Thursday, December 11, 2008

Steve Kerr Hates Fun

That must be why he insists on taking apart a team that embodied fun.

The “Seven Seconds or Less” Era in Phoenix was easily my favorite set of teams to watch since I was enamored with Air Jordan growing up. Their almost champion run will likely go down in history along side teams like the Malone and Stockton’s Jazz, Reggie Miller's Pacers, Pat Ewing's Knicks, GP and Shawn Kemp in Seattle, etc.

However, out of those groups of teams, Nash’s fun bunch was easily the most entertaining to watch. The two-time league MVP would sling wild behind the back passes, weave in and out of traffic and make circus shots at will.

Nash, The Artist Formerly Known as the Matrix, and Amare Stoudemire were the staples of their run. Besides that trio, their core grew to include Raja Bell at shooting guard, Boris Diaw essentially playing positions 1-5 and filling in however necessary and Leandro Barbosa providing offense off the bench. The other two rotation spots were usually filled by a random big man and one or two gunners-for-hire.

Enter Steve Kerr. I liked him on TNT and was definitely a big fan when he hit the shot to win the Bulls 5th ring in the 90s, but I’ve come to loathe him. Kerr brought in an aging, but still effective Grant Hill as his big offseason signing and immediately began to implore Mike D’Antoni’s bunch to play more defense.

The rest is history. The Matrix was dealt mid-season for Shaq and D’Antoni was exiled to New York shortly thereafter. If the Shaq deal was the death of Phoenix and D’Antoni’s departure was the funeral, Wednesday’s trade was the widower’s first awkward, post-death relationship.

Boris Diaw, Raja Bell and Sean Singletary were dealt to the Charlotte Bobcats for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley. That’s it. On paper, Phoenix has moved on and has a traditional team now.

Shaq clogging up the middle at center, Amare struggling to find his role at power forward, Grant Hill struggling to stay in front of anyone and/or hit an outside shot at small forward, Jason Richardson throwing up 17 shots a night at shooting guard and Nash at the point.

Nash manning the point is like Jeff Gordon driving around in a Prius. Sure, he can drive a regular car, but that dude was meant to go fast. And so was Nash. Having him playing a Chauncey Billups like role on this team is a waste of Steve’s last good years. Instead of building the team around him, like New Orleans has done with Chris Paul, Steve Kerr has taken Nash’s team from him.

At this point, although they’d never do it, it would be probably better if Phoenix parted ways with Nash. He’s still a top-five point guard, but he’s making an awful lot of money to just be a role player on a non-contending team, which is what he is now.

After this season, the Suns organization will be at an interesting crossroads. Get rid of Kerr, who dismantled a contending team and turned them into a borderline playoff team, and his hand picked head coach Terry Porter, who seems just as confused as the players about what type of game to play, or trade Nash in the last year of his contract and throw their hat in to the “Class of 2010” ring.

Who knows? Maybe this thing will work. One thing Jason Richardson isn’t is a defensive stopper. Raja Bell, even though he was struggling, was Phoenix’s go to defender on the wing. Perhaps this trade is a recommitment to offense, which is what Jason brings to the table. Maybe he can help restore the alley-oop to Phoenix, which was a common practice by Nash and Marion and Marion and Diaw.

If I were a Phoenix fan, however, I would not be optimistic. They only have to look to Detroit to see what will likely happen, as a lot of the elements are the same. Shake up a perennial borderline contending team with parts that don’t fit, add an overmatched and increasing unpopular coach and voila.

In little over four months, don’t be surprised if both franchises who have become accustomed to chasing titles will be left hoping for luck in the Blake Griffin Sweepstakes instead.

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