The Clippers have been the team to beat in Los Angeles in recent times. Undoubtedly one of the more entertaining teams to watch in the NBA, and a class above their older brothers across the hall since the later’s title run in 2010. While the Clippers have never reached the giddy heights they so desire, they have made their mark as a team on the rise in the league after years of mediocrity and failure. But they’ve never managed to get over the hump, and their latest move has brought up some very interesting view points of the current state of the franchise.
Tag: Phoenix Suns
With the 2013-14 NBA regular season coming to a close there are still a number of playoff spots up for grabs. Let’s take a look at the run home for those still with a shot at a post-season berth in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.
There are five teams who have clinched playoff spots in the east which leaves, realistically, five teams to fight for the remaining three spots.
6 – Washington Wizards 38 – 36
Run home – Boston, @NY Knicks, Chicago, Charlotte, @Orlando, Milwaukee, Miami, @Boston.
The Wizards have five home games and three on the road in their run towards the playoffs. Two of their eight games are against opposition who have a better record than themselves and with this is mind; we should see the Wizards in the post season for the first time since 2008 and with a decent sixth seed.
43-39 .524. Playoff bound.
7 – Charlotte Bobcats 36 – 38
Run home – @Philadelphia, Orlando, @Cleveland, @Washington, @Boston, Philadelphia, @Atlanta, Chicago.
The Bobcats have five of their eight games on the road leading into the playoffs but the good news for Charlotte fans is that four of the five games are against teams with inferior records to their own. Of the three home games only Chicago have the superior record. The Bobcats should win five of their eight remaining games and clinch just their second playoff appearance since the team’s inception in the 2004-05 season.
42-40 .512. Playoff bound.
8 – Atlanta Hawks 32 – 41
Run home – Chicago, Cleveland, @Indiana, Detroit, Boston, @Brooklyn, Miami, Charlotte, @Milwaukee.
The Hawks have the luxury of playing six of their remaining nine games on their home court but the problem lies with them having to face Chicago, Indiana, Brooklyn and Miami in their remaining games. The Hawks should win as many as they lose to finish the season, losing to the aforementioned teams whilst beating the hapless Bucks, Pistons and Boston during their run toward a post-season appearance, scraping in with the eighth seed.
37-44 .451. Playoff bound.
9 – New York Knicks 32 – 43
Run home – Brooklyn, Washington, @Miami, @Toronto, Chicago, @Brooklyn, Toronto.
The Knicks season has been one of major disappointment and their slim hopes of making the playoffs aren’t looking good. Their run home consists of teams that all have a better record than themselves including the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets. It’s hard to see the Knicks winning too many of these games and they seem doomed to finish one of their most frustrating seasons on record with a failure to make the post-season.
33-49 .402. Playoffs missed.
10 – Cleveland Cavaliers 30 – 45
Run home – @Orlando, @Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, @Milwaukee, Boston, Brooklyn.
The Cleveland Cavaliers started the season with high hopes but the reality has been far from flattering in Cleveland. Even after picking up Luol Deng the Cavs look very unlikely to see their season end in a playoff appearance. They have three road games and four at home on their run home and despite having a decent chance at winning most of them their current record doesn’t have them in much of a commanding position. Its looks like the Cavaliers are destined for the post LeBron blues once again.
34-48 .415. Playoffs missed.
The western conference playoff race is going to be an interesting one. With so many teams fighting for seeding and a few fighting to make the eight there are some key matchups in the coming days that could decide who makes the playoffs and who doesn’t. Let’s take a look at the run home for the west.
4 – Houston Rockets 49 – 24
Run home – @Toronto, OKC, @Lakers, @Denver, @Minnesota, New Orleans, San Antonio, @New Orleans.
The Rockets have a chance to land the four seed in the strong western conference and have a run home that should see them finish with a good record and a great chance at that seeding. They face only two teams who would be favoured to beat them in the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs in their final eight games and should they win six as predicted they will finish the season with a very respectable 55 wins.
55-26 .671. Playoff bound.
5 – Portland Trail Blazers 49 – 27
Run home – Phoenix, New Orleans, Sacramento, @Utah, Golden State, Clippers.
Five home games and one road game against a less than stellar Utah Jazz should see the Trail Blazers win the majority of their remaining games. Two tough games against the Warriors and Clippers round out the regular season in Portland and despite the fact that they should start as under dogs in those particular games it’s a stern test prior to what should be their first playoff appearance since 2011. How far they can go in a stacked western conference in the post-season is debatable but it’s been a successful season for Portland.
53-29 .646. Playoff bound.
6 – Golden State Warriors 46 – 28
Run home – @San Antonio, Sacramento, Utah, Denver, @Lakers, @Portland, Minnesota, @Denver.
The Warriors have been on a bit of a slide of late and it has put some question marks on their title aspirations but their run home should ensure they make the post-season. Home games against the likes of Sacramento, Utah, Denver and Minnesota should yield positive results with road games against the Spurs and Portland proving a challenge. All in all the Warriors have a good run into the playoffs.
53-29 .646. Playoff bound.
7 – Memphis Grizzlies 44 – 30
Run home – @Minnesota, Denver, @San Antonio, Miami, Philadelphia, @Lakers, @Phoenix, Dallas.
The Grizzlies sit in a precarious position and with some big names to play on their run home it’s a distinct possibility they slip out of the playoffs. They play four games on the road and four at home. I see them splitting their remaining games with wins over the Timberwolves, Nuggets, 76ers and Lakers but the likes of Miami, San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix will prove more challenging.
48-34 .585. Playoff bound.
8 – Phoenix Suns 44 – 30
Run home – Clippers, @Portland, OKC, @New Orleans, @San Antonio, @Dallas, Memphis, @Sacramento.
The Phoenix Suns were supposed to be talking lottery about now, instead they find themselves fighting for a playoff spot in a strong western conference. Their run home is a tough one with five of eight games on the road and with teams like the Clippers, OKC, San Antonio and Dallas in their schedule it’s hard to see them making the post-season. A great effort to be where they are right now but I fear it will all be in vain.
47-35 .573. Playoffs missed.
9 – Dallas Mavericks 44 – 31
Run home – @Clippers, @Lakers, @Sacramento, @Utah, San Antonio, Phoenix, @Memphis.
The Dallas Mavericks have to play all but two of their remaining games on the road, but thankfully for Mavs fans most are winnable. With the exception of the Clippers and Memphis it’s fair to say Dallas should be favoured to win against the Lakers, Kings and Jazz and their home game against Phoenix has to be a huge factor for both team’s playoff aspirations. I see the Mavs sneaking into seventh or eighth in the west.
49-33 .596. Playoff bound.
Tanking. It’s like the new planking. Everyone is talking about it so I thought I’d join the party in an upright seated position. Is it happening in the NBA? Is it worth it? Does it work? Or is this just a story that has been blown out of proportion and turned into something bigger than it actually is? After having a discussion with a few fans, this is one of the issues they wanted researched and researched it shall be. If you have any stories that you want written up feel free to let me know and I’ll do my best to make it work. (more…)
When it comes to voting for the 2013-14 NBA Coach of the Year, I wish those ‘fortunate’ enough to be asked to fill out a ballot all the very best of luck.
Always a hotly contested award, this season has an even deeper field of worthy recipients, for which I personally struggle to nominate the one eventual winner.
Though there remain roughly 20 games left to play for each team in the regular season, it’s already evident that a number of coaches will be deserving of the accolade.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich has done a remarkable job of managing his roster through injures and advanced age, and once again has the Spurs positioned as one of the best teams in the West.
Pop’s use of his bench has once again been brilliant, and the Spurs propensity to move and share the ball is a credit to their coach. They’ll once again make the playoffs, and it would be a brave man that writes off their chances of making the Finals for the second year in a row.
At the beginning of the season, I struggled to see how the Phoenix Suns would win double figure games. They promptly achieved that feat in the opening month of the season. Egg meet face.
Ex-Suns guard Jeff Hornacek has done a wonderful job with the team, who compete every night, and despite lacking the elite-level talent of other teams, play with energy and hustle.
Though any young team should play with enthusiasm, the most surprising aspect of the Suns’ season is their intelligence. The team plays smart basketball, and full praise for that must go to their coach.
Chicago Bulls Tom Thibodeau has become a victim of his own success. It’s now simply a given that his teams will be outstanding defensively, hustle their butts off, and do their best of overcome their offensive limitations via solid teamwork. And do so in every single game.
Never mind the fact the Bulls are once again without their most talented player and only true creator, Derrick Rose. Never mind the fact that Chicago are currently third in the Eastern Conference. Never mind the fact that they are still beating the league’s best teams despite all evidence suggesting they shouldn’t be.
‘Thibs’ deserves way more recognition than he gets. The Bulls aren’t just staying afloat and competitive; they actually remain an upper echelon team. It’s an amazing achievement, which could see Thibs take home his second Coach of the Year award.
Not much was expected of the Dallas Mavericks at the start of the year, but via a resurgent Dirk Nowitzki, the surprisingly steady play of Monta Ellis, and the tactical brilliance of Rick Carlisle, the Mavs are right in the thick of the playoff hunt in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
The Mavs execute extremely well, and though the players receive the ultimate kudos, Carlisle is the mastermind behind it all.
Erik Spoelstra is criminally underrated as a coach. I can only assume he doesn’t receive the respect he deserves because people believe that any coach should have success with the stars on Miami’s roster. While there is unquestionably some truth to that sentiment, ‘success’ is subjective until you actually win the title, something Spoelstra has now done twice.
It also shouldn’t be forgotten that handling egos is a difficult but vital aspect of NBA coaching, for talent alone doesn’t guarantee championships.
Yet even beyond the excellent man-management skills, Spoelstra has shown himself to be a great tactician. It was Spoelstra who implemented the offence which capitilises on LeBron James’ unique skill set. It was ‘Spo’ who refuses to give players traditional positions, but rather relies on a system that has constant movement and flexibility.
Miami’s smothering defense – particularly their half court press – is further proof that the Heat are a well coached side, of which Spolestra is the chief architect.
Scotty Brooks deserves credit for keeping the Oklahoma City Thunder at the top of the Western Conference standings, despite the fact he has been without the services of his second best player, Russell Westbrook, for large chunks of the season.
Brooks has made some subtle changes to OKC’s offense, however one feels that Kevin Durant will receive much of the kudos for keeping the Thunder rolling – rather than their coach – with KD’s sublime season probably having the averse effect of robbing Brooks of some votes.
That’s six coaches I’ve already named as potential recipients of the Coach of the Year award, yet it is far from an exhaustive list.
I could very easily be talked into Portland’s Terry Stotts, Indiana’s Frank Vogel, Los Angles’ Doc Rivers and Houston’s Kevin McHale being legitimate candidates as well.
Even the Charlotte Bobcats’ Steve Clifford has done a fantastic job reconfiguring the team around the offensive skills of Al Jefferson, and may be lucky enough to have the odd ballot with his name on it, yet I doubt he’ll actually take home the hardware.
Likewise, would anyone be really upset if Dwayne Casey’s effort in Toronto was recognised? The Warriors’ Mark Jackson? The Grizzlies’ David Joerger?
It’s a large field, and to those tasked with naming the NBA Coach of the Year, I don’t envy your job one little bit.
Okay Phoenix, I admit it, I was wrong.
I was wrong to dismiss your season before it begun. I was wrong to assume that a roster made up of seemingly ill-fitting role players and under-appreciated glue-guys being spearheaded by two historically ball-dominant back up point guards, would amount to anything other than a spectacular success.
I was wrong to question the ability of Gerald Green to be a productive NBA player or to question the validity of running with the lesser-known Plumlee, Miles as your starter at the five. I was wrong to assume that a wildly entertaining, fast-paced offensive scheme, coupled with no obvious defensive talent, would translate into anything other than a highly effective strategy for winning basketball games and an impressive defensive showing. I was wrong to assume that I knew anything about what makes a successful NBA team structure, and I was wrong to insinuate that both players and management were content to ‘entertank’ away the season in the hope of drafting a superstar and thus returning to NBA relevancy. But above all else, I was wrong to question the merits and the motives of the one I love. That is something that a man should never do.
Now usually this kind of admission would come with a sense of shame and a side-order of self-loathing, but in this instance I’m too busy being stoked on what I am witnessing to care about anything as trivial as my ego! For like a kid experiencing his first crush, I have fallen ‘head-over-heels’ for this new Phoenix team, and every single thing that they do, so much so that yesterday I found myself willingly watching a game involving the Milwaukee Bucks, the most insufferably awful of all basketball teams, just for a chance to bask in the glory of the Suns, and you know what? It was spectacular.
As I sat there on my couch I watched with the kind of pride usually reserved for a parent watching their child take their first steps, as Goran ‘The Dragon’ Dragic continued to live out his destiny as Steve Nash’s heir-apparent and led the ‘Bledshow’ less Suns to a commanding victory over the ‘who gives a F Bucks’. As Channing Fry ‘owned the three point zone for Suns charities’, and the assists, steals, leak-outs and Plumlee dunks built up. I could not help but find myself dreaming about what the Suns play-off appearance might look like, and my favourite player and the ringleader of all this new-found hope and prosperity Eric ‘The Bledshow’ Bledoe wasn’t even playing! At that point my mind raced with thoughts of the wonderful damage the two headed monster of The Bledshow and The Dragon could inflict in a play-off situation, as their complimentary skills enabled the Suns to run an All-Star level point guard for the full 48 minutes of a play-off game, ensuring that the grandmaster Hornacek’s brilliant offensive system remained running at optimum level from opening tip to the final buzzer. All of this excitement was only exacerbated by thoughts of the moves Ryan McDonough could make with his barrage of draft picks and oodles of cap-space to add talent to this roster before the play-off run and onwards in coming seasons. Names like Lance Stephenson, Carmelo Anthony and Thaddeus Young started to spring into my mind, and the world was suddenly a very exciting place.
As if by fate, at the exact moment those thoughts of grandeur started to take hold, Gerald Green intercepted a seemingly routine pass from Brandon Knight and took to the skies in the manner that only he can. As Green flew in for the windmill dunk I could not help but think to myself that he had just provided me as a fan with a moment of perfect symmetry between myself and the team I hold so dear.
As Gerald’s feet returned from rarefied air to the polished hardwood floor of the US Airways Center, I found myself transformed into a new reality, one where thoughts of tanking were banished for good and thoughts of shrewd trading for a star to complete this exciting roster began. For that is the way forward now for this Suns team, and perhaps maybe it always was, either way, I cannot wait to witness the Phoenix emerge from the flames of the ignited future and fly mightily back into contention for the title of best in the west.
Update: Unfortunately the cold light of morning has brought with it some rather sobering news in the form of the Suns announcing that Most Improved Player candidate and future face of the franchise Eric “The Bledshow” Bledsoe has been ruled out of action indefinitely, due to suffering a knee injury that requires immediate surgery. The injury is believed to be significant damage to meniscus in his right knee, but the full extent of the damage and the expected recovery time won’t be known till he is in the hands of his LA based surgeon. While this is no doubt a crushing blow to the Suns and to basketball lovers in general (including LeBron James who Tweeted his ‘little bro’ a message of support shortly after the news broke) the Suns have been playing well without The Bledshow over the last month and given the strong form of Goran Dragic I don’t anticipate the prolonged absence of The Bledshow to put an end to the Suns 2013-2014 play-off aspirations, but rather to place them in a great position to make significant improvements upon his return. Furthermore, as a fan I have full trust that the Suns much respected medical and training staff will ensure that The Bledshow comes back fit, firing and ready to ignite the future sometime in the not-too-distant future.
I encourage the front-office to offer him a significant contract extension right now, thus ensuring he is securely locked away (potentially at a slightly smaller salary than initially expected) as one of the cornerstones of what promises to be of a very bright future.
Entertanking is dead, long live the Phoenix Suns and long live their 2013-2014 play-off run.
PS. Get well soon Bledshow!
The Phoenix Suns are beginning to show some real promise as a playoff contending team this season. Most analysts, fans and experts had the Suns slated as a team that was merely there to contend for the lottery and one that had a real chance of claiming the number one pick at seasons end but early form is proving that to be a big misnomer.
The Suns are riding a five game winning streak, sit sixth in the star studded western conference with a 14-9 record and have what many consider one of the most exciting point guards the league has to offer in Eric Bledsoe.
Bledsoe is finally getting his chance to shine in Phoenix after spending the last two seasons in the shadow of Chris Paul. He is averaging 19.5 points per game on a career high .489 from the field, 6.4 assists per game, 4.3 rebounds per game and 1.8 steals per game. He also sits amongst some esteemed company in the Hollinger Player Efficiency Ratings (PER) with a score of 22.18, above such players as James Harden, Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade. Bledsoe, should he continue to produce like this for the remainder of the season, is a serious candidate for the Most Improved Player award.
Bledsoe is a big part of why the Phoenix Suns are playing so well this season but he’s not the only reason. Bledsoe’s backcourt partner Goran Dragic is also having a career year, averaging 19.5 points on .496 from the field with 6.1 assists and 3 rebounds per game. The Bledsoe/Dragic backcourt is certainly proving to be one of the best in the NBA currently.
On top of what is arguably, a league best backcourt, the Suns possess a youthful yet potent frontcourt made up of the ever improving Morris twins, high flying swingman Gerald Green, the sharp shooting veteran Channing Frye and a big man in Miles Plumlee who is turning into an adept defender of the paint and very solid centre.
The last time the Phoenix Suns were a playoff contending team they were an offensive juggernaut featuring the likes of point guard extraordinaire Steve Nash and a healthy, dominant Amare Stoudemire. While this Suns team isn’t quite in the same realm regarding their offensive ability they do possess the scoring prowess needed to get back to the playoffs. Their offensive rating courtesy of Basketball Reference is 108.2 which is good for sixth in the NBA and they are averaging a more than respectable 102.6 points per game.
Defensively they still have some work to do as their 105.9 defensive rating and 100.3 points allowed per game attest to. They tend to defend the perimeter well and have only given up 144 treys this season which is fourth best in the league but their high turnover rate and lack of defensive rebounding are things that are in need of improvement.
The Suns have a young team, a first year head coach and what many believed to be an inferior squad but against all the odds they have started the season in sensational form. The question from this point on is whether or not they will look to make a move to ensure they will be a contender should they make the post season or does the hot start go cold and should it, just where do they land in the lottery. Whatever the future holds the Sun certainly is shining brightly in Phoenix right now.
Freeing the Polish Hammer – an ENTERTANKING update.
When word filtered through on Saturday morning that the Phoenix Suns had agreed to trade the package of Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown, Kendall Marshall and Malcolm Lee to the Washington Wizards for the very valuable (but very injured) Emeka Okafor and a top-12-protected first round pick, my initial reaction was one of shock. Shock not at the fact that the Suns had traded Gortat (this was universally accepted as given at some point this season) but that they had pulled the trigger so early on in the piece, before Gortat had had a chance to artificially inflate his value by piling up big numbers as the trusty anchor of an awful team. Adding to that sense of shock was the fact the Suns had decided to include two of their more productive veterans in Shannon Brown and Malcolm Lee as well as onetime Nash heir apparent/ 2012 #13 draft pick Kendall Marshall. That’s four, yes four active NBA players, being traded for a solid but indefinitely inactive veteran and a heavily protected first rounder.
By conventional wisdom, this trade would be considered a howler for the Suns and an act akin to dark wizardry by Washington, but this blog (and this franchise) isn’t a place for conventional wisdom, oh no this blog is a place for ENTERTANKING wisdom.
Make no mistake about it, when held in the context of ENTERTANKING this trade is a MASTERPIECE, for BOTH the Wizards and the Suns. The Wizards get the reliable veteran big (Gortat) that their very talented, but frustratingly inconsistent young roster needs in order to make a legitimate push at a playoff berth and three other useful pieces (either as trade assets or role players) in Brown, Lee and Marshall as an added bonus. All of this for just the price of a veteran big who wasn’t likely to play much of a part this season due to injury and a first round pick that if all goes according to plan, won’t be all that valuable anyway. (The top 12 protection on this pick is essentially a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ button). For a franchise that fancies itself a legitimate playoff contender and the Wizards certainly do, this is the exact type of trade they should be making, and one can only applaud them for doing so.
From the Suns perspective, this trade is a work of absolute unashamed ‘ENTERTANKING’ genius. By agreeing to ship Gortat, Brown, Marshall and Lee in exchange for two assets that either can’t (the draft pick) or are unlikely to (Okafor) suit up this year, the Suns have managed to achieve three things that are crucial to the achievement of both their long term and short term goals.
Firstly, in the short term, the Suns have rid themselves of arguably their most productive player in Gortat, an act that ensures he cannot accidentally win them an extra five games due to individual acts of brilliance. For a team that has a vested interest in losing as often as possible this can only be considered a good thing. Secondly, by trading Gortat they’ve also freed up valuable development minutes for promising young centre (and 2013 #5 pick) Alex Len. The inclusion of Brown, Lee and Marshall in the trade means the Suns have also freed up minutes at the 1 and 3, two of their most backlogged positions. This should ensure they are able to give promising rookie SG/SF Archie Goodwin more minutes, without having to sacrifice minutes of the likes of the Morris twins and PJ Tucker. For a team that is on record as planning to develop around young talent, this is arguably an ideal outcome. Additionally, the decision to jettison Marshall, so soon after drafting him only further serves to reaffirm that the Suns are all in on the Bledsoe/Dragic guard combination going forward, something that should excite the success starved fan base.
In the long term, the combination of extra minutes for youth (and the inevitable extra losses that should follow), another potential first round draft pick in the highly anticipated 2014 draft (the Suns also potentially own their own pick, Indiana’s pick and Minnesota’s pick as well) and the $15 million of future cap space the widely expected buy out of Okafor will bring about, should ensure that this trade is seen as a landmark moment in the Suns all out ENTERTANKING. Go Suns!
Note: It has to be said that the players not named Gortat seem to be the real losers in this trade, but hey, someone had to lose, and for once it wasn’t the Polish Hammer, so no harm, no foul as far as I’m concerned. (Especially in the case of Shannon Brown, dude should NEVER HAVE LEFT THE LAKERS)
What did you think of the trade? Let me know at @iambren10
ENTERTANKING update: The official ENTERTANKING scale and scorecard will be posted this week, prior to the tip off of the first Suns game. So be sure check back in with myself and the crew at NBA Nation Australia.
Consider this an experiment. Take one Playstation 3. Insert one NBA 2k14 game disc. Enter game modes. Choose season. Simulate. Sit back and watch the 2013/14 season unfold before your very eyes. Check out what my season entailed below. Results may vary… *May or may not be actual winners (more…)
This morning we welcomed a new member to the team here at NBA Nation Australia, and we’re stoked to deliver you his first piece. Brenton Harris is a 27 year old Melbourne based student admin wizard and NBA tragic who was seduced by Sir Charles Barkley, Thunder Dan Majerle and KJ Kevin Johnson’s early 90’s run with the Phoenix Suns and has thus stuck with the franchise since then despite never tasting true success. An unashamed Steve Nash admirer, he owns perhaps the only size xxxs Charles Barkley Suns jersey in the world that has been signed by former Arizona Wildcat and once productive NBA point guard Mike Bibby. You can follow him on twitter at @iambren10
The dawn of a new season is supposed to bring a sense of renewed hope and (at times admittedly illogical) optimism to the fans of all 30 NBA teams franchises. It is a time when theoretically every team is in championship contention and the past seasons results are officially no longer relevant as every win/loss total reads 0-0 and the standings are sorted by nothing more than alphabetical order. It is the time when the players are smiling, the energy levels are high and the PR departments and season ticket sellers are busy pedaling the old ‘alchemists trick’ of spinning straw (half-truths) into gold (ticket sales). For the casual and/or delusional fans among us it is the time when even the most far-fetched hypothetical ‘what-if’s’ seem likely and we find ourselves scouring for pre-season footage that will confirm the theory that ‘insert players name here’ is ready to make the ‘jump’ and that ‘insert recruits name here’ is the missing link that will take our team from pretender to contender. It is the ultimate time to engage in the audacity of hope, and for the most part even the most jaded and scarred of us are willing to set aside our past disasters and dabble in the dastardly business of belief.
For some of us, the perennial winners (Heat, Spurs, Lakers), certified contenders (Thunder, Pacers, Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Rockets, Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors etc.) and ‘buzz teams’ (Pelicans, Pistons, Wizards, Wolves) this is a far easier trap to get caught up in than others, but for the most part even the most depressive and battle hardened of fans (Bucks, Wizards, Kings, Hawks, Raptors, Jazz, ) among us find ourselves caught up in this dark-twisted fantasy, seemingly willing to ignore rationality for the benefit of our pre-season psyche. It’s just what ‘hoops-tragics’ do. But what happens when no matter how hard you try to force yourself to believe that things will be better this year, you simply just can’t seem to find a way to convince yourself, even momentarily that will be the case? What happens when literally ALL of the well renowned experts are tipping that your team will have one of the three worst records in the league? What happens when two out of your three best players play the same position and seem incapable of switching roles and the other is a hot tip to be traded? What happens when even the Bobcats seem to have it more together this year than your team does? And what happens when all of this seems to have been fallen into by design? Essentially what I am asking is what happens if you are a Phoenix Suns fan?
First of all a (brief) recent history lesson
Ever since my beloved Phoenix Suns were a solid box-out on Ron Artest away from forcing a game 7 in the 2010 Western Conference Finals, the team has been systematically ripped apart by owner Rob Sarver (surely one of the USA’S least popular billionaires if this picture is anything to go by) all in the name of ‘business’. In the process they have stripped quite literally the entire roster (bar Channing Frye) including trading away the most popular Sun ever, two-time league MVP Steve Nash, to the arch enemy Lakers. In the process they have fallen from regular conference finalists and league-pass favourites to complete and utter laughing stock with a mismatched roster consisting largely of the unknown quality of youth and under performing or injury prone veterans who have been drawn to the valley of the Suns by the prospect of working with the franchises most highly regarded employee s – the medical staff. They have also been involved in pretty much every meaningless monster trade of the last three years, always in the role of facilitator. Put simply it has been a brutal couple of years, with the only real light at the end of the tunnel being the relatively impressive showings of fan favourite (and former Steve Nash understudy) Goran ‘The Dragon’ Dragic and Marcin ‘Polish Hammer’ Gortat.
Not surprisingly this tailspin brought about widespread organisational change over the last season, with two coaches, and a general manager making way for what is essentially an entirely new regime. (Unfortunately for Suns fans, this regime change did not extend to ownership, meaning fans are still stuck with an owner who arguably cares more about his form at Scottsdale golf courses and his bottom line reporting than he does on –court results)
Fortunately, the regime overhaul does appear to have brought somewhat of a sense of hope for the (distant) future with all available evidence showing that the hiring of Ryan McDonough as General Manager and former Sun and NBA legend Jeff Hornacek as coach to be astute decisions. McDonough in particular appears to be an adventurous thinker unafraid to pull the trigger on trades (such as the one that sent fan favourite Jared Dudley to the Clippers, netting the Suns highly sort after backup Eric Bledsoe) or make roster cuts (Michael Beasley) when the opportunity presents itself. He has also been aggressive in ensuring that the Suns have very little in the way of future salaries and plenty in the way of draft picks (including three, yes that’s right THREE first rounders in the loaded 2014 draft) going forward. He has also instigated a slight branding change including a full suite of snappy new uniforms which have been for the most-part (with the exception of those orange sleeved atrocities) been well received by fans. Jeff Hornacek appears to have done his bit by promising to give plenty of court time to the Suns young core and guaranteeing a return to a fast paced offense specifically tailored to take advantage of the youth and unique athletic gifts that the roster possesses. None of this however (especially not the roster)appears likely to translate into a large percentage of wins in 2013-2014, in fact it seems to be specifically designed to ENSURE LOSSES, MANY, MANY, LOSSES. And as a fan, I AM 100% OKAY WITH THAT FACT!
Now I know conventional wisdom says that as fans we Suns faithful should be up in arms about entering a season with an expected starting line-up consisting of a rather ‘beastly’ yet untried starting PG (Eric Bledsoe), an SG who was our starting PG (Goran Dragic) last season, an unheralded journeyman (PJ Tucker) at SF, a man most notable for being one of two identical twins (Markieff Morris) at PF and a criminally underrated veteran, seemingly on the verge of being traded (Marcin Gortat) at C. It should infuriate us further that that fearsome five is backed by a bench that is arguably anchored by a man most renowned for blowing a cupcake out while performing in a dunk contest (Gerald Green), and a man who should never have left his role as a sparkplug at the Lakers (Shannon Brown). But the fact remains that in the strange world that is the NBA in 2013, just about the only thing that could excite me more as a fan than this prospect would be if we found a way to trade away Gortat BEFORE he accidentally causes us to win some games.
Yes that’s right folks I am actively hoping for my team to get WORSE this year. In fact, I’m going to be out and out cheering for it to happen. This desire to see my team flame out horribly doesn’t come from some deeply repressed masochistic tendencies, (nor is it the product of my ongoing battle with the ever-present notion of catholic guilt that my catholic upbringing has plagued me with) oh no, this desire to see the losses pile up comes from acceptance of the fact that in 2013, the only way the Phoenix Suns will be able to lure a franchise player is to draft one, and as you may have heard by now, the 2014 NBA draft is the place to get your hands on one (or in the Suns case up to three) of those. And the best way to ensure you wind up with the best chance of drafting a superstar is to land deep, DEEP in the lottery.
Thankfully, unlike the Sixers (who will just be HORRIBLE) the Suns have done us a solid by setting themselves up not just to tank, but to do so ENTERTAININGLY. That’s right ladies and gentleman The Suns have REALLY put some thought into this. Consider the roster is made up primarily of guys who can jump over houses (Gerald Green, Shannon Brown), jack ill-advised but occasionally on-target threes (Channing Frye, both Morris twins ), make ridiculous yet risky cross-court passes (Goran Dragic, Kendall Marshall), and flat-out miss open lay—ups (Alex Len) all focuses around a centerpiece who can do ALL OF THOSE THINGS all at once, while looking like an absolute beast. (Eric Bledsoe). Piece that together with a return to the ‘7 seconds or less’ offense of the Mike ‘No D’Antoni days and you have yourselves an entirely new brand of basketball, and that brand is to be known as ‘Entertankment. Entertankment, as the name suggests involves tanking in the most entertaining way possible (dunks, alley-oops, threes, risky passes, reaching on defense ) and the end result of entertanking when done right should be a string of ridiculously high-scoring, highlight filled losses. And this year, each and every one of those losses will put the Suns one-step closer to drafting consensus number one pick Andrew Wiggins.
So I’m proposing g a new way of watching the Suns in NBA season 2013/2014 and it’s called ‘Entertanking for Wiggins’. Entertanking for Wiggins requires Suns fans to jump on-board with managements desire to lose their way back to relevancy, and show their support for the cause with a level of enthusiasm usually reserved for a title run. I’ll be keeping tabs on the Suns progress in Entertankment by posting an Entertankment Weekly update highlighting the best moments of Entertankment from the week gone by, resulting in an overall Entertankment rating for the week. I’ll very much be looking for members to join me in this venture, so let me know via Twitter if you want to join the ETFW crew.
To be considered a true member of the ETFW crew, you must own or at least have access to league pass, a sense of humour, a 90’s Suns throwback jersey (to remind you of the good times you’ll one day be returning to) and an appreciation of both the antics of the man we are dubbing ‘Mini LeBron’ Eric Bledsoe and spectacularly bad basketball. If you have all or most of these attributes then welcome to the ETFW crew. Leave your unreasonable expectations of winning at the door, put your Eric Bledsoe jersey on and strap yourself in for what should be an unbelievably joyous losing season. Go Suns!
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