(Sports Network) - The Steve Nash era is done.
It netted three Pacific Division titles, several regular-season wins, the
great Mike D'Antoni mustache, a lot of out-of-breath guys in Suns' uniforms
and some highly-entertaining basketball.
And zero trips to the Finals.
That is more of an indictment on the up-tempo offensive style and nonchalant
approach to defense, than Nash's presence. Nash was shipped off to the Lakers
and now rebuilding can begin in earnest in Phoenix.
And that will most likely bring some growing pains.
"We like being the underdog," said head coach Alvin Gentry. "It should give
you incentive to play harder, work harder and do everything that is
Replacing Nash and Grant Hill will be hard to do in the locker room. Veterans
like Jermaine O'Neal and Luis Scola have been brought in to help with that.
Gentry wants to continue the frenetic pace that the Suns used in the
Nash/Shawn Marion/Amare Stoudemire heyday. The talent isn't there, but the
"It's a pretty simple system, really," Gentry explained. "There isn't anything
complicated about it. The big thing is that you have to be in great shape
And have depth, which Phoenix has.
The Suns' rotation could feature 12 guys although there is an almost 100
percent chance O'Neal does not play a full season.
Running and gunning will mean nothing if you can't stop the other guys. Some
of these new faces like Scola and O'Neal are good defensive veterans. Others
like Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson are revolving doors to
But they can all score and that is Phoenix Suns basketball - with, or without
2011-12 Results: 33-33, third in Pacific; Missed playoffs.
ADDITIONS: G Goran Dragic, F Luis Scola, F Michael Beasley, F/G Wesley
Johnson, G Kendall Marshall, C Jermaine O'Neal.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Goran Dragic
SG- Shannon Brown
SF- Jared Dudley
PF- Luis Scola
C- Marcin Gortat
KEY RESERVES: F Michael Beasley, F/G Wesley Johnson, C Channing Frye, F
Markieff Morris, G Kendall Marshall, G Sebastian Telfair.
FRONTCOURT: Dudley, in a bizarre way, is sort of the face of the Suns. While
always a little doughy, Dudley is in decent shape and gives everything he has,
every night. He's turned into an efficient 3-point shooter as well.
Scola is a pro's pro. His game has fewer flaws than most power forwards. He's
not athletic, so the more physically gifted bigs will pose match-up trouble.
Scola was amnestied by the Houston Rockets in their failed attempt to clear
cap space for Dwight Howard. Some were shocked Scola went, but at 31, maybe
there were underlying signs of decline.
Gortat will miss Nash more than anyone. He was a master of running the pick
and roll with Nash and he'll be lucky to see it continue. Gortat is a great
offensive center. He needs some work on his defense.
BACKCOURT: Dragic is back in Phoenix, although his return to Arizona probably
won't go as well as Nash's two-time MVP winning campaign for the Suns. Dragic
had a career season for the Rockets with 11.7 points per game and 5.3 assists
per game. That all translated into a four-year, $30 million contract. Good
living if you can get it.
Brown is a semi-athletic "2" with OK range. Much like his offensive game,
Brown's defense is good, not great. In almost 24 minutes per game last season,
Brown scored 11 PPG, which is actually very good production. It's how he does
it we are unsure of.
BENCH: This group could go either way.
If Beasley is committed, the way he was with the Minnesota Timberwolves in
2010-11 when he averaged 19.2 PPG, three years and $18 million is a steal. If
he's moody and in trouble, that's an expensive problem.
Johnson has been as underwhelming as one could imagine. He was the fourth pick
in the 2010 NBA Draft and hasn't equaled his rookie numbers of 9.0 PPG, 3 RPG
and 1.9 APG. Now or never, Wesley. Now or never.
O'Neal can't be counted on for a single thing. Same for Telfair. Morris and
Marshall are young, but Frye has a neat little game. He can shoot and defend a
little, although, has never been anything more than a bench player.
COACHING: Gentry took over for Terry Porter in the 2008-09 season and amassed
a 145-116 record. Did that surprise anyone?
Gentry is planning on sticking with the run and gun style, even without Nash.
He's a capable man who has had his undermanned teams very close to playoff
spots the last two seasons.
OUTLOOK: For the last two seasons, Phoenix has been right around the .500 mark
and narrowly missed the playoffs. A .500 record would be a tad unrealistic.
Gentry is really trying to hammer home the underdog aspect to get his players
"What they (the pundits) are saying is that they basically don't believe in
us," said Gentry. "We believe in us. The players believe in it and the coaches
believe in it, and at the end of the day, that's the only thing that really
I believe, Alvin. Although, it's just moderate belief at best.
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