Watching Steph Curry in these playoffs has been a whole lot of bitter and just a little bit of sweet for Suns fans.
The Warriors guard has emerged as one of the best players during these playoffs. A tier-one NBA star? No, but certainly one of the top players in the second tier and a guy Suns fans will forever recognize as the one who got away.
That's what makes his emergence this spring as bitter as a piece of dark chocolate served with an IPA. The night of the 2009 NBA Draft, it was the whoop heard round the world, the one that burst from the Suns draft room thinking they had just acquired Curry.
Steve Kerr told Gambo and I months ago that, yes, they thought they nabbed him that night. And Bob Young of azcentral did a nice job playing the what-if card regarding Curry and the Suns.
The Suns could have had him. The good news is that they could again. Well, kinda/sorta.
Sometime this week (that's a guess, but I think a good one) the Suns will hire a GM. On May 21, we'll watch the lottery to see what pick that new talent evaluator will have at his disposal. On June 27, that man gets the chance to put his stamp on this franchise using a premium pick -- something that hasn't happened in decades.
This is the part where you have to remind yourself that Curry wasn't a top pick. He wasn't a top-five pick. He was the seventh pick, a guy who came into the league with a whole lot of talent and a whole lot of question marks. Sound familiar? Sure sounds to me like, oh I don't know, just about every player in this year's draft.
The point is, that franchise-changer is out there. Somewhere in this draft is a guy who can alter your fortunes. And it's up to Ryan McDonough or Jeff Weltman or whomever to find him.
Maybe, just maybe, he'll be good enough to allow you to forget the night the Suns found, and lost, their franchise-changer.
The first month of the Arizona Diamondbacks season is over and it's provided enough talking points to fill a whole season. Here are my top five.
1. The bullpen
The D-backs have blown 10 saves. The Major League average through the first month of the season is three. The problem is that it's not just one guy; just about everybody (Putz, Bell, Hernandez, Sipp) is fighting it right now. So there aren't a ton of decisions to be made. No one to promote or demote, and in that regard it's somewhat liberating. You don't have a choice; the guys in the pen just need to do better unless you plan on making Matt Reynolds your closer -- which you most certainly will not do. One note of irony; the D-backs won six of the 10 games in which they blew a save. Go figure.
2. Ian Kennedy is not an ace
A return to his 2011 form was part of the blueprint for the 2013 D-backs but it just hasn't happened yet. In fact, Kennedy continues to look more like last year's model. Ace of this staff? The guy I would want starting in game one of a playoff series? A good guy? Good teammate? Good competitor? Yes on all counts. A Major League "ace"? I fear Ian has been miscast in that role.
3. The Upton thing
Here is a tweet from the PR arm of Major League Baseball:
Justin Upton of @braves named NL Player of the Month for April. 12 HR & .734 SLG were tops in @mlb.
Aaron Hill. Adam Eaton. Jason Kubel. Didi Gregorius. Willie Bloomquist. At some point they'll get these key cogs back, and when they do they'll be a different looking team. But until then, you must...
5. Continue to survive
Which they have done a fine job of up until this point. Between the injuries, blown saves, the Upton thing, the slow starts of Miguel Montero and Martin Prado and the inconsistent starting pitching, the D-backs have been able to stay close. More than that, they were in first place before the nightmare series against the Giants. Paul Goldschmidt, Gerardo Parra, Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley all have had a lot to do with that.
There is no easy answer, no quick fix. The Arizona Diamondbacks' bullpen is abysmal with an astonishing 10 blown saves in just a month of baseball. The best news for the Diamondbacks is they can't blow a save Thursday because they don't play.
Everyone wants answers. They want changes. They want demotions, call-ups, whatever it takes to fix this mess. But the truth is the Diamondbacks have no choice but to ride this out and hope their three struggling relievers that are being counted on to close the door on opponents late in games will work this out.
Time will tell, but all three guys -- J.J. Putz, David Hernandez and Heath Bell -- are proven in this league. This isn't like the D-backs' bullpen of 2010 which had a 5.74 ERA, the seventh-worst ever, with clowns like Chad Qualls, Esmerling Vasquez, Blaine Boyer and Juan Gutierrez among others. I know the stats may seem similar, but the talent level is not. The current Diamondback trio has 359 saves. Putz has a career ERA of 3.07, Bell 3.35 and Hernandez 4.07. The way they are pitching now is not indicative of the way they have pitched in their careers.
Putz is better than a 4.26 ERA with four blown saves. Hernandez is better than a 4.61 ERA and three blown saves. And Bell, despite his struggles last year in Miami, is better than a 5.91 ERA and one blown save. The hard part about all of this is that all three relievers are struggling at the same time. That usually doesn't happen. None of these guys are able to pick the other one up. And it hasn't helped that the starters can't finish a game to give the bullpen a blow.
So no, you can't send any of these guys down. Matt Reynolds is not going to be the closer and they are not trading for anyone in May. They will hand the ball to these guys, show trust in them and believe they will get the job done. It's not the answer everyone wants right now but patience is their only option. They have too much time and money invested in those three players and aren't about to kick them to the curb just yet.
Guess who finished in the top five? The Cardinals, of course.
Number five to be exact. Of the Cardinals, the site wrote this:
5. Arizona Cardinals
Highest Grade: A (Prisco, Cole)
Lowest Grade: C+ (Silva)
Comments: The Cardinals and Vikings tied for fifth and had the same lowest grade, but Arizona had a lower standard deviation so we'll list them fifth here. The Cardinals addressed one of their major needs with their first pick and continued to add contributors throughout the draft, even if some (Mathieu) come with notable asterisks. Prisco and Cole were both very high on fourth-round pick Alex Okafor, who has the potential to be a huge steal. Silva praised most decisions but thought more should've been done to address the offensive line and the long-term need at quarterback.
Look, I haven't been too shy about my feelings regarding the Tyrann Mathieu pick. It felt like an unnecessarily large risk, one that could cast Patrick Peterson in the role of babysitter as much as a mentor.
The fact that Tony Dungy -- the man who elevated mentoring to an art form -- said on The Dan Patrick Show that he would not have drafted him didn't make me feel any better.
"I wouldn't have. Not after I know everything LSU did to help him, it's going to be a long road," Dungy said.
But it's done. It's over. And now it's up to Mathieu to make it work; earn some trust and some money.
It certainly won't detract from what I feel was a shrewdly executed draft by Steve Keim. It appears many, whose eyes are far more experienced than mine, agree.
With a chance to sleep on it, here are three quick thoughts about the Cardinals selection of Jonathan Cooper and what the future holds on Friday:
• Coach Bruce Arians made it pretty clear Cooper was a starter. Refreshing. One of my major pet peeves (and you know I'm not alone of this one) of the Ken Whisenhunt era was his reluctance to acknowledge that an incoming rookie might be a better football player than the one already on the roster. Competition is a great motivator and I understand the concept of making a guy earn it. But if you're worried about a player feeling entitled to a spot just because he was drafted, then you probably drafted the wrong player in the first place.
• Watching Miami give up their second round pick (42) to Oakland to move up from #12 to #3, the natural thought is to wonder why the Cardinals didn't do the same thing to go get their tackle. Then you wake up this morning and see the wealth of options available at #38 and you're thrilled (at least I was) that they stayed put. On a team with as many holes as the Cardinals, trading two starters for one just wasn't the right play. The Cards didn't have a second rounder last year and it hurt.
• Speaking of today, it's difficult to predict what the Cardinals will do today. It's like an M. Night Shyamalan movie. You know the surprise is coming; now you're just trying to figure out what it is. I'd be surprised, and disappointed, if it's a QB.