For some reason, as I started typing this, that Whitesnake song started running through my mind. Here I go again on my own/ Going down the only road I've ever known/ Like a drifter I was born to walk alone ... Does anyone else find it ironic that Jimmy Page bashed Whitesnake and then made an album with David Coverdale? Who's got the back-story on that?
Last night, I went to the Suns' "Town Hall" meeting with Sarver, Kerr and Welts. By the way, my raffle ticket was three integers away from winning Sarver's tickets to a game. Sarver said he could not stomach sitting through a 25-win season in which the team rebuilds. For what it's worth, his goal is a 50+ win season next year.
Both Kerr and Sarver said the team is not a true title contender, and they seemed to indicate they did not believe the team could be a true title contender next year. I guess they know what we all know -- it's going to be tough to make big changes to this team. That being said, they agreed that they should be in the playoffs and should make a run.
I think I heard Grant Hill on the radio a week or so back. He essentially said that the Lakers are alone, but that the Suns should be "the best of the rest." Look at the other wesetrn conference playoff teams and try to determine which one would be a heavy favorate against the Suns in a series.
Mainly, though, we heard more of the same stuff we heard last summer: "We are so good offensively that we just need to get a little better defensively." "We need to keep developing the bench." "Steve Nash has at least a few more good years left in him." "Goran Dragic will make a good backup for Nash and allow Nash to rest."
In my mind, though, a big question (both looking back and looking forward) is, "Did Terry Porter not listen to you, Steve? Or, were you telling him something different than you were telling us?" The question looks backward, because we all like to mercilessly pick apart decisions with the value of hindsight.
The question also looks forward, though, because of the bench. For the most part, the Suns' second unit was competitive with, or superior to, other teams' second units. They were also competitive with, or superior to, the first line of some of the worst teams. This is a nice asset. Now we just need to get the starters to play at the same relative level to their competition.
The bench "developed" under Alvin Gentry, right? Could a few weeks of practice actually have changed them? Probably not. Was the bench just bubbling over with talent, ready to explode, but Porter could not identify that? I guess that's a possibility. Or, was Porter actually in the process of developing the bench and Gentry simply got to reap the fruits of Porter's labor? (Kind of the opposite of when the outgoing president leaves a crummy economy for the next president; Clinton and Bush both did it for their respective replacements.)
Porter had to have been at least somewhat beneficial to the younger players' development. The question seems to be whether it was a large contribution or a small one. Remember, too, that Gentry staffed the D'Antoni bench-less Suns. I just don't know that Gentry is going to give that which we want in regard to the bench next year. There is no guarantee that a bench that was pressed into service after Porter left will continue its positive growth.
From a long-term perspective ("long" simply being past the 2009-2010 season), I am in no way comfortable with the notion that the Suns are "developing" younger players. I'm afraid that they will only get better with more playing time, and in order to become starting-caliber players they're going to have to play against other starters and not the scrubs they seem to be able to beat.
Sarver does not want to rebuild and appears to be very happy with being above-average but not a contender. Gentry's head-coaching career does not inspire confidence. I'm not so sure Gentry is going to get these guys to play defense any better or more consistently. I cannot believe that the bench will continue its upward trend without getting PT against the other teams' starters -- which will mean an increased amount of losses.
As far as potential changes to the roster (and we'll get into this in way more depth later), the most realistic changes would seem to be shipping off Stoudemire, Richardson or Barbosa (espcially given that Kerr/Sarver have pretty much guaranteed they're not doing the unthinkable unless Cleveland wants him for LeBron) to a team under the cap for a combination of young players or picks. If Sarver want to be the "best of the rest" in 2009-2010, such a move probably would not accomplish that goal.
Seems to me like there's going to be a lot of speculation during the off-season, but we're in store for another season of the same with, probably, a few more wins than in 2008-2009.