March 2009 - Posts
The Phoenix Suns are still alive in the race for the 8th seed in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, but they still need to win 75% or more of their games and hope that the Dallas Mavericks lose a few more games at the same time.
After winning 2 in a row (over crappy teams), the Suns were once again within 4 games of Dallas (after 2 Mavs losses as well), but Dallas got a much needed victory last night over the Pistons that once again pushes them up to a 4.5 game lead. With only 15 games left, the Suns are still mathematically in it, but the Mavs would have to lose 5 of their last 14 games and the Suns would have to win out. Much to the dismay of PHX Suns fans, I've gotta say that the Mavericks are not a bad team and will not finish the season on a losing note - owner Mark Cuban is too demanding and coach Rick Carlisle will make the players work their asses off to ensure a playoff birth. I also know that the Suns cannot put together a 15-game winning streak to close out the season, so our chances are not good.
I remain optimistic and hopeful that a miracle can happen. Hell, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd could both get bust an ankle/knee and Dallas would lose 75% of its remaining games... the chances of that happening are slim-to-none, however. And Amare Stoudemire is not returning for the Suns, so they are going to be ineffective against the Western Conference powers for the remainder of the season (as they have been for the past month or so).
Despite the Suns best effort on Tuesday night at home, they were unable to stop both Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry from scoring and ended up on the losing end, 122-117. Nowitzki routinely shot over smaller defenders and led a second half surge that strengthened Dallas' position as the 8th playoff seed, while pushing PHX further into the 9th seed and out of playoff contention.
Steve Nash, Shaquille O'Neal, Leandro Barbosa and Matt Barnes all played solid ball and seemingly scored at will (at times), but they simply could not keep the Mavs from scoring and ended up losing on their homecourt.
The loss is the 5th straight for Phoenix after losing their previous four games on the road, but losing at home the Mavs is especially tough considering the playoff implications. This was arguably the Suns biggest game to-date this season and they still couldn't pull it out. Grant Hill called the game the Suns' "Super Bowl" and I guess it was... they just look more like the Arizona Cardinals than the Pittsburgh Steelers in that reference - on the losing end.
If the Suns do fail to make the playoffs, and at this point it looks likely based on theirs and Dallas' remaining schedules, they will be eligible for the NBA Draft lottery and the opportunity to win the #1 draft pick (ala Blake Griffin). While the odds are certainly not in the Suns favor, the higher probability moves for the Suns will include the possible trades and/or movement of virtually anyone on the roster. Amare Stoudemire could be traded during the summer to free up cap room in the future, but I hope they keep STAT onboard for a couple more years. They would be better served trading away Shaq's expiring contract and/or Nash's as well. Neither players value is exceptionally high these days, but there will be teams looking to acquire last-year type players who will help them free up cap room for the 2010 free agent swoon that is anticipated. I don't think the players are going to be out there like is predicted, since their own teams can offer them the most money on a new contract extension and since their value is quite clear - specifically, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Chris Bosh, etc.
Amare Stoudemire's doctor has indicated that the retinal tear Amare suffered is more serious than a lot of other injuries and will require significant time to heal. So much time, in fact, that Stoudemire will not participate in the postseason if the Phoenix Suns make the NBA Playoffs.
The recovery time from the surgery is months and so far, the process is slow going for Amare. He has been banned from attending games even, to prevent any further injury to the eye.
Of course, the team will continue to play w/out their young star and develop on-court chemistry. It will be interesting to see how the summer shapes out for Amare and the Suns, in terms of potential trade scenarios. The Suns are proving they can win w/out Amare, albeit not against any good teams, but then again they weren't really beating them w/ him either.
With Shaq and Nash off the books at the end of next year, the Suns could trade Stoudemire for a couple other quality players and get a good start on rebuilding and trimming payroll long-term. The 2010 free agent class is anticipated to be plentiful, but I expect a number of teams to re-sign their star players before their contracts end - this would definitely blow up some teams plans that year (e.g. Knicks). If the Suns were to trade Stoudemire and let both Shaquille O'Neal and Steve Nash go next season, they would be WAY under the cap and could go after 2+ superstar players who might still be available.
The Suns on Wednesday, signed forward Stromile Swift for the remainder of the 2009 season. The PF, who spent most of his career in Memphis, but most recently in Houston and New Jersey, will add some power and size for the small Suns squad. Swift is certainly no Amare Stoudemire, but he can run the floor and should be on the receiving end of many alley-oops from the Phoenix guards or small forwards.
Swift is a good rebounder, but a poor outside shooter. The Suns really don't need him to shoot, so as long as he brings energy, uses his fouls effectively and gets a few offensive rebounds, he will be a valuable contributor to PHX as they attempt to get into the NBA Playoffs.