After four years of great winters (Mike D’Antoni and 57-win seasons) and lousy springs and summers (postseason and draft-day frustrations), Suns fans are ready to turn the page.
And swapping the D’Antoni brothers and Phil Weber for Terry Porter, Bill Cartwright and Igor Kokoskov isn’t going to be enough.
Joe Suns Fan envisions Luol Deng or Andre Iguodala in Phoenix, Rajon Rondo or Rudy Fernandez in purple or Kevin Garnett for Amaré Stoudemire. He looks at the holes in the championship blueprint and is determined not to let another draft day go by without being the team that gets an 'A’ from draft critics.
Keeping the 15th pick and adding a player who can immediately help the core? Not enough. Let’s roll them bones.
Trade Leandro Barbosa. Trade Boris Diaw. Move up. Get in the lottery. Add a pick. Make Thursday more than another 115-degree yawner.
It sure sounds fun. As a writer who’s had to sit through the last four drafts only to see the Suns keep a total of two players, I understand the frustration and feel the pain.
But I also saw Diaw at the small forward spot against the Spurs in the playoffs — a spot that might be wide open this year given Grant Hill’s past and present injury track record. And with Porter’s penchant for exploiting mismatches in the half-court, Diaw at the 3-spot offers a juicy temptation — not to mention a return of the triple-threat aspect of his game that makes his shortcomings palatable.
I think of Barbosa, who went from a smiling, happy-go-lucky player to downright sullen by the end of last season — caught in the middle of the D’Antoni-Steve Kerr tug-of-war — finally working with coaches who will teach, preach and demand defense.
I think of his speed and 6-foot-10 wingspan and wonder why he can’t guard Tony Parker or Chris Paul, why he can’t become a complete player, and how a team that says it still wants to run can do so after parting with Shawn Marion for Shaquille O’Neal, and a rumored deal of Barbosa for Jarrett Jack and Martell Webster.
The Suns are an old team. But Barbosa and Diaw are 25. Along with Stoudemire, they were expected to form the core of the next incarnation.
But the franchise that was once criticized for changing players too often is now seen as stale and sitting on its hands. Watching the Celtics go from 100-to-1 shots last June to champions 12 months later — beginning with a draft-day deal for Ray Allen — hasn’t helped.
As always, extenuating circumstances will rule.
The Suns can trade veteran — and in Diaw’s case, bloated — contracts for manageable rookie deals. They can position themselves better for making a splash once O’Neal’s mammoth deal — not to mention those of Steve Nash and Raja Bell — expires in 2010. They can still pay lip service to the “the window isn’t closed” theory since their starting five remains intact — even though two of the first three players off the bench could be rookies.
They can make you forget that they don’t have a first-round pick next year (Kurt Thomas? Ouch.)
If the Suns had a shot at Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, Jerryd Bayless or O.J. Mayo, that changes the game. But they will be picking off the second shelf, and even two picks won’t square those previous June mistakes.
They need to think long and hard before they leap.
THE WEEK IN REVIEW
To the Coyotes for bringing in a big, offensive-minded, No. 1 center in Olli Jokinen. They gave up a good young defenseman in Keith Ballard and one that was on waivers last year (the overpaid Nick Boynton) to complete a legitimate first line and trump the mammoth Pacific Division centers.
Jokinen’s career got off to a slow start — like Daniel Briere’s — but he exploded on offense over the last five seasons and became Florida’s captain. Kudos, Don Maloney.
Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi tried to prove his vast knowledge to a fan on Toronto radio by blasting Reds slugger Adam Dunn — slamming his passion and effort as much as his poor batting average. Dunn called Ricciardi a “clown,” and the moniker fits. Ricciardi apologized to Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty but Dunn waved it off. Ricciardi had to get pressure off himself, so he fired manager John Gibbons to pull Cito Gaston out of mothballs.
A month after vowing to give up gambling for a few years, Charles Barkley agreed to play in a celebrity poker tournament — a precursor to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas — with the proceeds benefiting African refugee relief. Come on, Chuck. If you are interested in helping these people, scratch them a check. This is like a shop-a-holic agreeing to a 30-minute spree through Tiffany’s – for charity, of course.
• At first glance, 216 wins, three 20-win seasons and no Cy Young Awards aren’t going to get you to Cooperstown.
But then chew on these numbers — an 11-2 record in 19 postseason starts, three championships and one 86-year curse slain — and the argument for Curt Schilling grows some teeth.
Bloody socks aside, his dominant 2001 postseason in Arizona (56 strikeouts in 48 innings, three complete games in six starts) showed him at his best.
• Mikkel Boedker has the gaudy junior stats, but don’t sleep on Viktor Tikhonov — who the Coyotes might have stolen after they pulled a deal with Anaheim to get the 28th pick. He’s the grandson of the legendary coach of the same name who piloted the Soviet machine to gold after gold in the Olympics — until 1980, of course — but this kid is California-bred and hockey-crazy. Let’s see who gets to the NHL first.
• Willie Randolph gave a first-person, blow-by-blow account of his final hours as Mets manager to the New York Daily News this weekend. It’s not a smart move if you hope to get hired again down the road, but I’m sure it was a cleansing experience. When John McLaren was fired by the Mariners a few days later, he joked to team president Chuck Armstrong, “We could have done this at 3 in the morning and done it right.”