Just like that, hope has returned to the Valley of the Sun
Yesterday, Suns fans everywhere seemed poised to jump not only off the Suns' bandwagon but also follow Lemming-like over the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
On top of the constant uncertainty surrounding Nash and Stoudemire, we learned that Shawn Marion was going to the Mavericks and it looked like Grant Hill was going to play for the Knicks.
And then we wake up today and woe is us turns into woe was us.
Because now we learn that not only is Grant Hill going to come back to the Suns, but Steve Nash and Steve Kerr seem to have come to terms on a reasonable extension and, to top it all off, the Suns are going to sign a big man.
In Phoenix everything starts (and apparently stops) with Steve Nash
I was not in the least bit thrilled with the way Nash dealt with the Porter situation and we all know about his short-comings on the defensive end, but in Gentry's up-tempo system there's still very few point guards you would rather have running the show.
The word is that Nash will play out next season for $13m and then his two-year / $20m extension will kick in. Earlier this summer, Nash's agent said he wanted a raise as part of that extension and not many people thought that made much sense. $10m per year for those final two years is a bit higher than the $8m I would have liked, but it reasonable and is a deal the team should be happy with.
In February of the final year of that contract, Steve will turn 38 years old. It is highly likely that Nash will continue to decline between now and then, but it also just as likely that he will be a valuable (if not stellar) contributor right up to that point.
Mostly though, having Nash signed for the next three years gives the Suns something they desperately need: Stability and an identity
No one should wonder now what direction this team is going. The Suns, for the foreseeable future, will play up-tempo Steve Nash basketball. They will try and recreate the glory years of 04-07 hoping that the addition of better role players and a deeper bench will over come any age-related decline.
Nash's signing also clarifies the Amare situation. Now that Steve is going to be in town, the Suns are in a much better negotiating position with STAT/Sun Tzu.
They can offer him the opportunity to stay and play with Steve and Grant and be competitive immediately. I am sure that will be key to the discussions between the Suns and Amare that are supposedly scheduled for the coming weeks.
Maybe that results in Amare agreeing to a "reasonable" extension, as well, which, in my mind, comes to about $15m per year and not the max he is looking for. If a deal can't be struck now, the Suns can afford to wait. Sure, they can continue to explore trade options but letting Amare play himself into a higher contract this season isn't such a bad idea either.
The last thing the Suns wanted to happen was to lose Amare, Nash and Shaq in the same summer, and for awhile it certainly looked like that was going to happen.
Grant Hill coming back means as much symbolically as it does on the court
There's no doubt that without Hill the Suns would be very thin and young at the small forward. With Grant starting, the team returns its best perimeter defender and front court play maker. Dudley and Clark backing him up doesn't sound too bad, either. In fact, it sounds pretty darn good.
Grant will make $3m this season with a player option for next year. That's certainly a fair amount for Hill given what he did last year. Perhaps next year it will be a bit much if he breaks down, but the risk isn't huge given what he means to the team, the fans and as a signal to the rest of the league that a star player and respected guy like Hill choose to return to Phoenix.
Channing Frye in the front court
I like Channing Frye despite his reputation for being soft. I think he's a good fit with Amare because he's a threat from mid-range and can run the floor and he gives a different look from Lopez, who's more of post player.
We will get more into Frye later, but overall for the money he's getting ($2m for 2yrs), he's a decent enough pick up. Much better then Stromile Swift. Sure, I would have liked Chris Wilcox instead, but he was probably out of our price range.
The Suns will be weakest at the center position, but I still hold out hope that Lopez, given 25 minutes per game, can provide enough offensively to avoid being horrible and contribute in a meaningful way on the defensive end. Lopez can move his feet and is not going to get killed on the pick and roll like Shaq. He and Frye both will do a better job covering up for Nash and Richardson on the wing.
Roster is finally shaping up
After a lot of uncertainty this summer, the roster is finally shaping up. No surprise that the lynch pin was Steve Nash. Once he made up his mind to come back then everything else fell into place:
PF: Amare/ Amundson / Clark
SF: Hill / Dudley / Clark / Griffin(?)
SG: Richardson / Barbosa / Tucker
PG: Nash / Dragic
That's a lineup that's going to score a LOT of points and will be at least better defensively on the perimeter. No surprise that it will also struggle in the paint and on the glass. For those that longed for the good ole days of 7SOL, you shouldn't complain about that.
There could be another move made but once again, that all depends on Mr. Ben Wallace and what he wants to do. If he takes a discounted buy-out, the Suns could have room to trade Pavolvic's contract for someone, but it is not likely that there's going to be any real quality centers out there to plug that hole and they don't want to take on any long term contracts.
Tyson Chandler is a possibility but the longer this goes on, the more I suspect that his foot is really not something that the Suns training staff can fix. We don't want to get that guy for two years and have him not able to play well. I think a little patience is in order here before screaming for the Suns to make that Wallace for Chandler trade.
[Note by Phoenix Stan, 07/10/09 3:41 PM MST ]
I was doing a bit of digging and found this season reveiw on Channing Frye from Blazers Edge. Sounds like a GREAT guy that has the potential to blosom in Phoenix with more minutes but could just as easily continue his soft ways and at best be a Joe Smith type of perimeter oriented big man.