Green: Suns heading for basketball purgatory

Jul 8, 2010, 4:48 AM | Updated: Mar 29, 2011, 8:52 pm

The Suns are about to embark on a serious rebuilding process, one that could be completed much quicker if the organization knew how to do it. But, I’m afraid, even if they did know how to go about the rebuilding of Planet Orange, there would be an unwillingness to actually do what it takes.

Let’s be honest here: The second Amare Stoudemire was no longer a part of the Suns’ future they took a significant step back. He was one of the top two players on the team the last 8 years, and his scoring ability will be missed in more ways than people seem to realize.

While I understand Robert Sarver’s reluctance to give Stoudemire a maximum contract – and to an extent agree with the decision – it is what the team has done since that will cause the team to struggle for the foreseeable future.

Channing Frye for $30 million over five years and Hakim Warrick for $18 over four years, on their own, are not bad contracts. Role players are valuable in the NBA, as they can be the difference in a key playoff series by making big shots or D’ing up the other team’s top scorer.

However, the only time a team should really go out and spend big money on a role player is when that one guy could be the difference maker for a championship team, something the Phoenix Suns, sans Amare Stoudemire, are most certainly not.

No, what the Suns are is a team that had a great run over the last few years, but needs to realize that contending in sports is cyclical, and the sooner the rebuilding process starts the quicker it will end.

How do they rebuild, you may ask? The Suns need to tear down what they have, stockpile young players, draft picks and cap space, and see what they can make from it. The problem with this strategy, of course, is it likely leads to the team being bad – really bad – for at least a couple of years, and Robert Sarver will not let that happen because he knows nobody will pay to come watch a bad team.

So, Sarver instead had the Suns go out and bring back a solid role player and add another, meaning there is a decent chance the team will remain competitive. As a life-long Suns fan I feel qualified to say that the majority of Suns fans want – and deserve – more than just a competitive team.

But how good can a team full of jump shooters and no inside presence really be? The shooters will rarely be open because there will be no reason to double team in the post, and the defense and rebounding will at best be as good as last year, but likely be worse. That being the case, veterans like Steve Nash and Grant Hill may ask to be traded, and the Suns should do everything they can to parlay those two into pieces that could be a part of the team’s future.

Granted, realizing the team’s run is over and trading away franchise centerpieces and stars is never easy, and it is rarely popular. Nash is a two-time MVP and fan favorite who is still effective, and Hill has won over Phoenix fans with his excellent play and class.

While it may be a popular idea to try and go for it while Nash and Hill are still around and playing well, the truth is if the Suns had any desire to do everything they could to win a title with and for Nash and Hill they would have kept Stoudemire, possibility of injury be damned.

But they didn’t, because of finances, and it appears money will be the reason the team will not get back to being an elite team any time soon. After all, the NBA is a star’s league, and outside of a 36-year-old Nash the Suns don’t have one. The best chance to land one, especially at a price that Sarver is willing to pay, is through the draft. Though no sure thing, that’s the route the team needs to go.

The team will be tough to watch – for those who are willing to do so – but true fans will endure the difficult times, knowing that there could be a great payoff at the end. Problem is there will not be much of a payoff at the ticket office, which could prevent any of it happening. Because while a competitive team is easier to watch and will keep fans coming to the arena, being good enough to stay away from great draft picks but not great enough to contend for a title leaves a team in basketball purgatory, and that’s a place no one should want the team to be.

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