No regrets on Amare, why Steve Nash may have spoken up now, and the end of Aaron Brooks’ season in China

Posted by on March 31st, 10:08 am

The Suns appear to have made the right call on Amare Stoudemire, but did their allegedly tepid attempt to sign Boris Diaw upset Nash?

The Suns appear to have made the right call on Amare Stoudemire, but did their allegedly tepid attempt to sign Boris Diaw upset Nash?

There is no question the Phoenix Suns botched the Summer of 2010 after Amare Stoudemire decided to take his talents to the Big Apple.

However, it is looking more and more like Phoenix made the right call offering only three guaranteed years whereas New York was willing to give him the full five on a max contract.

Stoudemire, of course, has a bulging disk in his back that will keep him out for at least 2-for-4 weeks, but as Suns fans know from Robin Lopez, back injuries can be tricky and some have speculated that Stoudemire’s career could be in jeopardy — or at least his career as a maximum dollar player.

The Suns’ medical staff is as good as any in the league and they had spent enough time with Amare to have a pretty good feel for where his body was at. It surely seems like a telling sign to me that they did not find it prudent to give Stoudemire more than three guaranteed years coming off his age 27 season while a pair of players a decade older have continued to thrive in the desert.

Even before this back injury Stoudemire did not exactly resemble the beast he was with Phoenix this season in averaging just 17.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game and looking considerably less bouncy than he did as a Sun. This apparent erosion of athleticism on its own helps make a strong case that the Suns got this one right.

Arizona Sports’ Adam Green makes the counter argument by noting that by not re-signing Amare, the Suns “did not do everything they could to bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy to the desert.”

With Stoudemire they could have returned the majority of the core of a team that was two wins away from the Finals; without him they were a fringe lottery team, which they appear to be this season as well as they sit on the playoff bubble even after this monster post-ASB run.

However, in the days before the amnesty clause was added to our vocabulary (side note: how do you think the Knicks feel about using their amnesty on Chauncey Billups right about now?), it just did not make sense to potentially mortgage the next half decade for a slim chance at a title.

Plus, would the Suns have been a legitimate contender with 25 and eight Amare last season instead of Turkoglu (and thus Gortat), Childress and Warrick? That is a playoff team for certain but not a squad on the precipice of a championship.

With that being the case, to me all along the question the Suns needed to ask themselves is if Amare was the guy they felt comfortable featuring as their star for the next half decade. Is this the guy that can lead you to a championship? If the answer is yes, you open the vault; otherwise, it just did not make sense to beat New York’s offer.

Clearly we know how Phoenix answered that question, and that is why I felt it was the right move at the time.

It was a very risky call for the Suns because losing Amare dropped them a few rungs in the West, and they have yet to replace his superstar presence.

Yet possessing cap space and the opportunity that provides is a much better situation to be in than having an injured former star clogging your cap, as nothing kills an NBA team’s chances of competing faster than paying max dollars to a player not providing max production, and that’s even more true under the new CBA. By their actions the Suns did not feel STAT was the right star to snatch the torch from Nash as the Suns’ best player, and based on this season they appear to be right.

Now if only they could find a new stud to build around this summer or next with all the money that is not tied up in an Amare deal they will really come out looking good in the aftermath of the disappointing Summer of 2010.

Why Nash threw down the gauntlet on Thursday?

It is not altogether surprising that Steve Nash will only return to the Suns next season if they improve their roster, but after a season of repeating time after time that he was only focused on the task at hand, it seemed a bit strange for Nash to make that proclamation on Thursday.

Although Lon Babby denies it, the New York Post’s Peter Vecsey may have the answer as to why Nash spoke up now.

Vecsey talked to an unnamed source close to Nash who said Two Time “was pushed over the edge by management’s alleged apathetic pursuit of free agent Boris Diaw.”

Vecsey went on to write that Nash really wanted to team up with Diaw and “vigorously” recruited him.

A Vecsey source familiar with the Suns, however, “asserted Lon Babby was against revisiting the past.”

Babby emailed Vecsey to say the Suns wanted Diaw but were told he wanted to play for the Spurs, while the Vecsey source said, “He did not want to be where he was unwanted (by the front office).”

I do not personally know how the front office felt about Diaw, but I was certainly caught off guard by Nash’s comments leading ESPN.com on Thursday afternoon.

Nash kept such a low profile while deflecting question after question about his future throughout trade season and the All-Star break, continuing to say his entire energy was focused on the season, that I am very surprised he would open up this can of worms with a month left in the season and with the Suns in the midst of a playoff push.

It may have been simply a case of Nash innocently answering a direct question posed to him by Dan Patrick, but the timing of this proclamation does seem strange.

Aaron Brooks’ season over in China, what now?

With the Phoenix Suns preparing for their final month of NBA action, Aaron Brooks’ season in China has finally ended.

Brooks’ Guangdong squad lost to former Suns guard Stephon Marbury’s Beijing team 4-1 in the championship round of the CBA after sweeping Fujian and Xinjiang 3-0 in each of the first two rounds. Marbury poured in 41 in the deciding game while AB went for 33-4-5. For the season Brooks averaged 22.3 points and 4.8 assists per game.

Now it is appropriate to ask, “What happens next with the Suns and Brooks?”

Suns GM Lance Blanks traveled to China this past week to visit with Brooks and had this to say to Suns.com before his departure.

“It’s never been a question of talent with Aaron at the NBA level. The trip is more about a relationship that we have with someone who has worn a Suns’ uniform. Aaron is a part of the Suns family, so we thought it was important to take the time to see him in China.”

In a blog post written by Blanks at the end of his trip, the GM says that Brooks is eager to return to America to “begin his off season training to prepare himself for a return to NBA,” which would seem to indicate a return to Phoenix this season is not in the cards.

With Sebastian Telfair and Ronnie Price around, it hardly makes sense to sign Brooks for the final 15 games this season from the “win now” perspective anyway. Although Brooks is a better player then Phoenix’s current backups, I’m not sure how much of an upgrade he would be considering Telfair has been playing with that second unit all season and Brooks would likely need some adjustment time.

If the Suns do not sign Brooks this season (they are the only team eligible to do so), they will still hold his restricted rights next summer but they will not be able to sign-and-trade him due to a new rule in the CBA. That means next summer they could either sign him to a long-term extension, sign him to the one-year qualifying offer or be at risk of him signing an offer sheet with another team that they don’t want to match.

If the Suns sign Brooks for just the rest of this season he would become an unrestricted free agent next offseason. So far as I know, they could sign-and-trade him in that circumstance, but they would obviously be at risk of losing him for nothing as well.

Hill featured on “Oprah’s Master Class”

Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill will be the topic of conversation on an “Oprah’s Master Class” episode to be aired tomorrow at 10 p.m. MST on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Hill will share his story on overcoming injuries that threatened his life as well as his career.

“For so long I was ashamed of my injury,” Hill says in the episode, according to a Suns release. “But I slowly started to realize: you’re proud of your scars, you’re proud of your wounds, you’re proud of your battles.”

Hill was riddled with injuries throughout his seven years with the Orlando Magic, the most serious being an ankle injury that took many seasons to fully recover from. After one such surgery on his ankle he contracted the superbug MRSA.

Hill underwent knee surgery on Friday that will keep him out of action for a few weeks, but he has stayed relatively healthy with the Suns.

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Aaron Brooks · Amare Stoudemire · Grant Hill · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Steve Nash

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 JT's Hoops Blog // Mar 31, 2012 at 10:16 am

    I say that the Suns need to move on from Nash. It’s will be hard but it is time to start over. No one likes to rebuild, but the Suns need to if they are to move forward. That also means parting ways with Alvin Gentry as well. the Suns need to start clean.

  • 2 Lex // Mar 31, 2012 at 10:18 am

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=6uy5a8e

    :)

  • 3 Scott // Mar 31, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Maybe it was a typing error, but the idiom is to have a “bead” on something, not a “beat.” It’s a reference to aiming, targeting, shooting, or sniping, having something in the crosshairs of your scope. The small metal wedge at the tip of a gun or rifle barrel, used for sighting, is called a bead.

    ———————

    Anyway, as for the Suns not signing Diaw, there are pros and cons. Diaw is familiar with the Suns’ system and Nash, and he could be a facilitator for the offense, especially for the struggling 2nd unit. However, Gentry is hellbent on having Frye as starting PF, and is looking for scoring from the bench – which Diaw does not do – so I can see why he’d choose to pass on Diaw, in addition to the whole “not wanting to revisit rejected players” thing.

    In this case, I think Boris is probably better off with the Spurs. He’ll be in the playoffs, he’ll make more money because of that, and he might even get a ring. Also, being on a winning team will probably act like an antidote on any poisoning he might have acquired while in Charlotte. Whereas if the Suns picked him up, Gentry probably wouldn’t be able to figure out how to use him, and the losing would be compounded by either not playing or being used improperly.

    Now if summer comes around and the Suns can’t find any marquee free agents to help keep Steve around, they might try signing Diaw to a small contract, if that is what Steve wants.

    Also, if the Suns need depth at PF/C, I have no problem with them re-signing Amundson. Rebounding, toughness, defense, and hustle are all things the Suns need more of from time to time in games, and Amundson can still provide these things at a rock-bottom price.

    If for some reason Houston doesn’t re-sign Dragic next year, the Suns ought to consider taking him back, too. He’s talented, he knows the system, and he’s a good character guy.

    Barbosa will be available as well, but I’m less sure about taking him back, mainly because of injuries and the wear and tear on his game. He’s been injury prone the last few years, probably because his time spent with the Brazilian team in the summers doesn’t allow him to fully recuperate. However, if the Suns have a need at that spot and he’s cheap, it would be hard to resist taking him.

    Raja Bell is one I’d not take back, for certain, and that’s because of his health. While I like him, his last year with the Suns showed a loss of athleticism and speed, plus a tendency to be injured, and I can only assume this downward trend has continued. The Suns wouldn’t be able to count on his ability to defend or score.

  • 4 Zak // Mar 31, 2012 at 11:48 am

    I agree with Scott. Even though Diaw is familiar with the Suns system I’m not sure how motivated he would be to move from a bad team to a mediocre team. Being on the Spurs is probably best for him and the Suns. Bringing back Amundson and Dragic is quite possible but I think that Dragic is playing so well lately that it would cost a lot to out bid other teams and bring him back to the Valley.

    I also agree with Micheal about the wisdom of only offering Amare a 3 year guaranteed contract instead of a fully guaranteed one as NY did. Amare had back problems in NY at the end of last season and now the same is happening this season. If the Suns had offered the max fully guaranteed contract that Amare wanted and he had stayed in Phoenix I wonder how many people might not begin talking about using amnesty on Amare now. I hated to see him go when he did but I was worried enough about his injury history at the time that I thought the Suns made the best decision for the long run in letting him go.

    And I’m sure I’ll catch some flack for saying it but I think it’s time to let Grant Hill go after this season unless he’s willing to play for the veterans minimum next year. With D-Will most likely leaving NJ next year, I think the Suns should be looking into making Gerald Wallace an offer because I doubt he will want to stay in NJ without D-Will and I think he could be a very good addition to the Suns. He’s not “the answer” to all the Suns’ problems but could be a very good addition and I think he’s one of the better FAs that the Suns have a real shot at signing during the off season.

  • 5 grover // Mar 31, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    I’m more neutral on having let Amare go. If I were the owner and it were my money on the line, I’m sure I also would have let him go. If Sarver had gone 5 yrs guaranteed like the Knicks and kept him, I would have respected it as a fan as you only get so many opportunities to win a championship, and the way Amare was playing at the time he was a truly unique player – especially when paired with a pick and roll expert like Nash. The unargued error by the Suns is not whether they let him go or not as both sides have legitimate points, it’s what they did to backfill his position and salary once they lost him.

    Diaw is a sad story. He could be such a good player if he cared and kept himself in good shape. He has the court vision of a really good point guard, the size of a moderate power forward, but unfortunately Oliver Millers appetite and man-boobs.

  • 6 Mike Meez // Mar 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Nash’s sudden announcement was a little surprising, but not shocking. For one, the story is nowhere near as distracting after the trade deadline. Also, I would guess that the teammates he’s close with (at least Hill and Dudley) already knew with the others having a pretty good idea.

    I would also love to see Dragic back in a Suns uniform but I just don’t see it happening. We traded him and a first round pick for…half a season of Aaron Brooks. I never thought it was a good trade for us. Maybe Dragic and Brooks were close talent level but Dragic has way more potential. I thought that was obvious. So to throw in a first rounder? I just don’t get it unless there’s something that happened behind the scenes, some character defect kinda thing or breakdown in relationship between him and the team (he was having a rough season last year). So if that’s the case, I wouldn’t think he’d re-sign.

  • 7 Scott // Apr 1, 2012 at 12:04 am

    @Zak -

    I didn’t follow Gerald Wallace in his time with the Blazers, but I assume he must have been underperforming for teams since in the span of a year or so he was traded from the Bobcats to the Blazers to the Nets.

    As for Hill, I think he has one final year in him before he retires. No matter what else happens, I think it will be good PR for the Suns to have him in his final year.

    If the Suns have acquired a quality FA or two to appease Nash, I think Hill will agree to stay on for a minimal amount of cash to make it all work, if that’s needed.

    IMO, Hill just wants one more year as a starter in the league, then he’s done.

    @grover -

    A funny thing in the Spurs game was that EJ said he overheard Duncan exhorting Diaw to shoot the ball. :)

    @Mike Meez -

    I agree that I don’t see Dragic returning (or any of the others I mentioned). I think Gentry and Blanks just didn’t like Dragic, they think he’s a fragile personality or something, and they won’t take him back. I think they honestly prefer the cockiness of Telfair and Brooks.

    As mentioned earlier, it could be that Babby might see the Dragic trade as having been hasty or lopsided, and he might especially regret the gratuitous loss of the 2nd round pick, but then again he doesn’t have responsibility for player / draft pick choices. That’s all on Blanks.

    BTW – while I doubt the Suns will pick him – as I’ve mentioned a few times before, a possible sleeper in the draft is Nemanja Nedovic, who bears a close resemblance to Dragic. He’s a 20 year old 6′ 3″ PG/SG from Serbia.

  • 8 PennyAnd1 // Apr 1, 2012 at 5:15 am

    Those who think Diaw is bad to have around in Phoenix don’t know basketball. With Diaw as the 2nd pure passer only to Nash. Frye, Dudley, Redd, Brown, etc…all can just focus on shooting.

    Diaw will be motivated of course, if there is team chemistry which the Suns thrive in. Nash wanted Diaw, so Nash can be pressured off as a passer and start to shoot more. More passers, more shooters, more weapons. Only those with basketball IQ knows that. Diaw was pressured to do many things for Charlotte and was flamed for it. Diaw knows his game, and he sticks to the basics. Plus Diaw is big, and a rebounder who knows how to defend.

    I too was pissed they didn’t get Diaw. Don’t be surprised if Spurs win it all this year. They are a complete package.

  • 9 PennyAnd1 // Apr 1, 2012 at 5:21 am

    And btw, why does everyone think Gentry hates Dragic. I beg to differ, Gentry loves Dragics style which is attack the basket, plus he can pass damn it. That’s why he let the 2nd unit play more during Dragic’s time. If anything, Gentry was upset during the trying times because players around Dragic were f*cking up shots, players like Warrick, Childress, etc…

    Last time I saw Dragic & the Rockets play together, I saw Gentry grab Dragic, and whispered just nice words in his ear and Dragic was very happy to be around Gentry. Ya’ll have a bad perception about basketball.

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