On June 25th, 2009, the Phoenix Suns were about to embark on a new era. Shaquille O’Neal had been jettisoned to Cleveland and Amare Stoudemire was nearly gone. The Suns and Golden State had a deal, or a gentleman’s agreement, or a firm handshake, or an agreement in principle with the Golden State Warriors.
The deal was this:
Suns trade Amare Stoudamire to Golden State. In return the Suns get:
Marco Belinelli and or Kelena Azuibuke
and the No. 7 pick.
But something unexpected happened on draft night-the stars aligned or the basketball gods answered Don Nelson’s drunken prayers: Minnesota drafted two point guards at 5 and 6-Ricky Rubio and Johnny Flynn. This left another point guard, Stephen Curry, on the board. Pleasantly shocked and amazed, the Warriors grabbed him.
As the story goes, reports from the Suns war room describe an eruption of joyous glee. Steve Kerr and David Griffin bumped chests, and Alvin Gentry did a head spin reminiscent of one of the cast from "Breakin’ 2 Electric Boogaloo." The Suns had obtained a huge haul and the Steve Kerr moron meter had suddenly slanted from Utter Definite Moron to Mostly Competent GM.
Yet at that moment, the deal was dead.
Said Golden State GM Larry Riley:
"I was concerned at one time that we might not be able to get him, I thought he might go ahead of us but as the draft turned out, it came to our favor."
Translation: No way would we have included the #7 in the deal if we knew Curry was going to be there. Screw you Kerr, deal off.
Said Don “Bud Light” Nelson:
"He wasn't drafted for somebody else. He is not going to be traded. He was drafted because we think he is going to be a terrific player, and he's going to be right here. So he can unpack his bags, he can relax, go buy a house, because he ain't going any place."
Translation: This kid can ball, Amare who?
This begs the question, if Kerr and Co. knew that Curry wasn’t involved in the deal, would they still have drafted Earl Clark? Sure Clark is a great athlete and put up some solid numbers at Louisville, but did the Suns really want him at 14? Before the draft, Kerr and Co. talked of picking the “best player available.” Maybe Clark fits that description, however, it’s also possible Kerr wanted someone else, and when Curry was chosen at 7, he was able to choose Clark.
We can choose to look at this debacle a number of different ways. Did Kerr get screwed? Certainly. He had a deal with Riley. Should he have known better? Maybe. But this is less about Kerr and more about Riley and the Warriors.
No matter what happened behind closed doors, it’s pretty clear that Golden State went back on their word. If I’m Steve Kerr, or any GM for that matter, I’d have serious reservations about doing business with Riley and Co again.