Keeping Hill in free agency Phoenix’s “top priority”


From Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic:

At 7 a.m. Phoenix time, the Suns began talking to agents of players. That meant checking in on some of their own guys but the first calls needed to go to the agents of free-agent players to show the Suns’ interest. The Suns will be feeling out the market for a scoring wing player and a backup point guard but there will be no spending that disrupts the salary-cap space they have set up for the summer of 2012. The free agent priority is getting an agreement with Hill, who is still represented by Babby’s former firm with Jim Tanner acting as Hill’s agent.

“Grant is an absolute first order of business and top priority,” Babby said of Hill. “I can’t contemplate him not being here. He represents everything we want the franchise to stand for — on and off the court. He’s our ballast.”

It had been widely speculated that the 39-year old Hill might be willing to take a massive pay cut, take his talents to South Beach, and chase that elusive ring, but Coro lays out a pretty compelling list of reasons why Hill will probably remain in Phoenix for the remainder of his career. If Hill does stay in Phoenix, it’s highly unlikely he’ll get that ring, which is unfortunate, but he’ll be remembered as a great talent who fought through injuries, always played the game the right way, kept playing at a high level well into his late 30s, and was one of the NBA’s all-time class acts.

Hill played in 80 games for Phoenix last season, and averaged 13.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in 30.1 minutes per game, which is incredible for someone Hill’s age with his injury history.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at NBA.com.

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.