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.
Celtics forward Jae Crowder — between criticizing Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors and Al Horford considering the Wizards — took aim at the Raptors.
“Toronto is not a team we’re worried about,” Crowder said.
Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll, via CSN New England:
“It’s a comment from a person who hasn’t really been in the playoffs that much. That’s how I reacted to that type of comment. When you haven’t been on that level and you don’t understand what it takes to get to that level. Myself going to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals, I understand what it takes,”Carroll said on SportsNet.ca. “It’s a comment from a guy who hasn’t been on that level, who hasn’t played on that level. It sounds like a young comment.”
“We’ll let Jae Crowder do all the talking,” Carroll said. “We’ll just fly under the radar and do what we’re supposed to do.”
Carroll is right. Crowder has never won a playoff series — though I’m not sure advancing in the postseason will make him any less brash.
Carroll’s credentials here also aren’t impeccable. He helped the Hawks in 2015 and Raptors in 2016 make relatively uninspiring runs to the Eastern Conference finals.
Still, that’s more than Crowder has accomplished. If Carroll wants to use that experience to shoot back at Crowder, more power to him.
For what it’s worth, I’ll take the Celtics over the Raptors next season — though Toronto is close enough that Boston shouldn’t look past its neighbor to the north.
Pau Gasol carried Spain’s flag and Yi Jianlian carried China’s flag for the 2012 Olympics.
The NBA will once again be prominently represented in the opening ceremony this year — with new Net Luis Scola.
Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press:
Argentina is back in the Olympics, and this time Scola isn’t just leading the basketball team.
He’s leading the whole delegation.
The veteran forward will carry the flag in the opening ceremony
Scola will team with Manu Ginobili to try stopping Argentina’s Olympic slide — gold in 2004, bronze in 2008, fourth in 2012.
There are not words.
Stephen Curry was paired with Justin Timberlake at the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe this weekend, which at first led to mouthpiece throwing.
Then the Carlton. With Alfonso Ribeiro.
How could the NBA pull the All-Star game from Charlotte due to North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law and move it to New Orleans, considering Louisiana is suing the Obama administration over its directive on sex discrimination?
This leak from the Board of Governors meeting proves illustrative.
Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:
In a poignant address, Golden State Warriors president and chief operating officer Rick Welts, 63, who is openly gay, explained his meaningful and lifelong affiliation with the NBA and told league owners he didn’t feel comfortable attending the All-Star Game in Charlotte if the law remained as is.
He then said if the All-Star Game remained in Charlotte, he wouldn’t feel comfortable attending, and he said he has spoken to employees in the LBGT community from half of the league’s teams who didn’t feel comfortable attending either.
Another influence on the NBA owners: A number of NBA sponsor/partner businesses have told the league they would not be involved if the game remained in North Carolina.
This isn’t so much about a moral stance or punishing North Carolina. It obviously isn’t about punishing Louisiana.
It’s about treating employees and customers with respect.
Putting valued employees in uncomfortable positions is bad business. Holding All-Star Weekend in North Carolina would have done that. Maybe Welts and those he spoke with wouldn’t immediately quit in protest, but why should the league put them in such harsh work conditions? Imagine being forced to choose between your job and traveling to a place you’re denied fundamental protection under the law. Welts earned his position for a reason. The NBA should make reasonable efforts to retain him and other talent.
The same is true of potential customers, some of whom would have been reluctant to attend All-Star Weekend in North Carolina for the same reasons. Maybe the NBA still would have sold out every event, but it’s not worth alienating a portion of the fanbase. (Though the league’s decision inevitably alienated some fans on the other side of the issue. There is some moralism at play here.)
Maybe Louisiana will eventually succeed in its lawsuit and enact its own anti-LGBT laws. But right now, New Orleans doesn’t legally discriminate against the LGBT community. That makes it an acceptable place to host the All-Star game.
This isn’t about sending a message. It’s about finding a location people like Welts — people the NBA value — feel comfortable.