James Harden no longer a possibility for Suns; Luis Scola trying to become a three-point shooter

PHOENIX – It was widely speculated in the national media that the Phoenix Suns would make the kind of play for James Harden next offseason that they did for Eric Gordon this past summer when they extended a max offer sheet that New Orleans matched.

Now that Oklahoma City has dealt Harden to Houston for Kevin Martin and a slew of future assets, it’s fair to wonder whether the Suns should have tried harder to trump that offer after PBO Lon Babby told The Arizona Republic that the Suns and Thunder were “were engaged in discussions on numerous occasions” but that no proposal “got a whole lot of life.”

First off, the only way the Suns were ever going to acquire Harden was via a blockbuster trade since Sam Presti would only ever part with him for a boatload of quality assets and only then if contract talks fell apart (as they did).

With five first-round picks the next three years, the Suns could have offered Jared Dudley (likely a must in any Harden deal), Markieff Morris and three of the firsts — say one guaranteed lottery pick from the Suns, the Minnesota pick and the 2013 selection from the Lakers.

It’s unknown whether the Suns ever offered that kind of deal or whether Presti just liked the Houston package more, but Dudley seems like he would be a perfect fit as a leader of the Thunder bench and Morris would be a nice developmental piece upfront.

It can be argued whether Harden is truly a max kind of player and whether acquiring him and taking out all high lottery pick possibilities (due to how Harden would improve the team) would put the Suns on a path to the top of the West without acquiring another stud, but for a team that needs elite talent so badly it’s a risk I probably would have taken, especially considering how seldom rising stars like Harden become available.

The Suns never came close to acquiring Gordon because they did not want to “take one step forward and two steps back to give them enough to satisfy them,” as Babby has put it, and it seems that thinking held true with Harden as well.

Luis Scola working to add three-point shot to his arsenal

Whoever created the saying “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” forgot to tell that to Suns forward Luis Scola.

The 32-year-old grizzled vet enters the 2012-13 season having knocked down just one three-pointer in 17 attempts over the course of five NBA seasons with the Houston Rockets, yet he decided to spend all summer working to add the long ball to his diverse scoring arsenal even before he learned he would become a member of the trey-happy Phoenix Suns.

“I just think it’s a weapon,” Scola said. “I just think it’s something that helps teams and opens the court. I think I’m not far away from it, shooting very close to the three-point line, so it’s not that hard for me. If you never shoot it, you don’t have a good shot, it’s a problem because it’s a major adjustment.

“But if you’re shooting long twos — and I have for many years — you’re not that far away from it. From here one step behind is not that difficult. I feel pretty confident that I’m going to be able to pull it off, but we’ll see. At some point I have to make it.”

Scola spends time every day working on his three-point shot in the hopes of providing the floor-spacing presence upfront the Suns often have possessed over the years. He called it a “priority” for him because it’s a weapon his game does not currently feature that carries much value in this league, especially in comparison to the inefficient long two.

The first day Scola arrived in Phoenix for the season he went straight to Gentry and asked if he could shoot threes this year.

Gentry said, “Yeah, if you can make them you can shoot them.”

Scola asked for clarification on what that meant and Gentry replied that he if shoots 10 and makes four, then he can take another 10.

“At some point I have to make them,” said Scola, who has hit just 1-of-5 three-pointers this preseason. “Every coach will let you shoot if you make them. If you don’t make them every coach will tell you not to shoot them. I’ll stop shooting before nobody tells me to stop if I know that I can’t make them, but I believe in hard work and I’ve been working hard all summer, so I trust in my ability to work on something and get better at it.

“I only want to shoot it if I become effective. I strongly believe I can become effective at some point. I just need to keep working on it. Nobody will have to tell me to stop shooting if I’m not effective, I’ll be the first one to stop shooting.”

Gentry on developmental Suns

With the Suns set to carry 15 players this season for the first time in Gentry’s tenure, the Phoenix coach will need to balance the needs of the team with the development of his raw players, especially if this turns into a rebuilding season.

Obviously the present comes first in this type of situation, yet with lottery pick Kendall Marshall in that same boat as well, developing the potential of youngsters like Diante Garrett and Luke Zeller will be firmly on Gentry’s agenda this season.

“I think they showed in training camp that with a little polishing and experience they might have an opportunity to develop into real good players,” Gentry said of the newest Suns, Garrett and Zeller. “Zeller is a stretch shooter. He can stretch the defense, and we’ve always had that kind of guy on our team. Diante is just one of those young kids, he’s going to keep developing given the opportunity. We just thought having him here and being able to work every day against a Goran and Sebastian couldn’t do anything but help.”

I asked Gentry what the coaching staff can do to help Zeller take his practice shooting prowess into games after Blanks called him “one of the best shooters in the world” on Thursday.

“Well, world might be a little strong,” Gentry said. “Let’s start with the county and then we’ll work up, but he is a very good shooter and a big guy that can stretch the floor and shoot three-pointers. I think everything comes down to experience in this league. He hadn’t had experience in certain situations in this league. He needs to continue to work and get stronger. He needs to be able to hold his ground and rebound, things like that. You can’t do that until you’re out on the floor and get experience.”

NBA blog previews: Southeast and Southwest divisions

Atlanta Hawks: Peachtree Hoops

Charlotte Bobcats: Rufus On Fire

Miami Heat: Hot Hot Hoops

Orlando Magic: Orlando Pinstriped Post | Orlando Magic Daily

Washington Wizards: Bullets Forever

Dallas Mavericks: MavsMoneyball

Houston Rockets: The Dream Shake

Memphis Grizzlies: Straight Outta Vancouver | 3 Shades of Blue

New Orleans Hornets: At the Hive

San Antonio Spurs: Pounding The Rock

And 1

  • Babby on David Stern after he announced he would retire in February 2014: “I can’t imagine that there has ever been or will ever be a commissioner as successful as he’s been. … Kenesaw Mountain Landis maybe, but other than that who has done a better job as a commissioner of a professional sports league?”
  • Babby on the season: “I honestly have not been this excited since I’ve been here to see how this unfolds.”
  • Heading into the season, Gentry is still concerned about the team’s rebounding and ability to stop dribble penetration. Stop him if you’ve heard that before.
  • With Morris primed for a bigger role as the primary backup power forward who can play some backup center at times, Gentry is worried about his ability to limit fouls after he was a foul machine in Summer League and throughout the preseason. “I think he’s got to do away with the cheapie fouls,” Gentry said. “I told him especially if you’re going to guard five men you’ve got to best utilize your fouls. I think what happens to him is there’s always two or three cheap fouls.”
  • More Babby: “Just make good decisions every day, and what I won’t tolerate is not being prepared. If we’re surprised by something, that’s unacceptable. If we make the wrong decision after we have all the information, you just try to do better the next time.”

Tags: Diante Garrett James Harden Luis Scola Luke Zeller

  • Tony

    Personally, I think the Rockets gave up too much for Harden. Although he’s a very good playe and will likely continue to improve, there’s no way he’s currently worth the max, not even in the old CBA. With the new CBA’s provisions beginning to take effect, it makes even less sense to pay him the max.

    With that being said, I understand why the Rockets gave up so much for him. They have been lacking a star player for years now, and because their teams have been largely mediocre, they haven’t had the opportunity to draft a future star player. Sound familiar folks????

    Michael, there’s no way the Thunder would have agreed to that trade you suggested when considering the Rockets offer. Dudley, Morris, and a bunch of late 1st round picks for Harden would be a terrible move for the Thunder. Now, although so far I’ve been mostly unimpressed with Marshall, if they added him to sweeten the pot and make a play for Harden, then it’s more conceivable that the Thunder would accept this Suns offer.

    So now that Harden is off the Suns list, who’s the next star free agent available after this season? Is it just Josh Smith? He would be a great pickup for the Suns.

    As far as Scola developing a 3-point shot, I’m not convinced of the utility of him focusing on that aspect of his game. He needs to focus on rebounding and increasing his speed/quickness to keep up in the Suns offense. Moreover, he has a very good offensive low-post game, and so I don’t understand why Gentry would want to take him outside the area where he excels in and plant him behind the 3-point line?

  • HankS

    I agree it would have taken at least Dudley and Morris, maybe Marshall, plus pics, to get Harden, and actually, I wouldn’t have been too excited about such a trade. I want to see this team play, and I have a lot of trust in Morris. Harden is a great player, but I’m not sure he’s the kind of player who can carry a franchise. And I think even with him, the Rockets are still screwed by this summer’s twin rediculous deals for Lin and Asic.

  • Zack B.

    Wow. I think he real surprise is that Harden will sign for the max in Houston, when he can just wait till the off-season, and get max in a better scenario/market.

  • Zack B.

    the real surprise* -_-

  • Zack B.

    As for Scola, I’ve always thought that any player that is proficient from mid-range and always takes long twos, should just expand their range a little bit, by stepping back.

  • Ty-Sun

    Personally, I’m glad all the speculation over Harden somehow coming to Phoenix is over. he’s good – very good – but not a “super” star NBA player. He proved that in the NBA finals last year when he basically disappeared and was a non-factor. Harden is the newest version of Jason Terry… a great player off the bench but not a player you want to be the core of your team.

    As for Scola, if he can develop a reliable 3-pt shot, I’ll love it. But he already has a reliable 15-18 foot 2 point shot that I don’t want him to abandon to try and stretch it into a 3.

  • Greg

    Scola’s 3 pt shooting: It isnt taking anything away from his low post game or mid range game. He is adding it to his game. shooting one or two a night will not force him to abandon anything else. If he becomes efficient, it will be a shot that defenses have to worry about defending. Suns will need to space the floor and stretch defenses this season.

    Harden: He is a superstar talent, but not worth the asking price. Self-admitted in an ESPN article a while back, Harden is not comfortable being “the guy”. He liked his role in OKC and preferred deferring responsibility to Durant and Westbrook to avoid the pressure that comes with being a number one option night in and night out. Great player, lots of room to improve, but if his personality doesnt say superstar, will his play ever meet that standard? I dont think Harden would have made the Suns that much better, but they do desperately need a top talent to build around. Hopefully, Goran and Beasley grow in PHX and become all star caliber players.

  • shazam

    to get more traffic to the site this should have been posted as 3 different articles..with slightly over the top headlines..WILL SCOLA BECOME A MONSTER OF THE 3 POINT SHOT?(taking advantage of halloween season)…SHOULD OF SUNS HARDENED WITH JAMES HARDEN?…IS ZELLER ONE OF THE BEST SHOOTER IN THE WORLD?BLANKS THINKS SO…(and then put the and one at bottom of this one)……your content is fantastic once people get lured in they will stay…also why not just one time to a shameless promo and ask your regulars to post their link in an email or Facebook etc….cmon guys…seasons about to start///your voices need to be heard :)

  • shazam

    cmon regulars…start posting valley of the suns link all over the place

  • Joe

    Harden could wait for a max offer from another team, but Houston will match.

    Tyreke Evans could be the Suns’ next best option.

  • Serek

    I don’t think making a trade on the eve of season opener makes either OKC or Houston any way better. If the player coming in is expected just too shoot and hog the ball, then maybe it goes smoothly (as long as it is ok with other players), but if he is expected to contribute to the team effort, it’s something to think about. I doubt this move suddenly makes Houston more relevant than Phoenix, although they do have a “star” now.

    If anything it makes you realize that OKC is far from being the promised land of basketball, for players and fans alike, and is still bound by laws of economics (and the CBA ;). OKC was just lucky to draft all these great guys and have a short run with them. Too bad it ended, because of selfishness.