Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on May 19th, 11:00 am (9 hours ago)
Stability hasn’t been there for the Phoenix Suns. The franchise has essentially required turnstyles just to keep their coaching and front office staffs in relative order. And for Michael Beasley, the combination of that and his personal instability caused the proverbial excrement to hit the fan during the 2012-13 season.
That was all innocent in comparison to the reports that a sexual-assault claim was filed against the Suns forward for a January incident. While that could be simply a case of an athlete being targeted for his fame, nothing can be good for Beasley’s image. He already had a legal issue with a January traffic stop for speeding that involved an expired license and a loaded firearm.
Beasley didn’t handle the season well on the court, either.
His three-year, $18 million contract and career-worst numbers put the pressure on. Alvin Gentry’s attempt to mold him into a playmaker and ballhandler didn’t force him to focus, neither did a benching and neither did Lindsey Hunter’s persistence in holding him accountable.
No matter the case, Beasley was consistently inconsistent. He never for more than a few games in a row flashed his talent that defined his success in high school and college. For that, the Phoenix brass has a difficult situation on its hands — it’ll be hard for the franchise to wash this off of them.
The numbers don’t make the offseason signing that made then-general manager Lance Blanks giddy with excitement look like a good one.
Of the Suns who played at least 15 percent of the available minutes, Beasley had the third-worst on-court plus-minus of -10.4, behind only Kendall Marshall’s -12.7 and Wesley Johnson’s -11.6. Beasley recorded the second-best off-the-court plus-minus on the team of -3.9, only trailing Markieff Morris’ -3.8, according to 82games.com. Beasley’s PER has fallen in every one of his five NBA seasons, and his effective field goal percentage (taking into account the value of a three-point shot) and true shooting percentage (which also accounts for threes and free throws) each hit all-time lows. According to HoopData.com and Basketball-Reference.com, his true shooting percentage was more than 4 percent lower than it has been in any of Beasley’s first four seasons.
Beasley was dead last in the NBA – 469th to be exact – in win shares with a figure of -1.5, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Whatever the statistics might show, none harbor the value of his lack of consistency. None can lend evidence to what’s going on in Beasley’s head.
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Tags: Michael Beasley
Posted by Ryan Weisert on May 18th, 10:55 am
Like so many veterans before him, Jermaine O’Neal came to Phoenix in search of rejuvenation. He had spent his previous two seasons languishing in Boston with seemingly insurmountable injury woes. The allure of the storied Phoenix Suns’ training staff and miracles they had worked on other veteran’s bodies was strong, and so he signed on with the Suns for the veteran’s minimum to be their backup center.
With the help of the Suns’ trainers O’Neal played in 55 games this year. That total is the second highest he has played in the last 10 seasons. O’Neal’s injury problems were not only just a recent concern. Considering the fact that he has played 70 or more games only six times in his sixteen seasons, the word chronic seems appropriate to describe Jermaine’s injury history.
When he was on the court this season, O’Neal looked quite spry. He moved well for a 34-year old 16-year veteran and provided the Suns with a strong post presence. According to MySynergySports, O’Neal ranked 14th in the NBA in post defense, allowing only 0.63 points per play to opponents. On offense, he was the Suns’ best post scorer other than Luis Scola. Overall, the Suns relied on O’Neal for shot blocking, rebounding, and most importantly, toughness.
The man he backed up, Marcin Gortat, is a very talented player. No one would deny that. But the Polish Hammer has a tendency to back down from physical competition. We’ve seen him crumble time and time again opponents like Dwight Howard and Utah’s fearsome frontcourt. On the days when Gortat wasn’t up to the task, O’Neal stepped in and played tough. Despite his age and the NBA mileage on his legs, Jermaine never backed down from an opponent. When he played, he played hard with all of his emotion right at the surface. This explains why Jermaine was whistled for 12 technical fouls, tied for eighth most in the league and trailing only DeMarcus Cousins for most technicals per game.
Those techs were also indicative of O’Neal’s frustration with the Suns’ season as a whole. Though he didn’t play much in a Celtic’s uniform, O’Neal had still been a part of a veteran-laden locker room in Boston for the last two years and the team had been a serious contender in the East. Before that he played for two playoff teams in Miami. And before that, he played in Indiana for eight years during which time the Pacers made the playoffs in six straight seasons.
The point I’m getting at here is that O’Neal had never really been part of a rebuilding team before this season. In his last two years with the Pacers, Indiana missed the playoffs, but they were more a team in decline in the wake of the Artest Melee than a team in full rebuilding mode. Rebuilding means a lot of losing. It certainly did this year for Phoenix. It also means rotations, minutes, and team objectives are in constant flux. Flux is frustrating to a veteran no matter how you look at it.
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Tags: Jermaine O'Neal · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on May 17th, 9:00 am
Failure’s traditional plot in the NBA — where niches are as important as the fairytale dreams of superstardom — generally begins with talent and bloated heads. It’s not P.J. Tucker’s story, though he’ll admit to once having a bloated head.
If there was one success of former general manager Lance Blanks’ tenure, it was bringing the former second-round draft pick back to the NBA. In a very Ryan McDonough type of way, Blanks kept his eye on Tucker, although it might’ve only been because the two have the same alma mater.
Nevertheless, things worked out. Tucker’s reclamation project began with himself, not anything the team did to develop him. Tucker said that he entered the league out of Texas with an immaturity that as the 35th overall pick in 2006 made his time with the Toronto Raptors short. Traveling from Germany, to Israel, to Puerto Rico, Tucker grew into a league MVP in Ukraine and learned that he was no NBA star – but he had the talent to make the league as a gritty defender.
“At some point you have to take in account your actions, what you do and what it takes to be able to grow in this business,” Tucker said after signing with the Suns, “to be able to have people want to bring you in, have people want to always say your name, and having you be around in the topic of conversation.”
Whether it was then-coach Alvin Gentry, Summer League coach Dan Majerle, interim Lindsey Hunter or Blanks, the Suns’ staff could always circle back to Tucker’s name. It was, after all, one of the few positives in a lost year.
Tucker was also arguably the most consistent player on a Phoenix Suns team where even its best players – Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat – displayed varying levels of inconsistency. He promised before the season that was one thing he could bring.
Of all the Suns’ goals set before the year, Tucker’s might’ve had the only ones that panned out.
Signed as a fill-in 12th man, fight and consistency became Tucker’s M.O. in 2012-13. It came quickly, too. Gentry turned to Tucker as a starter on Dec. 12, 2012, to stop eventual scoring champion Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The nod on New Years Eve was representative of Tucker’s resolution as a person to mature into the teammate he is today.
Often, he was the one Suns player that spoke both candidly and with the most genuine tone.
“It sucks,” Tucker said after a 117-86 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 22. “I don’t know how to put that. It sucks. I hate losing. I’m a competitor, I hate losing. I hate being in positions where … I got to do these interviews. It pisses me off. So for me, we got to get ready for Sunday. Brooklyn ain’t going to come in here and say, ‘Aw they ain’t got no bigs, ah, we going to lay down, we going to take it easy on ‘em.’ They’re going to try to knock our heads off.”
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Tags: P.J. Tucker
Posted by Ryan Weisert on May 16th, 10:00 am
The narrative of Wesley Johnson’s first, and possibly last, season in Phoenix perfectly mirrors the story of the Suns’ season as a whole.
Johnson’s arrival this past summer, like that of so many of his teammates, was unexpected. The Suns put together a three-team trade that sent backup center Robin Lopez and and reserve forward Hakim Warrick to New Orleans. Johnson joined former Minnesota Timberwolves teammate Michael Beasley on the roster. The reasoning behind the acquisitions of both Beasley and Johnson was simple: acquire a former Top 5 pick in desperate need of a change of scenery and see if he can realize his talent in Phoenix. Johnson had been the #4 in the draft just two years before, but despite ample playing time in Minnesota, he had never found himself as a player. The Suns were in need of athleticism and outside shooting. Johnson was supposed to provide both.
There was a great deal of optimism surrounding the Suns coming out of the summer. The roster was full of fresh faces and potential. All the parts seemed to fit together and the team seemed like it might have a chance to make some noise. Much of the pre-season optimism was inspired by Johnson. Johnson was red hot from downtown during training camp and preseason. By all accounts he looked to be the Suns’ most athletic and versatile wing player. At the time most people in and around the Suns’ organization were still drinking the Michael Beasley Kool-Aid, so it was assumed that Johnson would be an off-the-bench scorer and floor spacer.
But the season started and Johnson was nowhere to be found. He played only 72 minutes in 2012 and appeared in less than half of the Suns games. Despite Alvin Gentry’s preseason encouragement, Johnson seemed to have completely fallen out of favor with his head coach. As the Suns struggled, Gentry constantly juggled his lineup, but Wes didn’t factor in to any of Coach Gentry’s plans. Johnson seemed to lack the focus and effort that Gentry required, especially from his young players. Though the Suns were on a one-way trip to the cellar, getting Johnson minutes to develop and see what kind of player he might be was not a priority in Phoenix.
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Tags: Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Wesley Johnson
Posted by Dave Dulberg on May 15th, 12:00 pm
PHOENIX — To call Shannon Brown’s seven-year NBA career a journey would be an understatement.
The former Michigan State product has gone from first-round draft pick to D-Leaguer to two-time champion to super sub to late-season starter.
And that was all before the 2012-13 season even began.
Heading into last summer, Brown made it known that he didn’t want a one-year deal because signing that type of offer wouldn’t provide him any sense of job security. However, when he hit the open market the lack of long-term interest from other teams was rather apparent.
In July 2012, Brown ultimately re-signed with the Suns on a two-year deal worth $7 million, and it seemed to make at least some sense from both sides. Lon Babby and Co. failed to acquire bigger names like Eric Gordon and O.J. Mayo, and the veteran shooting guard frankly had no better alternatives.
A year later, though, it’s safe to say the $3.5 million devoted to Brown wasn’t exactly well spent.
Coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 11.0 points per game — not to mention 15.8 points per game while starting the final 19 contests — Brown was thought to play a pivotal role offensively for the new-look Suns in 2012-13.
After scoring 11 or more points in eight of the team’s first 11 games, Brown was moved into the starting lineup by head coach Alvin Gentry — a place he stayed for 20 consecutive games (Nov. 21 – Dec. 29).
However, when Gentry was sent out the door on Jan. 20 and replaced by interim head coach Lindsey Hunter, the notion of winning now was replaced by the notion of developing to win later and Brown quickly became a casualty of the ideological shift.
While Brown came off the bench in each of Hunter’s first 12 games at the helm, his minutes slowly dwindled and so too did his production (only two games of 10 points or more). As the focus moved towards jump starting Wesley Johnson’s career in Phoenix, the 27-year-old found himself on the outside looking in on the Suns’ rotation by mid-February.
“Bitching about it ain’t going to do nothing,” Brown told the Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro on Feb. 25. “I definitely understand that this is a business. There’s no loyalty nowhere. People are going to play their guy, who they feel their guys are. That’s just the reality of it right now. It’s a tough situation that I have to get through.”
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Tags: lindsey hunter · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Shannon Brown
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on May 14th, 5:00 pm
Eight hundred and twenty-one minutes.
That’s the amount of floor-time Iranian big man Hamed Haddadi saw with the Memphis Grizzlies through his first four-and-a-half years in the NBA. That amounts to approximately 68 minutes per month, 16 minutes per week and 2.3 minutes per day against the best basketball players in the world. Haddadi didn’t exactly log Kobe Bryant minutes, nor Tom Thibodeau-directed ones.
He probably would take either of those situations over the reality, but he never made excuses about it.
Haddadi’s opportunity came with patience and a lot of chance. His contract was needed as a mathematical inclusion for the Grizzlies’ decision to trade Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors. Although he never went to Canada because of visa issues, his contract was again a bargaining chip for the Raptors, who brought on backup point guard Sebastian Telfair from the Suns – they wanted to shed his contract and thus make room for Kendall Marshall’s playing time.
The run of luck for Haddadi didn’t end there. Had it not been for a season-ending injury to Marcin Gortat with 21 games remaining and then Jermaine O’Neal’s various leaves, who knows if Haddadi would’ve gotten a chance with Phoenix?
“I was in Memphis for five years and didn’t get a chance to play,” he said after exit interviews. “The past 15 games (Editor’s note: Haddadi actually logged 17 games played with the Suns) they gave me a chance here. I’m happy to get the time, but I’m not happy with the losing. I’m happy I got to show my skills, show that maybe I can play in this league.”
The big man logged 235 with Phoenix, playing more than a fifth of his career minutes – 22 percent to be exact – over the course of a two-month span after spending the first four-and-a-half years with the Grizzlies riding the pine.
And he proved to be more than a big body.
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Tags: Hamed Haddadi