Head-Scratching Deals Highlight NBA Trade Deadline

Baron Davis is on his way out of LA

Generally the trade deadline is a rather uneventful time of year in the NBA. I guess you can call this year an exception. In the last 72 hours, NBA GM’s were more active than Charlie Sheen at a brothel. With a final flurry prior to the 3pm eastern deadline and team’s desperately trying to piece together a winner, it was almost inevitable that we see some mind-boggling transactions.

In sifting through the plethora of deals here are my biggest head-scratchers from the NBA trade deadline.

Clipper Calamity. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a calamity but it definitely should fall under the category of a head-scratcher. The Clippers traded Baron Davis and their 2011 first round pick to the Cavaliers for former all-star Mo Williams. I’m actually very surprised at the amount of people who felt this deal was a positive for the Clippers. Sports Illustrated writer Zach Lowe is one man who feels this was a success for the Clippers. Supposedly, it will also allow their young point guard Eric Bledsoe to take the reins of the team while allowing more cap flexibility for the Clippers.

The problem that I have with the trade is that the Clippers are likely giving up a top 10 pick. I don’t care that this year is supposed to be a terrible draft class. Besides Blake Griffin, didn’t they also say the same thing about the 2009 class that produced Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Demar Derozan, Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison. Maybe you won’t find a franchise player but there is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to find some quality, impact players with that high of a pick. They need to be surrounding Blake Griffin and Co. with solid role players, not trying to save money.

Moreover, despite the fact that Baron Davis has proven himself to be a fat, lazy slob, it is evident that he has been a steadying influence on the Clipper team this season. They don’t need to win now, nor are they going to win with Baron Davis at the helm. However, a veteran guy like Davis is important on such a young team, and you can see it by how lost they are on the floor without him.

Sure, the Clippers gain flexibility to sign free agents in the off-season, especially if they are able to dump Mo Williams’ contract on someone. That’s not what they should be focused on though. Getting a quality player in the draft should be priority number one. The Clippers, in my opinion, have done it again. They had been in prime position to finally play the role of contender in 2-4 years, but yesterday they took a step backwards.

Boston Blow-Up. Kendrick Perkins is gone. Yeah, you’re probably thinking what we’re all thinking. Whaaa??? Perkins is well-known around NBA circles as an incredibly intricate cog to the Boston Celtics’ well-oiled machine. He represented the hardnosed, defensive force that is the Celtics. Not anymore. Perkins was traded alongside Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic.

Even this guy was perplexed by some of the NBA deadline deals

Obviously, there was an Orlando Magic-like need for a shakeup in Boston as they sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 41-14 record. Wait, I don’t think something is quite right about the last sentence.

With a team as thin at the center spot like the Boston Celtics are, you have to wonder what they are thinking giving up Perkins. They also traded rookie center Semih Erden to the Cavs, which leaves them with two old farts in Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal. Durability is such an issue surrounding those guys and even though Nenad Kristic will be added to the mix he doesn’t fit the Celtics mould of rough and tough. Of note today, Glen Davis started at center for the Celtics. Yup, Big Baby.

They did acquire a great piece in Jeff Green but where does he fit in? Does he take over the Marquis Daniels role? Is that why they felt that Perkins was expendable? Who knows?

For a team that has reached 2 finals with Kendrick Perkins and currently sits first in the Eastern Conference this deal is more peculiar than a dog riding a scooter.

Sun Setting. Steve Nash protégé Goran Dragic and a lottery protected first round pick was traded to the Rockets for soon to be restricted free agent Aaron Brooks. After being injured, Brooks lost his job as starting point guard to Kyle Lowry and like Goran Dragic he has regressed in his play since coming back from injury. I don’t see anywhere that Brooks fits into the short or long-term plans of the Suns. Nash is still under contract for 2 years and there is no way that Brooks and his undersized self can play alongside Nash at the 2 guard spot for the time being.

Obviously Goran Dragic is not the wave of the future but could someone please try and make some sense of this deal for me because I flat out don’t get it. I don’t see the Suns signing Brooks to be the long-term option, but hey, you never know.

Memphis Blues.
A sad trade for the Grizzlies that can only benefit this team in the short run as they hope to reach the playoffs in the ever weakening Western Conference. The Grizz traded former #2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet and a first round pick to the Houston Rockets for an expiring contract in Shane Battier and guard Ish Smith. This is a head-scratcher for me just because it seems odd that the Grizzlies felt that they had to give up a first round pick to unload Thabeet. Sure, this move might put them over the edge in their playoff run this year but giving up so early on such a high draft pick on top of sending away a likely mid-first round draft pick won’t make things any easier as they try to build a contending team in the future.

Raptor Riddle. For my finale I have to vent about the Toronto Raptors acquisition of James Johnson. More specifically, I have to point out another blunder from the city of Toronto’s equally confusing General Manger. Bryan Colangelo obtained James Johnson by giving up the first round pick Toronto acquired from Miami in the whole Bosh mess. Johnson was the 16th overall pick in the 2009 draft and apparently the Raptors would have drafted him had Demar Derozan not fallen to them, at least according to the Colangelo.

The Raptors, in desperate need of more wing players, got hold of the lengthy 6 foot 9 Johnson to play small forward. As much as they need more depth on the wings Johnson is not a guy that they should be looking for as he is yet another wing player for the Raps who is unable to shoot from beyond the arc.

I realize that I sound like a broken record, nevertheless I can’t stress enough the importance that bottom teams should place on their draft picks. Colangelo has done a terrible job managing draft picks for the Raptors and the first time in a long time the team has multiple first rounders he decides it’s a good idea to trade one of them away. Great. I’ll just put it out there that I have zero faith in Colangelo’s overrated self. He has done nothing for the Raptors organization and the only thing keeping him alive is the fact that he signed Steve Nash. Great.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. You can also follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favor.

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Win-Win-Win

Will Gilbert Arenas be able to find his inner Agent Zero in Orlando?

Oh boy, a big blockbuster trade before the New Year even hits. What a nice early Christmas present for us basketball fans, making this already very intriguing season that much more interesting.

In case you don’t know exactly how this intricate trade between the Suns, Magic and Wizard breaks down here it is: The Washington Wizards acquired only one player, Rashard Lewis. The Orlando Magic acquired Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark. Phoenix obtained Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat and the Magic’s 1st round pick in 2011.

This trade is an enormous change for all 3 teams, especially the Magic and Suns, and from the initial looks of it I think that it screams win for each franchise involved.

The Washington Wizards have been looking to dump Gilbert Arenas and his fat Albert Haynesworth-Vernon Wells-like contract of $111 million over 6 years. A couple of major injuries, the infamous gun incident, and Arenas not reaching even close to the level of play that he was at the season prior to signing his big contract has made former Agent 0 a very expendable player and one of the biggest disappointments in the NBA.

Moreover, the Wizards drafting John Wall #1 overall this past year has caused a lot of issues for Flip Saunders trying to figure out some way for Arenas and Wall to complement each other.

This trade should be great for the Wizards because it leaves John Wall as the starting point guard with no one breathing down his neck. John Wall has interchanged, partially because of injuries, between starting and the bench, but the departure of Gilbert Arenas gives the Wizards franchise a clear direction to where they want to go and who they want to build around.

Let’s be honest, the Wizards have a long way ago and just being able to get rid of Arenas was a step in the right direction. Not only do they free up the backcourt for John Wall, but they are also giving their franchise player a legitimate weapon in Rashard Lewis.

I’m not saying that Rashard Lewis is going to take this team to a bottom playoff seed or anything. What I am saying is that I think it’s good for the development of Wall to have a legitimate, non-ball dominating player that can theoretically assist in the scoring department and knock down shots from the outside. As I mentioned, the Wizards aren’t going to be winning too many championships in the next couple of years so I don’t think taking back the 3 years and $20 plus million each year left on Rashard Lewis’ contract is much of a concern.

Stan Van Gundy now has some new pieces to work with

For the Orlando Magic, their team looks to have reached its plateau and was in need of a change. Stan Van Gundy always seems under fire, but I guess the other option of change also presented itself. The Magic could quite possibly have added that little extra something that has been lacking since Vince Carter arrived last season. The Magic were not going to win a championship with their current roster and taking this risk should be for the best…right?

I think it was for the best for the Magic that they were able to get rid of Rashard Lewis, as well as Lewis himself, who has been in need of a change of scenery. He is currently averaging the lowest numbers of his career since his sophomore season.

Vince Carter did not play like the dynamic, isolation scorer that he has been in the past and that they hoped he would be. ,You add that to the fact that most of the time he looks like the same disinterested, talent can mask my effort kind of player and it was an easy decision for the Magic to realize he is not the guy to help lead them to the promised land.

This is the type of deal that could make General Manager Otis Smith the smartest man in the NBA or the biggest chump in the NBA.

Starting with the more minor part of this deal, the Magic were able to get Jason Richardson from the Suns who probably fills the loss Mickael Pietrus’, but I also feel he could do as good a job or an even better job than Vince Carter did starting in that 3 spot. Richardson knocks down shots, plays hard defence, is great in transition and maybe most importantly gives 100% effort on a night-to-night basis, something Vince Carter clearly did not.

Just saying his name makes me cringe but Hedo Turkoglu is going back to where it all the magic started (get it?). Turkoglu became an NBA fans household name with his highly overrated clutch play. He signed a big contract with Toronto, sat on his lazy, fat ass and was dealt to Phoenix in the offseason which did not work out as well, which I predicted.

However, if there is a situation that would work out for Turkoglu it is in Orlando. The fans actually like the guy as he is not known for being a lazy, fat ass and it could possibly shift his sorry self out of neutral gear.

Turkoglu is once again in a situation where he is comfortable and knows what is expected of him, which should help him out as he couldn’t carve out his niche in Toronto or Phoenix. Turkoglu is taking more 3’s than 2’s and is shooting a high percentage from beyond the arc, which should be a big help to the Magic as well.

The issues with him though are his lack of effort because he won’t be playing for another contract for a few years and the fact that he is getting a little older could also be contributing to his seemingly declining play.

The last and most important piece of this blockbuster deal for the Magic is taking on Gilbert Arenas. This is a big risk but it also entails big rewards if Arenas can get back to that thrilling, franchise-player level that we saw in Washington that seems like an eternity ago.

For a guy with attitude problems, moving to a contender for the first time in his career might be the jump-start that he needs to rejuvenate himself. The Magic have a very solid team so Gilbert is not going to be forced to carry the Magic and if he can just take some heat off of Dwight Howard this might be a team to be reckoned with in the playoffs.

The Suns also did a hell of a job in getting something out of this deal, at least in my humble opinion.

They were obviously looking to deal Turkoglu as he was no more than a pure 3 point shooter in Phoenix and they were able to get a couple good pieces in return.

Marcin Gortat could be the center that the Phoenix Suns need

The Magic gave up Marcin Gortat, who has been under utilized in Orlando playing behind Dwight Howard. However, Gortat could be a legitimate starting center on a number of teams in the NBA and the Suns are very thin up front. The Suns could now bring Robin Lopez or Gortat off the bench and give some extra punch to the front end of the second unit.

The Suns are also able to replace Jason Richardson with Vince Carter/Mickael Pietrus. Vince Carter is most likely going to be the starter, but honestly I don’t see him being too much help to the Suns. Carter’s play is declining with his age and he can’t be too happy about moving to another franchise on the down slope of things. Although, you never know what Steve Nash can do with players, so we can’t count Carter out completely, and it can’t be any worse than the ridiculously stupid Hedo Turkoglu experiment.

Mickael Pietrus is pretty much just a cheaper, less dynamic player than Jason Richardson, but I think he also could add something to the Suns.

If Vince Carter is able to bring a bit more game than we saw in Orlando, I think this trade makes the Suns a better team as well relative to where they were at the start of the season. They added a good piece on the front end, and even though they lost Jason Richardson, they get back two pieces that each could fill his role.

Oh yeah, nothing wrong with a first round pick either, even if it is going to most likely be a mid-late round choice from Orlando.

I think that no matter the outcome of this trade, each team did the best they could given their respective circumstances.

In a deal filled with disappointment players, each team was able to gain/get rid of pieces that should improve their franchise right now and in the future.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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End of an Era

The sun is setting on Phoenix's Steve Nash era

To use a cliché that will probably be used more than once in the coming months but the sun looks to be setting on the Phoenix Suns’ Steve Nash era. Nash’s 6 year tenure delivered everything to the Phoenix franchise except for that elusive NBA championship. Nash made stars out of nobodies, and made out his General Manager’s and coach’s to be geniuses. However, with Kid Canada at 36 years of age and the Suns front office appearing to make some more questionable decisions, NBA fans will have to get accustomed to seeing Phoenix as pretenders rather than contenders.

Yesterday, it was reported by the Arizona Republic that the Phoenix Suns acquired disgruntled Toronto Raptor Hedo Turkoglu in a trade for guard Leandro Barbosa and forward Dwayne Jones. It was also reported by the Arizona Republic that the Suns are involved in a sign and trade with the Atlanta Hawks that would have restricted free agent Josh Childress going to Phoenix with brand new 5 year $30 million contract. These moves are in addition to the signings of Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick to multi-year contracts earlier in the off-season.

The Raptors have just been looking to get rid of Hedo Turkoglu’s monster 5 year $53 million contract after Turkoglu stated he did not want to play in Toronto anymore.

The Phoenix Suns’ decision to take on 4 more years of Hedo Turkoglu seems questionable at best. Obviously, it is possible that we see him regain the form that made him into a marquee player in the NBA, but I highly doubt that.

One of the major reasons that Turkoglu was unhappy in Toronto was because he felt he did not have the ball in his hands enough, much like that kid in elementary school who always whined because he didn’t get the ball enough but never actually did anything with it when he got it.

What makes the Phoenix Suns organization think that Turkoglu will have success in Phoenix?

Hedo Turkgolu had more downs than ups in his 1 season with Toronto

I don’t blame Turkoglu for wanting the ball more because he is a guy who makes plays for others. In his brief stint with Toronto you could see his excellent court vision and his ability to make plays that very few players can make. His 6 foot 10 frame causes mismatches for opposing players and in theory he also should have a solid mid-outside shooting game.

However, it is evident that Turkoglu will have the ball in his hands even less of the time with the Suns’ offence revolving around Steve Nash and his handling of the ball.

On top of playing like garbage in Toronto, he was also lazy. He didn’t rebound, defend, or play hard on the offensive end. The last thing the Phoenix Suns need is a guy who doesn’t defend and rebound.

Just like in Toronto, Turkoglu is going to turn into a sluggish stand-still 3-point shooter, which he a) was not very successful at and b) not happy with the role.

Hedo Turkoglu is 31 years old and not getting any younger. He came into training camp last year out of shape, not ready to play, and content to count his money while the organization gave him a reprieve. The Phoenix Suns do not need a guy who’s going to complain about his role on the team, and not produce on the floor. If Phoenix Suns fans are hoping for some clutch play from the so-called “Mr. Fourth Quarter,” they really should not be counting on it because Raptor fans saw none of that last season.

Following the Suns loss of star power forward Amare Stoudemire, they went out and acquired the 28-year-old underachieving power forward Hakim Warrick to replace him, and then re-signed the overachieving outside shooting Channing Frye. They committed $18 million and $30 million respectively, but without a legitimate inside scorer these moves just don’t make sense.

There is no way that Steve Nash can keep going all superhuman on us. At some point in time he is going to show signs of aging, and the Phoenix Suns are going to have to re-tool. Nash has 2 years left on his contract, which is a very small window for the organization. Nevertheless, with the roster that they have now, it is apparent that they will be unable to contend.

A starting line-up of Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick, and Robin Lopez is not going to get the job done.

Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and Shawn Marion all thrived under Steve Nash

Committing multiple years to mediocre players is going to seriously hurt the Phoenix Suns in the future once Steve Nash is gone. Steve Nash has made some guys a lot of money including Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and Shawn Marion. How have these players fared before or after their time in Phoenix? Answer that question, then ask yourself how are all these new players with big contracts going to thrive once Steve Nash is out of the picture?

I haven’t even talked about Josh Childress who could potentially be a good fit for the Suns run and gun style. But after some up and downs in two seasons in Greece combined with Steve Nash’s aging, 5 years at $6 million per is too steep a price.

Oh yeah, if you guys are thinking that I forgot about Goran Dragic and screaming that he is the ultimate successor to Steve Nash…well I didn’t.

Let’s get the facts straight. Goran Dragic has shown the ability to be a very good point guard at some point in the NBA, but no one is Steve Nash. Nash is a once in a lifetime player, and the NBA has never and might never again see a player like him. Once Nash hands the reigns over to Dragic the style of play and most likely the success will not be the same. You can take that to the bank.

I think that it is clear that when Steve Nash does eventually retire or leave Phoenix we are going to be talking about the bad contracts that the Phoenix Suns have given to these players.

Honestly, if I didn’t know any better I would have thought that Bryan Colangelo is running both the Raptors and the Suns.

An aging Steve Nash, no Amare Stoudemire, and numerous bad contracts is not the recipe for success in the desert.

Amare Stoudemire may not have helped bring the Suns an NBA championship. However, he did make the team into contenders.

Contenders? I’d be happy to see the Phoenix Suns as pretenders in the coming years.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Amare Stoudemire the answer?

Amare Stoudemire is a big question mark heading into the NBA's Free Agent Frenzy.

The first day of the NBA free agent frenzy did not possess the excitement that everyone had hoped it would. Even though a big signing did take place, with restricted free agent Rudy Gay re-signing with Memphis, none of the top guns made any noise on Thursday.

However, on day two Amare Stoudemire is reportedly close to signing a 5 year $100 million contract with the New York Knicks according to Yahoo Sports.

Not flying under the radar but at the same time not in the spotlight, Amare Stoudemire, just recently turned down a 5 year $96 million offer from the Phoenix Suns. In this star-studded free agent class of 2010, Stoudemire has been looking to land a max deal on a championship team. Amare Stoudemire is arguably the best power forward in the league when he is at his best, but in spite of this, I think it would be a big mistake for the New York Knicks if they do end up signing Amare to this big contract.

As the 9th pick in the 2002 draft, Amare Stoudemire has thrived under the Phoenix Suns’ run and gun offensive system. Throughout the years he has expanded his game greatly, most notably developing a now consistent 15 to 17 foot mid-range jump shot. As more of a face up big man, Amare is a great pick and roll player who has meshed beautifully with 2 time MVP point guard Steve Nash.

However, around the NBA, Amare is not just known for his dominance on the court. His mental and physical toughness as well as his intensity are constant question marks in his game, which make him one of the biggest dilemma’s in this year’s free agent class.

There are many good reasons to why teams should not shy away from Amare Stoudemire this off-season. Nevertheless, if your team is going for more than a quality regular season than Amare is not the player meant for you.

Defence. Despite being one of the game’s most dominant big men on the offensive end, Amare is one of the game’s worst big men on the defensive end. It is constantly mentioned that Amare has the ability to play good defence and it is just a matter of him putting his mind to it. Easier said than done.

Part of this problem probably stems from the fact that he played and developed under the Mike D’Antoni seven seconds or less system that allowed him to take plays off on the defensive end. On the other hand, as a top-flight NBA player, it should be Amare’s personal responsibility to take some initiative to make himself into the best possible basketball player that he can be. Even under new coach Alvin Gentry, who tried to instil a better defensive mindset for the Suns , Amare was still having games during the season and the playoffs where he was non-existent on the defensive end.

Potentially Amare could be an intimidating force in the paint, but currently he does not provide the intimidating presence that is a necessity for any championship team. Therefore, it will be a requirement for the the team that does end up signing Amare to either find a defensive stopper to fill the void left by Amare’s defensive incapabilities or to have one already in place.

Dwight Howard led the league in rebounding last season

Rebounding. The defence topic leads into this next reason why I would not take on Amare if I am trying to build a championship calibre team. Even though Amare Stoudemire has never averaged less than 8 rebounds in a season (except for 2005-06 where he only played 3 games), there has always been issues regarding his rebounding consistency. Just like his defence, Amare takes games off on the boards.

For example, in the first two games of the NBA playoff semi-finals versus the Los Angeles Lakers this year, Stoudemire had a combined 9 rebounds in two Suns losses. But in game 3 Amare exploded for 42 points and 11 rebounds in the Suns 118-109 victory. Also, in the that same series Amare had only 4 rebounds in each of the final two games.

There is no reason for a guy with Amare Stoudemire’s physical abilities to not be getting 8 or 9 plus rebounds night in and night out. I’m not sure if it’s that he is unable to bring it every night or that he just flat out doesn’t want to but either way it is a big concern from a front office standpoint.

Intensity. Amare Stoudemire’s game revolves around his ability to stay intense each and every game, which he has proven he is unable to do. Usually, Amare will get at least his 20 points on the offensive end, but as talked about above he does not bring the same focus each game. If you look at the stat sheet every game it would not be obvious that Amare is taking games off on the offensive end. However, if you watch him on a regular basis you will see that there are games where he is not getting to the free throw line and is regularly settling for jump shots.

Again, Amare is too physically gifted to be settling for jump shots during games. It would be impossible to ask of anyone to be 100% intense over an entire 82 game season, but you see a lack of intensity all too often with Amare Stoudemire.

You don’t see Kobe Bryant taking plays off very often let alone entire games off. Amare’s mentality does not scream championship player.

Steve Nash has averaged 10.9 assists in 6 seasons with the Suns

Steve Nash. Maybe the most talked about aspect of Stoudemire’s game is the possibility that he would not be close to the same player that he is considered to be without the distribution from Steve Nash. After a sort of resurgence last season, Steve Nash is still widely considered to be the best point guard in the league. He makes everyone around him a better player as he is always giving open looks and easy buckets to his teammates. Virtual nobody’s such as Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and Channing Frye have all been given big contracts because of Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns’ style of play.

The question that teams have to answer when considering Amare Stoudemire is whether or not he can produce in a similar manner that he did while playing with Steve Nash.

Nash and Stoudemire had a seemingly telepathic connection sometimes. The way they worked the pick and roll to perfection and the deception of the dribble hand-off made the dynamic duo practically unstoppable at times. Amare Stoudemire has not had a season in which he has averaged less than 20 points in the time that Steve Nash has been around. Granted, Amare has only played 2 seasons without the assistance of Steve Nash.

Despite averaging 20.6 points and 9.0 rebounds in his sophomore season before Steve Nash arrived in Phoenix, I think that Amare’s game relies too much on Steve Nash getting him the ball. Moreover, the 3-point shooting that the Suns have possessed over the years spreads the floor for Amare and makes it so help defence is not as apparent as guys are in fear of deadly 3-point shooting.

There is no doubt that Amare Stoudemire is an absolute beast. However, his constant lack of defence, rebounding and intensity, combined with Steve Nash’s play at the point makes Amare a player who will not take the New York Knicks or any other team for that matter to the promimsed land. Obviously, it was inevitable that Amare would be signed to a big contract at some point, but the Knicks will be shaking their heads at their mistake in the years to come.

Amare Stoudemire is going to produce a lot of good things for the team that he signs with, but one thing that he is not going to produce is an NBA championship.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play

The Phoenix Suns pulled off the improbable today, coming back from a 2-0 deficit in their series with the Lakers. After the first two games in LA it seemed that all the match-up problems that the Lakers posed to the Suns were for real and that the Suns were not going to be able to handle them. However, everything changed early in the 2nd quarter of game 3 when Alvin Gentry decided to go to a 2-3 zone defence that stymied the LA offence and eventually allow Phoenix to take the game 118-109. In game 4 Alvin Gentry stuck to his guns and played most of the game with a zone defence. Added onto that, some timely 3 point shooting that the Suns had been lacking throughout the series, especially from Channing Frye, allowed them to pull off another big upset. The big story though wasn’t just the defence and the massive amount of zone played in the game.

The bench, led by second year point guard Goran Dragic, out played not just the Lakers bench, but their starters as well. Throughout the season coach Alvin Gentry has showed confidence in his bench and allowed them to play through their mistakes. In the 2010 playoffs it has definitely paid off. The Suns bench played so well during the 4th quarter in game 4 that Alvin Gentry didn’t take them off until just inside the 4 minute mark of the period. The bench came out in the 4th quarter and nailed 3 consecutive three’s to put the Suns up by 9 and the Lakers were unable to dig out of that hole. Despite the fact that Phil Jackson put out his starters, Alvin Gentry stuck with his bench and they rewarded his confidence. The highlight for the bench was by Goran Dragic who made a beautiful cross over then spin move in the lane and finished it with his off right hand.

Overall the bench shot 20-32 (62.5%) from the field, and 9-20 (45%) from beyond the arc. Channing Frye finally broke out of his slump hitting 4 three pointers after missing 17 field goals in a row. Goran Dragic contributed 8 assists in almost 18 minutes, and Jared Dudley continued his hot shooting making 3 of 6 from downtown. All in all the Suns bench outscored the Lakers bench 54-20.

Having the series tied up 2-2 going back to LA is not the only effect that the impressive play that the bench has on this series. Their ability to play well also allows the starters, most notably Steve Nash to have more than adequate rest. Steve Nash and the rest of the Phoenix Suns starters will now be fresh going into game 5 and not nearly as worn down as the series goes on.

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Kobe Bryant is unstoppable. During the regular season I had finally thought that Lebron James had dethroned Kobe Bryant as the best player in the NBA. I’m sorry I ever doubted you Kobe. We all saw Lebron…well choke in the last two games of their series against the Boston Celtics. I don’t care that his teammates didn’t step up and that Antawn Jamison, the supposed side kick for Lebron, didn’t do his part. Lebron obviously doesn’t have the same mental make up of Kobe to be able to take his team on his back when it matters the most. At least not yet. On the other hand, Kobe Bryant has shown that he can still do it when it matters. In 8 of the last 9 playoff games Kobe has scored over 30 points, silencing his critics (including me) that the nagging injuries were finally getting to him and that all the extra playoff and international games had pushed him over the hill.

Kobe once again tried to put his team on his back tonight going 15-22 from the field, hitting 6 three’s for 38 points. Oh yeah, he also finished with 10 assists for his 3rd straight double-double. The rest of his teammates once again couldn’t crack the zone defence of the Suns. Besides Kobe’s 6-9 from beyond the arc, the rest of the Laker squad shot a dismal 3 for 19 (16%).

I thought Phil Jackson would have figured out a way to break the Sun’s zone, but it seems as though the Lakers are just going to have to shoot better from the outside. I still think Phil Jackson and the Lakers will figure it out for Game 5 but until then let the speculation begin. Hopefully we’re in store for another thrilling game!

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