Party is over, everyone has left. Hotel rooms are empty and for those of us who follow the Phoenix Suns, a bunch of questions remain unanswered. Let me start by saying that I love All Star weekend and that I was looking forward to it this year since it was at Phoenix but I found it hard to enjoy it with all of the trade talks and rumors about Amar'e and Porter. The worst part is that I know a bunch of people felt that way and I'm sure that David Stern didn't appreciate any of the backstage drama either.
Back when I wrote Part 1 of the season preview series, most of us agreed that it was time for a change, that our up tempo style had been studied, dissected and deciphered and that we really needed to step up on the defensive end if we wanted to get a legitimate shot at the championship. All of us knew that this task was going to be difficult with the type of players that we have. They played 4 years for a coach who didn't practice nor taught defense and only preached offense, three of our starters are not good defenders (to say the least), most of the players were put together to fit one style only.
Think about it, this was not an easy job to take.
Porter's job was to come in and focus on defense. To get into these player's heads and make them understand that everything starts with not allowing the other team to score. That you can only be so good on offense and you know...get stops from time to time. I applauded his eagerness to make these type of changes but I think everything went downfall when he tried to put his own stamp in The Suns offensive strategy.
The Big Dilemma
Porter claimed that The Suns needed to use Shaq more often, pound the ball on the post and slow the game down. It's hard to blame him for going to Shaq. The Big Cactus was looking like his old self. He seemed more agile, his great low post moves were back: The baby hooks, the low post spin and dunks. But by over using him, he limited our other scorers to just watch and stand around while Shaq did his thing. Opposing teams liked this strategy because it's the same one they have always used against us with Nash. Make him a scorer and not a distributor. Only this time we did it to ourselves and we transformed Nash into a "regular point guard". Let's not forget that Shaq was not able to sustain his outbursts. We have said it a bunch of times, there would be times where he was destroying the other teams in the first half, only to score 6 in the second half. Porter's strategy to feed Shaq so often became predictable just like D'Antoni's run n gun.
D'Antoni's Shaq strategy:
Coach Mike wanted Shaq, let's not forget that. Shaq was happy to come here as a role player, he said that himself. During the last 20 games of the regular season last year, the Suns became unpredictable again. Here's why:
- a) The Suns would still run, but this time they would slow down the game whenever they wanted to. Teams had no idea when the Suns were going to run or give the ball to Shaq on the post.
- b) Shaq rested for large periods of time. This was done for the purpose of not clogging the lane and let Amar'e and Nash do their thing. Not to mention that it kept him fresh for whenever he was asked to be the primary scoring option. Do you guys remember the game were he just dominated the Spurs in the second half? The reason that I bring this up now is because I'm expecting Gentry to do exactly this.
Rotations: We noticed that this was an issue since day one. At first I thought that we were so used to coach Mike's rotations that maybe it felt weird to actually use the bench. Maybe Porter was trying to figure out which lineups had more chemistry and who played better with whom. This was going to get better with time. It didn't. Porter pulled out players when they were hot, Nash was playing a bunch of minutes, He insisted in playing Barnes before LB. Not having consistent rotations can cause turnovers and confusion among players.
Reluctance to run: This came as a surprise to me. Having watched TP in his prime. I thought he understood the importance of a fast break. There were games where we finished with less than ten fast break points and even ones that we finished with None. If that's not misusing our players I don't know what is.
Not earning his player's Trust: It's hard for me to believe that Porter lacks leadership skills. He was an outstanding PG and to be able to reach that level you have to be a good leader. Maybe he's the type of coach who should only work with a young staff until he gets more experience or maybe Suns players are spoiled millionaires who are so enamored with D'Antoni's system that they just refused to accept any changes. I'll leave that up to debate.
Everyone agreed that it would have been better to hire an experienced coach. It's not Terry's fault that he couldn't do the job. If someone is not able to do a specific job it's the employers fault for hiring in the first place. That's Human Resources 101. I don't have any doubts that Terry was trying to please his employers by following Kerr's instructions. Kerr is not off the hook on this one. He did have the guts to fire someone he hired, therefore, accepting his mistake publicly. You got to give him that. I'm sure that he's aware that this leaves a huge stain in his resume.
Once again we are left with a lot of questions and doubts. I guess we can only watch and keep our fingers crossed that this works out for our beloved team's sake.