One more run!


Because of the NBA Playoffs, the Suns have been relatively safe from the screaming rumors that pervaded the locker room around the Trade Deadline, but rest assured: they will be back.

This summer we’ll hear cries of “trade Shaq!” and “Amare is a headcase!” Here’s my question: why do anything?

At the end of the day, this is a franchise that made some mistakes in the building of the current squad, evidenced by the fact that being a Suns fan today means little more than following Steve Nash’s playoff updates on Facebook and reading about his vacation to Hawaii in early May.

But it appears they have found their coach (when are they going to announce that anyway?) and with the draft upcoming, who knows what the roster could look like next year?

The fact remains, this was not a bad team. It certainly wasn’t very good either, at least for half the year. They finished two games out of the playoffs without Amare for nearly half a season. Tell me that’s not a positive to take out of the season.

Many Suns fans will clamor to dump both Amare and Shaq, get under the cap, try to acquire some youth, and start the rebuilding process immediately. Problem is, Steve Kerr has publicly said he wants to bring Nash back. If he’s not blowing smoke, that is exactly the opposite of what a rebuilding team should do: bring back its 35-year-old point guard with even fewer weapons.

The Suns’ projected salary for next year is just over $62 mil, according to HoopsHype. Keep in mind that is without re-signing Grant Hill and Matt Barnes and doesn’t include any of the guys they’ll draft this summer or any other free-agent signings.

The salary cap was $58 mil last year and is expected by many around the league to drop for next year, meaning the Suns would still be over, as little as $4 mil or as much as in the $10 mil range. That’s still less than the $16 mil they were over this year, all while putting out an underachieving team.

In my opinion, this is a different team under Alvin Gentry, a playoff team given an entire year with Gentry and Amare together. Think the half season of Terry Porter and the other half season sans Amare would have accounted for those two games they were out of the playoffs? You betcha.

And this, folks, is why the Suns should keep their core together.

First of all, good luck finding a suitor for Shaq’s $20 mil contract. You might be able to if Cleveland doesn’t win the Finals or if some other team feels like it’s one veteran piece away. I just don’t see that team personally, and Cleveland has as good a chance as any team left to take home the trophy.

Even if they do find a suitor, what can we expect back? Expiring contracts, likely guys who can’t play, MAYBE a young piece or two. If you’re trading Shaq, though, it’s not about what you’re getting back as much as the financial relief. Obtaining future cogs would be what trading Amare is for.

Let’s say they keep Nash around. What good is that going to be without a player like Amare? There was that rumored deal that Memphis turned down involving Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick, and that’s the only type of value that would make sense to trade Amare for.

Otherwise, I say let’s keep this core together one more year. Let Gentry use Amare to his fullest and keep Shaq as a contingency plan on every possession. Gentry plus Amare equaled two monstrous victories, don’t forget that, no matter who they played.

Worst-case scenario is that it doesn’t work out, and they lose a year that they could have been rebuilding. But even if it doesn’t, that’s over $36 mil coming off the books in the form of Amare and Shaq, assuming Amare bolts after next year. That sounds like prime time to rebuild right there, all while doing it with less drama and staying competitive and relevant one more year.

This is all contingent on Sarver being OK possibly losing money one more year at the benefit of winning some fans back. This IS a playoff basketball team with Nash, Amare and Shaq, and with Gentry at the helm.

In a town that is quickly losing faith in every single one of its sports teams, where the baseball team is cheap, the hockey team is leaving, and the football team is having a tough time staying together after a miracle run, we need this. The Suns can be our feel-good story. They can make a run in the playoffs with this squad if healthy physically and mentally in the locker room, a locker room that spent half a season being diseased.

If Sarver is willing to do this, and even bring back a player who is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite NBA players in Grant Hill, there is a shot. That’s all we can ask for right now after the embarrassment last season brought.

Keep us relevant one more year.