The 2004-05 Phoenix Suns were more than just a basketball team. They were pioneers.
A team that won just 29 games the past season morphed into arguably the most exciting offense in NBA history in a matter of months. The 2004-05 season brought to Phoenix the start of Steve Nash’s MVP campaign(s), the start of Amare’s dominance (on the offensive end), and the start of Seven Seconds or Less basketball.
But the Suns didn’t just flip a switch and transform from a 29-win Starbury-led team to a 62-win Nash-led team contending for an NBA title. There was a serious transition period involved in constructing the run-n-gun Suns to which Suns fans are now accustomed. Players like Nash and Quentin Richardson were shipped in, while Penny Hardaway, Antonio McDyess and Stephon Marbury were all shipped out.
Suns fans remember the 04-05 Suns as a team led by Nash, STAT, the Matrix and Joe Johnson. But what most people don’t remember is the number of random, no-name players that ended up on the 04-05 roster as a result of the heavy transition from the Frank Johnson Era to the Mike D’Antoni Era.
As I was perusing through NBA news the other day, I came across a name from that 04-05 Phoenix Suns team — Steven Hunter. I saw that Hunter was recently traded along with a first-round pick for a conditional second-rounder. I remember the days of Steven Hunter patrolling the middle and blocking shots, but I had no idea this guy was still even in the league. So it got me thinking, outside of the “big four” what exactly happened to that 04-05 Phoenix Suns team that changed the face of basketball?
I took a look at the 04-05 roster and found some ridiculous names. Whether it was for the veteran minimum or just 10-day contracts, the Suns had 18 different players on contract throughout the course of the season. Of those forgotten players, where are they now?
Casey Jacobsen: The Suns’ 22nd overall draft pick out of Stanford never lived up to the expectations his 18.1 career Stanford points per game average suggested. Jacobsen was traded to New Orleans halfway through the 04-05 season for veteran Jim Jackson but was still a considerable part of the new-look Suns.
After finishing the year with New Orleans Jacobsen found himself in the Spanish ACB League playing for TAU Vitoria. In 2007 Jacobsen moved to the Brose Baskets of the German League where he won the German Basketball Championship and was named Finals MVP. Jacobsen was signed by Memphis on July 24, 2007, and played 53 games for the club. After the Grizz chose not to resign Jacobsen, he returned to the German League to play for ALBA Berlin.
Walter McCarty: McCarty played most of his 10-year career with the Boston Celtics but was dealt to Phoenix halfway through the 04-05 season. McCarty only averaged 3.5 points per game for the Suns and chose to retire after his 05-06 stint with the Clippers. In 2007 McCarty accepted an assistant coaching job at Louisville under his former University of Kentucky and Boston Celtics coach Rick Pitino. Aside from his coaching job, McCarty is looking to continue his music career after his R&B CD Moment for Love hit the mainstream in 2003.
Jake Voskuhl: Voskuhl was everyone’s favorite Sun after he hit a game winning shot at the buzzer of Game 4 of the 2003 first-round playoff series against the Spurs. Unfortunately, Voskuhl’s NBA success basically ended there.
Voskuhl started 78 games in his first three seasons with Phoenix, but had a falling out in the 04-05 season, appearing in only 38 games. Voskuhl played 38 games for the Toronto Raptors last season averaging a mere .9 ppg. He doesn’t have an NBA home as of now, so his not-so-illustrious NBA career might be over.
Maciej Lampe: Poland’s Lampe was drafted by the Knicks 30th overall in 2003, but was dealt to the Suns in January of 04 in the Marbury deal. Lampe was a leftover from the Frank Johnson Era and saw only 16 games of action under Mike D before being traded to New Orleans.
After two seasons with the Hornets and Rockets, Lampe signed with Khimki of the Russian Super League. Lampe won the MVP of the Russian Cup Final and recently signed a multi-year deal with Maccabi Tel Aviv of the Israeli League — the team that Tom Chambers, Anthony Parker, and Beno Udrih all previously played for.
Bo Outlaw: Who can forget Bo Outlaw, the ultimate hype-man. Outlaw had the best job in basketball — he was paid to waive a towel, cheer on the most exciting team in basketball, and shoot hideous free throws. After the 04-05 season in Phoenix, Outlaw finished his career with three more seasons with the Orlando Magic before he was waived in November of 2007. Outlaw was full of energy and charisma, but unfortunately his skill-set did not quite have that same appeal.
Jackson Vroman: Vroman played only 10 games for the Suns in 04-05 and was part of the transition from the Frank Johnson Suns to the D’Antoni Suns. Vroman was dealt to New Orleans in the Jacobsen-Jackson deal. Vroman lasted only two total seasons in the NBA before going overseas. After bouncing around the Spain ACB League and the Lithuanian League, Vroman is now playing with Mahram Tehran BC of Iran.
Smush Parker: Few people know that Smush Parker actually had a brief stint with the Suns the season before becoming a Suns foe as the Lakers’ starting point guard. Parker played only five games as a Sun, but was good enough to earn a spot with the Lakers the following season.
Parker was never the same however after being taken to court over striking a female parking attendant over a $12.00 parking fee. Parker now plays for the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Paul Shirley: Shirley appeared in only nine games with the Suns and scored a total of 12 points all season, but his value was not on the court. Shirley was remembered as an extremely witty comedian, who chronicled his 04-05 stint with the Suns by way of an online journal.
Shirley published his first book titled “Can I Keep My Jersey?” in May of 2007 and wrote an ESPN blog “My So-Called Career” well through 2008. Shirley currently plays for Unicaja Malaga of the Spanish ACB League.
Yuta Tabuse: The Suns signed Tabuse to a 10-day contract in 2004, making him the first Japanese player to ever play in the NBA. The 5-9 Tabuse appeared in four games with the Suns, scoring a total of seven points. After his stay with the Suns, Tabuse attempted to land a roster spot with an NBA team, but only managed to bounce around from summer league roster to D-League teams.
Tabuse did, however, end up on the cover of Japan’s version of NBA Live. He currently plays for Link Tochigi Brex of the Japanese Basketball League. The “Jordan of Japan” was given an invite to play for the Mavericks Summer League team but showed up with an injury that kept him out of action.
Zarko Cabarkapa: Cabarkapa was the Suns’ 17th overall pick in 2003 and averaged 12.8 ppg as a rookie before breaking his wrist. Cabarkapa was the typical slim, soft, skilled European basketball player. He appeared in only three games in the 04-05 season before being traded to Golden State. The Suns’ once-prized prospect decided to leave the NBA and basketball all together in 2006. After two and a half years away from basketball, Cabarkapa signed with his original team, KK Buducnost Podgorica of the Adriatic League.
It is amazing to think that all of these guys had at least some part of a 62-win season. I often criticized D’Antoni for his short bench, but looking back, if these were the guys I had to choose from I would be playing seven guys a night as well.
While Suns fans and NBA people may criticize the current Suns roster, guys like Yuta Tabuse and Paul Shirley make me grateful for pine riders like Alando Tucker and Taylor Griffin.
But then again, I would trade Tucker and Griffin for Tabuse and Shirley if it meant a 62-win season and a trip to the Western Conference Finals.