Phoenix’s future beginning to inspire hope


When I went to dinner Wednesday night, we lived in a world of the Nash-Amare-Shaq Triumvirate, and nobody on Planet Orange seemed to have any clue where this organization was headed.

Not much more 24 hours later, you can see the future of this franchise starting to come together, as the Suns attempt to recreate the new Run-and-Fun Suns in the image of the old Run-and-Fun Suns.

First off with what we know, Shaq is gone, for better or worse. The Suns don’t have his low-post game to bail them out nor his fun-loving attitude to aid team camaraderie, but they are also free of his albatross of a contract and ball-demanding, paint-hogging ways on offense.

A day after ridding themselves of the Shaqtus, the Suns drafted Earl Clark with their lottery pick, the type of versatile talent who can do many of the things Shawn Marion did.

I have written many times during this draft process about how badly the Suns missed that jack-of-all trades defender. The Suns were wowed at how he could bang with the bigs in one breath and then guard a speedster like Brandon Jennings in the next during workouts.

Last year an opposing guard seemed to put up a career high every few games, and eventually Clark will be that stopper who ensures that doesn’t happen anymore.

Oftentimes last season, the Suns just didn’t have the personnel to match up with their opponent on the defensive end.

One of the saddest yet indelible moments of last season that really can be seen as a microcosm for the entire year came in that March home game against Dallas when Dirk went off against Matt Barnes, Grant Hill and anyone else the Suns threw at him.

The Mavs ran the same play over and over again, sending Dirk to the top of the key to isolate, and even though they knew exactly what was coming, the Suns just never could stop him. They were undermanned and thus without a prayer.

Clark brings the length to match up in such situations, and his versatility alone should certainly improve Phoenix’s defense at least a bit.

By trading Shaq and bringing in the Matrix Reloaded (Clark), the Suns are essentially reversing that fateful trade and admitting the errors of the Shaq deal in the first place.

As they say, admission is the first step toward recovery, and there’s no question that this sequence of moves is a great initial step for the Suns.

“We know now we’re not a championship contender,” Kerr said, and how it must hurt to make that true statement. “We love Shaq. He did a great job for us, but things didn’t click. It didn’t work, so we’ve got to move forward, and for us moving forward we’ve got to have cap flexibility, have assets and young players. Shaq with a big contract did not make sense.”

No, it did not. The question now, though, is whether trading Amare makes any sense.

I’ve obviously gone on the record about not wanting such a trade, but this Golden State package involving Andris Biedrins and Stephen Curry is better than anything I thought would be a possibility.

In an ideal world the Suns make a play to extend Amare because I still feel he has the talent to be a top-10 player in this league, but if they have already internally decided they don’t want to build around him (a decision they may have very well possibly already made), then at some point they’ve got to get value for him.

This Golden State deal fits many of the criteria of what the Suns should be looking for, although it’s uncertain exactly whom the deal will include.

Biedrins is a must for any deal. His $9 mil base-year long-term salary is palatable considering he’d be your building block down low.

He’s young (23), improving and would fit in well with Phoenix’s pace being that he has shown that he can play the running game and rebound while the rest of the team watches in Golden State. He’s also a super shot blocker (1.55 bpg last year), a solid low post player and if only his shot weren’t so damn ugly.

The Warriors’ No. 7 pick Stephen Curry is rumored to be a deal breaker for the Suns, and here’s why I think Amare will be playing by the Bay next season.

ValleyoftheSuns’ Mike Schmitz, reporting from the Suns’ draft headquarters, said he heard screams of joy coming from the team’s war room after Minnesota selected Jonny Flynn sixth, thus leaving Curry to Golden State/Phoenix at No. 7.

The only other time he heard such a yell of excitement came when the Pacers selected Tyler Hansbrough at No. 13, leaving Earl Clark to the Suns. Read into that what you’d like.

On one hand, I would have liked to have seen Amare’s replacement be a similar player in Jordan Hill. I’ve watched J Hill grow up from a freak athlete who wasn’t even that distinguishable in the 2006 Tucson Summer Pro League to a mid-lottery pick, and I would have loved to see him continue his basketball journey firsthand.

As you can see by his selection by the Knicks, he also certainly would have fit into the Suns’ running game.

As for Curry, I’m conflicted on him as well. I will love Stephen Curry the NBA player no matter where he plays because I love net-splashing shooters and I love high basketball IQ guys, and he’s certainly elite on both counts.

I’m just not sure if he’s the heir to Steve Nash’s two-time MVP point guard throne.

Maybe it’s because nobody saw him this year when Davidson didn’t even go dancing whereas the year before he was the two-guard playing next to a solid point so he never handled the ball, but I just see him as a combo guard in the Leandro Barbosa mode.

Why would the Suns duplicate that position? Well, who knows how long LB will be in town at this rate, but you know what I mean.

Watching three-guard lineups with Nash, Curry and LB would be a joy, as it would be with J-Rich in those lineups.

The Suns will be able to play their hybrid lineups with those guys at the guards, J-Rich at the three, Clark as a hybrid four and Biedrins/Lopez at the five. If that isn’t the most exciting team in the league, you’ve got me.

After trying to win the old-fashioned way with the Diesel and failing badly, the Suns have completely reverted back to what made them so fun in the first place.

They have supreme athletes who can play multiple positions, a small ball attack and shooters to space the floor.

They are, once again, the Phoenix Suns if all goes through, with the type of long, athletic players who pushed Nash to MVP heights.

By all accounts, Nash will be around at least next season to lead this group into the new era, although I still wouldn’t recommend signing him to an extension.

I still have my doubts about this deal, and of course it’s not exactly done quite yet being that it can’t be completed until July 8 due to base-compensation issues.

It’s still not certain if the Suns will get an athlete like Brandan Wright or what in the package, so it’s too early to say how the Suns came out in this likely Amare deal.

It would be bittersweet if the Suns were to send off Amare, but this eliminates the disaster scenario of losing him for nothing.

Let’s face it, the Suns were staring an uncertain future in the eye as late as Wednesday evening, and now if all this goes down, they would feature an exciting young core of the future including Curry (21), LB (26) and Goran (23) in the backcourt, and Clark (21), Biedrins (23), Wright (21), Lopez (21), Lou (26) and Dudley (23) up front.

If they let Nash walk after this season (which they should under this plan), they would have gobs of money to throw at an elite 2010 free agent or two, and even more if they could find a taker for J-Rich’s deal.

Even without the 2010 pick, that’s an intriguing young team that many a free agent would find desirous coupled with Phoenix being a city free agents naturally love.

Steve Kerr’s job is far from over, of course, notwithstanding all the strides made in the last day-plus.

But whereas the Suns seemed to be a mediocre veteran team stuck in the past a few hours ago, you can now begin to envision a bright future on the horizon.