Sun-Blinded

2 05 2008

No way in hell.

Ok, getting a bit ahead of myself there, perhaps a brief explanation is necessary.
The premier Phoenix Suns blog, Bright Side of the Sun is convening a vaunted ‘Star Chamber‘ to decide what should be the fate of the coach of the Phoenix Suns, Mike D’Antoni (if you have time &/or inclination, head over there and have your say!!!).
As reported all around the internet, Jack McCallum has D’Antoni done and already riding off into the setting sun… and Blogfrica is split on whether that’s a good or a bad thing.
Does D’Antoni deserve to go?

Which brings me back to my original statement:
No way in hell.

Quite frankly, I’m stunned that it’s even being considered, much less considered fait accompli. D’Antoni is simply one of the better basketball minds out there in the NBA, and for the Phoenix Suns, it is clearly going to be a case of “you-don’t-know-what-you-had-until-it’s-gone”.
Other NBA franchises are salivating at the opportunity… the mere possibility to hold that press conference to state

“We’d like to introduce you to the man who’s going to take the [insert franchise name] to the next level. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Coach Mike D’Antoni – coach of the [insert franchise name]!”

I’m simply amazed that a guy who has as much basketball nous as Suns GM Steve Kerr is purportedly in possession of, cannot grasp what a basketball mind they have in D’Antoni. Yes, there should be personnel changes in Phoenix, but Mike D’Antoni isn’t one of them.
How highly do I regard D’Antoni?
Let me tell you: As a Lakers fan, I am of the opinion that the best coach in all of basketball currently works for the franchise I support: Phil Jackson.
Gregg Popovich is only a hair below, and Jerry Sloan too.
Beyond that, there aren’t many even in view of that plateau. But Mike D’Antoni is. Byron Scott could well be held in the same regard sometime soon.
If Phil retired, and the Lakers got D’Antoni, I would not be disappointed.

So… why is Mike D’Antoni being pushed forward to the guillotine in Phoenix?
Pure and simple, it all comes down to not being able to get past the San Antonio Spurs. Paint it however you want, but that is the crux of the argument.
2005, in the Conference FInals the Spurs beat the Suns in 5.
2006, it’s the Mavs who beat them in 6 at the same stage.
2007 and it’s the Spurs again, this time in the Conference Semi-finals – Spurs win in 6.
2008, first round of the playoffs – guess who? San Antonio. Result: Suns out in 5.

This year, game 1 of the series Tim Duncan hits a 3 point shot to win the game. That’s what it came down to. Give him 10 chances, and he doesn’t even hit the rim on 9. But he wins that game on the back of his 3 point shot. Give that game to the Suns, and the series might well have gone a completely opposite direction.

Last year, even more contentious. But for a hard foul on Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire & Boris Diaw don’t get suspended… and it’s a completely different result. The Suns probably take the series, and is there any doubt they would’ve easily accounted for Cleveland?

“Ladies & Gentlemen, your 2007 NBA Champion Phoenix Suns!”

The most amazing thing about the brouhaha that bubbled over post the NBA Commissioner’s decision to suspend Stoudemire/Diaw is that David Stern has basically admitted that last year he got it wrong.
With the refusal to suspend either Kendrick Perkins or Marvin Williams for exactly the same offense, it’s tantamount to an admission of “oops” for the penalties the two Suns got the year before.
And that’s completely ignoring the star-treatment that Kevin Garnett got – pushing a referee (ok, mitigating circumstances), and getting off with merely a fine?
Wow… if I were a Suns fan, I’d be livid over this.

But it beggars belief that the Suns will hold D’Antoni responsible for a) Tim Duncan hitting a 3 point shot, and b) David Stern’s error in judgment…
Yes, I know. People will point to the Shaq trade & how D’Antoni was supposedly behind it. I call BS on that. D’Antoni has always striven to play a high-octane offense, and supposedly he makes a move to get perhaps the slowest center in the game today? I mean, seriously: does any other center fit less into the Suns game scheme than Shaquille O’Neal???
Changing an entire offensive philosophy mid-season is never a good game-plan… But we’re expected to believe it was Mike D’Antoni’s idea?
And it’s worth remembering where the Suns where situated prior to the O’Neal trade: 1st in the Western Conference. Yet,

Ok… suspend belief for a bit. Work on the somewhat-negligent assumption that D’Antoni did suggest it. Both GM Steve Kerr, or owner Robert Sarver could always have said ‘no’. But neither did. Matter o’ fact, both leapt at it.
Add to Sarver’s side of the ledger that it’s entirely his fault that they have no draft picks, no youth.

So where to from here?
Firstly, that roster.
Acknowledge that despite having come oh-so-close in the past few years, this roster is fast getting older, and probably doesn’t have what it takes to compete at the elite level the top of the Western Conference demands.
So, blow it up.
Anyone not named Amare Stoudemire, Boris Diaw or Leandro Barbosa (worth noting they were all born in 1982) is up for trade. And yes, that includes Steve Nash. And O’Neal, tho’ it’s unlikely you are able to move him.
But the last thing the Phoenix Suns should do is bid adieu to the one guy who is probably the best coach coaching in the NBA not named Jackson or Popovich.

Hell, I acknowledge that even in light of the obvious, it’s probably going to happen.
And as a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, for this… from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

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15 responses

2 05 2008
khandor

Sorry to disagree with you but … IMO, Mike D’Antoni is an average NBA coach.

What he did in Phoenix was make a terrific decision to install Steve Nash (PG) as the focal point of his Offensive System, then pair Nash with Stoudemire (C), and emphasize the High Middle Pick & Roll/Pop Series (in the half-court) with an otherwise Full Throttle Attack (in the full-court).

What he didn’t do with the Suns, however, is establish a ‘Team Commitment to Rebounding & Defense’ in equal proportion with this type of high-octane Offense.

He’s a good coach no doubt but nowhere near the same class as Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley, Jerry Sloan, Chuck Daly, KC Jones, and Red Auerbach.

2 05 2008
Nba » Sun-Blinded

[…] withmalice wrote an interesting post today on Sun-BlindedHere’s a quick excerptThe premier Phoenix Suns blog, Bright Side of the Sun is convening a vaunted ‘Star Chamber‘ to decide what should be the fate of the coach of the Phoenix Suns, Mike D’Antoni. As reported all around the internet, Jack McCallum has … […]

2 05 2008
withmalice

You are more than welcome to disagree.
And as stated in the piece, not on the same plateau as Jackson or Popovich.
Sloan’s been fortunate enough to have an ownership that’s stuck by him.
Riley currently is more blight than boon. Putting him (as he is now) in this list is an extreme disservice to the others named.
Daly, Jones & Auerbach? Good luck getting them to coach now…

2 05 2008
khandor

Pat Riley’s recent mis-steps with the Heat cannot erase the legacy he has created over the duration of his career as an NBA coach.

Without a doubt, he belongs on any list of all-time great NBA head coaches.

Of those active today, only Phil Jackson & Gregg Popovich fit into this elite cateegory, although Byron Scott (the ‘new kid on the block’ whose work I respected in New Jersey, as well as now with New Orleans) has the look and feel of a terrific head coach, in the mold of the other men I mentioned before.

2 05 2008
john

I personally feel that the Shaq trade was the main core for this embarassement.

The Suns were already a great team but the lack the depth that Spurs had. Plus D’Atoni rarely trusted his bench apart from Leandro and Boris.

I would like to hear your thoughts about the Suns/Spurs series. Please feel free to comment on the following link….

http://mundoalbiceleste.blogspot.com/2008/04/playoffs-news-cold-manu-fiery-scola.html

2 05 2008
withmalice

Agreed John… tho’ even that as a given, if Timmy misses that 3, we might be talking up the impending clash between the ol’ man of elite point guards (Nash) versus the young up-‘n’-comer (Paul).

@khandor – agreed on Riley… however, this piece is discussing active coaches now. And the Riley we have now at Miami is as big a reason for their recent lack of success as everything else combined. And of recent times, he committed one of the most grievous acts I’ve seen a GM do – kicking out Van Gundy to take over the increasingly successful Miami team.
Historical Riley – awesome.
Current Riley – putz.

2 05 2008
Alex

I think that D’Antoni is an amazing coach but that the Suns will still let him go. And you know what? He might deserve it. As you noted, it probably wasn’t his idea to get Shaq. So why should he have to deal with people that are going to undermine him?

I totally agree with blowing up the team. You should check my blog arod20.wordpress.com. You might agree with everything except step 1.

2 05 2008
Neil

I am 100% in agreement with you on this matter. D’Antoni hasn’t had sufficient amount time with this roster for him to be the scapegoat here. He’s averaged 55 wins during his tenure; he deserves better than that. Game 1 was a deflating loss and it really did turn the series upside down. Instead of tearing this thing up, they need to give this roster a full year together. Maybe Shaq isn’t a good fit for this team, but their rebounding and perimeter defense (two big weaknesses for Phoenix) definitely got a boost. The key for him is to take the offseason seriously and show up to training camp in shape…. for once. What this really team needs is to find another capable outside shooter. They need to look in free agency and find a James Posey-type, just another deadly shooter that defenses have to be aware of. Outside of Nash and occasionally Bell, there’s not a whole lot of threats to hit that outside shot and I think that’s what’s been missing the most. Amare will be a stud next year, and Nash, while not an MVP, is still a top-3 PG in the league. I really liked how Diaw played the last two games of the series, he needs to play with that same sort of aggressiveness next season. There is A LOT of talent on this team, but given another capable body that will provide depth, they can get better.

2 05 2008
withmalice

Hey Alex, will visit, and soon!

Hey Neil! Good to see you here. Spot on with your analysis – I am amazed that with 1 Tim Duncan 3 pointer, D’Antoni suddenly got ‘dumber’.
Nash is good, but I think if they trade him now, they can get some really, really good pieces.

2 05 2008
khandor

IMO each of you is completely missing the proverbial boat here.

It’s a fundamental error in basketball judgment to believe that the Suns were the No. 1 team in the Western Conference when they made the Shaq/Marion trade this season.

What the Suns were was the team with the best W-L record at the time … but, they were not the No. 1 team in that conference. There’s a big difference between these two claims.

Even if the Suns had not made that trade … Phoenix was NOT going to get out of their 1st Round Playoff series this season. Other top teams in the West had already passed them by. If in doubt:

http://www.nba.com/suns/schedule/

i) Check the Suns record vs +.500 teams in the WC;
ii) Check the Suns record vs the Hornets;
iii) Check the Suns record vs the Lakers (with a healthy Bynum but no Gasol & Ariza).
iv) Check the Suns ugly losses to the T-Wolves, the Clippers and the Heat.

Prior to that trade Phoenix was a pathetic rebounding team (i.e. with a negative Reounding Differential Per Game).

NBA teams with a negative Rebounding Differential DO NOT win the NBA championship.

Never. Ever.

The Suns did not lose all of these playoff series to the Spurs and the Mavs these last several years TO PREVENT THEIR TEAM FROM EVEN REACHING THE NBA FINALS never mind ever winning the actual championship because …

i) Duncan hit a lucky 3Pt Shot this year;
ii) Horry hard fouled (cheap shotted) Nash in a game last year;
iii) Amare & Diaw and Horry were then suspended for a game;
iv) Nash looked like Chuck Wepner at crunch time of Game 1 last year’
v) Stoudemire was injured the previous year and missed 1 complete season;
vi) Phoenix chose not to re-sign Joe Johnson before that;
vi) Joe Johnson was injured during their playoff series.

The Suns lost each and every one of these series to the better team … that simply out executed Phoenix when all the chips were pushed into the middle of the table. FULL STOP.

Despite the exhileration associated with the concept & execution of “Seven Seconds or Less” … the NBA championship is won by the team that best combines the 3 most important phases of the game, i.e. Rebounding, Defense & Efficient Offense.

The Suns of Mike D’Antoni have always been fatally flawed … and if HE IS UNWILLING TO ADAPT HIS COACHING STYLE TO FIT THE REQUIREMENTS NEEDED TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP IN PHOENIX then it’s in both HIS BEST INTEREST and THE SUNS’ that HE DECIDE TO WALK AWAY FROM THEIR TEAM AT THIS POINT IN TIME.

Steve Kerr is not going to fire Mike D’Antoni.

Steve Kerr is about winning the NBA championship.

Steve Kerr is going to do his best to create a situation in Phoenix that is conducive to winning four separate 7-game playoff series in April, May & June.

The choice will be up to Mike D’Antoni to decide if he wants to stay along for the ride (or not).

2 05 2008
The Free Agent

Ultimately, coaches are the easiest ones to put the blame on. It’s much more difficult to blow up a team and start from scratch. It’s much harder to get rid of your star player. If you end up trading your star player, you will ALWAYS get lower quality talent (ex. Gasol, Kidd, Iverson, etc). It is also much cheaper to buy-out a coach’s contract than a star player’s contract. There are very few coaches that are genius’ in the league. Few being, Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan and Gregg Popovich. No other coaches are able to maintain their jobs and are not able to adjust their coaching strategies according to the players they have. But a large portion of it is that the Lakers/Bulls, Spurs and Jazz have stood by their coaches during the good and bad times. Sometimes, a change of scenery and voice in the locker room can help a lot for players. I think it will be the best for both the Suns and D’Antoni to part ways. The Suns will not be able to run up and down for much longer, with Shaq, Nash, and Hill all in their mid-30’s now. I hope D’Antoni goes to the Knicks and the Knicks get rid of Eddy McFlurry

2 05 2008
withmalice

@ Khandor – you might want to check your own info their chief… 😉
I’d suggest exploring the following dates:
17th December
9th March
9th April

2 05 2008
Celtics247.com » Blog Archive » Today’s Links 5/2

[…] Hawks fans blaming coach Mike Woodson Sam Cassell isn’t helping the Celtics much With Malice Sun blinded Cleveland.com Sports museum of America ESPN Scouting Hawks-Celtics game 6 Bleacher Report […]

3 05 2008
khandor

No need to double-check the info … the point raised wasn’t that the Suns had not ever beaten a +.500 team this season … which is patently not the case … but that the Suns were exposed earlier this season as extremely vulnerable in a way that they haven’t been earlier during their recent run of outstanding regular seasons.

The writing had begun to form on the wall for this group of Suns well before the Shaq trade … and with the recent upsurge of the Lakers, Spurs, Hornets, Rockets, Jazz & Blazers (plus, even the Mavs before they shot themselves in the head by trading Devin Harris & Diop), it was inevitable that the Suns on-going deficiencies in the critical areas of Rebounding & Defense were not going to allow them to push past the newly better balanced teams in the Western Conference … especially the Spurs & the Lakers (if/when healthy).

5 05 2008
Carnival of the NBA #56 « The On Deck Circle

[…] knows why Teams are Licking Their Chops over the D’Antoni situation, and why that should send a message to […]

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