4.30.2008

When All Glare Fizzled



If you watched last night's Suns/Spurs welt-farm, you felt the omen. The Suns have not only died as an idea; they've even ceased to matter, vestigially, as the nut-case whose sober child grew into a prince. That team was just plain trounced and flummoxed, by a Spurs powerhouse that, were Phoenix the powerhouse they'd supposedly become, wouldn't have had it so glibly.

And now, D'Antoni's leaving town. We can argue for days about who defined the Suns, but it comes down to D'Antoni, Nash, and either Marion or Amare. There's probably some sort of father/son/ghost thing going on here, but if you had to pick the one essential element, it would no doubt be Coach. Before Phoenix, Nash was breezy and occasionally possessed; here, he flourished as the practical hand of D'Antoni's vision. Amare and Marion were symbolically important, and made the contours all the more fantastic. In the end, though, it was Mike's team.

So while we always heard that D'Antoni pushed for Shaq—a betrayal of self? bottom line over idealism? function over form?—he both pushed himself out of the picture and gave himself the high road for exit with that deal. The night they drove old Phoenix down might have shown that Nash was finally fading—where was his venom down the stretch? But that was no longer a team that needed an idiosyncratic vision or direction. Go ahead and buy Larry Brown from Charlotte. Big man, slowed PG, scoring machine, shooters.



It was only fitting that D'Antoni would exit now, since Kerr and Sarver have all but robbed that team of its original god-head. Now they can be the brains, having underestimated how far-reaching D'Antoni's influence was across that operation. It was coaching, and personnel, and making certain players, like Diaw, what they might otherwise never have been. You see dictator-ship, I see the old-style guru, or the kind of visionary to whom smart people defer and let run a little amuck.

What now for D'Antoni? Please don't let it be the Bulls. The Knicks would be no less painful. Remember, he inherited a young, inexpensive mess of a team, then got a chance to bring in Nash and let the gossamer empire rise. Both of these teams have clumps of intractable personnel who, frankly, will only ever give us a rough approximation of D'Antoni's idealism. And maybe, because he's only had this one big moment under the coaching sun, I like to think he's got that much integrity, or that irrepressible an ego.

I nominate Miami. Riles can't be bothered to buy the team toothbrushes anymore. Arm D'Antoni with old pal Marion, and what's left of Wade, and either Beasley or Rose. And oh yeah, that Wright guy could fit in well. Watch them instantly create a tiny temple in the East and then set their sights Westward?



But for now, let's admit it: An era has passed, and the team that created this site has ceased to matter. It's only fitting, then, that amidst all the "West is a letdown" chatter we're hearing a new generation definitively assert itself. Nash and Kidd are dead, long live Paul and Williams. Dwight Howard might be better than Shaq in his prime by the end of this summer. And while the odds are still against Atlanta marching on, they've got the kind of subversive, utterly flabbergasting vehemence that makes you think change might be in the air. Or at least rearing its bejeweled, strange, and confounded head when, with us all now adrift, it's so badly needed.

So stay still. Breathe deep. And remember, tonight is for everything. Everything we've lost, and everything that's still yet to hit us down the road.

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43 Comments:

At 4/30/2008 12:34 PM, Blogger goathair said...

Nash's reaction after that last turnover was one of the saddest things I've ever seen.

 
At 4/30/2008 12:42 PM, Blogger T. said...

Everything is in place for a D'Antoni move to Toronto. Sam Mitchell isn't well liked - and he's not a Colangelo hire. They got plenty of foreigners already - plus Calderon could EASILY play a latino Nash. Bosh fills Amare's role. Phx North is in the T-Dot.

 
At 4/30/2008 12:42 PM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

The only way I could possibly care about the Suns again is if Barkley coached them. Howard better than Shaq, though? This I doubt.

 
At 4/30/2008 12:52 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

I knew that Michael Caine had kissed Christopher Reeve, but a werewolf?

 
At 4/30/2008 1:17 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

Please o please let it be Chicago. I can't take any more hard-nosed defense and ineffectual jumpers - somebody must strike off Ty Thomas's fetters.

 
At 4/30/2008 1:47 PM, Blogger Ravi said...

azcentral.com is reporting that Kerr has denied the SI report and that D'Antoni is still Coach until further notice.

Phoenix should just reboot and attempt to go back to its roots...get its old bench back, play Amare at C, Boris at the 4. Split the MLE between Kurt Thomas/Eddie House, use the KT Traded Player Exception on Tim Thomas and Steven Hunter, and convince Dallas to swap mistakes, Kidd for Shaq, so Nash could finally have a backup and Dallas could...well, I don't know why Dallas would do that trade.

Nash/Kidd/Strawberry
Bell/Barbosa/House
Hill/Tucker
Diaw/Tim Thomas/
Amare/Kurt Thomas/Steven Hunter

I can dream....

 
At 4/30/2008 2:30 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Revolutions are almost always better when they are producers of ideas rather than realities; let phoenix go the way of gaza and lenin and we will remember a beauty that was and gone.

 
At 4/30/2008 2:32 PM, OpenID ChipDoggyDogg said...

D'Antoni on the Bulls would be great. Ty Thomas is a FD-freak waiting to be liberated, Larry Hughes + confidence = 75% of grant hill?, Joakim Noah would be free to let his freak flag fly, and Ben Gordon might be the first player to make the non-desperation half court shot part of his normal repertoire.

On another note, has there ever been another "free-agent" with the capaability to completely change the philosophy of a team? Players can add a vital piece to the puzzle, but adding him changes the whole worldview, almost allowing you to throw out the rules of the puzzle and put the pieces together however you want. Thinking of how the Bulls, Knicks, Raptors, Sonics, Grizzlies would work with D'Antoni has to make even the most pessimistic fan of said teams HOPEful.

 
At 4/30/2008 2:38 PM, Blogger steven said...

what i find hilarious is how the root of the suns' demise at the hands of their recent nemesis is their old nemesis, the lakers... the pau trade triggered the frenzy that lead to bad trades that brought down TWO championship rivals- phoenix AND dallas. that's efficiency.

 
At 4/30/2008 3:02 PM, Blogger EL MIZ said...

shoals, classic stuff to end the post. couldn't agree more, nash and kidd (and iverson) being the dominant lead guards is yesteryear. CP3 has been absolutely dominant, deron williams is in the 2nd round for the 2nd straight year. i think d'antoni will wind up in toronto simply b/c of his connection w/ b-colangelo, his role in building that phoenix team should not be forgot, he being the mastermind behind the marbury/penny for cap room and picks trade which let them sign nash, and got swingmen like joe johnson, qrich, jim jackson, tim thomas to play around him.

d'antoni going to toronto and calderon playing an entire season as the starter (presuming TJ ford is gone) could be the blossoming of jose into one of the best points in the east.

@steven, funny stuff w/ the lakers trade and the collateral damage of it. mavs and suns both got bounced and are essentially ruined as championship contenders.

 
At 4/30/2008 3:04 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

I thought D'Ant wanted a front office that gave him the freedom to play his game. If so, then he'd never go to Chicago with Pax and Krause leering over his shoulder the whole time. As a lifelong Bulls fan, I'd love to see it, but it'll never happen.

 
At 4/30/2008 3:26 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

NBA Racial Semantics, Pt. 20383: Calderon would not be a Latino Nash, he'd be a Hispanic Nash. Or just a Spanish Nash.

Although the Suns looked pretty weak, let's not forget that they should've won Game 1 and were very close to winning last night. Those two tripping calls were absolute bullshit. Still, Nash's fire was undoubtedly missing, and I don't think it was just him suffering in comparison to the havoc Paul wrought an hour earlier.

Firing D'Antoni kind of doesn't make sense, since it's the personnel, not the system, that's the problem. With Nash running the show, the window was closing fast, and now that the Shaq Experiment has failed, it's basically shut. I guess you rebuild around Amare and Barbosa, but that's an awfully strange core. I wonder if they're wishing they'd kept some of those draft picks right about now. Luol Deng would be a nice fit with those two.

And while I'm speaking of Duke small forwards, losing Grant Hill was a not insignificant blow to the Suns' postseason chances. I tried to convince Shoals that Hill helped make Marion expendable, and I still think that's true. Remember that Hill was a big part of the Suns all season. With his injury, the suspensions last year, the Joe Johnson eye socket disaster, and so on, it's arguable that the D'Antoni Suns didn't so much fail due to inherent flaws as have really terrible luck.

 
At 4/30/2008 3:31 PM, Blogger InfinityOnTrial said...

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At 4/30/2008 3:51 PM, Blogger Bret LaGree said...

D'Antoni to Atlanta where he convinces Josh Smith to take on the responsibility of becoming whatever Smith might become.

 
At 4/30/2008 3:53 PM, Blogger Sweat of Ewing said...

One of the saddest things to me is that I thought the magic of the Phoenix desert had cured Grant Hill of his injury problems, and yet it still happened at the worst time. The poor guy is just cursed with that stuff.

 
At 4/30/2008 5:21 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4/30/2008 5:26 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4/30/2008 5:28 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

It could've been worse. At least they're not the Mavericks - a team that in the end committed the triple sin of being boring, unlikeable and not very good.

As a Mavs fan, I was happy to see Nellie go because he'd quit on the franchise and being "a fun team to watch" just wasn't satisfying anymore. I wanted a championship, and I was more than happy to go the route of the "right way" if it mean the promised land, especially when Avery's Way initially yielded such promising results.

And to steal what a commentator said on another post, if the Warriors represented a spontaneous demonstration of radical black nationalism, and the Suns under Nash/D'Antoni were Ron Paul's Revolution, a throwback to the ideals under which a great institution were founded and once thrived, then Avery Johnson's Mavericks had to be Mitt Romney's brand of "conservatism." Lip service paid to ideals that sound great in theory, but with no substance to back up those lofty words.

Avery's attempt to turn the Mavs into San Antonio North failed miserably, as they became the exact opposite of the Spurs. Whatever else you may say about the Spurs, they get it done when they have to.
Unlike the Spurs, the Mavs do not rise to the occasion. They do not play their best basketball in the playoffs. They do not know how to hang in there and finish, and find their way out of any mess. And I'll fucking scream if anybody tries to pin the latest exit on Dirk. He came back on one leg and threw up 27 points, 12 boards and 4 assists against the Hornets. Only problem was his team just wasn't nearly as good as Paul's outfit.

I don't care about winning a title now or in the foreseeable future. I just want a "fun team to watch" that makes me feel joy again and doesn't make me want to gouge out my eye cavity with a rusty knife.

 
At 4/30/2008 6:00 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

Also, as an addendum...

I'm just gonna lay it out there. I'm going to be more honest than I ought to. I HATE being a fan of the Dallas Mavericks. It absolutely blows. The biggest mistake of my life was deciding that I liked the Mavericks and wanted to be a Mavs Fan For Life. An MFFL before an MFFL existed. Now I've got to watch this shit for 6 months a year. My fondest memories are of teams that could barely win 20 games a season.

I hate basketball.

Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah...Sadness. Alone in the basement at 2 in the morning, masturbating to Jane Fonda exercise tapes while eating a KFC Famous Bowl-type sadness.

Last night in New Orleans, we witnessed the end of what used to be my beloved Dallas Mavericks. From what transpired since the end of Game Four, there was some sort of mutiny - one where the players clearly tuned out their coach and put it upon themselves to win and come back. It was pretty bizarre, but just another chapter in the tragic majesty that is the Dallas Mavericks...

Derek Harper dribbling out the clock, Roy Tarpley's fondness for nose candy, Toni Braxton, Shawn Bradley getting permanently posterized, letting Nash go to Phoenix, D-Whistle and Bennett Salvatore, the GREATEST UPSET IN THE HISTORY OF THE NBA, and the latest sad tale.

I'm relieved that Avery is gone, and hopefully it's the last time we see Stackhouse in any uniform and Josh Howard tossing up brick after 20-foot brick as a Dallas Maverick.

Watching them go out again and an era come to a close feels like when you leave summer camp as a kid - sure, you had a blast while you were there. You cried. People picked on you because you were fat. One of the counselors touched you where we didn't want him to. You were almost kickball champion before choking it away in the final inning. It was sooooo close. But you never graced the promised land.

 
At 4/30/2008 6:20 PM, Blogger Leonardson Saratoga said...

man, Dirk really laid an egg in that series

 
At 4/30/2008 6:26 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

Not taking the bait. The Hornets were better than the Mavs, and only Dirk, Jet and Bass showed up for Dallas.

Anybody think the Mavs should trade Dirk and build their team around the guy that shot 28% and was owned by Peja Stojakovic?

 
At 4/30/2008 7:14 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Isn't it "an" Hispanic? Could be a historical ruling.

 
At 4/30/2008 7:25 PM, Blogger El Presidente said...

Were D'Antoni fired, Dallas would absolutely be his most likely landing spot.

 
At 4/30/2008 7:42 PM, Blogger rebar said...

that summer camp steez was deep/really touched me. no homo on that.

they should trade dirk for picks/young bucks, howard for similarz, and let Jkidd expire.

 
At 4/30/2008 8:04 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

D'Antoni is going to Toronto.

Honestly, given how fucked the team is, Cuban might as well coach them himself. If we're not going to be good, let's be an entertaining sideshow.

 
At 4/30/2008 10:50 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

I appreciate your post-season heartbreak, Zeke, but "If we're not going to be good, let's be an entertaining sideshow"?

The Mavs won 51 games if I'm not mistaken, you've got Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, and Josh Howard's going to figure it out. There are a great many teams worse than the Mavs.

Also, Brown Recluse: "Firing D'Antoni kind of doesn't make sense, since it's the personnel, not the system, that's the problem."

I don't think anyone's suggested that the Suns are short on talent. What they keep saying is they're short on defense, and that's very much a system thing. Amare Stoudemire expressed a lot of frustration about the Suns' style after a game, said something about how the Spurs always get good shots.

 
At 5/01/2008 12:08 AM, Blogger T. said...

I thought the gist of the SI piece was not that D'Antoni was being fired, but that he was making a decision to leave.

I whiffed on Calderon's country of origin. Of course, Hispanic, not Latino.

Also - more on the first FreeDarko president:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/04/30/SPNL10EJ8P.DTL

 
At 5/01/2008 1:07 AM, Blogger Brendan K. said...

I knew you typed this shit on a Macbook.

Full disclosure: I always hated this Suns team. The closest I ever came to rooting for them was watching Amare average, like 90 points against the Spurs in those playoffs before the microfracture.

I am a dyed-in-the-wool Lakes fan from southern Cal. What it is. D'Antoni will as likely as anywhere end up in Toronto, should he actuallu get fired.

But seriously, don't write about anything written before 6 AM. I KNOW.

 
At 5/01/2008 2:02 AM, Blogger Brian Burke said...

If the Mavs and the Suns could dramatically change their identity with older players in one season, I don't think it's out of the question that they could go the other way the next. I feel like there are plenty of teams mostly playing talented guys in their mid-20s who'd trade a few for one established, if less productive veteran with either of those teams. I don't think the 2005 Suns are coming back, but I don't think they're scrapping the experiment either.

 
At 5/01/2008 3:29 AM, OpenID tredecimal said...

The Suns experiment is not done, even if it will have to be continued in Toronto. As others have said, they experienced some seriously shitty luck, and in every year since the Joe Johnson/Quentin/Nash backcourt, the perimeter shooting has been less prolific. They have diluted their formula to the point where having 2-3 wing players with range (Johnson, QR, and James Jones) have been replaced by 1 (Grant Hill) who is never going to be much of a 3pt shooter. I'm not counting Raja Bell or Barbosa here, because they were around for at least the last 2 years. The Suns are about spacing as much as running, and you can't create space without people who are threats all the way out to 23 feet. Sunsanomics failed because of shitty luck and then lousy personnel decisions (not replacing the aforementioned shooters, giving up draft picks for the cap space to sign people to replace said shooters) not because of its innate inadequacies vs. the San Antonio Spurs of the world.

 
At 5/01/2008 9:29 AM, Blogger Joe said...

Hawks season ticket holder since '91. I'll spare y'all the typical nostalgia, but as the author alludes to having watched the Hawks regularly over the last few years, how come there is no mention of Mike Woodson ABSOLUTELY holding this team back?

For as 'Free Darko' as the Hawks appear to be, they could easily take that to another level were Woodson to abandon his silly half-court, methodical Larry Brown circa 2003 pace. Given that they dont have a BWallace or Sheed underneath (and they haven't, Zaza has been their closest thing to a post presence since Horford showed up), its insane he won't just let this athletic team run more ala Suns of old or the Raptors. If anything bad has come out of this series, it is that Woodson might have saved his job, and a coach like D'Antoni could be had.

Rant aside, those 2 games in ATL have been the greatest sporting events I've ever experienced this side of SEC football, Tomahawkin Braves of '91 included and its been a great ride. Here's hoping it continues.

 
At 5/01/2008 3:12 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

When the Suns win the title next season (if Coach Skiles doesn't mess them up too much), what will be written then?

 
At 5/01/2008 4:37 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

@TOVG: I wasn't saying the Suns were short on talent, but that they had problems with their personnel. As tredecimal pointed out, they no longer have enough 3-point shooters to effectively run D'Antoni's system. They kept losing guys like Johnson, Q, James Jones, even Eddie House, and they didn't get adequate replacements. Giricek is okay, but he was playing way too minutes during that Spurs series.

They also got too damn old. Four of their starters this season were over 30, and three were over 33. One's conditioning has been suspect for years, and another one has fought serious injuries. And they've gotten nothing out of the draft (sorry DJ and Alando).

I mean, who on Phoenix's team would you want on your roster in two seasons? Amare, Barbosa, Diaw. That's it. I would say they have personnel problems.

 
At 5/01/2008 4:43 PM, Blogger bernard snowy said...

I'm not normally the type to post totally unrelated links in the comments section, but... holy shit, did anybody else see Scoop Jackson's mind-bendingly ridiculous column about the LeBron/DeShawn feud?

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=jackson/080430

 
At 5/01/2008 5:33 PM, Blogger Five Pound Bag said...

SML - Scott Skiles is already signed up to coach the Bucks next season. I bet the Suns could get Larry Brown to change jobs, though.

 
At 5/01/2008 7:40 PM, Blogger Croz said...

Sometimes I wish that the powers that be in sports weren't so myopic. I'm the first to admit being a complete bandwagon Suns fan since the holy explosion of Nash & Co., but it's painful to see everyone Suns-affiliated concede that 1)batshit crazy basketball can't win a title and 2)D'Antoni must go. What I really want is for Kerr to come out and say screw it, you think we played no defense last year? Mike, let's see if we can hit 150 PPG next year. From the way D'Antoni coaches, it's clear that defense just doesn't interest him. Offense is his muse and inspiration. And so what they fell to the Spurs so much? So did everybody else. I don't want to see Mike D. challenged to fit into b-ball orthodoxy to win the chimerical prize, I want Kerr to publicly challenge the master of offense to build an offense so fearsome, so mighty, that not even the Spurs can shut it down. And if there's no championship down that road, surely it's better to go down with guns blazing than to accept lockstep servitude.

 
At 5/01/2008 8:41 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

D'ant to Cleveland, please!

 
At 5/01/2008 9:03 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

man, Dirk really laid an egg in that series


If only Dirk had slapped West's hands away....the Mavs be worrying about the Spurs right now. Slapping West's hands away is the best defense against Chris Paul on the p'n'r.

 
At 5/01/2008 9:54 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Chris Paul post-game hunting jacket. Making up new rules as he goes.

 
At 5/01/2008 11:07 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Simmons has a pretty nice breakdown on every flawed move the Suns have made under D'Antoni. I'm sure most of us won't agree with all of his conclusions, but when you look over the list as a whole, you just can't help but be pissed at what could have been for a few short term luxury tax dollars.

Sure, it's easy for us to sit here and rail on a man for not being willing to potentially lose millions in cash, but how could he not have seen the long term value of creating a dynamic force? You don't buy a sports franchise to scrape out a couple million in profits each year. You buy a sports franchise at $100 million today because ten years from now, you can sell it for $250 million.

Other than T-Mac's potential redemption and one more chance to watch the Hawks play at home, I think I speak for the entire Free Darko community when I say: bring on the second round already!

 
At 5/02/2008 1:42 AM, Blogger dickey simpkins said...

So no to Chicago...a team full of young players who would sell their kidneys to play for D'Antoni, a guy who has a reputation for developing young talent, and developing strong relationships with his players. A team with a GM who is desperate for a coach who wants to teach his players, not just make snide comments about their perceived lack of effort.

Yet, somehow it makes sense for him to take his show to Miami where Pat Riley is hovering over every personnel decision, no doubt salivating at the idea of coaching a Heat team with Wade, Marion, and a developed Beasley or Rose.

 
At 5/02/2008 7:51 AM, Blogger Dan said...

Thank you, Salt. I needed somebody to comment on that.

wv: ibmemo- what okur shouts after every three

 
At 5/02/2008 10:43 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

You don't buy a sports franchise to scrape out a couple million in profits each year. You buy a sports franchise at $100 million today because ten years from now, you can sell it for $250 million.

I thought you bought an NBA franchise so that you can pretend that you're a professional athlete when you're really just a rich computer dork. I guess that's just Mark Cuban, though. And maybe Paul Allen.

 

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