Head Over…Head for Steve Nash

Even if it isn’t always for the best, “the heart wants what it wants.”

The hearts of Raptors fans were longing for Steve Nash in Toronto. For a 38-year-old aging point guard, this was a longing that had classic heart over head feeling written all over it. A mere month ago, you would have been crazy to say that it was possible that the Canadian-born superstar could play for his homeland’s team. However, Nash to Toronto became a real possibility in recent days and fans didn’t mind pulling out every stop to lure him back up north.

Unlike Raptors fans, Bryan Colangelo’s heart wasn’t in on this one. On paper, it looks and sounds good that their general manager’s heart is not playing a part in this decision. I mean, it is his job to use his head to make the best decision for the sake of the Toronto Raptors.

Unfortunately, it was only a small part of Bryan Colangelo’s head that was making the decision to go all-in on Steve Nash. The business side of his head overrode every other region of his head.

Colangelo’s noggin understood that Raptors fans hearts were all-in on Steve Nash. He felt that he could do no wrong by doing everything humanly possible to bring Nash to the NBA’s lone Canadian team. Nash is still playing at a high level and his arrival in Canada would fulfill the pipe dreams of a nation of basketball fans. Fans would be happy he was doing something rather than nothing.

He figured, what’s the harm?

For many Canadians, including myself, Steve Nash will forever be their favourite basketball player. My heart was in on this Steve Nash deal a little while ago. It was difficult not to get on board the possibility of Nash to Toronto. I mean, it seemed close to impossible anyways.

What a difference a few days makes.

On Tuesday, the Raptors and Landry Fields verbally agreed to a back loaded 3 year $20 million offer sheet, which supposedly prevented the New York Knicks from acquiring Nash. Fields is a guy the Raptors apparently are fond of but probably not at that price. Early Wednesday morning, the Knicks became the frontrunners but then lost out on Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers in the evening. Toronto was left in the dust.

Bryan Colangelo went all-in with a pair of 10’s for Steve Nash. The Lakers, they somehow managed a straight flush.

Colangelo’s all or nothing move for Nash via Fields failed big time. The Raptors are going to be stuck with another inconsistent shooting wing player. Fields has potential but he’s not worth what the Raptors are going to pay him. Colangelo gave Steve Nash his best pitch but he knew it wasn’t enough. He decided to risk even more of the future, supposedly leaving Nash no choice.

The Landry Fields move shows that Bryan Colangelo has lost sight of the big picture, well, not that he really had any idea of it to start with.

It has been almost 2 years since Bosh has left for Miami. He was forced to finally rebuild after his retool to impress Chris Bosh didn’t exactly impress. Apparently, 2 years on the rebuild is 2 years too many for the other Bryan GM in Toronto. Colangelo appears to have no issue with compromising the long-term rebuild of the franchise. It’s because he is only looking out for number 1 – himself.

Colangelo knew that Nash was going to buy him some more time.

When Colangelo went all-in for Nash, his eyes lit up like cartoon dollar signs and his blinders only let him see the extra years of job security Nash would provide him. The Canadian icon would have filled the seats, sold merchandise and brought a buzz to the Toronto Raptors not seen since the Vin-sanity days. It was simply business for Bryan Colangelo but this type of business isn’t what the Toronto Raptors need right now.

My heart told me I would have enjoyed the coming years if Steve Nash had joined the Raptors. It would have been a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a situation as unique as Nash in Toronto.

Bryan Colangelo played off those types of feelings. His business head knew that he could take advantage of Canada’s national love for Steve.

Bryan Colangelo was being completely selfish.

The job security of a professional sports GM depends on him making the best decision for the team, except for those times when he is coming close to his expiry date. Once again, Colangelo proved he is unwilling to trust a rebuild. His selfish motives got in the way of his franchises best interests.

The Raptors are lucky to avoid getting Steve Nash. Fields and Nash would have been $55 million on the books for the next 3 years. It would have killed their rebuild. They’re still stuck with Fields but things could be worse.

With the extra revenue Nash would have brought to the team, Bryan Colangelo knew that he would have no trouble compensating for that overpriced tag of $12 million per. However, compensating for those 3 years of lost rebuilding would have been a tad trickier.

For Bryan Colangelo, bringing in Steve Nash wasn’t about helping grow the sport of basketball in Canada. It wasn’t about pleasing the fans. And most importantly, it wasn’t about making the Toronto Raptors the finest team they possibly could be.

BC has been feeling the heat and the Nash sweepstakes were all about what was best for Bryan Colangelo.

His heart may not be in it but, by chasing Steve Nash as relentlessly as he did, Colangelo has clearly shown that his business head has taken over his general managing head.

That’s just bad news for the Toronto Raptors.

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

Agree? Disagree? You can also e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

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Monday’s Seven Casual Contemplations

Welcome to the new, hopefully, weekly segment on Painting the Black. It is my goal to start your work week off right with random thoughts, ideas, rants and ramblings from the week that was in the world of sports. Exclusive to Painting the Black, here are your Monday Morning Casual Contemplations…

April is Undoubtedly the Best Sports Month

I used to believe that April and October were essentially equal in the best sports month department. I have now officially changed my mind. There is simply no comparison to the month of April. While October features playoff baseball and the new beginnings of the NBA and NHL seasons, the month of April contains all those things flipped around, but so much more. The Masters start the real golf season off right as we saw one of the most exciting Master’s of all time with big Bubba gettin ‘er done. But on top of that, everyone’s favourite bullshit season, the NFL draft is arguably the best football day of the year.

Yeah, April trumps the competition.

Liberal Strike Zones

I’ll never understand why so many umpires choose to give such liberal strike zones. The plate is there for a reason yet umpires are always giving 2 or 3 inches off the edges. This isn’t anything new to baseball but it is something that should change. The MLB is having enough problems with teams inability to score runs and it doesn’t help that umpires continually call strikes that hitters simply can’t reach in this steroid-less, nasty off-speed, hard throwing age of baseball.

It always rubbed me the wrong way that star players in any sport get the benefit of the calls. They are already the best and do not deserve an even bigger advantage. Greg Maddux is the pitcher that immediately comes to mind whenever I see star pitchers get the benefit of the doubt on calls outside the zone. Expanding the strike zone beyond its predisposed limits makes great pitchers like Maddux virtually unhittable. All this ‘they have earned it’ stuff is really just a bunch of garbage

Why the MLB puts up with this is beyond me. Like the NHL, they are losing ground on the NFL and NBA and a simple fix for more runs would be to tell umpires to call strikes within the strike zone. Who is running this league? Gary Bettman?

I don’t get it.

Pujols Struggling

The choice to sign a player on the wrong side of 30 to a double-digit year contract doesn’t really ever strike me as the brightest idea.
Now, of course it would be moronic to deem Albert Pujols’ 10 year contract a failure after 21 homerless games but the decision making behind the signing was questionable prior to the signing. The fact that his age is still an unknown and that he already was on the decline last season, despite his great second half, were not good indicators for his success over the next decade.

Missing Colour in the NHL

The amount of high quality colour commentators in the world of professional sports is few and far between but each sport seems to have at least 1 or 2 guys that qualify as elite. Except for hockey that is. Watching the NHL playoffs this year has brought this to my attention again.

CBC’s lead guy, Craig Simpson, suffers from a severe case of lack of insightful analysis and appears to be ignorantly blissful to all the head shots, hooking, holding and other problems that are hurting the game of hockey. Although Pierre McGuire knows his stuff well for the most part, there is a sense of arrogance to his general lack of likeability from NBC’s new top colour man.

It’s frustrating that, out of all the former players and front office men, they can’t find one guy to be the voice of authority for the NHL. The game experience really becomes a lot less enjoyable without that dynamic tandem up in the booth.

Steve Nash to Miami?

I keep hearing about Steve Nash to Miami and how this is the ideal destination for the 2-time NBA Most Valuable Player to win a championship. Sure, Miami would give Nash arguably the best opportunity to finally get that elusive ring but that’s about all it will do for him. The ring isn’t everything for Steve Nash. There’s a reason why he hasn’t demanded a trade out of Phoenix. He likes it there. He likes playing in a system that he is comfortable with and, more importantly, where he is the focal point.

Nash dominates the ball but that wouldn’t be the case with Dwayne Wade and Lebron James. I can guarantee you that Steve Nash doesn’t want that. Miami and Steve Nash makes about as much sense as cheeseburgers on a pizza. What, Pizza Hut did that?

Welp, anything is possible I guess.

Classy Bruins Fans. Very Classy.

Not that you probably need it but here’s another reason to hate Boston sports fans and it’s not a good one. Following Washington Capitals African-Canadian forward Joel Ward’s game 7 overtime game winning goal, a barrage of racially filled hate flooded the twitterverse directed at Ward by the defeated Bruins fans. It’s a classless display. I realize that it is only a small portion of the Bruins fans and by no means represents their entire fan base, but the fact that there were enough people to use the dreaded N-word in this defamatory manner to make a story out of it is pathetic.

The double-edged sword nature of twitter rears its ugly head again as its lack of any sort of filter allows emotionally charged individuals to vent their frustrations before they have any chance to properly collect their thoughts. Twitter is fascinating in that regard because it shows people in their most uninhibited state, without the masks that they put on for society each and every day. It’s almost like alcohol in that your true persona and feelings come out whether you like it or not. Now, I’m not naive enough to believe this could not have happened to another city’s fan base but, at the same time, it is by no means a shocker that the city of Boston is the culprit.

Good on Joel Ward for playing the story down though and not making this out to be something more than it has to be.

Jose Bautista, ah, Struggling

Like Pujols, Bautista is mired in a prolonged slump, which seems to concern me a lot more than the rest of Blue Jays nation. Sure, Jose Bautista has hit the most home runs in the Majors in the past 2 seasons, had a slash line of .302/.447/.608 in 2011 and WAR’d an outstanding 8.5 last season. However, those inflated numbers were due in large part to his torrid April and May. Yeah, I know his OPS was still .896 after the all-star break last year but he hasn’t ever looked like the same player since last May. A lot of his walks were because of his inability to put the ball in play even as pitchers shied away from him less and less with the realization that he wasn’t Barry Bonds anymore.

Enter 2012, where Bautista is slashing a terrible .187/.337/.333. While it would be absurd to say that Jose Bautista cannot become close to a shadow of his former self, I think it’s starting to become evident that his post all-star break numbers are a better indication of what we’re going to see from him in the future. As a Blue Jays fan, I want to be wrong (kind of). I was wrong in the summer of 2010 when I told the Blue Jays not to re-sign Bautista. Being wrong doesn’t hurt nearly as much as seeing Bautista pop out or foul back good pitch after good pitch.

It doesn’t look as though it is merely a matter of finding his timing anymore. He still has the power but something is seriously wrong. Maybe this is a case of coming to a conclusion a little bit too quickly but this feeling has been churning in my stomach since last June and, as of right now, it isn’t going anywhere.

Don’t Turn Off the Game, Ever

I think I turned the Clippers-Grizzlies game when Memphis was up by 21 points with about a minute left in the 3rd quarter. Bad idea.

By now you probably know how the story turns out. Fairy tale for the Clippers, horror story for the Grizzlies and yada, yada, yada. Nevermind the awesomeness of the comeback in itself. This is just another one of those “if you put it in a movie you wouldn’t believe it” moments that play such a big part in making sports so fascinating to society. I realize I didn’t actually watch this comeback but these are the times when I feel sorry for people who don’t watch sports. Those guys are missing out.

Bonus (Shameless?) Contemplation!

I was thinking that you might want to check me out on twitter and then give me a follow @paintstheblack if you like what you’re seeing. Maybe before you do that, don’t leave the website and subscribe to the blog either through the email subscription in the right hand corner or with the RSS feed so you can have immediate access to the latest articles on Painting the Black. Sweet, I know.

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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