As many of you know, I co-hosted my first ever Phoenix Suns chat on ESPN.com Wednesday afternoon. Suffice it say, I was a little excited about that.
But unlike the chats I’ve hosted on ValleyoftheSuns in the past, we had tons of extra questions I didn’t get to, so that means it’s time to roll out our first ever ValleyoftheSuns mailbag.
As always (or since now), these are real questions from real readers.
Q: Where will the rebounds come from? Or will they? – JJ
MS: It will be all about gang rebounding and rebounding as a team. That Amare guy better average double-figure boards for the first time in his career and guards like J-Rich need to do a better job on the glass.
Q: Where can the Suns really go this year? At least some teams know they are rebuilding, and others know they want to compete for championships. Is there a five-year plan or are they just going to wing it and hope to put up enough points to bring people to the games? – Adam
MS: Honestly, it kinds of feels like your latter answer is correct. The Suns are going through a partial rebuilding plan that involved extending their 37-year-old small forward and 35-year-old point guard, while going with you everywhere else on the roster. Nash will be around for another three years and Hill two more if he takes his option, but nobody on the roster besides the 28-year-old J-Rich is older than 26. I kind of feel like this team is floating between giving it one more shot in the Nash Era and rebuilding. I fear that means they will continue to be a just above average team the next few years. So no, I don’t exactly see a long-term vision, especially if they don’t bring back Amare.
Q: What should I do with Amare? – Steve Kerr
MS: As Jerry Maguire would say, “Show me the money!” The Suns need to re-sign Amare, and that probably will involve a max deal. LeBron and Wade aren’t coming here, so if Amare leads the Suns will be left without a young superstar for who knows how long. I understand the reasons against re-signing him –- injury concerns, defense/rebounding concerns — but I’d much rather go to war with Sun Tzu as one of my generals than any other player the Suns could replace him with.
Q: What are the chances Dan Dickau will be with the team the whole year? – Joe Schreiner
MS: The same chance that you or I will be with the team this year.
Q: Give me a new contract ASAP. – Greg
MS: I can only assume Greg is referring to this. The Suns’ marketing team is going to long lengths to score an additional sixth man for the upcoming season. I put in my details, and the resulting video that came up was pretty damn cool. Even if you already own Suns tickets or don’t plan on buying them anytime soon, I highly recommend playing the video to its conclusion.
Q: Is Ben Wallace really that bad that it wasn’t worth at least giving him a shot in the Suns’ running game? – Dan
MS: He is bad enough that it wasn’t worth it when they could recoup $8 million in salary and luxury tax savings from his buyout. With his rebounding skills having vastly deteriorated from his Big Ben prime, he couldn’t be a worse fit in this team’s half-court offense.
Q: Do you see Robin Lopez making any contribution this year, despite playing in the up-tempo offense? – Pvanoflen
MS: I think he will be great in the up-tempo offense. The question is if he will recover from this foot injury. Look at a guy like Ilgauskas in Cleveland. It seems like he’s had foot problems his whole career. I asked Gentry that question and he basically brushed it aside by saying Robin is more of an athletic big than a bruiser, but the fact remains that he’s 7 feet tall and just had foot surgery. That’s not a good combo, and we really won’t know how well he recovers until we have the benefit of hindsight at the end of the year. If he’s healthy, I think he will make a big contribution this year. This team craves his shot blocking and (theoretically) rebounding skills, as well as his lateral quickness in pick-and-roll defense. On offense, he will only be needed to set picks, rebound and catch the occasional pass for a dunk.
Q: How will Stoudemire and Frye hold up in the paint together? – Daniel
MS: About as well as you would expect them to. This could get ugly, and that’s why Lopez’s return to health/improvement from last season is a major key to this season.
Q: I stole Steve’s show idea and left town to go win a championship! Why do people like me if I’m just a loud mouth backstabber who rides the coattails of young superstars? – Shaquille O’Neal
MS: It’s all marketing, baby!
Q: I hear a lot of people talk about how the loss of Shaq will benefit the team because his style of play didn’t gel with the team, but to me, no matter how you look at it, he’s still a better center than Robin Lopez or Channing Frye. Do you really think they’ll be a better team this season? – Jeremy
MS: Time to throw out a cliché: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Last year, the sum of the Suns was less than the sum of their parts. This year, it looks like the whole will be greater than the sum of their parts. With Shaq, you were forcing a square peg in a round hole. With Channing and Robin, all the pieces fit, and this team will be able to do what it does best (run) without a Big Cactus slowing them down. And we know Robin or Channing would never steal an idea for Nash’s TV show.
Q: Am I WAY too good of a person? Shouldn’t I have pulled a Karl Malone, Gary Payton, or (add player here) and signed with a winning team so I could win a title? Doesn’t my presence simply put this team in limbo? – Steve Nash
MS: It does, but there’s something honorable about that. You are happy in Phoenix, you like your teammates and you like the system, so why try to chase a cheap ring like Payton or Malone? I’ve always felt a ring won by an over-the-hill former superstar (not that you are over the hill yet by any stretch) with a team on which he rides coattails really cheapens that championship experience. Good for you, Steve, for trying to win that ring where it would really mean something, even if your presence does put the Suns in limbo a bit as a young team starting yourself and Grant Hill.
Q: With Shaq gone, who will be the most interesting Tweeter? – Gizzman
Q: Are you buying the Suns’ new approach to defense? – Josh
MS: I’ll buy it when I see it. We hear those kinds of things every year. The Suns will never be great defensively, but they should be improved in the pick-and-roll game (couldn’t be much worse than last year), and I believe their overall defensive effort will be better.
Q: Is there anything else I could do to get me fired? What kind of incriminating pictures of Sarver could I possibly own? I’m thinking of trading Amar’e for cap relief and a 2014 2nd rounder, apparently there are some good Europeans I might be able to pay 1st round money for coming out that year. – Steve Kerr
Q: How do you feel Steve Kerr has done since he has taken the reins? Is he untouchable under Sarver? – Preston
MS: I got a variation of this question a lot, and I hesitated to answer it in the rapid fire chat session. Kerr has gotten a bad rap, but really he was put in a terrible situation. He was taking over a team that was a title contender for three years with an owner forcing him to cut costs and an aging core. There was nowhere to go but down. You can’t blame the Kurt Thomas trade on him because that wasn’t a basketball deal, and they haven’t had the money to make a bigger splash in free agency than they have (I do love the Frye pickup, though). The one mistake he made was a Big one. To me the Shaq deal was kind of like being D-backs slugger Mark Reynolds in an 0-2 count in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and a runner at first in a one-run game against a closer with a wicked slider. He’s going to take a mighty hack, he might connect and win the game for you, but odds are he’s striking out swinging. Kerr took this same swing, after which he said history would judge him as a genius or a moron for making this deal. Yes, he looks like a moron right now, but the Suns felt they couldn’t win the way they were trying to do so (which is a shame and interesting because that’s how they’re trying to win this year). The Shaq trade was an epic failure, but the Suns’ demise may have occurred even if that deal was never consummated. As for his other moves, I like the J-Rich trade and think the jury is still out on that move until the end of this year (we didn’t know Amare would go down and that Diaw would be so handy, and also I love getting a potential great role player for the next decade in Dudley), and while it’s unfortunate the Suns couldn’t get more out of the Cavs for Shaq, he had to be dumped, and it was nice just to get that salary relief to keep the rest of the team intact. I think the Clark pick was brilliant, and we haven’t gotten enough time to judge Lopez and Dragic despite underwhelming rookie years. So no, Kerr’s not untouchable, and yes, he has certainly disappointed as GM. But I think the jury is still out on whether he’s as bad of a GM as everyone seems to think he is.
Q: Schwartz, it seems someone from the starting five you mentioned is going to get lost in the mix. Does a guy like Richardson need to step up to be an “it” factor? I don’t see the starting five succeeding without everyone having an integral role. – Zach
MS: I totally agree. J-Rich needs to average at least 20 ppg, which he was done three times in his career. He is made for this offense, he’s comfortable with this team now, and there’s no reason he can’t have an incredible season.
Q: You know how we do it Phoenix fans. Get up and celebrate the Suns and oh yeah baby..WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS! – Diana Taurasi
MS: Is she available for the backup point guard role? I really did ponder the theoretical question of whether a WNBA MVP like Taurasi could help an NBA team. Would she be a sixth woman? A rotation player? A cheerleader at the end of the bench? It’s possible, but at the risk of sounding sexist I just don’t think even the best of the WNBA (which Taurasi is) would be able to handle the physicality of the NBA game. Plus, the Suns already have one player on the roster with a DUI in the last year ……
Q: Jack McCallum said that Gentry was one of the loosest coaches on the team and had a great sense of humor. You think that will resonate well with the players and will he have it in him to discipline them when things get tough or will he pass that job to Bill Cartwright? – Jim
MS: I think he does. He is a players’ coach and runs that free-wheeling offense, but he’s not afraid to crack the whip. He was fairly hard on the team in training camp (not Larry Brown hard, but still), and I don’t see him having any issues getting on players when it’s deserved. He has such a good relationship with many of the players that I believe this will be easier than it was for a guy like Porter, whom many of the players did not know and thus did not trust as much as they do a longtime assistant like Gentry.
Q: Isn’t this team similar to the 04-05 team in that most fans had zero expectations after the Marbury trade and Johnson firing, and then they rattled off a 31-4 record? Does this team have the same moxie as that one to take the league by surprise or are Nash and Hill too old and the run n’ gun too prevalent league-wide? – Jim
MS: They won’t start off 31-4 with that schedule, but they just might have similar moxie. Suns senior VP of basketball ops David Griffin sees a lot of parallels between the two teams, including the fact that they both had a long summer to get ready for the next year after missing the playoffs, and both squads returned to town for scrimmages much earlier than most NBA teams do. There seems to be that special chemistry, that special spark enjoyed by the 04-05 team. No, the Suns won’t be able to take the league by storm like the 04-05 team did by blitzkrieging the opposition since a few other teams play their style now, but we could be in for a similar “nobody believes in us” type season. The pieces are honestly there.
Q: Since Sarver owns a bank, does he have access to Fed bailout funds and if so, can we expect a financial bailout for the Suns? – Kaiser Soze
MS: Almost there …..
Q: You think Donald Sterling would notice if the Suns switched (Griffin) brothers on opening day? Or Mike Dunleavy for that matter? Baron Davis and Nash are friends … he’d look the other way. – Jim
A: Getting closer ….
Q: Couldn’t Gentry be a great spokesman for Viagra? “We need to get back to getting up in seven seconds or less.” – Andrew
MS: Yup, these are my readers