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Back with a vengeance...

A lot has happened since my last post as I became a father (thanks to everyone who sent along well-wishes), the Bulls and Celtics gave us one of the most spectacular playoff series in the history of everything, the Spurs lost (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), the Lakers appear vulnerable (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), the Hornets (players) absolutely stopped playing for Byron Scott while the Hornets (organization) came out saying that he’s going to be their coach next year, the Nuggets look GREAT (still hard to count on a team that has about 8 players who could absolutely snap at any given moment), and LeBron James has established himself as a superhuman talent (seriously, dude is so amazing that the first promise I made to my newborn daughter was that one day I would take her to see LeBron play in person).  I have wanted to create posts for all of these things, but for obvious reasons I just haven’t had time to hash them out and post them.  That being said, let me just tell you that if you stopped watching just because the Suns weren’t playing, you are missing out!  However, the purpose of this post is not to discuss any of the above but to lay out my top 10 summer wish list with a bonus wish added in.


Before we get to the list, I need to lay down a few ground rules:


1. This is my wish list comprised of things that I would like to see and not necessarily what I think is going to happen


2. This list does not necessarily take into account money, CBAs, agents, Sarver, or even reality…otherwise, what’s the point of wishing?


3. While a large portion of the list consists of Suns-centric wishes, there are some that expand beyond the kingdom into all of basketball


Now that the ground rules have been set and because this is a lengthy post, let’s get to it.

10. The NBA comes out and admits that the Suns vs. Spurs Game 3 from the 2007 playoffs was rigged (or tampered with)


Okay, I know I should be over this by now but I have watched that game over and over and over again and Donaghy (yeah, remember him?) made two very HORRIBLE calls towards the end of that game really did have an impact on the outcome. They have said that he tampered with games but have never mentioned THAT specific game and I would just like the NBA to admit what we all know to be true.  No, it won’t change the fact that we lost to the Spurs or that Amare and Boris “left the bench” but it would go a long way in helping me feel better about the whole deal and…after all, this is MY wish list. 


On a side note, I still can’t believe how easy the NBA has gotten off of this whole scandal!  Really, if it weren’t for the Celtics vs. Lakers (and some very questionable trades) last season, would the world have forgotten this so easily?  I mean how are we note hearing Donaghy chants throughout every arena whenever a bad call is made against the home team?  Something needs to be done – I think we as fans need a commissioner to orchestrate how fans should act in certain situations.  If I were the official fan commissioner I would make it mandatory that fans not let the NBA forget Donaghy (or pretend that he didn’t exist), I would have forced the Sonics fans to perform some sort of outward protest for the last televised Sonics game, I would get rid of the MVP chant, impose a standing only policy during the last five minutes of any close game (maybe 2 minutes for games before the All-Star break) and make it so that anybody who brings a whistle to a game and insists on blowing it repeatedly to try and mess with the action is open range for fans sitting nearby to beat the life out of him/her.


On another side note, did you see the Mavs vs Nuggets game over the weekend?  The no-call was more the fault of Wright and Carlisle than it was the refs – Wright gave a little chest bump but didn’t wrap up or follow through in any way with the foul.  Plus, in that situation the coaches and players should all be letting the refs know that there is going to be an intentional foul and to be looking for it.  That being said, why the hell did the NBA come out and say they made a mistake in this case when they cover so many other things up?  I’ll never understand how the league thinks.


9. NBA scouts quit looking for diamonds in the rough over in Europe and focus on American talent


Looking back over the history of the NBA, there have been very few (comparatively speaking) European players that have actually worked out.  For every Dirk there have been 10 Skitisvili’s (no I don’t think that’s spelled right but I don’t feel his name is even worth checking).  The thing is, if there’s a European player that has an NBA game, he’s not going to stay hidden and I’m certainly not opposed to having European talent in the league.  My point is that we spend so much time and effort searching the Adriatic leagues of the world that we don’t realize the truth that NBA basketball is still an American institution.  Jason Kopono put it best when he said (and I’m paraphrasing) that if his name were Koponovic he would have been a top 10 draft pick.  The NBA has an infatuation with European players and it often causes teams to make very poor basketball decisions (just look at some of the players who got passed over when Darko and Bargnani were drafted).  I think a lot of the resources that teams use to tread the planet searching for talent could be put to better use – especially in this economic climate. 


8. David Stern resigns (or gets overthrown)


David Stern has done some amazing things with the NBA.  Since taking over he has helped make basketball not only one of the most popular sports in America, but in the world as well.  However, after so much time in power I fell that things are starting to slip for him a little bit.  He completely dropped the ball with…well…the ball when he tried to introduce the new two-panel, fake leather design.  He has repeatedly mishandled the referee situation and we saw this year that the refs are still as bad as ever without seeing them have to answer to much of anything (whatever happened to making things transparent?).  He took part in the Sonics leaving all because he was trying to set a precedent that cities need to be willing to bend to his demands in order to keep their beloved franchises.  He continues to be more concerned with expansion beyond the US than with the teams that are really struggling right now in his league.  Again, he has done some great things - I just feel his time has run its course and that some new blood would do everybody good.


7. Bill Simmons becomes the GM of the Minnesota Timberwolves


Give the Sports Guy a sports team.  Why not?  Could it really hurt the T-Wolves having a GM who uses common sense to make deals instead of going with the same old things that have always been done?  I don’t see how it could and I would love to see if it might actually work out – plus, how could the Wolves pass up an opportunity to bring in a guy who has made it clear that he would work the first year free-of-charge and who would clearly bring some more interest to the team in these economic times?


6. Suns don’t screw up their draft


The Suns have been HORRIBLE when it comes to the draft ever since 2003 when they picked up Barbosa late in the first round.  They gave away Luol Deng in the 2004 draft for not much, Nate Robinson and Q in the 2005 draft for Kurt Thomas, Rajon Rondo (one of the best defensive PGs in the game right now) and Sergio Rodriguez in the 2006 draft, Rudy Fernandez in the 2007 draft for basically enough to pay Goran Dragic’s buyout/salary a year later, and in last year’s draft the Suns said they had Robin above his brother Brook and Dragic as their #2 PG on the board – not even close.  The point is, the Suns have proven to be absolutely abysmal when it comes to the draft.  Nothing would make me happier than to see them make solid decisions that make sense financially and basketball wise and not end up giving an unproven talent $2 million/year in a four year deal.


5. Suns bring in a defensive coordinator a la Celtics and Tom Thibadeu


Some might argue that with the same personnel (and I’ll get to the big player change I’m wishing for in a second) that defense is a lost cause no matter what you do.  If you are one of those people, I will fight you!  The Suns have some strengths that put in the right schemes could actually help them become an efficient defensive team.  Steve Nash is great at drawing charges, the Suns have a lot of quickness on the wings and have players that can recover quickly and jump passing lanes and Amare Stoudemire is athletic as hell.  These things (well, substitute Amare’s athleticism for Shaq’s size) made it so that the zone that Gentry implemented during much of his short stint as interim coach worked relatively well.  The issue was, they used it as more of a crutch than an attacking mechanism.  A defensive coordinator could help flip this.  First, having somebody there who specializes in defense and whose sole responsibility is to help the team improve in this area would work wonders.  Assuming that they are running the same sort of offensive system that the players already know, they would be allotted more time during the offseason to work on defensive schemes and rotations.  They would have to bring somebody in who would be able to help teach Amare exactly how to play the pick-n-roll (my next wish should help with this as well) and to see the floor from a defensive general’s type of standpoint.  A defensive coordinator would also allow them to learn several different schemes for different types of opponents and stay on top of which schemes will work in each game during the season.  They would be able to change their schemes in ways that would allow them to exploit the opponent’s offensive weaknesses as opposed to allowing the offenses to exploit their defensive weaknesses.  I really think that a QUALITY hire as a defensive coordinator would make a world of difference for the Phoenix Suns.


4. Suns get rid of Shaq and bring in a defensive big man who doesn’t clog the lane on offense 


The trade for Shaq brought A) size and strength in the middle and B) a low-post presence.  However, it did not bring better defense (Shaq is notoriously bad at guarding the pick-n-roll) and his low-post presence clogged the lane.  The reason the “Amare Stoudemire Project” failed was not because Amare didn’t try to learn from Shaq but because Shaq didn’t have a whole lot to teach him (and…as I’ve said before…Shaq’s ego got in the way).  Amare Stoudemire is more offensively gifted than Shaq in that he has a wider array of tools at his disposal and they both share some of the same weaknesses defensively.  However, if they brought in a player such as a Marcus Camby or even a Kenyon Martin (have you seen what Martin has been doing to Dirk?) who could teach Amare how to play better defense while staying out of his way on the offensive end, Amare could develop into one of the top 5 players in the league.  Amare has never had a teammate who could really teach him how to defend the high pick and roll or how to use his athleticism to his advantage on the defensive end or even how to read and dictate what the offense does.  As I said in my post about the Amare MonsterQuest, I still believe in him and feel that he is a special talent (plus, he’s in a contract year next year meaning he’ll be trying to earn his money).  He just needs to be surrounded by players who can help him develop in areas where he is lacking.  Amare was stifled last year – suffocating under Shaquille O’Neal.  If the Suns got rid of Shaq and were able to bring in somebody who would compliment Amare’s abilities as opposed to exposing his weaknesses, the Suns will be in the playoffs.  With Shaq, we saw what happens even when he plays fantastic ball all year – he is just unable at this point in his career to carry a team to success. I know there was a lot of uncertainty with coaches and styles but the point is we gave him the opportunity and he was unable to take advantage of it like he would have in his prime.  Now, to be clear, I don’t in ANY WAY blame Shaq for the Suns failures this past season, I just don’t think he’s capable of carrying teams anymore even when he puts up good numbers.


3. Grant Hill gets some rest


Lost in all of the turmoil this season was Grant Hill’s awesome first time ever streak of playing in all 82 games during an NBA season.  Not only did he play, but he looked GOOD!  If you didn’t get excited every time you saw Hill fly in for a dunk in traffic you are either A) not a real Suns fan or B) don’t know Grant Hill’s story.  Of all the bad that surrounded this team last season, this was an overwhelming good.  Grant Hill has shown nothing but class throughout his career even though he has had adversity thrown at him time and time again in the form of numerous injuries.  Now the question is can his body hold up and do it again?  Well, he’ll need to be well-rested as next season gets underway but I really feel that with rest and the Suns training staff he should be able to make a similar run next season.


2. Steve Nash gets some rest


Maybe missing the playoffs will be a blessing in disguise as it will give Nash and Hill more time to recuperate after last season.  Steve Nash is still a great PG in this league.  He is one of the best and most creative passers, an EXCELLENT shooter and sees the floor and understands the game as well as any other PG.  Hopefully having a little extra time off will allow him to heal and get his legs fresh for next season.


1. Amare Stoudemire gets NO rest


Amare has had plenty of time to rest due to injury this past season.  Now is the time for Amare to redefine his game once again.  Looking back, it is an absolute shame that he didn’t play for Team USA in the Olympics last summer.  Everyone on that squad came back better on the defensive end because Kobe Bryant (yes, our mortal enemy Kobe Bryant) pushed them to be better on that end.  This year LeBron James has been unleashed on the league and it’s due in large part to Kobe teaching him how to be a tenacious defender.  Melo, Bosh, and DWade all came back this season absolutely committed on the defensive end and it’s a shame that Amare missed out on that.  This summer Amare needs to realize that the only way he is ever going to be thought of when people think of the league’s elite is if he becomes a solid defensive player.  That means learning to defend the pick and roll, learning to make other bigs take the shots that HE wants them to take and getting into the “every rebound is mine and I don’t care what anyone says or does” mode.  His game has already changed from being a dunker, to having touch around the rim, to being a knock down shooter.  The next stage of his evolution has to come on the other side of the ball.  Around here there are plenty of people who have already grown tired of waiting – if he wants to regain there respect, earn himself a big contract and once again be mentioned among the NBA’s best, his time is now.  He cannot rest this summer – he HAS to be in the gym putting the final touch on his already beautiful game.


*. I get the chance to play one-on-one with a WNBA player


Alright – I know you all are thinking that this is a weird sort of wish but let me explain.  A while back, the Mercury sent out a tweet asking if anybody wanted the chance to play against a WNBA player.  Phoenix Stan saw the message and sent it to me after contacting somebody at the organization saying that I would like the opportunity (lucky for him I actually would be up to doing it).  Now, seeing as we’re going to attempt to cover the Mercury to some extent to fill the basketball void before the draft and summer ball starts up, I figure this would be a good opportunity to measure the talent they have in the WNBA.  I have long theorized that an average rec-league player could beat a WNBA player.  This would be the perfect chance to prove this theory as I consider myself to be a slightly above average player.  It would also give the WNBA a chance to earn some respect from me.  The truth is I am a little hesitant to put this out there because if I were to lose, I would be VERY embarrassed by it but if I were to win it would justify my being so hesitant to watch, or even pay attention to the WNBA.


Well, there’s my Top 10 summer wish list – now if I could only find my stupid genie.

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