Deterred from north of Russia

Sometimes I worry that Chad Ford is a scouting genius; once that madness passes, I wonder if anyone who has largely invented his own universe could ever seem stupid in it. I did, however, stand up and salute at two point he made today in his Sea of Summer League Judgement Calls (Insider, but who among you doesn't hold that totally inexpensive honor?).

-I argued a few weeks back that it's the truly multi-dimensional summer league performances that shed the most light on those mysterious goings-on. Ford, however, might have the most savvy take of all: only outright incompetence by highly-touted prospects means much of anything. I was unaware that M-Will was doing it up so well, but I can't say it startled me, whereas Sheldon WIlliams's utter stench of a Revue contradicts all the resigned approval of him we heard all June. Incidentally, this was the same paragraph in which he called Marvin "a better prospect than Al Harrington," which may or may not actively contradict all that I wrote yesterday about Baby Al's strange signifiance. It's like the world is still waiting for Harrington to mature, but he no longer gets evaluated in terms of Potential. Even Tim Thomas was spared this fate.

-Adam Morrison, white gunner?

-Ford's take on the Suns' draft performance as of late:

So after three drafts, what do the Suns have to show for it all? A broken down Kurt Thomas (with $16 million left on his contract), an overpaid/undersized back-up guard in Banks and the Cavs' first-round pick next season.

Would you trade those assets for a combination of Deng (or Iguodala), Robinson and Rondo? On talent, there's no way. And when you factor in how cheap rookies are compared to free-agent vets, you wouldn't do it for the money, either.

The bottom line is: Part of the reason the Suns are having cap problems is that they aren't totally taking advantage of cheaper rookie contracts. When Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw sign their extensions (Barbosa is closer than Diaw right now to inking a deal), the team won't have any young players in the pipe earning cheaper contracts.

It's hard to take issue with this gloomy version of things, but I think Ford's forgetting something key here: no team GM's perfect. Once upon a time, I went back and reconstructed the hypothetical Bulls squad that could've existed if they'd never made the Brand and Jalen deals. Good exercise, though it assumed that the world's greatest front office would've been the alternative. If we look not at all the things that the Suns have done right in the D'Antoni era, these sins became collateral, the price of aggressively doing business as a team with a vision at hand. Compare these with the repercussions of the Darko disaster, which happened at the hands of the NBA's foremost front office. Deng or Iguodala might've helped, but neither has the range so desperately required of a wing player in that system. Yes, Robinson would've been a funny, funny guy, but I can't imagine him running that offense and he too is not a gobbler of three-pointers. Rondo, again, zero range, and totally unproven at the professional level (for the record, that's my dude).

I don't think that any of them would've meant more to Phoenix than Diaw or Barbosa, who are both in line for money—some of that money that these first-round picks would've sopped up. Thomas is not so old that he's "breaking down," and he's hardly bad as bench size goes; he was brough in to complement Amare, not stand in for him. And with Barbosa switching over to the two, Banks is a useful commodity, more of a solid one than Robinson or Rondo (as of now). Not sure how a 6'2", 200 lbs. BIG POINT GUARD who averaged 12/5 last season in an unstable platoon is "undersized," and for four mill a year they're landing someone who can defend on Raja's wavelength and competently spell Nash (remember, someone has to get the ball to Amare next year).

Ford is basically proposing that the Suns should continue stockpiling young gems they might not be able to afford to keep, rather than build a solid nucleus around what they've got. The Joe Johnson trade set the tone in this department: unlike Diaw, and kind of Barbosa, he was both inessential and could be functionally replaced by something cheaper. The fate of Tim Thomas, too, shows what happens when this kind of Suns player commands excess attention. Yes, he was initially brought in temporarily on the cheap, as I suppose they could've done with first-rounders. The difference between Thomas and all these guys Ford rattles off, though is that he was a late season flyer and a perfect fit, not a three-year committment who may or may not have clicked.

-Speaking of Joey Johnson, here's some shit straight from the LOS files that confirms everything about why this league kicks the shit out of all the other ones. THIS IS A LEAGUE OF COMMUNITY, EQUALITY, AND GOODWILL.


At 7/25/2006 2:43 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

oh, and this from Inside Hoops, about some Euro that the Rap Show wants:

"He's a guy who's not afraid of fighting anybody," Toronto assistant general manager Maurizio Gherardini said. "He's got the size to go against guys in the paint without being afraid of anybody." Toronto Star

WV: oqnuozr (afro-pop concept album about installing one's first brass door knob, major honor in some cultures)

At 7/25/2006 2:55 PM, Anonymous White People Don't Know said...

at phoenix last summer. after the 2004-5 season, expectations for the team were low with the departure of johnson and richardson. the idea was that they were losing too much of their core, and they couldn't hope to replace those pieces. When the suns ended up being more successful this year it was seen (as we all know) as a vindication of not only a coaching, but a management philosophy-- given steve nash in the center, and d'antoni imposing an amorphous but consistent attitude from above, the given personnel don't much matter. just run and jack up threes and pick up a couple guys at the park and you can be in the western conference finals.

In a weird way, sportscasters seemed to unconsciously draw an analogy between the movement in phoenix's offense and the movement of players in and out of the locker room. The phoenix front office this off-season revealed that they do not see this connection--this year, as opposed to last, they are committed to consolidating success rather than experimenting with new combinations. (in my mind not a bad idea with amare returning, because it makes accommodating to him the only project.)

That said, i think mismanagement of money is the only criticism of gm's that is almost always fair. money, unlike talent or chemistry, is utterly predictable, and if you work yourself into a bad situation by refusing to make hard decisions early on, then it really is no one's fault but your own.

At 7/25/2006 2:58 PM, Anonymous White People Don't Know said...

whoops, i cut off the first sentence of my post (should have previewed). it's supposed to start:

"the weird thing about this summer's criticism of the suns is that it is the exact opposite of that which was leveled at phoenix last summer..."

At 7/25/2006 3:02 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

it's hard to accuse phoenix of mismanaging money. they have a core group of stars who play together well and are fantastic at getting the most out of nobody role players. none of those contracts are especially bad, even thomas

wpdk is right that the media has largely created this myth of the disposable suns roster. in fact, they may be more committed to building around several complementary stars than anyone else, save the pistons. and the pistons don't even have to pay much for theirs. i would hardly fault the suns for pinning their hopes on nash, amare, marion, and diaw; really, what are the pistons if not a less talented, cheaper version of this same "nucleus of stars" philosophy?

At 7/25/2006 3:05 PM, Anonymous reyjinn said...

Sports writers are idiots?
It doesn't surprise me that Chad Ford can't see why teams don't want the players which he is hyping all year. That said I wish that the Suns had kept the 27th pick and taken Rodriguez. I'm hoping he'll be good.
wv: pbiict I could have sworn there was an H in there when I looked at it the first time

At 7/25/2006 3:10 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

ford also seems to not get that simply being a good young player doesn't mean a team has a use for you. the suns could've had these guys, but that doesn't mean they could've used them, thus making it far less straightforward than "they gave up iguodala to save a few dollars." teams draft so poorly that we've forgotten that even a successful player can be a forgettable pick

At 7/25/2006 3:14 PM, Anonymous White People Don't Know said...

Maybe "mismanaged" is too strong, because phoenix has certainly been successful and their future looks bright. however, i think its fair to say that had they managed their money a little better, they could have been in a position where they have basically the same roster as they do now, but could have added a draft pick to it in an effort to draw out their success in the long term.

this has sort of a darko to the pistons feel. at the time trashing that pick was seen as a valid, if minor, criticism, because the pistons had so much else that they didn't need to draft well. but in hindsight it was a definitive misstep. of course, i don't think the suns have made anywhere as close as big a mistake here, but i also think its fair to criticize a team even in the context of their general success.

At 7/25/2006 3:18 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

this is more "phoenix could probably use another really good young player" rather than "this killed a potential dynasty"

At 7/25/2006 3:37 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

i agree with 95% of what you said, shoals, but i do have to say that iggy hops would have been a great fit with the suns. that's about the best shawn marion insurance money can buy.

world class athlete? check.

strangely effective all-around game? check.

weird, streaky jumpshot? check.

low-key, laid back personality? check.

iguodala's more of a wing and wouldn't be able to play 4 at all, though, which complicates things.

At 7/25/2006 3:40 PM, Anonymous Ragtime said...

Re: "He's a guy who's not afraid of fighting anybody,"

The Raptors, trumping the Spurs, have become the most Euro team in the league, the outpost of the NBA. Not just because they have the a lot of foreign players (Calderon, Garbajosa, Nesterovic, Sow, Bargnani, etc.) but, in moving away from the Carter era, they have found a new team identity that is more closely reflective of the multi-national composition of the city. They now host Maccabi and other Euro league teams during the preseason, and the appeal of Toronto to certain foreign players over American cities was a minor storyline in this year's draft.

If there is one thing that Bryan Colangelo did for the Suns, he gave them a team identity that D’Antoni ran away with. Draft Amare, out with Marbury and Penny, in with Nash. Presto—“The Run and Gun Suns”. The Raptors, though they will play a different style with Ford at the point and Bargnani and Bosh in the frontcourt, have likewise embraced a new identity. As Euro outpost city, bringing in Gherardini, Garbajosa and Bargnani, moves the team in a new direction. Though the Leafs will always be Toronto’s #1 team, I could see the Raps becoming exponentially more popular in the T. than they are now in coming years.

At 7/25/2006 3:43 PM, Anonymous Ragtime said...

Sorry the above comment is off-topic, by the time i finished writing it, there were 8 more responses.

At 7/25/2006 3:48 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

br--point taken, but he also doesn't hit threes like marion and can't really defend the interior at all. marion is legit 3/4 who also happens to have iggy's skills; iggy is a good piece, but he doesn't really hold down any particular position the way marion does. i think the most you could say is that he might've saved us raja-mania this past summer.

At 7/25/2006 4:07 PM, Anonymous Fringe Sports Central said...

Adam Morrison was good in the Pepsi Pro League, but Marcus Williams practically had a magic wand out there. He ended up with 8 apg while playing with stiffs. Of course, it's hard to tell how that translates to the real game from the summer leagues, particularly one as short as the Pepsi Pro:

At 7/25/2006 4:21 PM, Anonymous White People Don't Know said...

The problem with a successful team making a bad move (for me anyway) is psychological more than practical. there's doubt now. it looked like brilliant alchemy with revolutionary potential--could it have been so fleeting and unintentional? could it have just been luck?

At 7/25/2006 4:27 PM, Anonymous reyjinn said...

Are you so sure that Marions 3 pt shot is much better than Iggys? Iggy has a better 3p% than Marion. Marion can hit it in bunches but then again he can be absolutely frozen from the outside.

At 7/25/2006 4:34 PM, Anonymous reyjinn said...

On second look I'm not at all sure anyone mentioned anything about their outside shot. Need to check my eyes.

At 7/25/2006 4:43 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i did. iguodala doesn't really look for the three, but i wouldn't be surprised if he shoots a better percentage tha marion. though that's kind of like saying "such and such athletic guard doesn't go for the block much, but he gets one on a regular basis." as opposed to a big man who intimidates with the possiblity of it.

At 7/25/2006 4:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You all can crucify me for this, but I woud take Joe Johnson over Shawn Marion any day. Marion has reached his ceiling as far as play goes, while Joe Johnson has nowhere to go but up. Also, Marion looks like dookie whenever the playoffs roll around and he can't get any open shots with his beyond ugly J. Teams need someone who can create their own shot in the playoffs, because teams knock the D up a few notches during playoff time, and that's something that Phoenix didn't have this past year with Stoudemire hurt and JJ gone. It pains me to see players with the kind of athleticism like Shawn Marion has shooting the ball from their hips, instead of using their freakish verticals to rise up and getting their shot off any time any place.

At 7/25/2006 5:51 PM, Anonymous reyjinn said...

Suns could never recover from the rebounding loss... Plus Joe has an even bigger issue with being 3rd or even 4th in the pegging order.
Some would say that fewer 3s from Marion would be an improvement. Last year Marion shot 33% in 290 tries while Iggy shot 35.4% in 158.

At 7/25/2006 11:35 PM, Anonymous aug said...

Shoals, ford makes a very valid point but he has to go a bit too far because there is no room for safe columns for espn writers. You always have to say something semi-controversial.

That said, the suns have slightly mismanaged the past year or two. You're correct in saying that they're sort of like the pistons. But look what happened there. They had 3-4 years, then the rest of the nba learns how to play against your unique style, and keeping your extremely talented and well paid core together becomes difficult, as does keeping quality backups and bench sparks. But the suns aren't the pistons. The pistons won a title, were one game away from another one and were 50 dwayne wade 4th quarter free throws away from another trip to the finals. The suns haven't been to the title game yet.

The problem with keeping such a high volume of very talented/well paid players around like the pistons and suns is that you have a smaller window and less room to operate with your bench. We all saw the importance of depth for the suns this year. Barbaosa and Tim Thomas were 2 of the most important pieces for the suns this post season. You always have to be ready for an injury, or at least needing a spark or two off the bench. The pistons are great and all but they're lucky as hell to never be injured because they only have one backup and it's a big man. The suns talent pool is dwindling and you can't convince yourself that it's a good thing. They overpaid on banks who really isn't that good. At all. Most of the suns players are unique and talented. He's just an average joe. It's not a bad signing because it gives them a bit more depth at guard because they've realized that barbosa isn't a point, but they still overpaid for him. You can't convince me or yourself that Rondo wouldn't have been better than Banks for much less money. Rondo was tested enough in my book. He played really well in the U21 games, tests out great, and destroyed every guard in the draft in workouts. Everyone knows that he's good, but much better in a fast paced offense. If anything he's Barbosa insurance without that hefty paycheck coming at the end of the season.

They'll still be great this season, but they do have less to work with now. Also, this offseason they're going to actually going to have to put their past penny pinching to good use because i believe diaw and barbosa both get extensions...or not.

At 7/26/2006 12:01 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

"Marion looks like dookie whenever the playoffs roll around"

Marion was disappointing in the 2005 playoffs but he was very good in the 2006 playoffs, averaging 20 & 12 on 49% shooting.

At 7/26/2006 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The pistons won a title, were one game away from another one and were 50 dwayne wade 4th quarter free throws away from another trip to the finals." - aug

it was inevitable that the pistons fans, the vanguard of the delusional, would take dwyane's free throw excesses against dallas and impute them onto the pistons' woes. luckily im here to point out that dwyane took only 52 free throws against the pistons (in 6 games), only five free throws combined in the games five and six, and actually only took fourth quarter free throws of significance in game two (which the pistons happened to win). the dallas fans have a legit gripe, piston fans don't.

the pistons won a title b/c they played the nets w/ an injured jason kidd (knee surgery days after the series was over), the pacers with an injured jermaine oneal (dislocated shoulder), and the lakers with an injured karl malone and otherwise dysfunctional team. they didn't win again b/c lightning doesn't strike like that twice, and the truth is they were never good enough to beat a great team who was healthy, which san antonio and miami were more than happy to show the world.

At 7/26/2006 12:15 PM, Anonymous aug said...

I was kidding around, man. I could care less. I enjoy watching a good, fun basketball. I'm not a fan or hater of either team. The 50 free throw joke wasn't a knock on the heat, more of a knock on the nba. I don't know if it's because we have more stars again, or what, but it certainly seemed that there was more "star treatment" these playoffs. Too many games were decided by freethrows in the final seconds that the refs should never call(lebron, wade, dirk, arenas, anthony johnson, and a few others). Also, there were just too many free throws in general because David Stern has been trying to protect the guards and allow for higher flying, faster paced action with his new rules for defensive play. The only problem with this is, that all Stern's new rule did was make it easier for the good guards to get to the lane, and then when they get bumped or sometimes it seems just miss their shot, they go to the line, actually slowing down the game. Unfortunately, because we had a very exciting playoffs as far as close games, Stern probably won't tweak the rules to make it to where we aren't given 80 free throw bathroom breaks a game.

Plus, has anyone seen statlines from the Summer league? Guys with 11, 10, 9, 8, 7 fouls most every game even though none of them play more than 25 minutes. I know they're not as sound defensively, but good lord. It has gotten out of hand.

My comment about the pistons and suns is still valid. They are both going the high paid, talented starters route, which is good if you're getting to the finals on a regular basis. Otherwise, it just shortens your window and gives you less wiggle room and depth. The suns haven't won anything yet so we can't crown them as anything. The fact is, they should probably keep their options open and keep looking to the future until they actually start competing for titles in the finals.

Did i need multiple paragraphs to tell 12:06 Anon that my pistons remark was a joke? No, i was just bored.

At 7/26/2006 1:21 PM, Anonymous cyanide said...

I realize I'm completely derailing the coversation (perhaps for the greater good), but this gem of an ESPN.com article about LeBron's age was a fun little read with the birth certificate proof and all, but mainly because of FreeDarko favorite Gilbo's thoughts:

"No comment," said Wizards star and Team USA teammate Gilbert Arenas when told James' age had been confirmed as 21. "LeBron's my older brother -- he's not a day younger than 30."


At 7/26/2006 1:45 PM, Anonymous Stumbleweed said...

Oh, and apparently Iverson is off the trading block. http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/5786094?FSO1&ATT=HMA

That allays my apprehension about AI ending up in Denver and sending Melo over the edge. I can stop worrying about Marcus Camby too. Thank you, Billy King.

At 7/26/2006 8:26 PM, Anonymous spider said...

To 12:06 Anon: The Pistons would have repeated if not for Horry's insane antics, which certainly did not grow organically from l'esprit du corps of the Spurs team. So phooey on you.

Laimbeer 4 Life

At 7/27/2006 4:39 AM, Blogger Rhondda Nunes said...

To Delusionally, Laimbeer 4 Life:

Si`m..exactmente. Porque`?A Heat fan can't be gracious in winning instead of whining about Piston perceptions belies an obvious sense of insecurity.....

&...Free Yango.Guillaume Yango. Why(a` porque`?) the Suns didn't play la' prospect d' francois in Vega$ heck if I know; I know the young hombre` has some above-the-rim-skills; &...oh...:

I love that sneaky little thief Rajon Rondo. Do I give a fuck that he can't shoot consistently from the outside past 10 feet?I do not. Could Jason Williams at his age?More like he'd jack up a clod with .14 still on the shot clock.

At 7/27/2006 1:04 PM, Anonymous tom said...

Shoals mentioned a while back up that the Suns build around the nucleus of Nash, Amare, Marion, and Diaw. I would say Amare has yet to join the nucleus, Marion is a spare part (wasn't he on the block at some point?), and Diaw is a new comer. The nucleus of this squad has been Nash-D'Antoni, though I agree that this new core is being forged as we speak.

At 7/27/2006 5:32 PM, Anonymous Graham A said...

aug said "Plus, has anyone seen statlines from the Summer league? Guys with 11, 10, 9, 8, 7 fouls most every game even though none of them play more than 25 minutes. I know they're not as sound defensively, but good lord. It has gotten out of hand."

sorry, but this is a terrible comparison (and you only get 10 fouls in summer league). for one, the refs aren't nearly as good. secondly, because you're allowed 10 fouls, the refs don't mind handing out extras. need i go on?


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