Where did it go wrong for the Phoenix Suns?
Sitting here watching the Suns and the Spurs play in the final game of the regular season and I'm wondering where it all went wrong. How, why, when did it go wrong?
One of my favorite U2 songs is "Moment of Surrender" off the No Line on the Horizon album. When was the Suns Moment of Surrender?
I'll tell you right now; it's not what you think.
Robin Lopez is a popular target right now and rightfully so. He's been listless all year, playing the game with little interest and even less passion. Of course, the decision to allow Amar'e Stoudamire to take his talents to Manhattan is probably the most common answer and the one that resonates the most deeply with the Suns fans. After all, Amar'e - our Amar'e - was fourth in jersey sales this past season in the NBA. The Big Apple gobbled him up and if we're being perfectly honest….at times it was tough to watch from afar.
But I'm going to go back even further than that. The Suns Moment of Surrender happened when Steve Kerr chose, and I use that word very loosely, to leave the Suns front office and get back into TV.
That's when this season went sideways.
It cast a pall on the organization, one that could be felt by outsiders looking in. It created a massive void of experienced leadership. In that void, decisions were made. Some were questionable; some were terrible, some were flat out mistakes that the new front office worked quickly to correct (talkin' to you Hedo aka The Noble Experiment). The season was lost in that void.
I can't sit here and tell you for certain what Kerr would have done differently. I'm pretty confident he had a post-Amar'e plan in place. He had to know he wasn't going to come back and surely was prepared for that. I find it very difficult to believe he was going to load up on a bunch of wings (Hedo, Childress, Warrick) like it was happy hour at Applebee's.
Looking back on it now, it's utterly ridiculous to think that the Suns chose to wade into the straits of this treacherous off-season without him to navigate the way. I'm not suggesting he was perfect. But he was starting to figure out the nuances of the job. Most importantly, he wanted to come back. He expected to come back. But the contract got in the way (he admitted as much during a Bill Simmons podcast) and just like that Robert Sarver was on his own.
And now the Suns have their first losing season of the Steve Nash era.
Every time Nash refers to a Western Conference Championship roster that has five guys left on it, what do you think he's talking about? Who do you think he's taking shots at?
To Nash's credit he wants to stay and the sincerity in his words is honorable. I believe him. But that's not enough. I have to believe in the new front office the way I believed in the old one and that's asking a lot. Getting Marcin Gortat and shedding Turkoglu was brilliant. Adding Vince Carter and shedding Jason Richardson, uh, wasn't.
This offseason is going to challenge every front office with the lockout, a new CBA to be deciphered and season that is, at best, uncertain. I wish I could say this front office knows what they're doing and will be fine. Truth is I don't know that.
What would Steve Kerr do? Too bad we'll never know.