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The Phoenix Suns' Dilemma

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 15:  Steve Nash #13 and Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Phoenix Suns look on against the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game on March 15, 2009 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
John Louie RamosSenior Writer IApril 7, 2009

Not so long ago, the Valley of the Sun was in the best of times, at least in a basketball sense.

The Phoenix Suns were considered serious championship contenders and were poised to win the city's first-ever NBA Championship.

They were the most dominant team in the league; they posted consecutive 60-plus win seasons and displayed a crowd-pleasing style of basketball.

They had the best offensive onslaught in the game with Steve Nash directing the traffic while Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, and the rest of the "energizer bunnies" outran the opposition.

But the Suns came back down to Earth. After all, the saying does go "offense win games, defense win championships"

Year after year, they've come up short in their bid for the coveted Larry O'Brien trophy. And since peaking, player movement has been frequent in the desert.

They shipped Marion for the "Big Aristotle," Shaquille O'Neal, in an effort to add an intimidating inside force to the team's arsenal.

Though O'Neal has been playing his best basketball in the past few years this past season, you still can't erase the fact that an aging Shaq causes disarray in a "run 'n' gun" style of basketball.

That is, at least as compared to Marion, who was a fitting piece for the team's attack. The "Matrix" also had the "Diesel" in that he has at least five or six good years ahead of him.

The Suns changed more when they fired 2005 NBA Coach of the Year Mike D'Antoni and replaced him with defensively minded Terry Porter, who didn't have that much success (and that's putting it "politically correctly")  in mentoring the Milwaukee Bucks.

Then, midseason of this campaign, Phoenix traded three-point specialist Raja Bell and multi-dimensional Boris Diaw for high-scoring wingman Jason Richardson and young benchwarmer Jared Dudley.

They later fired Porter and elevated Alvin Gentry in a move that brought back the "seven second or less" up-tempo offense.

For a stretch in 2009, the Suns were successful, but the long-term effects of the trades which were expected to benefit them seem to be the gatekeepers of the Playoffs, and they're keeping the way shut.

O'Neal just won't fit in the system, this team isn't as deep as it was some years ago, and they ahave lso experienced some bad breaks with Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa's season-ending injuries.

Last weekend, they just blew a make-or-break game against the eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks. And while it's still mathematically possible for the Suns to enter the postseason, basketball is not played mathematically.

This once-elite squad that can score a basket in the blink of an eye is now in a dilemma as they fight for the last Western Conference slot.

It's all a shame, as Grant Hill isn't getting any younger, the Big "Cactus" doesn't want to go down like this, and Nash doesn't want to be remembered as a 'ship-less MVP.

And moreover, Suns fans are tired of the same scenario year after year.

Well, at least this year they won't go down just like wet blankets in the late spring, as they won't even make the Playoffs.

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