The Suns opened their 2009-10 campaign this week and I can honestly say that I am excited to see how this season plays out.
No, I don’t see this team winning a championship this season. To be honest, I can’t even say I see them winning 50+ games. What I do see, however, is a season brimming with storylines that should keep even the most cynical Suns fan glued to their seat for the next seven months.
Is SSOL back?
Well, no matter what the Suns will not be able to return to their original SSOL roots. The Suns are going to keep a fast pace and rain threes, but when Mike D’Antoni introduced the offense he had a younger Steve Nash as well as a pre-microfracture Amare and a lot of shooters. But, there will be no shortage of shot attempts as well as made shots (for both teams on the court), and nobody ever complained about watching a 117-114 game.
The re-emergence of Frye.
Channing Frye came to the Suns as an unheralded free agent, but the former lottery pick is likely to make a name for himself in the desert. No, the former Arizona Wildcat is not a typical center. He won’t bang down low, play excellent defense and crash the boards. What he will do is play hard, hit jumpers and open the floor up with his shooting. SSOL relies on having shooters everywhere, and Frye is likely to have a season that will earn him a nice raise next year. Hopefully, for his sake, he does not pull a Tim Thomas and leave the only team that his skills suit for more dollars and fewer wins.
Amare Stoudemire is at a fork in the road of his career. Coming off a severe eye injury, exactly what the Suns will get from the All-Star remains to be seen. One thing that we all do know, however, is that Stoudemire can opt out of his contract after this season to become a free agent. The Suns may want to sign the talented forward to long-term deal, but would like to see how Amare rebounds from the injury as well as how much he rebounds on the court. Stoudemire is likely to ask for (or command, depending on the market) a maximum-type contract and the fiscally-responsible Suns may not feel like the 26-year-old is worth the money.
Really? A youth movement?
That’s right, after years of treating draft picks like they carried the swine flu, the Suns finally have a few intriguing prospects on the roster. Jared Dudley showed a bit last year, but his career is only on the upswing. He said he worked on his outside shot over the summer and, if he can add a consistent three point shot to go along with his tenacious defense and heady play then the Suns will have their own Bruce Bowen – minus the cheap shots, of course. Then you have this year’s top draft pick, Earl Clark, who is likely to find himself on the court based on his defensive versatility alone. The guy is a good athlete, but at 6’10 his greatest asset right now is his ability to defend a few different positions. Clark still has a lot to learn, but as a fan it is always fun watching a young player learn and grow, all the while knowing that the guy could turn into a star.
The ageless wonders?
OK, a few months back I wrote that the Suns made a mistake when they re-signed Steve Nash to a contract extension, and I can’t say I was too high on them bringing Grant Hill back either. My thoughts haven’t changed, but I’ll be honest, I’m interested to see how these guys do. They each have considerable skill, but will they hold up and play at a high level for 82 games? If the Suns flounder and fall out of playoff contention will they even finish the year in Phoenix?
Goings and goings?
With a roster in transition, like the Suns, there is always a chance for trades. In Steve Kerr’s two seasons as the team’s general manager he’s made two blockbuster trades, and it would not surprise me if he went three for three. Who will be on the way out? Stoudemire, Nash, Hill and Richardson are all possibilities, as would Leandro Barbosa with his cap-friendly contract.
When word spread that the Suns traded for Jason Richardson last season a good friend of mine called me up to first ask if it was true and, after learning that it was, proceeded to talk for another 10 minutes or so about how great the deal was. About a year later J Rich has had his problems off the court, but on the court I expect him to be nothing short of dynamic. Richardson is an excellent scoring guard with great athleticism and strength, and I have no doubt he will showcase his skills now that he is comfortable with the system and his teammates.
Sure, it is fun believing your team has a chance to win a title. Knowing the Suns would have a shot in June made the last few seasons interesting, but it also made them stressful as a fan. With every loss or off night there would be questions, and that would really hurt in enjoying the year. This year, with nobody expecting much of anything from the Suns, it will be easier to just enjoy the team for what it is: a high scoring team that will play no defense, win a few games, and have more than its share of topics to talk about.
Adam can be reached with your questions and comments by e-mail here.