Championship Teams Are Not Built Overnight

Erik MackayContributor IApril 17, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 18:  Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Phoenix Suns is congratualted by his teammate Steve Nash #13 and Grant Hill #33 during the basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second quarter at the Staples Center on February 18, 2009 in Los Angeles, 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 Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Well, that was not quite the season that we expected out of the talented Phoenix Suns.  Is it understandable though or did they really screw up?  Their performance was awfully frustrating to watch and it is difficult to say that they didn't screw up.

If I walk around the streets of Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale, Chandler, Glendale, Peoria, and Gilbert asking people for their opinion, I would probably hear a lot of derogatory remarks toward Terry Porter and Steve Kerr. 

This is understandable, given all that has gone on this season in Phoenix.  In reality, what are we expecting?  Championship teams are not built over night.

The move to trade for Shaq to replace Marion baffled a lot of people.  Why put a big, slow, inversatile, injury prone player like Shaq in a run and gun offense?  The answer is simple. 

The run and gun game was not working. 

They were not going to win a championship with that game without getting very lucky.  It was an exciting, effective style of play until they hit the wall somewhere usually around the conference finals or second round.  The team was filled with quick, energetic, efficient, but relatively small players. 

What is it that killed them every time?  Rebounds.  Every pre-halftime interview with D'Antoni when the Suns were trailing was always the same.  He would say, "We are getting killed on the boards."  The small-ball game is not going to cut it in the later rounds of the playoffs against teams like San Antonio, Dallas, and the Lakers.

It literally seemed as though they would just peak too early, so we looked for excuses like they ran out of gas, Nash is getting old, Amare is not performing, etc.  These things are not entirely false, but they do not explain why the Suns keep falling short.

So, it is time for change.  Marion wants out, he gets his wish, D'Antoni leaves, now the Diesel is sitting in the frontcourt and the suns have a whole new look to them.  Perhaps the makings of a more well-rounded team?

The Suns are trying to build something that will go further than D'Antoni's run and gun game.  This has thus far required sweeping changes.  The Suns are not a young team.  They are run by a point guard pushing mid-30s, Stoudemire has been around a while, and Shaq has been playing since the end of Larry Bird's reign.

A team run by veterans is not the quickest to adapt to a whole new style of game.  A very young team though, well they would be starting from scratch so you don't need to break them down and rebuild.  However, the Suns have what is nowadays considered an older team. 

They have new players, they have to work on some chemistry, they have to see how things play out, they will have to fill some holes, they will have to make some acquisitions and some releases, and they have to make some mistakes so that they can learn and come back even stronger. 

They need to be given some time.  They are going to struggle at first.  That is okay, because they are going to get better.  They have five excellent starters, a lot of talent in guys like Leandro Barbosa and Stromile Swift, and a couple young prospects in Robin Lopez and Jared Dudley. 

They have what they need, they just have to put it together and find how to build something stronger than what the Spurs and the Lakers have.  And they will.  They will be better than both of these teams, but it may not be as soon as we all hope. 

We, including the team itself, got impatient this past season and drama started to erupt.  In this situation, you need to step back, put it all behind you, and focus on doing what they need to do, step by step. 

If you build it, it will come.  So, the Suns need to take a breath of fresh air, work hard over the off-season, and come back ready to win some games and do better in '09-'10.