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