The thing about the Phoenix mythology? The bird does die again.
The Phoenix Suns rose from the ashes this year, returning to the playoffs and not only advancing to the Western Conference Finals, but pushing the Lakers in a competitive series despite their numerous mismatches. So the natural question to ask is “What’s next?”
The answers are not brilliant.
The Suns have one major priority for the summer: re-sign Amar’e Stoudemire. That’s it. The options are pretty simple. They can re-sign Amar’e Stoudemire, keep the most explosive pick and roll duo in the league together, and keep building assets to maintain contention. Or they can let Amar’e go, fill that cap space hole with a stopgap, and start shedding salary to plan for the future, one which most likely won’t feature Grant Hill or Steve Nash.
Re-signing Amar’e won’t be a piece of cake. He was significantly put off by the amount of trade rumors he was forced to endure and knows that his value on the open market has never been higher. he’ll be courted by major market teams with major market salaries, all hoping to add that component in Amar’e that will put them into championship contender.
And while the Suns can pay him the most, are convenient, are “home’ and are emotionally difficult to leave, Stoudemire has to ask himself if it’s the best place to compete for a championship. This season for the Suns was amazing. Terrific. Inspiring. But it was also about the best this core of players can get. Meanwhile the Suns don’t have a first round pick and don’t have the cap room to sign a major player or the assets to trade for one. The only way the Suns become a major force in the playoffs again is if they were to add an All-Star to an already loaded roster. And that just may not be possible.
The Suns proved that you can make the Western Conference Finals with talent, heart, and guts playing a fun, fast paced style of offense and lead it with a bench mob. The Finals proved that team may not be able to win a championship.
The Suns went down swinging. But that still means they went down.
LeBron James backed down Kyle Lowry on the left block and swung a bullet pass to Matthew Dellavedova in the right corner. As Dellavedova caught the pass, Richard Jefferson screened a closing DeMar DeRozan, ensuring Dellavedova remained open for his 3-point attempt.
LeBron tapped the rebound to Channing Frye for a 3-pointer from the top of the key, his spot.
After that sequence with about two and a half minutes left, the Cavaliers scored just three more points in their Game 4 loss to the Raptors. The Cavs are again getting the outside looks they desire. They’re just not making them.
Toronto (relatively) shut down Cleveland’s potent long-range attack in Games 1 and 2, holding the Cavaliers to 7-of-20 and 7-of-21 3-point shooting as Cleveland took advantage inside. The Cavs averaged 36 3-point attempts per game in the first two rounds.
But the Cavaliers have adjusted in Games 3 and 4, taking 41 treys in each game. Their 27 and 29 open 3-pointers (defined as the defender being at least four feet away) are right in line with their averages against the Pistons and Hawks and far above the 13 and 15 they produced in Games 1 and 2:
Cleveland just isn’t making those open 3s.
The Cavaliers shot 34.5% on open 3-pointers in Game 4, a far cry from the 43.6% these made against Detroit and 51.5% they made against Atlanta. It’s even below their regular season mark of 37.8% – which is misleadingly low, considering Channing Frye – a key playoff 3-point shooter – didn’t arrive until a midseason trade.
There’s a school of thought that 3-point defense is more about limiting attempts than lowering percentage. The Cavs are generating plenty of good attempts. They space the floor and share the ball, getting it to open shooters.
They were probably bound to regress from their hot shooting in the first two rounds. But likewise, they’re better than they appeared in Game 4.
If the Cleveland keeps getting these shots, I’m not convinced Toronto has much control over whether they go in.
The Cavaliers just have to make them.
With trade rumors swirling, Goran Dragic told the Suns in February 2015 that he wouldn’t re-sign the following summer. Dragic said he no longer trusted Phoenix’s front office.
So, the Suns traded him to Miami.
But did they have to?
Then-Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek apparently got Dragic to change his stance.
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:
Within days of Hornacek having a heart-to-heart with Dragic and securing a commitment from the Slovenian point guard to re-sign with the Suns as a free agent the following summer, the Suns shipped him to Miami in a three-team trade, a person familiar with the situation told CBS Sports.
This substantially changes how we view that trade. At the time, it seemed the Suns got a tremendous haul for a player they were going to lose anyway. But if they could’ve re-signed him, it changes the equation.
Maybe not enough to say Phoenix erred, though.
Dragic was clearly wavering in his thinking. He later said he regretted his harsh comments about the front office. Just because he told Hornacek he’d re-sign doesn’t mean he was bound to re-sign
And Phoenix got solid return – a top-seven protected 2017 first-rounder that becomes unprotected in 2018 and an unprotected 2021 first-rounder. Picks with so few protections rarely move anymore. The Heat look solid right now, but they’re fairly old. That far into the future, anything can happen – giving those picks great upside.
So, maybe the Suns still made the right move. But maybe just keeping Dragic was more on the table than we previously realized.
Kyle Lowry popularized the late-night workout in these playoffs, but he’s not the only one to practice until the wee hours.
Raptors teammate DeMar DeRozan shot until about 1 a.m. Monday, according to Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com, preceding Toronto’s Game 4 win over the Cavaliers.
But the funniest part came when DeRozan arrived at the arena earlier.
Upon entry into the bowl area, a female security guard spotted him and stopped him. She asked what he was doing there and even went as far to ask if he worked at the arena.
DeRozan just chuckled and kept walking down the 100-level steps and onto the court where his backcourt teammate Kyle Lowry was waiting. The security guard called for backup, assuming a possible trespasser was on the scene.
Once help arrived and saw who was on the court, he said to his colleague, “That’s our two best players.” He was not quite accurate. On Monday night, those two were the two best players on the court.
“That was the first time that ever happened,” DeRozan said of the incident. “I just laughed about it. You know me. I wasn’t tripping. You can call the whole security team in here and obviously somebody is going to know, but she was just doing her job.”
Jeremy Lin ought to feel better now.
This is putting the “carousel” in coaching carousel.
Hornets assistant Stephen Silas (a Rockets head-coaching candidate) and Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts (a Grizzlies head-coaching candidate) are also both interviewing to become the Warriors’ lead assistant. If Tibbetts gets the job, Portland would have a vacancy, so…
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Portland also was granted permission Sunday to talk to Silas about being its top assistant, league sources said.
Working for Steve Kerr in Golden State – which propelled Alvin Gentry to Pelicans head coach last year and Luke Walton to Lakers head coach this year – is probably preferable. But Silas’ star is rising, regardless. He’s a highly regarded assistant coach.
Terry Stotts, contract extension in hand, could add Silas without fearing being undermined. That’s the value of giving head coaches security. Hiring good assistants becomes more tenable.
Why would Silas leave another good coach, Steve Clifford in Charlotte, for the Trail Blazers? I don’t know for certain, but in these situations, there’s usually one place to start: money. Portland’s willingness to spend could pay off.