Eutychus here - I'm new to BSOTS - this is something I posted on planetorange.net a little bit ago, but I'll post it here as well to introduce myself.
The Phoenix Suns and Pendulum Adjustment
- An explanation of the ups and downs of the Phoenix Suns since 2004 and a formal response to this season’s naysayers, in particular those who say – "Why did we trade Shaq and get nothing in return?"
The looking glass through which we see and interpret our lives is made up of a number of factors. Some of those factors include our experiences, our knowledge, our traditions, our familial or social influences, or our talents and interests and so on.
The looking glass I have been dissecting the Suns with this summer, is one molded by my studies in history and philosophy. I have noticed a certain pattern over the last 5 years of glorious purple and orange basketball, and it is a pattern of human behavior and ideological shifting that I've observed in human history, I have deemed it – "Pendulum Adjustment." If my theory holds true, we should see a better suns team this year than our 05-07 Suns.
Let me first explain how the theory works – then I will explain how it applies to the Phoenix Suns
First off, imagine the swinging arm of an old grandfather clock, or imagine a child on a swing, this is a pendulum. A pendulum sits at equilibrium (the desired status) when it is at rest. As soon as the pendulum is displaced from its resting position, gravity pulls the pendulum and accelerates it back towards and past the point of equilibrium. Back and forth it swings, always trying to move towards it's desired state.
Much like a pendulum, we as humans are caught in struggles for equilibrium constantly. Generally, we are always moving from one extreme end of a spectrum to the opposite, seeking what is acceptable, or what is comfortable. This process occurs on many levels, be it an ideological, physiological, or a practical level, etc. "Pendulum Adjustment" is a broad term that I've coined which refers to this natural tendency or phenomenon, the back and forth, from extreme to extreme, until equilibrium is met.
A Few Examples:
-The old nursery rhyme of Goldilocks and the Three Bears demonstrates this process through Goldilocks' intrusion into the house of the three bears. She tries everything from the porridge to the chairs to the beds, each time two were either too hot or too cold, too big or too small, too soft or too hard, and one of each was 'just right'. Pendulum adjustment.
-When driving a vehicle - over-correction is a type of pendulum adjustment. When you are traveling fast and forced to make a sudden lateral movement, a common reaction is to jerk the wheel ALL the way to one extreme - left or right. When you realize you have turned the wheel too far, the natural tendency is to react and turn the wheel this time to the other extreme! This shift from extreme to extreme results in the car 'fish-tailing' out of control. The counter to fish-tailing is to stop accelerating and gently steer into the direction of the fish-tail until your car is stabilized... or until it reaches equilibrium.
-For all you history nerds like me - take the history of religion and philosophy during the period of reformation or enlightenment. The churches and philosophical ideas that were institutionalized and promulgated during that period were direct opposites of the previous ideas and religion that was in many senses 'forced' upon the general public. The ideas of the time shifted from one extreme - to the other. Back and Forth. I'd love to go into more detail.. but I'll spare you the snores...
Over the last few years and in an attempt to become better, the Phoenix Suns have gone through a typical cycle of pendulum adjustment.
Mike D'Antoni is credited with creating or making famous the Run & Gun style of play - but I think Alvin Gentry has learned the truly important part of that philosophy - you have to mold the style you play to the strengths of your players. I believe this is the true and important principle behind the Run & Gun - not so much the 7 seconds or less, not so much the "we're going to score more points than you" aspect, it is truly molding your schemes to the strengths of your players.
If this is true, the ideal or ‘equilibrium’ for the Suns is found somewhere between an extremely fast and constant offense and a standard lock down defense. This is equilibrium because of who our players are. Alvin Gentry has been quoted as saying something to this effect – that the Suns don’t need to be ‘great’ defensively, just ‘ok’, this because their offensive superiority will offset any discrepancies. This is the Suns desired equilibrium.
The Pendulum Swings
So in the glory days of D'Antoni the team was all up-tempo offense, virtually no defense. And on their end of the court the Suns defined the offensive extreme of the offense v. defense spectrum. When that plan involving the absolute absence of defense didn't work out after a few disappointing seasons (and some questionable officiating... I mean, some bad luck), the team thought they would go a different direction. So the pendulum, the ideology of the Suns moved to the other extreme and Shaq (who in his younger years [see above picture] was the NBA definition of defense, and is the quintessential center of a slow-tempo-half-court-defensively-minded stratagem) was acquired and Terry Porter was shipped in to change the philosophy of the team. IT DIDN'T WORK.
This team has gone from extreme to extreme - what they are trying to do now is find a more balanced system that exploits the talent and tendencies of their core players - Nash, Stoudemire, Richardson, Barbosa, Hill, even Dragic, and now Frye are all players who thrive in the up-tempo offense - which is to mean, if they are not playing an up-tempo style, they are not performing at their best. Shaq handicapped this harmony. Shaq and Terry porter's presence were actually a contradiction to the rest of the team, and just like our immune system reacts to an invading virus - The organization rejected them and threw them out.
So getting rid of Shaq will once again allow the Suns to return to the up-tempo offensive end of the style spectrum, the pendulum will once again swing... EXCEPT THIS TIME IT'S DIFFERENT than in years past.
You see, this time we have not only a core group of players who are extremely dangerous in the running game, but we also have a core group of bench contributors (and one starter - Hill) who are better defenders as well - Dudley, Amundson, Dragic, Clark, Lopez, and even TGriff. D'Antoni never had any bench contributors as valuable as the ones our current bench is composed of --- and even if he did, he wouldn't have used them. This is the difference.
This is why an 'addition by subtraction' Shaq trade argument is a valid argument. Beyond the financial reasoning and the chemistry issues - this is why it is okay we didn’t get more in return for Shaq.
This will be an amazing team this year.
Has the pendulum stopped? Is this equilibrium? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.