With the NBA's Summer League in full swing this week, amateurs and school organized basketball teams are also getting underway. As pro basketball goes, so usually does the average fan. When the professionals start playing, everyone starts getting more into the game - local leagues are organized, pick-up games started on playgrounds around the country and gyms/fitness centers a full of players saying "we got next".

If you're anything like me, your basketball equipment is probably in need of replacement - especially your ball. Sure, the ball is the easiest thing to replace, but how is your backboard doing? Time for a new net/chain?  Whether you're looking to fix up your existing equipment or move up to the next level, there is a decent site which should have everything you need - visit Basketball Products International.

More than the casual player might need, BPI has a full selection of products for small organized basketball leagues, junior & high school basketball equipment (e.g. scoring tables, glass backboards, etc.) and even serious outdoor leagues (portable backstops, etc.). BPI is for the serious basketball player that knows what he wants and doesn't want to overpay for it.

My personal favorite, from playing it up in my Jr. High & high school gyms, is the Spalding TF-1000. I spent hour upon hour shooting w/ that ball - by myself, scrimmaging 3-on-3 and even during tryouts for the school teams (I only tried out for high school). For about $35.00, as of this writing, you can pick-up this ball for yourself, although I'd only suggest you use it indoors. This ball's grip & feel are meant solely for indoor play - outside, the ball would get torn up.

Regardless of your needs, you should bookmark BPI to price compare and/or save until the season is closer upon you.

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The Phoenix Suns have reportedly reached agreement w/ free agents Grant Hill and Channing Frye, a former Arizona resident (UofA).  As is being reported by Paul Coro, Suns insider for the Arizona Republic, Hill is signing a 2-yr deal w/ a player option on the 2nd yr, while Frye is also expected to receive a 2-yr deal.

Here are the details on Grant Hill's re-signing:

Hill will return for a third season with the Suns by agreeing to a contract that will pay him $3 million this season with a player option of $3.24 million for 2010-11.

Hill could have received more money in NY, but a call from Nash may have been the key in keeping Grant a Phoenix Sun.

Here are some specifics on the Channing Frye deal:

Meanwhile, the Suns also have assurances from Frye and his agent, Rob Pelinka, that Frye will sign. That contract is expected to be a two-year deal, using the biennial exception or a contract that is nearly equivalent to it, using a portion of the $5.85 million mid-level exception. A biennial exception is worth $4.07 million over two years with a second-year player option.

I believe Frye will perform well in the Suns' system and look forward to watching in his 1st year w/ the team.  I was a fan of him at the University of Arizona and kept track of him in NY & Portland as well, so I have high hopes and encourage Suns fans to stay encouraged on this kid.

Not sure either of these moves are going to satisfy Amare Stoudemire, but Steve Nash also looks close to signing an extension that will keep him in Phoenix for a few more years.  Not that Nash's signing will encourage Stoudemire to quit talking about being traded, but it is a step in the right direction for the franchise nonetheless.

Neither deal really puts too much pressure on future acquisitions or the cap, since both players are basically going to cost about $7m total each year.  For two possible starters (although Frye won't start), that is a bargain any way you look at it.  Since the trade of Shaq, including the expected buyout/waiving of the players in that deal, the Suns expect to save about $18m next year overall.

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Big moves this summer, including your Phoenix Suns... unfortunately, the Suns traded away players for financial reasons & are not getting much in return. In addition, key free agents are looking elsewhere (Grant Hill, Matt Barnes), so the team is looking mighty thin in some key positions.

Most notable NBA trades & free agent signings of 2009:

  • Suns traded Shaq to Cleveland for Ben Wallace (waiving) & Sasha Pavlovic, a decent 6th or 7th man.
  • Hedo Turkoglu traded from Orlando to Toronto (w/ 3 other teams involved).
  • Former Suns player Shawn Marion traded from Toronto to Dallas (see above).
  • Ron Artest signs w/ the LA Lakers.
  • Trevor Ariza signs w/ the Rockets.
  • Ben Gordon & Charlie Villanueva sign w/ the Pistons.
  • Richard Jefferson traded from Bucks to Spurs.
  • Mike Bibby re-signs w/ Atlanta.
  • Anderson Varejao re-signs w/ Cavs.
  • Rasheed Wallace signs w/ Celtics.
  • Antonio McDyess signs w/ Spurs.
  • Vince Carter traded to Orlando Magic from NJ (Rafer Alston goes to NJ).
The Suns still have big decisions to make w/ forward Amare Stoudemire, as well as guard Steve Nash, who are both unhappy w/ the current situation and don't want to play for a rebuilding team.  They are hopeful that Grant Hill will re-sign, but they can't pay him much and he has a chance to end his career w/ a championship in Boston or a "different experience" w/ the Knicks.

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The Phoenix Suns have traded Shaquille O'Neal to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic.  ESPN is breaking the news right now, as Yahoo Sports probably reported first (?).  No Tweets from Shaq or Amare (yet)... Shaq has tweeted quite a bit tonight, but nothing on the trade.

This move is "mostly" salary related, since it really won't make the Suns any better.  Not sure it makes Cleveland any better to be honest...  Realize this is a business and the Suns can't over-pay for a non-playoff team.

The move signals confidence in both Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, although much more could still happen tomorrow during the draft (or even before the season starts.  Ben Wallace will probably be bought out and/or waived pretty quickly.  The Suns have no intention of playing him and he's been leaning towards retiring anyway.  Pavlovic adds a shooter, but the Suns have real depth problems in the frontcourt now.  I would expect another trade or see them draft a Center or Power Forward.  Amare will be a target next year if they can't find a big man to support him.

Suns Draft Party

I will be attending the Suns Draft Party, so expect some cool stuff that night or the following day.  Hoping to get some good pics & perhaps some interviews if some of the players are warm to it.

While some teams appear to have their 2009 NBA Draft plans in stone already (think LA-Griffin), the Phoenix Suns and other teams after the 1st pick are a little less clear.  Starting with the 2nd pick, the NBA Draft looks to be one of the most dynamic in recent history.  Not only is there no clear selection of players, but many teams are lining up for the 2010 free agent season when LeBron James and others will be available.  Many franchises will be unwilling to take on huge salaries right now with so much at stake next season.

The questions for the Phoenix Suns are numerous...
  • Which of the big 3 gets traded for salary room? Nash, Shaq or Stoudemire.
  • Does Phoenix even keep their 14th pick? They've taken cash more often recently.
  • Do they take a big man to compliment/relieve Shaq/Stoudemire or a guard to relieve Nash?
Phoenix is no different than the other teams in that they are looking forward to the 2010 season, but they have a more difficult task ahead of them.  The signing of Shaq has not proven to be successful, while fan favorite Steve Nash is facing free agency soon and it is unclear if the Suns are interested in paying him top-level at his age.  Top that off w/ "Sun Tzu" (Amare Stoudemire) and his on/off behavior recently and you don't really envy GM Steve Kerr right now.  He is either going to piss off the fan-base to start rebuilding or he's going to make a move that "might" put them in the playoffs next year... notice I didn't say "championship".  The Suns had 46 wins and couldn't get the 8th seed... sorry, but I don't expect much more out of them w/out a shake-up in the roster.

There is no clear direction for the Suns so we all wait, holding our breath, to see what the future has in store.

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Suns' 2-Time MVP Steve Nash has been a special correspondent on the David Letterman Show the past few games of the NBA Finals.  The premise is simple - Nash tries to be goofy and/or entertainint - and he does a pretty good job at it.

The interviews and interaction w/ the fans is quite hilarious, but there is a stink being made about Nash's comments at the end of the segment, when Letterman implies that Steve should be in playing for the NY Knicks. Nash didn't play it off or say he was happy in Phoenix, but his answer was playful & somewhat jokingly at the same time.  While I have no doubt that Nash would love to play for D'Antoni in New York, I think he's happy here and will remain a Suns player.

Do you think Nash is on his way out or was he just kidding?

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Fresh off missing the playoffs for the first time in years, GM Steve Kerr and the Suns have officially made Alvin Gentry the head coach for at least the next two seasons.  There is an option for a 3rd year, but he'll have to prove himself worthy to get that.

Not a bad move for Phoenix, considering the coaching talent pool available - seriously, is there a single coach you would take over Gentry?  Didn't think so. 

They keep the core group of guys happy, because Gentry will maintain the run 'n gun that has been so popular.  Good move by management for the fans and the players IMHO.  At the same time, I'm not sure Gentry can get this team any further than they are now.  Shaq is old, Nash is solid if you can keep his minutes down, Amare plays 3/4 of the time (hard), J-Rich is decent, Barbosa is streaky and the bench isn't too good.  Grant Hill and Matt Barnes are solid, but that is the extent of the team - 7 guys. Look at Cleveland, Denver and the Lakers - deep benches capable of stepping in and holding court.  These are the front-runners for the NBA title this year and the Suns will have to make some moves to shore up the bench if they hope to contend next year.

Good to have a decision early on as well... last year waiting until the summer was a grinder.

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The NBA has been awarding players, coaches and executives over the past couple weeks for their accomplishments to basketball this season.  Among the winners, include many first timers, but we should get use to the fact that they won, because we will be seeing a lot more of them in the coming seasons.

2008-09 NBA Award Winners

MVP - Lebron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

Rookie of the Year - Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

Defensive Player of the Year - Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic

Coach of the Year - Mike Brown, Cleveland Cavaliers

Executive of the Year - Mark Warkentien, Denver Nuggets

Really no surprises in any of these announcements.  Lebron James was the best player from February on - bar none.  Derrick Rose jumped out to an early lead for Rookie of the Year and never looked back.  Dwight Howard has been a beast defensively all season, leading the league in both blocks and rebounds.  Mike Brown led the Cavs to the best record in the NBA, so no alternatives there.  The Nuggets' executive responsible for dispatching Allen Iverson and bringing Chauncey Billups back home deserves his award as well... just as the Pistons which player they'd rather have.

Howard and James, especially, figure to be listed on a yearly basis in the respective categories they won in this year.  Rose may surprise people in a couple years and compete for the MVP, but is otherwise done winning season awards.

While still not official statistically, the Phoenix Suns are virtually eliminated from playoff contention after their horrendous showing on Sunday vs. the Dallas Mavericks, the team they WERE chasing.  Dallas had their way with the Suns so strongly, that the Suns didn't even play their starters in the 4th quarter - they may have for a minute or two, but at the 8-9 minute mark, Nash, Shaq and the others were nowhere to be seen.

I wasn't in town and only saw the 4th quarter, but I can imagine what you guys were going through watching them fall further & further behind, watching their playoff hopes fade.

Prior to the Sunday game, I still had hope and even believed that Utah, not Dallas, was that team that would falter and allow the Suns an entry into the playoffs.  Despite the Jazz' recent slide, they are 1 game ahead of Dallas now and Phoenix is outside looking in.

Looking forward to the offseason, the NCAA tournament likely showcased the Suns next draft pick - hopefully there is someone left they can get and/or they get lucky on the ping-pong balls to get Blake Griffin.  I wished the season had turned out differently, but I enjoyed every minute of it and will continue to follow whatever Suns team is on the floor next year.  I thought Nash, O'Neal and/or Amare would be traded this offseason, but with the economy the way it is and teams probably not looking to take on those huge salaries, I wouldn't be surprised to see them stay in Suns uniforms for another year.

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The Phoenix Suns are in the 3rd quarter w/ the Sacramento Kings right now, but the two teams above them in the playoff race - Dallas and Utah - both lost tonight.  Dallas is now only 3.5 games ahead of the Suns for the 8th spot.  Utah has been playing horrible lately and is nearly within PHX's reach as well.

While the odds are still stacked against the Suns, they just need to win their own games and not worry about what Dallas and Utah are doing.  Everyone on the team has a mindset that they've entered a new season - one in which they need to win out to finish the season.  A win against Denver the other night helped and (please don't jinx them) a victory over the Kings will pull them within 3 games of Dallas w/ a head-to-head match-up on ABC Sunday.  They have the opportunity to move within 2 games of the Mavs and really put some pressure on them to win their games... winning under pressure is harder than it would seem.

The Mavericks have wild-card in their favor and that is the return of Josh Howard.  Despite tonight's loss to the Grizzlies, Howard is that X factor that could help Dallas move to the 2nd round of the playoffs if they shut out the Suns.

Steve Nash has been exceptional for the Suns lately, but it might just be a little too late.  Barbosa's injury did not help, but J-RIch and Dudley have both stepped up recently to help keep them in contention.  Certainly, Grant Hill and Matt Barnes have contributed (off/on) as well, but they are expected to on a daily basis.  Shaq has also been playing well, despite the easy-out he could take by playing w/out passion and essentially giving up on the season.

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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).

Posted by chowell

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.

Breaking news today... Suns forward Amare Stoudemire underwent eye surgery to repair a torn retina and is expected to miss the next 8 weeks of Phoenix's NBA season.

This news likely derails any hope of the Suns catching back up in the Western Conference playoff race and making the playoffs.  With the new fast pace style initiated by Gentry, this will definitely set back the team immediately.

Why the surgery?
STAT dropped 42 pts on the Clippers Wednesday night and played in the 4th quarter.  He was apparently hit in the eye by the Clippers' Al Thornton, but continued playing.  There is also no mention of the injury in his post-conference interviews, etc.

"It's all about wanting to win,'' Stoudemire said. "Our performance tonight wasn't about the rumors wasn't about wanting to stay in Phoenix. It was about winning and getting this thing back on track. I've always stayed positive. My fans in Phoenix have always been supportive of me. It's been great so far.''

Suns brass appears to be supportive of the surgery, despite their likely regret for not trading him now.  Here is a quote from the team:

"We are very glad to hear that Amar’e should have a 100 percent recovery relative to his vision and his long-term prognosis is excellent," said Suns President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Steve Kerr. "Obviously, it is very disappointing to lose him at this time. We are all very excited about the progress the team is making, but Amar’e’s health and the health of all our players is our number one concern."

I am still supportive of the team, despite this setback.  My fantasy roster is also going to take a killing, considering STAT was my 1st round pick :(

Posted by chowell | 2 comment(s)
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