Lockout could steal good basketball from the likes of Steve Nash and countless other stars

Could one of Steve Nash's final NBA seasons be lost to the lockout? (AP Photo/Bob Levey)

Could one of Steve Nash's final NBA seasons be lost to the lockout? (AP Photo/Bob Levey)

Even before the NBA lockout went official, players, fans and owners were lamenting who would be hurt most by a work stoppage. And you’re certain to catch an earful if you say it’s anyone other than the fans — the ones not making seven figures.

But fans and players are jointly affected if a season is lost by the shortening of numerous players’ primes. The fans miss seeing their favorite stars dazzle on the court while the players lose a season of high quality basketball, in some cases their best.

The situation hits home in particular for the Phoenix Suns, who have hitched their wagon to point guard Steve Nash year after year. No one’s faulted them for that because even in his late 30s Nash has been a productive, game-changing player. But with only so many years left, a lost season would steal away one of Nash’s final years to make magic on the hardwood.

Nash fits into a category of player whose career could be pushed toward its end by an extended lockout, one of four categories of player that will be truly affected by the lockout (no, Joel Anthony does not fit into one of these categories). Let’s take a look at each and see where the Suns stack up:

Aging stars

Obviously, this is the Nash category. The star who is past his true prime but still productive and skilled. Think guys 30 and older, in most cases.

The major players under this umbrella are Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. The debatables for this category? Tim Duncan, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd.

You could make cases for others and argue whether or not certain guys belong in the category or not, but these guys are ultimately declining stars who can’t afford to miss a season. That’s not to say these guys are washed up because they most certainly are not. Bryant averaged more than 25 points last year and Nowitzki took the Mavericks all the way.

The plain and simple of it with these guys is that they can work as hard as they want to stay in physical and competitive form, but if a season is lost they will come back one year further from their peak and that much closer to retirement. In Nash’s case, that fact is compounded by his battles with injuries over the past two seasons. With one or two truly productive seasons left, Nash can’t afford to lose one.

And while Grant Hill is not in this tier of star, he too would be affected in the same way. He’s still playing solid basketball, particularly on defense, and a lost season could be the end of his career.

Stars in their prime

This is the new guard of the NBA. The reigning elite in some stage of their primes. We’re talking LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. And on the fringe of true superstardom there’s Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Pau Gasol, Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Monta Ellis, Chris Bosh and Blake Griffin.

Again, you could argue another handful of guys belong in that discussion, but only in the latter of the two groups. The first set of guys? Those are franchise cornerstones and it is truly sad to think about losing any of those guys’ primes, whether you love them or hate them (ahem, LeBron James).

I won’t make the blogosphere mistake of comparing any of them to Michael Jordan, but think about the time he spent away from basketball wielding a baseball bat — we still talk about what could have been those years. This would be kind of like that. Is there anyone who isn’t bummed about the possibility of missing a year of Derrick Rose dunks, Blake Griffin super dunks or Wade to James alley-oops?

The Suns don’t have one of these guys, which is why they aren’t going to sniff the latter half of the postseason any time soon, if even the playoffs.

Rising stars

This category casts a pretty wide net, so I’ll limit the number of guys named but think along the lines of Wesley Matthews, James Harden and Nicolas Batum. These are guys, in a range of talent, who just got done playing the best basketball of their career and could face a year off. Right when these guys are starting to really make an impact in the NBA, they could be looking at significant downtime.

In the Suns’ case, this would be Jared Dudley and Channing Frye. Both players just got big contracts in Phoenix and proved they were worth it during the 2010-11 season. Now they’re not getting paid and might be losing a year of what can be a more limited prime.

Really, these players may be the ones hurt the most, particularly on the lower end of the talent range. Guys like Dudley and Frye will still be valuable after the lockout (assuming it ends…), but are being deprived of the opportunity to take an even greater leap in the NBA. Dudley and Frye are key pieces of the Suns’ young core and it has to be hard for Suns fans to think about having one of their potential best seasons go to waste.


This one is pretty obvious so we won’t get too deep. The guys who just got drafted (and really players still developing from last year’s draft) could lose a year off the front end of their career, which is certainly easier than losing one off the end like Nash but still a shame.

In Phoenix, Markeiff Morris looks to be the future at power forward and the Suns could lose a season of his development, further delaying their inevitable youth takeover. We’ll include Gani Lawal here, too, as he is positioned to become a legitimate contributor for the Suns, but not if the season never comes.

You may disagree with particular placement of certain players (looking at you, Lakers fans), or wonder where a host of other players fit in it all, but the ultimate point is this: NBA players could lose a season, which is not a a quantity that can be replenished, and NBA fans lose out on watching those players in their best seasons and final hurrahs.  And, on both counts, what a tragedy that would be.

Tags: Channing Frye Jared Dudley Lockout Markieff Morris Phoenix Suns Steve Nash

  • Tony

    Come on Tyler, Dudley and Frye are rising stars???? Stars in what league, the D-League? Frye and Dudley are both very solid role players, but that’s as far as it gets. How far has the talent level dropped for the Suns that now the Suns future is in the hands of those two.

  • sun also rises

    Tony, why the hell are you even still here? You spent the entire season insulting the writers on this site, kicking the team while they were down and made things so lousy with your fake accounts that we actually had to go back to modding the boards, lest you and your alternate personalities keep cussing out other bloggers.

    You are without a doubt the worst, most spazoid bandwagon fan I’ve ever seen in my internet travels, and I’ve seen some doozies. Maybe the only good thing about the lockout is that we don’t have to suffer through your tantrums and your Benedict Arnold act, but that’s probably too much to ask.

  • Tony

    Sun also rises, you are the absolute biggest homer fan I have ever come across online. I guess you drink from Sarver’s coolaid. Firstly dummy, I wasn’t criticizing the writer of this article. I was critiquing the fact that the rising stars for the Suns are in reality, role players.
    Finally, I have never pretended to be someone else on this site. Most Suns fans are perfectly aware of badly in shape the Suns organization is. You are in the minority. Thus, I have no need nor desire to impersonate anyone and your insults are ludicrous. Get a life!

  • Steve

    “Come on Tyler, Dudley and Frye are rising stars???? ”

    “I wasn’t criticizing the writer of this article.”

    I know Tyler doesn’t need me to stick up for him or anything, but you’re flat out lying if you think you weren’t criticizing him directly. You called him out by name. I don’t necessarily disagree with your point about Dudley and Frye, but don’t try to pretend everyone else on the internet is an idiot. We can read.

    And I would disagree that most Suns realize the bad shape we’re in. Every single poll that comes out, it seems like people agree with management’s decisions left and right (Aaron Brooks, anyone?). Suns fans are almost always overly optimistic. It has been that way for as long as I can remember.

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    I don’t think Lockman necessarily thinks that Dudley and Frye and “rising stars” in the same way Harden is so perhaps that category was mislabeled. Still, I think his point stands that they are players “who just got done playing the best basketball of their career and could face a year off. Right when these guys are starting to really make an impact in the NBA, they could be looking at significant downtime.” There’s no question that’s accurate as it pertains to Frye and Dudley. “Rising quality players” just doesn’t have the same ring, though…..

  • Steve H

    Um, just thought I’d say, “invaluable” means really valuable.

    • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

      Correction noted.

  • sun also rises

    It isn’t in tony’s interest to actually read the articles or try to understand them, since every comment will wind up being about Sarver or the magical appearance of some “new user” who posts at the exact same time as tony does and who supports all of his points while cussing out anybody who disagrees with him.

    I mean seriously, we are talking about a guy who spent MONTHS smearing the team and insulting everybody on this blog like a psychopath. I don’t put too much stock in his opinion even if he’s coming back here like that never happened (which is even creepier) or upped his dosage or whatever.

    But back to the point, anybody with half a brain and no schizo agenda could see what Tyler’s point is. He WRITES IT CLEARLY: players who had a great season and who might lose momentum while they’re locked out. Frye hit enough game winners and Dudley was solid enough to be compared to Harden and Batum, but of course it’s easier to overlook that and just make it sound like Tyler was making them out to be the next Jordan.

    Crazy stuff, crazy stuff. I mean I might be a “homer” but at least it makes sense for me to be on this page…

  • Mel.

    So… this is how we’re going to pass the time for the next few months?

    Sigh. Though there is a nice sort of consistency in these exchanges, admittedly.

    Anybody want to discuss Sarver’s beard? Or is that just baiting the mousetrap?

  • Tony

    Suns also Rises, you are a liar plain and simple. The only person I have consistently criticized is Sarver, and that is rightly so. ESPN recently ranked the owners of all four major professional sports and Sarver ranked in the bottom twenty. You are nothing but Sarver’s lackey loser! I have nothing else to say to you, as you are nothing but a liar. You don’t even have the guts to put your name with your posts. Keep on rooting for Sarver too, dummy.

    Steve, are you saying I cannot critique Tyler’s article without criticizing him? Do you not understand the concept of disagreeing? I agree with 95% of what Tyler wrote in his article, but I do disagree that Frye and Dudley are rising stars. These two are role players and the fact that the Suns organization would depend on them to be rising stars speaks to the lack of talent on the team.

  • Steve

    Saying “come on” and ending your sentence w/ multiple question marks is a bit more than a “critique.” You didn’t call anyone a dim-witted nincompoop, but much more than simple insults can be insulting. A simple disagreement would read,”Tyler, I really don’t see Frye and Dudley as rising stars. I see them more as flaming cow dung hurling its putrid waste all over usairways center.” Even with that over-the-top language, I still didn’t insult Tyler. I addressed his point and offered a rebuttal. You began your statement by basically questioning his sanity (regardless of whether or not you meant it that way, that’s the way it reads).

  • sun also rises

    I may think that you’re a dope Tony, but I won’t say a bad word about your grip on irony and consistency.



    Same old crap, over and over and over again. We’re all homers, Sarver is the anti-christ, the team is trash. You practically repeat yourself word for word, including the “threats” to stop replying to posters like me and Steve. It’s fin and all but let’s not pretend for a second that you have enough self control or sanity to actually restrain yourself from falling into the same ruts again and again.

    And seriously, commenting on a screen name as being an indicator of manhood? I was laughing out loud at that one. I’d ask if you were eleven years old, but that would actually make a lot of sense. :-D

  • Do

    Wow, first time on the board and I can see Suns fans have some serious inferiority complexes. Is this friendly banter or has the distress of the Suns organization simply rolled over to its fans?

    Back to the article, I’d hate to see Nash lose any significant amount of playing time in his twilight years. I’m a Nash fan no matter what team he’s playing on, but no playing time at all due to the lockout could jeopardize his very last chances to win it all, or at least add on to the last vestiges of his All-Star career.

  • Tony


    Adding the extra question mark and saying “come on…,” were merely for emphasis of my point. It had nothing to do with Tyler! Why is it so difficult for you to comprehend critiquing someone’s opinion versus insulting them? An insult would have included something about Tyler’s overall quality of work, of which I have problem and enjoy his pieces. I simply distress with his one point.

  • Tony

    Do, if you are not an absolute homer fan and worship Sarver, the likes of Sun Rises has to resort to personal attacks. If you gosh for bide have the nerve to criticize the Suns organization, Rises feels compelled to resort to childish antics.

  • Steve

    Fair enough. We can leave it at that. It’s just semantics, I guess.

  • sun also rises

    Lol at the “silent treatment” lasting less than two hours. But I guess typing about somebody in the third person isn’t “directly addressing” them. Consistent in your inconsistency as always, Tony.

    And Do, I would say it’s just banter. As Tony has demonstrated here, he has a borderline psychotic obsession with Robert Sarver that causes him to turn every topic into a sermon. It doesn’t matter if the discussion is related to management or not. The funny thing is that no regular (or sane) visitor to this board has ever defended Sarver or his lousy track record, but Tony somehow has to believe that anybody who doesn’t share his creepy stalker fixation on the guy is “drinking cool(sic)-aid” and “a homer” and whatever else. Like the links I posted show, this is his cheesy gimmick and he’s been doing it for months and months.

    But there’s also intelligent convos to be had, thanks to the fact that our blogger crew takes part in our chats. Guys like Mel, Steve and Rich/KJL keep it going and are always good for a “bench talk”.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    KJL Shout-outs are always welcome here in the valley.

    Far as Tony goes, it’s best to let him E-vent by himself without much irritation. Personally, I think he parties with the ghost of Richard Dumas.