Latest News, NBA / Dec 21, 2010 / 12:00 pm

Natural Disaster: It’s Time To Put Up Or Shut Up In Phoenix

Steve Nash

Steve Nash (photo. Complex Magazine)

The Phoenix Suns have rolled through three general managers, three coaches and a slew of All-Stars and talented role players since 2005. After the sale of the franchise from long-time sports owner Jerry Colangelo to businessman Robert Sarver, this question looms: How much time does a team under new ownership need to settle down?

Composing winning teams in the NBA means team ownership must pair talented players with adaptable coaches. But championship-caliber teams keep those pieces static. Retaining players and coaches requires that the ownership have patience and trust in everyone in the organization –- no panicking allowed.

Such hasn’t been the case for the Suns and ultimately, Sarver. There’s been a recurring theme of risky moves followed by either immediate regret or panic.

When the Suns shipped Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark to the Orlando Magic for Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat in Saturday’s blockbuster trade, it was a cost-cutting shake-up that hinted at regretful decisions.

The mediocre Suns were doomed this season with or without the move, but it was the result of past mishaps that led to the deal.

As for the feeling in Phoenix, Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley said this of the trade:

It’s an unspoken concession that the team should’ve swallowed hard after losing [Amar’e] Stoudemire, stockpiling salary cap space for the future.

It’s a rough transition period for Suns fans. Regrets will linger as long as a motivated Stoudemire powers his way to MVP consideration. The necessity of players like Garret Siler and Earl Barron early in the season, along with the flirtation with the sorry Erick Dampier, was proof of a half-baked game plan. And in some ways, it’s the end of an era.

Yikes. Admitting mistakes is dandy, but it’s happened repeatedly in the last half-decade.

Ever since two-time MVP Steve Nash made his return to Phoenix, the Suns have shown flashes of greatness. But after each near-Finals appearance, the Suns’ upper management have made drastic changes. That resulted in high roster turnover and little chance to gain the years of continuity that teams like San Antonio, Boston and Los Angeles generally cultivate.

Want some painful examples?

After their 2005 Western Conference Finals run, the Suns failed to retain a greatly-improved Joe Johnson — he had asked for a deal worth approximately $50 million during the season and Phoenix refused — and sent starter Quentin Richardson to New York.

Despite Stoudemire missing the year with microfracture surgery the following year and the addition of tough guys in Raja Bell and Kurt Thomas, the Suns went a game deeper into the playoffs than in 2005, losing to the Dallas Mavericks in six games during the 2006 Western Conference Finals.

Despite that success and a second round loss in six to the eventual champion Spurs during 2006-07, the 2007-08 season saw a whirlwind of change.

Newly-hired general manager Steve Kerr, who replaced Bryan Colangelo, traded long-time Sun Shawn Marion for Shaquille O’Neal and as the new fit didn’t match, head coach Mike D’Antoni left after the 2007-08 season amid a possible rift between himself and upper management.

Then came the Terry Porter disaster. Replacing D’Antoni, Porter attempted to implement a slow-down, defensive-minded scheme despite the Suns offensively gifted duo of Nash and Stoudemire, and the plan quickly went south. Porter was fired 51 games into his tenure and replaced by current coach Alvin Gentry as the Suns missed the 2009 playoffs.

O’Neal was traded for cap space before the 2009-10 season and this past year, distrust in resigning Stoudemire and his balky knees coincided with Kerr stepping down from his GM post. This all despite the Suns again falling two games short of the NBA Finals. Then came the Turkoglu trade for Leandro Barbosa and the near-immediate dump Saturday, just 26 games into the year.

It was another part of the trend for Phoenix: hire someone and watch them leave within a a few year’s time or less. And Bickley’s column summed it up nicely a day after the most recent trade: “If nothing else, the Suns know when to cut their losses.”

What do you think?

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  • Rainman

    as a Suns fan, i think Nash Needs out. Now.

    He’s always wwanted a GOOD group of guys over a LONG time, seeing a team like San Antonio succeed in such a way(im talking about bak in 05, b4 Boston and the new age Lakers came up), But time after time he say key pieces go starting from Joe Johnson. He’s never had that continuity his team needed, and its about time for him to move on .

  • Rizwan

    You cant begin to count the mistakes the Suns management has made, but I’m gonna try. This is not in order of importance!

    1. Luol Deng
    2. Rajon Rondo
    3. Not resigning Amare
    4. Trading for Turkoglu
    5. Robert Sarver being allowed to buy the team
    6. The FO’s obessesion with overloading the roster with wingmen
    7. Trading for Shaq
    8. Joe Johnson
    9. Rudy Fernandez
    10. even letting Kurt Thomas go and not getting Marcin Gortat were mistakes!
    11. Firing D’Antoni
    12. Hiring Terry Porter
    13. trying to emulate the Spurs
    14. Letting go of Steve Kerr
    15. Nate Robinson
    16. signed PG Marcus Banks to a five-year contract worth $21.3 million
    17. Overpaying for Channing Frye (as good as he is in the system)
    18. Making trades to save money when Steve Nash was in his prime
    19. Undervaluing Shawn Marion

    Anyone please tell me if I missed anything.

    Suns FO, just trade Steve Nash, we owe him.

  • http://www.bonitagame.blogspot.com Aaron

    Nash doesn’t want to move on. He stated so himself. This team is now improved from where we were this season. I will consent the draft pick disasters as that still upsets me. As far as signing players, you need the entire story. They decided to stick with Shawn rather than Joe and would not guarantee a contract to a player like Amare that has a history of bad injuries. He may be good the next two seasons, but watch out come years 4 and 5. We are not the Lakers or Knicks with limitless cash available and we try to retain as much of the team as we can. They have done that for the most part and in a league full of player movement, we are just one of the many that have this issue.

  • Rainman

    ^ i second that

  • NYK

    if Felton wasn’t playing as well as he did i would say take Nash and recreate the good old Phoenix roster in NY

  • karizmatic

    I still think through all this letting Joe Johnson go and obviously not doing something to keep stoudamire was the worst of it. But when you think they could hace had Rondo and Deng as well….smh.

  • Brown

    If they had kept Joe Johnson (and Marion and Amare) and not sold off first round picks (Deng, Robinson, Rondo) for nothing but cash, they would have had the talent to win it all.

    They insisted on playing Amare at the 5 and Marion at the 4, which worked in the regular season, but not against the Spurs in the playoffs. They were too small and Nash never had a decent backup. If they had traded one of those picks for a decent 5 and signed a serviceable backup PG (i.e. not Marcus Banks), they would have been set.

    I blame Colangelo for not getting a big man to help Amare or a PG to spell Nash, and Sarver for being a stingy bastard and giving away talent to balance the books. When you’re a multi-millionaire owner, you can’t penny-pinch when it comes to a few million dollars. To win championships, your key management principle can’t be maintaining your bottom line financially. Sarver doesn’t understand the risk-reward ratio.

  • Claw

    @Rizwan – They didn’t “let” Kurt Thomas go, they also gave up #1 picks to dump him then he’s picked up by the Spurs who beat them in the playoffs with Kurt Thomas playing meaningful minutes.

    Sarver is an idiot, took a talented team over and made them less competitive each year.

    They won’t give up Nash, not because he gets them wins because he fills the seats. I got a survey from the Suns, being a season ticket holder, and they asked last year your favorite player, what you liked and dislike about going to games. Nash is #1 reason fans go, puts butts in the seats, he leaves it’ll cost them real money.

  • jang

    i think they are just fucking around. like hey ive always wanted to see vince and steve nash play together.. alright lets do it

  • jimmy

    Joe Johnson was the one piece they should have resigned, they would have won man…joe can play part pg and sg, spell Steve nash for rest, also play d and as we all know he can score….

    damn it….still gutted about that year….should have goddamn signed jj

  • Roman

    Their time has come and go!!!!!!!!!