The Suns' theoretical chances of making the playoffs are now finished and the franchise won't make it to the post season for the first time since the '03-'04 season and for only the second time in the past 20 seasons.
The problems started last season after bringing in Shaq for Marion, which changed the gunslinger mentality of the team but didn't improve it's defense by much, and in general just made the team slower and limited their offense.
O'Neal, brought in to be the man to stop Tim Duncan in the yearly playoff matchup with the Spurs, didn't work as the Spurs finished off the Suns in five games.
Although Steve Kerr expressed his desire to keep Mike D'antoni, D'antoni left to the Knicks after not fully agreeing with the front office personnel moves, not fitting the style of basketball he installed in the team the previous seasons, and Kerr hired Terry Porter.
Porter was suppose to be more suited for the slow half court offense Kerr envisioned for the Suns, but the problem, besides Porter being the wrong fit, was the players.
Nash can't work in the half court offense—At least not as efficiently as he does an open court offense.
Plus, Nash's age has started showing, with his scoring average and assist numbers dropping to their lowest level since moving from Dallas to Phoenix. That can be attributed to the slower pace under Porter, but it's not all pace.
Amar'e Stoudemire also seemed to had taken a step back this season with his scoring average dropping almost four points. Shaquille improved his numbers from last season, but that wasn't enough.
The defense was as bad as it was in the up-tempo days, but it wasn't backed up with the best offense in the league. Nash, Amar'e, Grant Hill—None of them are close to being good defenders, and without Marion who was a key member of the D'Antoni-style Suns, there wasn't anyone to make defensive plays.
In December they made a trade and brought Jason Richardson to the team, but Richardson, despite producing solid numbers since his arrival, is not what the Suns needed.
A coaching change soon came, with Terry Porter being fired and Alvin Gentry replacing him. Gentry brought the run-and-gun back to Phoenix. It seemed to work initially. Scoring over 140 points in his first three games, the tides shifted back for Phoenix.
The Suns have found it very hard away from home since Gentry came on, and the defense became even weaker due to the fast pace he brought back to the team, as Phoenix allow more than a 107 points per game, 27th in the NBA.
So the playoff hopes for this season are over, and Shaq has already started opening his mouth about wanting to move; maybe to Dallas who beat Phoenix for the final spot in the Western Conference.
Shaq is being his usual self. When things start going south, he starts tearing his organization from within. Kind of like basketball's own T.O, except with titles to back up his words.
But the story here is Phoenix and Kerr's failed (so far) revolution. If he keeps his job, and it seems he will, he needs to decide if he wants to break up the package and rebuild from scrap, shipping anything he has worth something for future picks or try and squeeze this seemingly dried up lemon a little more.
I think Gentry should stay, as he fits the up tempo style that Phoenix should and are used to playing. Building around Amar'e sounds logical, but it might be hard keeping him happy if the team won't be getting wins soon.
Shaq and Nash will be hard to move because of their contracts and age, so it's too early and hard to guess if and where they'll move. But Phoenix, after losing half of its core from the past five seasons, will probably look completely different by the start of the 2009-'10 season.
The question is, if they'll still be any good.
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