5-on-1, Part 3: What was the Suns' most mind-boggling event of 2012-13?


With the Suns’ season over and the offseason already in full swing as the team searches for a new general manager and a head coach, questions are aplenty. So instead of the traditional 5-on-5 to recap the season, we’re going to — like the Suns — start from scratch and work through five 5-on-1 sessions. Because if you can’t run an offense during a walk-through with a coach, no chance it’s working against five defenders.

We started off the discussion asking for one word to sum up the Suns’ season. In our second installment, we discussed at the best of the year, AKA, Goran Dragic. Part 3 touches on the most baffling, most indescribable and most surprising of 2012-13.

What part of the season was the most mind-boggling? Feel free to hit on anything from the front office, to coaching, to Michael Beasley.

Michael Schwartz: When you think about it, it would have to be Channing Frye — such a fit and healthy athlete — coming down with a heart condition in the preseason. He was the forgotten piece to this season, and most people don’t realize how much better the Suns’ offense has been when he’s on the floor the past few years whether he’s stroking jumpers or not.

But that was such a long time ago it doesn’t feel like it was still this season, so I will go with how the coaching change went down with not only Alvin Gentry and the Suns “mutually” agreeing to split ways but also assistants Elston Turner and Dan Majerle leaving with him. It was obvious at the time but utterly clear at this juncture that Gentry was not the problem, it was just a situation in which a struggling team felt it needed to make a change because that’s what struggling NBA teams do.

It’s even understandable that Turner might follow his boss out as well but pretty mind-boggling that a Suns institution like Dan Majerle would no longer want to work for the franchise for which he’s an icon. In a vacuum it is also be surprising that both Turner and Majerle would be passed over for an inexperienced coach like Hunter, but considering the support Hunter received from some in the front office it’s not as surprising.

Ryan Weisert: The most mind-boggling part of this season was the delusion that this team was going to be good and the lack of direction that delusion caused. In hindsight the Suns’ season played out like a movie where production was started before the script was finished. That’s the sort of thing causes directors to walk away (Alvin Gentry) and producers to quit (Dan Majerle and Elston Turner.) It seems as though the franchise had no plan for this year, and thus, the Suns logged more course changes than victories. The best evidence of this is the massive fluctuations in minutes for Shannon Brown, Sebastian Telfair, Michael Beasley and P.J. Tucker over the course of the year. The result of all the disruption was a season that was mentally and emotionally draining for the players and coaching staff. Other than the solidifying Goran Dragic as a player to build around, the franchise built nothing for the future. If instead the front office and coaching staff had forgone the delusion that the team was going to be good, the team could have gone the direction of developing young players and building chemistry all season instead of constantly changing course and getting nowhere. Would the Suns have struggled even more than they did had Wesley Johnson and Kendall Marshall played 15 minutes a night right off the bat? Most definitely, but look where the team ended up. It couldn’t have been that much worse.

Kevin Zimmerman: To go back to last summer, the gist of the free agency period went like this: The Suns spurned their two captains, Steve Nash and Grant Hill, and not only let them move to Los Angeles but did so seemingly without much of a goodbye. While Robert Sarver finally did the right thing and worked out a Nash trade with the rival Lakers, interviews done with both the point guard and Hill later reeked of a poorly-handled situation. As free agency began, Phoenix, rather than sending a thank you message toward their co-captains, was dialing up Michael Beasley.

This, along with the burned bridges of Alvin Gentry, Dan Majerle and Elston Turner, made little sense for an organization that was attempting to, at the least, be known for respecting its history of success. And Beasley represents mind-boggling itself. It wasn’t that he was risky because of inconsistency of 25-point outbursts followed by 1-for-13 shooting nights but the fact that those performances came in consecutive fashion along with explanations like this.

Dave Dulberg: The Alvin Gentry firing and Lindsey Hunter hiring was by far the most mind-boggling part of the 2012-13. A 13-28 record is by no means worthy of applause, but Alvin Gentry was forced to coach an underwhelming roster with nine new faces. And while everyone on the outside could see the team had no chance to make the postseason, Gentry was forced to coach under the expectation that a berth was achievable. Frankly, he never had a chance.

Then, after the team decided to part ways with Gentry, they opted to place the interim tag on an unproven coach when there were not one, but two viable options in Elston Turner and Dan Majerle. Not only did the decision alienate a Suns legend, it made no real sense.

Hunter had a brief background as a developmental coach, not as an Xs and Os guy. And sadly, it showed. Most nights under Hunter, it felt like the Suns were over-matched and disinterested. It’s one thing to lack talent, but the Suns didn’t play with a ton of heart over the final 41 games. Hunter’s promotion made way for a so-called “youth movement,” but it also seemed to divide the locker room between the veterans and the younger players.

The coaching changes in 2012-13 seemed to reflect the organization’s internal battle it’s been fighting for two or three years now: rebuild or compete for No. 8 seed. Hopefully, 25 wins signals that it’s time to start focusing on the former.

Matt Petersen: Of all the team and former player relationships to go sour, the Suns-Majerle debacle had to be the last one any semi-interested NBA fan or executive could have suspected. Majerle poured his heart and his business investments into the team and city, to the point where even younger fans recognize him as an integral part of the franchise.

Management’s back-handed and indifferent consideration of him after Alvin Gentry’s departure was baffling. All reports indicate Majerle received minimal communication and consideration in regards to the job, understandably leaving him in a huff. For a championship-less sports team with few legitimate “legends” sticking around, the Suns couldn’t have done a worse job looking out for one of their own.

  • Forever is2long

    While the coaching changes and hearing about J. O’Neal engaging in a shouting match with Blanks were both interesting,if not funny, the most mind boggling thing was the Suns apparently chose to let Lopez walk because they wanted to sign Gortat to an extension as he would be their center of the future. While I definitely was not in favor of that transaction, I understood.

    It became really comical when Gortat told them he was not interested in signing an extension then. Therefore the Suns plan to have a decent center for the next 3 years backfired where it looks like they will not have any center of starting caliber next season. It could be rectified if they trade Gortat and receive a lottery pick for him to allow them to get Dieng but right now it is a mind boggling event as they should have known Gortat’s intentions before the trade. Same old Suns never a step ahead.

  • Bill-in-Tokyo

    What is the mind-boggling part of this season is this total bizarre series of events which each of you hitting among. You have the unceremonious flushing of Hill and Nash, the misguided signing of proven/role playing veterans and developing/potential “stars”creating the false hope of a “good” year, firing of a respected/veteran coach who was trying to make this mess work and for the “piece de resistence” the selection of untested/inexperienced coach, an action which violated the normal rules of decency by disrespecting Turner and Majerle. The end result: they took a respected NBA franchise and turned it by each cut into a hideous Hydra.

  • DBreezy

    @Foreveris,

    While I know the Lopez/Gortat is a big sore point with you, to me letting Lopez go wasn’t the mind-boggling part. What still blows my mind is that a team that knew in the summer of 2011 that it had zero intention of extending or meeting R.Lo’s known demands didn’t trade him them-especially with a lockout looming.

    It’s also amazing that when they made that decision they didn’t anticipate how much money Gortat would want whether via extension or unrestricted free agency. In hindsight people will say that the Suns were/are right not to pay Gortat that money, but the telling thing to me was that made their determination early on before we saw how disappointing of a season Marcin would have.

    If you know the Suns m.o. pre and post Babby, they aren’t about to pay him what he wants, yet they haven’t moved him yet and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if they let him get all the way to free agency. A new GM won’t change that as that person will not authority in that area. Elhassan had praise for Babby’s area of expertise and what his staff does, but you have to wonder a bit about their valuation skills and ability to be forward looking.

  • Ty-Sun

    The most mind boggling thing may yet to have happened. If the Suns decide to keep Hunter as head coach, THAT would be mind boggling. As I’ve said before, giving the interim job to Hunter made sense IF the FO was going to look elsewhere for a head coach during the off-season.

    Majerle would have been the popular choice to replace Gentry but he would also have been more difficult to not give the head coaching spot to at the end of the season. If the Suns wanted someone from the outside, better to not give the job to Majerle and then take it away from him.

  • Scott

    So many mind-boggling things to choose from … but I would have to say my strongest reaction was to the signing of Beasley.

    After signing Turkoglu, Warrick, Childress, Brown, and Telfair, and sending off Dragic, Nash, and Hill, the signing of Beasley was like hearing the steps of the executioner coming up the gallows stairs.

    The Suns management has been epically awful. I hope they put someone in place who can actually fix things, and then I hope they get out of this person’s way.

  • foreveris2long

    Actually DBreezy while letting Lopez go definitely troubled me my sticking point is they thought they could secure Gortat for a few more seasons and were wrong. It seems the 3 blind mice do not think ahead about anything significant.

  • DBreezy

    Foreveris,

    They can secure Gortat for a few more seasons if they want, they just won’t be willing to pay the price. That comment only speaks to their ability to keep him long term, not whether it’s prudent. My problem with this and other deals (Amar’e, JJ) is that they make decisions that are ignorant of what the market will pay.

  • Scott

    I think they got rid of Lopez because Gentry thought he wasn’t a good player.

  • foreveris2long

    If I am not mistaken Gortat said he wasn’t ready to commit to the Suns during the season. I am not sure he would stay even if they paid what he thinks he deserves. I was of the impression he wants to shop his services which I do not blame him considering his age and how talent starved this team is. Back to your point yep I agree they make deals ignorant of what it will cost them to keep a player, which in my mind they just do not think ahead or do not reasonably think ahead.

  • Scott

    Ooh! David Kahn is now available.

  • DBreezy

  • DBreezy

    Foreveris,

    My recollection is that the Suns made him an extension offer which he declined. That is not a surprise because extensions are for fewer years than completely new deals and more importantly for Gortat, the raises in an extension are percentage tied to the final year of the original deal. Gortat’s current deal is below his market value so he has no interest in having his new deal indexed to it.

    What was interesting depending on which of the various Polish translations of his rant you read, is that the Suns didn’t seem to offer him a deal that was even at the maximum extension amount. I don’t have any heartburn with them not wanting to pay him above a certain amount, but if they know the market will then they know what they need to do with him. Especially in a world where the old fallback advantages of a sign or extend and trade have been neutered.

  • Scott

    My impression has been that they decided to trade Gortat (and/or sign and trade) in addition to the Lopez trade.

  • foreveris2long

    Yeah DBreezy that is pretty much my recollection. He conceptually will get more in turning down the extension. However with how he played I am not sure a big payday is still awaiting him. I think they thought the team would be more competitive and Gortat would have better numbers which may have enticed him to stay. Oh well I hope they find a good big soon.

  • phxfan88

    Most recently the decision to give Babby a new contract was mind boggling.

    “I am confident this group will make fans fall in love with the franchise again. It’s a bright, sunny day in Phoenix.”
    –Lon Babby, October 2012

  • DBreezy

    http://www.hoopdata.com/advancedstats.aspx?team=%&type=pg&posi=C&yr=2013&gp=0&mins=20

    Here’s a chart that will get you going Foreveris. It’s a top to bottom ranking of centers who averaged 20+ mins per game by PER. You’ll note that the league average of such players was 17.15. Marcin checked in at 15.46 last season, just above the injured Bogut and rookie Valunciunus.

    Asik is below him on that list and gets in excess of 8M a year. So you’re probably correct that he won’t get the payday he wants, but he probably will get a bit of a raise from what he makes now and likely more than the rebuilding Suns will be interested in paying. Would have been nice to move him when his value was higher and he wasn’t coming off an injury, but alas. If last year’s league-wide response to the new cba rules and looming luxury tax bump is any indication, the time to move him is between now and training camp.

  • Mel.

    I’ll go for a positive angle, and call the Suns’ two spoiler games against the Lakers in Phoenix as being the most mind-boggling events of the season. For a team that was so frequently rudderless, lifeless, clueless and hapless, the fact that they somehow transformed themselves into the Houston Rockets for the occasion–fueled by apparent pride, and a desire to keep Nash’s homecoming from becoming yet another indication of how wretched they became after he left–was totally shocking.

    Oh, and it led to this. Which truly was mind-boggling.

  • foreveris2long

    Dbreezy, That is wrong. You just messed up my day. Although I am not a big PER fan, as Bogut was was a perfect example last night of a good performer with a low PER, to see that Robin Lopez has a 19 PER and Gortat has a 15 drives me crazy. New Orleans is really happy with him and no doubt will exercise their option on him for $5m/yr. Stupid Suns.

  • Forever is2long

    Phxfan88, I agree giving Babby an extension ranks really high. Either he blindly trusted Blanks or he too wanted the draft picks and or deals, IMO rendering him equally at fault for this mess but yet he gets an extension. Where is the justice in that after the team has been lottery bound three consecutive seasons?

  • DBreezy

    Foreveris, I agree about PER but it’s a good broad measure of some things and probably isn’t a bad predictor of likely relative salary levels. Unless we’re talking about a one dimensional force like Deke in his prime.

  • SkyBill40

    While I wish the very best for Frye in terms of his recovery, I certainly did NOT miss him camping on the perimeter, launching up errant shots every time he touches the ball. He’s got size but is seemingly afraid to use it where the Suns need it most: INSIDE.