For the amount of grief Phoenix Suns general manager Steve Kerr got during the first years of his tenure, mostly for the Shaquille O'Neal experiment (which Kerr maintains was not a trade he was favorable of) and also the failed hiring of Terry Porter as head coach, it may seem unlikely and weird in a way that he is basically on due for a contract extension this offseason .
However, that indeed is the case, as Kerr seems more and more likely to earn an extension many did not think he would earn just a few seasons ago.
Inside the organization, the buzz is rising about these Phoenix Suns—it is a team fans and club officials believe is a legitimate threat to make the conference finals this year, and likewise Kerr's popularity is on the rise. Sure, he had some absolutely terrible moves, or at least he was at the head of bad moves, however he has more than redeemed his image.
One of Kerr's best moves as Phoenix's general manager is replacing Porter in the middle of last season, a move Porter admitted was a "failure," by hiring long-time Suns assistant coach Alvin Gentry as head coach. While Gentry did not have the best pedigree before the season, he has clearly been the right fit for these group of Suns—he plays basically the same brand of basketball that former head coach Mike D'Antoni preached, while with a deeper club, and that has brought smiles all around the club.
Compare that situation to Porter's early last season—Porter made it a point for the Suns to become more of a defensive-oriented squad last season, and also made the mistake of focusing the club's offense around Shaquille O'Neal instead of Amar'e Stoudemire.
Those actions drew the ire of veterans such as Steve Nash, Raja Bell, and Grant Hill, and while the club did trade away Bell during the season, Porter himself lost his job the Monday after Phoenix hosted the All-Star game.
The difference and the improvements under Gentry are easy to find—Phoenix is currently 47-26 and on a midst of a seven-game winning streak, fifth in the Western Conference. The Suns have played inspired basketball all second-half, and in particular Amar'e Stoudemire, who after being dogged with trade rumors this season has seemingly picked up his play in recent months—dropping 30 and 17 on the Timberwolves last night.
Also, Kerr has done well in improving Phoenix's depth —something that was nonexistent under D'Antoni. His draft picks of Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic have started to shine and work out well this season, and Kerr has done a good job in the acquisitions of veterans such as Hill, Channing Frye, and Louis Amundson —especially considering none of those guys received a big contract, which has helped Phoenix's financial situation.
There does remain one important matter on Kerr's menu, and a matter that may probably decide his legacy with the Phoenix Suns: Just what will he do with Amar'e Stoudemire at the conclusion of his contract? Which is at the end of this year.
Stoudemire, who avoided being traded earlier this season, has picked up his play to a high level after those rumors, probably to try and get a max contract somewhere.
What one has to wonder is, will Phoenix, a club owned by Robert Sarver , who has been notorious for trading players away to avoid paying a luxury tax (ie . trading away Kurt Thomas to the then-Seattle Supersonics along with two first round picks for nothing), will Phoenix give a financial commitment to one star never seen before? Will Stoudemire get a max contract from the Suns?
Or will Kerr attempt to work magic and probably do a sign-and-trade deal with someone for Stoudemire? Or would Kerr simply let Stoudemire walk for nothing, signaling the start of a rebuilding era?
Whether or not it's necessarily fair, what Kerr does with Phoenix's seemingly-inspired superstar is what will determine his legacy will be of his tenure with the Phoenix Suns.
Those questions should be forgotten until the end of the season, as the Suns have a playoff run to worry about first. However, look for the Suns to give Kerr an extension of some sort, which after seeing massive amounts of criticism directed towards Kerr in seasons past, is something of a sight to behold.
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