Following the Suns was a fun ride while it lasted
The 2005-2006 Phoenix Suns might have been my favorite NBA team of all time. This was actually the first year that I ordered the NBA League Pass. I had this Suns team on my radar as one of teams to watch, but less than 2 weeks into the season it was clear to me that not only were the Suns a team to watch, but all Suns games were “can’t miss TV”.
This Suns team might have won the championship, but they played outstanding basketball and were by far the most entertaining team in the league. Here was that lineup:
C – Boris Diaw
F – Shawn Marion
F – Tim Thomas
G – Raja Bell
G – Steve Nash
Bench – Leandro Barbosa, Eddie House, James Jones, Kurt Thomas
Could you find a more unselfish group than that? I know that Marion and Tim Thomas might not be the most unselfish human beings on the planet, but on the court these guys were both excellent team players. Nash was the engine that made everyone go; Marion his perfect running mate; Bell added toughness and defense; Thomas hit nearly every big 3; Diaw flourished maybe more than anyone in this style; Barbosa broke out as a borderline All-Star caliber player; and House came off the bench at about 200 miles per hour. The whole team was just a joy to watch offensively.
Last year, they lost Tim Thomas and Eddie House but got Amare Stoudamire back from injury. They still somewhat resembled the run and gun Suns from the previous year, but the unselfishness was gone. A lot of the ball movement had disappeared on offense, thanks to the black hole known as Stoudamire.
Turn the page to this year and the Suns add Grant Hill while keeping most of the core from last year in tact. Now Hill is a great team guy and fit this system perfectly. Everything this season looked great as the Suns had the second best record in the West. The Spurs are struggling with Duncan, Bowen and Horry a year older and the Mavs not looking as good as they had in the past.
And what do the Suns do? Trade their second most important player for a fat, old, washed up Shaq! I still can’t get over this trade. How could the Suns have pulled the trigger on this? Now, not only do they have ballhog Amare clogging up the middle, but they’re going to have fat Shaq camped out there as well?! Forget about running now whenever Shaq is in the lineup. And you can also forget about getting anywhere near the amount of open shots the 2005-2006 team got since they won’t be able to spacing the floor or work the ball around on offense.
You thought Diaw was useless with Stoudamire on the team? Now with Shaq in the mix, he’ll have even less value. As far as Barbosa goes, its going to be harder for him to run or drive (the two things he does best) and he’ll have less open looks now. And if you thought Shaq is going to help their rebounding… Marion is a better rebounder (from the SF position) than either Shaq or Amare. Marion was also an excellent defender and the Suns most versatile defender. Shaq might be the least versatile defender in the league.
Maybe I am wrong and the Suns will make me look like an idiot by winning it all this year, riding a re-invigorated Shaq all the way through the June. But I probably won’t be cheering them on… at least not like I have the past two years. I still love Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa and maybe even Grant Hill. But I just can’t get into this team and don’t believe in what they are doing.
I also find Amare Stoudamire to be one of the most unlikable guys in the league. He clearly seems like a great player, but how much better does he really make the Suns? Does he make anyone around him better? Or does he do just the opposite? And Shaq is just a disaster… he can’t run, he can’t shoot free throws, he can’t defend, and he can’t do anything outside of the paint. He is the anti-Marion. Well, Marion absolutely flourished in this system and I just can’t fathom why the Suns would trade him away for so little. As Jim Rome said, adding Shaq seems like subtraction by addition for the Suns. So now the Suns are a worse team, less entertaining and less likable.
I hate you, Steve Kerr.