradise.

When the confidence blossoms, the aspirations will follow. The team is perfectly seasoned with players frustrated from past playoff failures and ready to launch themselves at a Final(s) opportunity.

Most importantly, I have discovered a passage through the Kobe-Duncan Strait.

If the Suns can jump over Dallas and Utah into the seventh seed, they could potentially navigate their way through the playoffs without facing the Lakers or Spurs.

There would be only two things outside of the Suns’ control that would be necessary for this to occur. First, Denver would have to slightly improve its pace and finish with the second seed. Secondly, the Spurs would have to slightly decrease their win pace and fall to the third.

Phoenix could force the Nuggets to play up-tempo and beat them at their own game.

The Spurs in this scenario would face the Rockets. They would have to lose to Houston, which is a plausible scenario if the Rockets are healthy.

Yao Ming could negate Tim Duncan, and Ron Artest and Shane Battier could control the penetration of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli while the Rockets guards could flourish.

The Lakers would win a hard-fought series against a healthy Utah Jazz in the first round and would face the fourth-seeded New Orleans Hornets in the second round.

Here is the stretch. While the Hornets are one of the few teams to have emerged from the Staples Center victoriously this season, they just recently traded defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox.

Not a good deal.

Still, Chris Paul is unguardable, and if the Hornets make shots, they can defeat L.A.

If all else fails, just start needling your Duncan voodoo doll again. That has to work at some point.

Reach the reporter at nick.ruland@asu.edu.

Con:

I’m a young guy.

It’s because of this youth, and perhaps short memory, that I feel that it’s somewhat easy to say that Suns General Manager Steve Kerr is quite possibly one of the worst general managers in NBA history.

It’s hard to think of a worse one. And it didn’t take much research, either.

All I had to do was look at the Phoenix Suns of present day and compare them to the Western Conference-contending Suns of not so long ago.

Suns fan should recall June 2, 2007, as the darkest day of the decade for this Phoenix franchise. That’s the day Kerr officially left his job as an analyst for TNT (something he was good at) and took the first front-office position of his career.

Hell of a place to start, Mr. Kerr.

Since Kerr upgraded from press row seats to the owner’s box, he’s done nothing but hurt the franchise. Bit by bit, he’s dismantled the run and anchored the Suns to the floor, taking with him the pride of a city.

In fact, just about the only thing he’s done right was correct the mistake he made when he hired Terry Porter, a coach whose main philosophy centered around the center, Shaquille O’Neal.

And now it seems that maybe we’re supposed to believe that Porter’s departure signals the return of the “run-and-gun” style that Phoenix so brilliantly orchestrated in its glory days not much more than a year ago.

The fact is, while you can sometimes run with a five, you certainly can’t sprint with one. And frankly, Shaq does more jogging than running anyway. How this anchor will somehow fit into the new “old” style of offense that Suns interim coach Alvin Gentry plans on reimplementing is beyond me.

Even the Lakers ran better without their star center, Andrew Bynum. It’s not a math class folks; it’s simply gym. The big guys just don’t run the fastest laps.

And the Suns need to sprint, not run.

It gets worse. Sensing the lack of speed, Kerr decided it was time for yet another brilliant change. Enter Jason Richardson and second-year forward Jared Dudley (who?).

Richardson is a decent shooter, helping Phoenix with his 15.6 points per game (although under his career average). The philosophy was simple yet once again, incorrect.

Spread the ball out more, playing into the half-court style that Kerr loves so adoringly.

With more players to guard (Amar’e Stoudemire, Steve Nash and Richardson), teams would have to play a man defense, supposedly leaving Shaq open inside.

The problem is, Phoenix gave up too much. Raja Bell and Boris Diaw (as well as Sean Singletary) were instrumental in implementing the run, but more importantly, in defending opposing teams’ transition against the run.

That was, in many ways, their purpose. With running comes a different kind of transitional defense. The Suns lost that defense, as well as a net loss of almost 25 minutes per game in the exchange.

Now the Suns want to return to the run-and-gun? What an identity crisis!

Was this a slam-dunk or a turnover? Let Josh know at joshua.spivack@asu.edu.