The Phoenix Suns’ concluded stories of 2012


On the last day of the year, the Valley of the Suns team takes a look back at five of the top storylines from 2012. Most of the stories hinge on a year involving significant change; 2012 represented sorrow, pain, hope and disappointment for Suns fans. Yet, the Suns are in a unique position because of that ongoing change.

Today, we give you five stories that have concluded. Tomorrow, we’ll take another look back at 2012 from the viewpoint of stories that began and have yet to be finished.

Steve Nash shipped to La-La Land

It would’ve been surprising had two-time MVP and Phoenix hero Steve Nash stayed with the Suns. The standing ovation during his final game of the 2011-12 regular season made that clear. After all, many Suns fans had been clamoring for the team to trade the point guard, both out of respect to his few years left in the tank and to support any jumpstart of a rebuilding process for the franchise.

Well, the Suns finally ended their relationship with Nash, but it came with a harsh reality. Nash and the Suns appeared mutually set to part ways, and with offers from the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks on the table, any sign-and-trade looked possible but not overwhelming in the Suns’ favor.

Instead, the Los Angeles Lakers became the darkhorse after Nash expressed to the Suns that he’d like to remain close to his children, and owner Robert Sarver finally agreed to send the former face of the franchise to a division rival for four non-lottery level draft picks.

For some, it was about as painful a goodbye as could be.

– Kevin Zimmerman

Lon Babby and Lance Blanks’ first (real) offseason

It took nearly two years for Suns executives Lon Babby and Lance Blanks to have an offseason of their own to craft this franchise as they wish.

After all, they took over after the damage had been done in the 2010 offseason and then largely punted the post-lockout 2011 offseason with one-year contracts aimed to preserve cap space.

This offseason was a different story with gobs of cap space and even more holes to fill. The Suns promised to offer smarter contracts and they largely did perhaps save for their one big gamble, Michael Beasley.

The Suns threw max money at an impact player in Eric Gordon and made some smart small moves like turning a player who no longer made sense for them (Robin Lopez) into a first-round pick. The best signing of all was Goran Dragic, the new “cornerstone” on a reasonable deal.

The offseason did little to make the Suns contenders, but it brought about additional flexibility to use later on in the rebuilding process.

– Michael Schwartz

Goran Dragic’s return

On any other team, Goran Dragic might have been just another free agent signing. But in Phoenix, Dragic’s arrival ushered in a new era. Having spent two and a half years as an understudy to the now-departed Nash, Dragic began his second stint in Phoenix with very high expectations. It was assumed by many he would pick up where his predecessor left off and duplicate the offensive success the Suns enjoyed in seasons past. That was just one of many preseason assumptions everyone in the Valley of the Sun is now reconsidering.

Dragic has been one of the few bright spots in this dark and disappointing Suns’ season. He leads the team in points, assists, free throw attempts and steals, and is the Suns’ most effective and versatile offensive player. Though Phoenix has yet to find a consistent offensive identity, the Suns are most productive when everything flows through Dragic.

Long term, Phoenix has found its point guard of the future. In the short term, the Dragon is one of the few players the team has no questions about.

– Ryan Weisert

Suns chase but can’t snag Eric Gordon

The Phoenix Suns added nine new players to their roster in the offseason, but as they struggle to even maintain a level of mediocrity heading into 2013, it’s clear the summer of 2012 will be remembered more for the one that got away. On July 11, Phoenix offered restricted free agent Eric Gordon a four-year offer sheet worth $58 million. At 24 years old, Gordon would have been the perfect cornerstone for the franchise moving forward, as he’s a go-to scorer at shooting guard, who can get to the basket with ease and also create his own shot.

Unfortunately for the Suns, the New Orleans Hornets were not about to let such an asset slip away given their first-round selections of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. While Gordon made it known he wanted to be in Phoenix, New Orleans matched the offer sheet.

Gordon sat out the Hornets’ first 29 games in 2012-13 due to arthroscopic knee surgery, but if Saturday’s season debut is any indication (24 points, seven assists and two steals), the Suns missed out on acquiring one of the premiere young scorers in the game today.

– Dave Dulberg

The Suns nearly make the playoffs with a roster devoid of talent

Credit Steve Nash for keeping a roster filled with mediocrity in the playoff race and give head coach Alvin Gentry a nod as well. The Phoenix Suns started off the lockout-shortened, 66-game season 12-19 and appeared to be fizzling out to end the SSOL (or simply the Nash) era, but slowly, Gentry’s level-headed nature began to work, and Phoenix found cohesion after the All-Star break.

A player’s only meeting led to a 19-13 record after the break as the offensive efficiency improved and the bench unit solidified. The Suns found themselves fighting the Utah Jazz in the 65th game of the season for an eighth seed.

They lost, but considering the influx of new players like Shannon Brown and Sebastian Telfair, the lack of a go-to scorer and the starting lineup relying upon two old men and a spotty shooter in Channing Frye (who happened to miss the all-important Utah game), the Suns squeezed the most out of little-to-nothing.

– Kevin Zimmerman

  • http://www.yahoo.com Gary Boersma

    The Suns still have time to turn it around. Maybe reach 500 for this season
    and look ahead for the next season with maybe some of draft picks or acquisitions from the Lakers

  • Ty-Sun

    I always thought it was odd that some people somehow thought that Dragic was going to suddenly turn into Steve Nash 2.0. He’s grown into a very good PG but I never expected him to be much more than that. Offensively, Dragic will never be Nash but defensively Dragic IS better than Nash. I think Dragic is more like a guy who used to play in the Valley back in the 80′s and 90′s who people used to call “KJ” than he is like Nash. He’s still not playing at KJ’s level but he’s getting there.

    Interesting take on Babby and Blanks. They after all did come in AFTER Amare was let go and not all of the 2010 off-season decisions were theirs. And in 2011 the lockout basically negated all the normal off-season FA negotiating and trading. Yes they gambled and lost on Beasley but they brought back Dragic and didn’t make any other stupid moves by signing mediocre players to multi-year contracts. I’m NOT saying that they did even a good job this year but they could have done much worse. Even the Beasley gamble isn’t that horrible since his contract is only guaranteed through next season.

    I don’t see any way that the Suns improve significantly this season with the team that they already have. But that’s okay because a lot of people have wanted to “blow up” the team since Amare left for NY and, whether it was planned or not, that’s what we have now. Because of that the Suns have a much better chance of getting one of the top 3 draft picks this year and have a large number of lower picks over the next few years that can at least be used to sweeten a potential trade.

    And while I like Gentry and think he’s a good coach I’m not sure he is the guy to coach a rebuilding team. He’s shown that he can take over a team WITH talent and build on that. But this team has no star players and I’m just not sure Gentry is the guy to take the Suns through rebuilding. Younger players usually need more structure than I think Gentry is used to providing. It may be time for a coaching change at the end of the season but I have no idea as to who the Suns should look to as a replacement.

  • Tony

    @Ty-Sun,

    Dragic is a very good pg???? He’s a combo pg/sg, who is not a consistent shooter, who’s defense was vastly overrated, and so far doesn’t have the mental toughness to lead this Suns team. I guarantee if Nash had this current Suns squad minus Dragic, that the Suns would have a far better record than the 11-21 record they have now. Don’t even compare the two because Dragic is nowhere near Nash’s level in terms of pg ability.

    Contrary to Zimmerman’s comments, the Suns FO made horrible moves this off-season and Babby and Blanks have had control over this franchise’s direction since Babby recruited Hedo and Childress to the Suns. It’snonsense to believe that this off-season was the first that Babby and Blanks had to shape this Suns roster. To believe that it was their first would be to ignore the Morris draft pick, the Hedo and J-Rich trade for Gortat, the salary dump moves of letting Peitrus and Carter go, the lack of making any positive roster changes in the past two seasons, and now the Marshall pick and the Beasley signing. Furthermore, because the FO has put Gentry in a very difficult position by making him a lame duck coach by not offering him an extension, they’ve put him in a position in which they expect him to make this a playoff team while also rebuilding by developing his younger players. That’s an unenviable task for anyone and will make me sick if the FO uses him as a scapegoat.

    As far as the Lopez trade is concerned, the FO once again chose poorly. Trading Lopez for Johnson and a lottery protected 1st round pick was just stupid for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s basketball 101 that you don’t trade big for small unless you’re acquiring a far superior small. Secondly, Lopez is much younger than Gortat and has greater potential than Gortat. It’s very unlikely that Gortat appreciably improves his game at this point. Thirdly, whereas Lopez hasn’t reached his prime yet, Gortat is in his prime NOW and as such, whenever the Suns become relevant again, it’s likely that Gortat will be past his prime and his trade value much lower. Lastly, it was stupid to risk Gortat walking in free agency when they could have secured Lopez for many years. In fact, Lopez wanted to sign with the Suns but didn’t because he wanted a starting role. Instead of taking a chance on Lopez and trading Gortat to move up in last season’s draft, now the Suns face another obstacle toward rebuilding-in that it’s uncertain whether Gortat will resign or play elsewhere when his contract ends.

  • Luka

    @Tony

    Well said. Sarver decided winning was not important the moment he drove Kerr and Griffin away with lowball offers in 2010. That set the stage for a circus summer where the Suns had no front office to re-negotiate properly with Amare, or reach out to any other top names in free agency.

    Sarver’s bright idea was to let Babby sign his former clients to mid-level contracts.

    Instead of letting Frye walk, he’s inked 5 years at 30 million.

    Between: Turkoglu, Warrick, Frye, and Childress that was $81 million dollars spent on spare parts.

    Instead of trading Nash for young talent and draft picks, Suns fans are strung along for two painstakingly pointless years of mediocrity.

    Babby did undo the damage, and for that I’ll give him credit. I really thought we’d have been stuck with: Hedo, Warrick, and Childress a lot longer than we actually were.

    The guys who MUST be fired at the end of the year are: Lance Blanks, and John Treloar. The talent evaluation has been flat out awful. It certainly wasn’t great, or even present (D’Antoni) in years gone by. The failure to utilize the draft has plagued the Suns for too long. It would be nice to have Kenneth Faried in a Suns uniform.

    The only way the Suns gain any credibility again is when Sarver is no longer majority owner. His lowball tactics have been a black hole that has slowly engulfed Planet Orange over the years. At what point does owning the Suns make sense to him anymore? When attendance drops to under 10,000? When drunk unruly fans start booing at every home game? Do we need to start an Occupy Suns movement?

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