Finally, Suns move forward - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Finally, Suns move forward

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Posted: Tuesday, October 5, 2004 11:42 pm | Updated: 4:32 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Here are the final two paragraphs of a column I wrote last January:

By the way, my family is thinking about buying a dog. If the dog chases its tail, I know what I'm going to name it:


Funny line, I thought, and appropriate, too. In trading Stephon Marbury to the New York Knicks, the Suns blew up a team that had just made the playoffs and seemed poised to make a run in the Western Conference, the tribulations of the 2002-2003 season notwithstanding.

Even worse, they lied to their fans. The Suns sold the public on the Big Three of Marbury, Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire, then betrayed their promises — and the fans' faith — by dumping Marbury for financial reasons.

As the Suns open training camp this week, however, those of us who criticized the organization for its panic attacks must acknowledge the recovery effort it made in the offseason.

The signings of free agent guards Steve Nash and Quentin Richardson have transformed the Suns into an entertaining, competitive team that should, at worst, win 45 games and reach the postseason.

Might Phoenix be in the same position if it held onto Marbury and Penny Hardaway? Probably. The Suns don't need Nash if Marbury's still playing the point.

But what's done is done, and anger has given way to anticipation.

“(The trades) put us in a position to move forward as a basketball team,” said Suns president Bryan Colangelo. . . . “We feel everywhere we turn, there are positive signs.”

The Suns took a huge risk in getting to this point. Dealing the contracts of Marbury and Hardaway provided financial relief — Phoenix's payroll has dropped from $67 million at the start of last season to approximately $43 million — and made the team more attractive to future owner Robert Sarver, but what if the Suns hadn't been able to pry Nash loose from the Dallas Mavericks? What if they had been unable to steal Richardson from the clueless Los Angeles Clippers? What if they still had an open checkbook and no one to spend it on?

They'd be the Chicago Bulls, that's what.

“You can't be afraid,” Colangelo said. “We felt like we had a good core of players, but the financial outlook for the organization certainly was not good.

“By utilizing the trades we did, we not only improved our basketball team in our opinion, we put a much brighter economic outlook on the future.”

Of course, since the Colangelos were making amends for their own largesse, any applause should be muted.

The Suns didn't get everything on their Christmas list. A two-dimensional center — play defense and score — would have been nice, but not if it meant paying Mehmet Okur $50 million or lavishing a multi-year contract on a career underachiever like Erick Dampier.

Richardson will contribute more coming off the bench as the sixth man than Okur would have playing 35 minutes as a serviceable center.

“We can be criticized for not landing a dominant big man, but if our analysis was right, there wasn't a dominant center for us to get,” Colangelo said.

(Side note: When the Lakers are desperate enough to sign 65-year-old chain-smoker Vlade Divac and the Warriors give Adonal Foyle $41 million, analysis is a nice way of saying those teams are nuts).

The Suns need to do one more thing to truly make this offseason a success: exercise some restraint.

In the past nine years, there have been six coaching changes, several major trades and an ownership change. The Suns have had more faces than Joan Rivers.

This group of players won't win an NBA title, but if the past few years have taught the Colangelos anything, it should be that commitment is far more appealing than Luc Longley.

The Suns have a chance to be the talk of the town again. The Diamondbacks just ended a miserable season, the Coyotes may never start their season and Arizona State's undefeated football team could soon hit a rough patch with road games at USC and California.

“We feel like we're poised to take a pretty big step forward,” Colangelo said.

Which, you have to admit, is pretty remarkable considering all the steps they've taken backward.

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