Archive for the ‘Phoenix Suns’ Category

robin-ficker-yelling

Because it’s August and nothing is happening in the NBA, NBATV Canada has been playing a whole bunch of old Chicago Bulls games, which came in handy when my wife flew home for a quick family visit and I was left with a weekend of time to fill. And while I’ve seen such legendary games like Game 1 of the 1992 Finals or Game 6 of the 1998 Finals what feels like a million times, I’m pretty sure I hadn’t watched such lesser known gems like Game 6 of the 1992 Eastern Conference finals and Game 1 of the 1993 Finals in 20 years.

It’s from the latter of those two games, Game 1 of the 1993 NBA Finals, that the following story comes from, via ESPN’s Page 2 from a million blog years ago:

[Robin] Ficker speaks from experience. He once irked then-Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson by reading out loud from Jackson’s basketball memoir, “Maverick.” During a game. While sitting behind the Chicago bench.

“Jackson said he was going to have the referees come over if I kept reading,” Ficker said. “What got him so upset, I don’t know. If he didn’t want to hear passages from the book, he shouldn’t have written it.”

At the request of Charles Barkley, Ficker even traveled to the 1993 NBA Finals in Phoenix, where he razzed Michael Jordan about a series of gambling allegations.

“Barkley got me a seat behind the Bulls bench, so I brought these huge playing cards, dice and a bunch of dollar bills,” Ficker said. “During the game, I’m dealing [Jordan] a hand and asking him what he wants to bet. And he’s turning around and holding up three fingers. It was fun.”

The best part, which isn’t mentioned in the Page 2 article, is that Ficker was ejected from Game 1 of the Finals so quickly that NBC already had footage of him being talked to and escorted from his seats by stadium officials midway through the first quarter. That is some serious heckling, if you screaming so much that you can’t even last 12 minutes of game action before you’ve angered someone so much that they insist on your removal.

But when you hear this quick description of Ficker, via USA Today by way of the DC Sports Bog, you’ll believe it.

“Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls threw a basketball at him. Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons threw a shoe. The Golden State Warriors, en masse, doused him with Gatorade. Former Utah coach Frank Layden spit on him.”

Yep, that’s the guy Charles Barkley decided to give an all-expense-paid trip to Phoenix to show up at Game 1 of the Finals and yell like crazy, which he did before being promptly kicked out for doing so. Oh, and the Suns lost that game too. Money well spent.

jermaine-oneal-cant-believe-anyone-picked-him

With the dust mostly settled on this offseason’s player movement — and there was a whole lot of it this year — it’s time to take stock of all the fascinating new faces in new places, as well as the more compelling stories of players who will face new challenges while sticking around. Over the course of the next few weeks, Andrew Unterberger will do a team-by-team look at the most interesting players going into next season — one new to the team, and one returning — as we all try to pass the dog days of NBA-less summer, dreaming of hoops-filled months to come. The series continues today with the teams in the Pacific Division: the Warriors, Lakers, Clippers, Suns and Kings.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Most Interesting New Player: Jermaine O’Neal

JO might be kind of a tough sell for most interesting on a team that made a much more obvious big-budget acquisition this offseason, but I feel like I know what Andre Iguodala is going to give the Warriors this season — not an inconsiderable contribution, mind you, but I’d be surprised if he greatly deviated from my expectations in any way. O’Neal, however, could play more of a swing role on this team than people realize. He’ll go into the season with a decent shot at the Dubs’ backup center role, unless Festus Ezeli’s shoulder heals and he actually learns how to catch the ball or put it in the basket in the offseason, and he was sneaky good in that role last year for Phoenix, averaging 16 and 10 per 36 minutes (though he only played about half that on a nightly basis) and posting his best PER, by far, since he was on the pre-LeBron Heat.

More importantly, he might end up doing a whole lot more than playing backup if — and based on recent history, more like when — Andrew Bogut goes down with injury. Bogie’s missed double-digit games each of the last five seasons, and over half his games each of the last two, so it’s a relatively safe bet that there’ll be stretches where O’Neal, assuming he stays healthy himself (no easy assumption given he’s missed nearly as many games as Bogut over the last six years), gets pressed into far more than locker-room-leadership duty. Is it too late for Jermaine O’Neal to play a key-ish role on a championship contender? Or will GSW be forced to say “to hell with rim protection,” stick David Lee at center and go bombs away with the rest of their lineup? Maybe the latter is the likelier bet, but I haven’t given up on JO just yet.

Most Interesting Returning Player: Harrison Barnes

Barnesy recently ranked at No. 40 on SB Nation’s projected list of the Top 40 NBA Players of 2017, higher than both young studs like Larry Sanders and Damian Lillard and current superstars like Dwyane Wade and Tony Parker, basically entirely off the strength of his playoff run, in which he averaged 16 and six with decent shooting numbers and a number of big buckets. But it’s worth remembering that in the regular season last year, Barnes was basically a no-show, averaging less than 10 a game and posting a PER that barely cracked double digits, and that next season, he might not even be starting, with the acquisition of Andre Iguodala and the continued presence of David Lee (and the big contracts of both) possibly blocking him in the first five.

To get to be a Top 40 player four years from now, Barnes is gonna have to build on his playoff success — and as much as that run seemed like a breakout for Barnes, he still basically averaged his same shooting percentages from the regular season, with a fairly mediocre 13.8 PER — and prove that his 3-and-D skills are too integral to the Warriors’ run-and-gun attack for him not to get big minutes. And if not, expect for Barnes’ name to replace Eric Bledsoe’s as the go-to Intriguing Trade Chip in every blockbuster mega-deal rumor you hear from now until the end of his rookie deal.

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If you’re an OG internet basketball thug like myself, then you remember the ill-fated “Let Shannon Dunk” campaign and its subsequent botched dunk contest. And if you remember that and watch this clip, you’ll agree that Shannon Brown shouldn’t be left around another dunk contest — even if it is in Latvia, like this latest one was — for the rest of his playing days. Safety first.

(via BDL)

eric-bledsoe-warming-up

Aside from the perennially underpaid and underappreciated Matt Barnes, and the usual brand of streaky offense from Jamal Crawford, the Clippers lacked sorely for production from the wing positions last season. This would have been their single biggest weakness if it wasn’t for their complete absence of an offensive playbook. Caron Butler has declined to the point that he is scant little more than a spot-up shooter at this point, and despite finally adding three point range, Willie Green is much the same. Compounding the problem is the fact that, Barnes, seemingly the only player who knew how to cut and get open for the league’s best passer, is an unrestricted free agent with mere non-Bird rights.

Without cap room and yet also without all that much wiggle room under the tax, the Clippers needed to rebuild this rotation. Their lack of wing quality was exposed against the Grizzlies, and notwithstanding the lack of a backup center (and the less-than-reliable nature of the starter), it was a priority on a roster entirely set at two positions. And in Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick, the Clippers have achieved exactly that in one fell swoop.

Dudley and Redick aren’t athletic. They aren’t dynamic, they aren’t brilliant at any one thing (except perhaps Redick’s shooting), and they aren’t primary options you turn to on either end. But they’re just … good. They get it. The two are high IQ players with no distinct holes in their game, who defend with guile rather than physical tools, and who fit every great-teammate, great-role-player cliché going. They move the ball, make few mistakes, and, along with Reggie Bullock, provide the spacing lost in Butler along with bringing more well-rounded games and better perimeter defense.

It cost them their two best assets to do it, but the Clippers improved their team in what was almost a financial wash. Moving Bledsoe for players who aren’t and never will be stars may feel deflating to those with higher aspirations, yet the value of the returning duo must not be overlooked. The Clippers got what they needed. Without having a single star in it, L.A. has assembled a wing rotation with good depth and few holes, exactly the kind of thing you want to flank a superstar point guard with. If they can convince Matt Barnes to sign for far below his market value for the seventh straight season, even better. Combining this with the enormous coaching upgrade from Del Negro to Rivers, and the biggest news of all in getting Chris Paul to re-sign, has significantly improved the Clippers’s fortunes for the foreseeable future. Now, they just need some depth.

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kendall-marshall-jersey-sleeves

We should have known, you guys. When news of the Suns’ new-ish logos and more NBA teams getting sleeved jerseys broke on the same day, we should have known they’d be one of the alleged five sleeved teams. We should have been able to logic that one out. I’m sorry I botched it.

Nonetheless, some words. From the Arizona Republic:

The Suns are among at least five NBA teams who will be wearing an alternate uniform with sleeved jerseys next season, and the change evidently doesn’t have much to do with cutting-edge fashion.

OK fine, some teams are getting sleeved jerseys. Why wouldn’t it be the team who is obviously in the middle of a step-by-step rebrand? Seems obvious in hindsight.

Not everyone is excited though. This is a tweet from Suns point guard Kendall Marshall from less than a week ago.

pleeease NOT us — RT @SLAMonline: Up to Five NBA Teams Reportedly Will Wear Sleeved Jerseys Next Season http://bit.ly/12On3RV  #NBA

Whoops. He’s trying to cover his tracks, but still, whoops. This isn’t as bad as, I don’t know, the best and most famous player on the only team who has worn sleeved jerseys calling them ugly, but it’s not a good look to have players on your team tweeting about how they don’t want sleeved jerseys right before your team gets sleeved jerseys. Maybe not the best way to get fans pumped for the new kits.

That being said, I’m excited to see the Suns’ new sleevers, whenever they come out. After re-doing the court last year, wearing the black 90s retros a few times during the season, then updating their logos this summer, these new sleevemonsters are going to be the first taste we get of whatever the Suns are planning for their new look. Judging by what’s come to pass recently, I wouldn’t be surprised to see quite a bit of black involved, which might be cool. (Though I will admit that even the idea of a sports team who plays in the desert adding fabric to their uniforms has me sweating — WOO — just thinking about it, even if they are mesh.)

At the very least, they will be new, which is a step in the right direction. Considering this itty bitty anecditty, that’s something.

Jerry Colangelo paid $400 for the team’s originial “sunburst” logo design, and the team kept it and the same lettering for 24 years.

The Suns got their original logo back in 1968, then updated in 1991, when they got the pre-border version of the logo they’ve had ever since (the grey border was added in 2000). This is a franchise that does not change looks very often, which is probably why they’re still wearing uniforms that look like they were designed to immediately be put in a Y2K time capsule. Slowly but surely they are working their way towards not having one of the worst uniforms in the NBA. The sleeved jerseys might be a disaster, but at least they are a change. That’s encouraging.

new-suns-logo

I’ve long contended that the current Suns uniforms are amongst the worst in the NBA. They’ve been wearing them since the 2000-01 season and they look exactly like something from the 2000-01 season. The orange PHX alternates are even worse, and this is coming from a fellow who claims orange as his favorite color. To put it simply, the Suns’ jerseys are boring and outdated, which is why those new-ish logos you see up there look like they might finally be a step in a new-ish direction.

The logos were leaked by an Arizona NBC affiliate, but considering you can buy t-shirts at the NBA store with the new logos on them, I’d say it’s pretty legit. And I’d also say that these new logos are fine.

As long as I’ve been alive, the Suns have had purple as their primary color, so to see them almost completely drop it is a bit of a surprise. And, I’d argue, a bit late-90s. That’s when the Bulls and Timberwolves added black alternates, the Knicks added those horrible black stripes to their blue jerseys and the 76ers completely rebranded from red-white-blue to black-blue-red-gold. To me at least, any time a team starts adding all kinds of black to their colors, you have to think late-90s.

That being said, I think this new set of logos is still an upgrade, just because they don’t look quite as cartoonish as their predecessors. I’d still prefer they ditch the flaming ball thing permanently — and the border of their primary logo — but whatever. That new S, however, is really bad. The sun that’s cutting through it doesn’t line up on either side of the crossing part of the S and it looks like something a kid would draw in Sharpie on their backpack. That is cool if you are a kid, but if you are a professional sports franchise, it’s kind of amateur looking.

But like I said, this is probably a step in the right direction. The Suns have been wearing their current uniforms forever, but between the new logos, the new court they were playing on this season and the fact that those two things pretty obviously tie in to each other, you have to imagine we’re going to be seeing new extra black Phoenix Suns jerseys pretty soon. And considering the Suns’ retroed black alternates from the 90s are some of the best unis we saw on the court this season, that could be a really good thing.

Or they could end up looking like Halloween or Oklahoma State University. That’s a tight rope to walk.

blake taylor griffin rookie shoot

Buried deep in the New York Times’ profile of the almost-creepily-identical Morris twins — they were so sad they weren’t playing together last season that they each bought the same kind of bulldog and both gave it a nickname for their mom, which is the kind of tribute only a mother could love — is a quick breakdown of one of the weirdest NBA phenomena of recent memory: the Phoenix Suns peculiar habit of always having the lesser brother of some NBA player. To wit:

Since the 2008-9 season, the Suns’ bench has included an unusual number of players with brothers in the N.B.A., including Robin Lopez, a twin of the Nets’ All-Star Brook Lopez; Jarron Collins, a twin of Jason Collins of the Washington Wizards; Taylor Griffin, the older brother of the All-Star forward Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers; and Luke Zeller, the eldest of three basketball-playing brothers who include Tyler (Cleveland Cavaliers) and Cody (Indiana University).

Unfortunately for the Suns, recent Phoenix teams have mostly fielded the lesser known and lesser accomplished brother.

That is crazy, right? It almost has to be on purpose. Maybe it’s one of those things where scouts start checking in to the good brother, then accidentally see the worse brother and start talking themselves in to that guy. Maybe their legendary training staff is closer to cracking the code on human cloning than we know. I don’t know, but there has to be an explanation for this. It can’t just be random.

Thankfully, Steve Kerr’s got the time to lay it all out for us.

“If there was a strategy, we should have gone with the better brother each time instead of the worse brother,” Steve Kerr, a former Suns general manager, said with a laugh. “It’s just total coincidence. More than anything, it’s a sign of how good the Suns have been over the years. They were never in position to draft the more accomplished brother.”

Oh sure, the classic “we totally wanted the good brother but our team did too well that we had to draft his brother” excuse (in the biz, that’s called “The Ozzie Canseco”). A likely story.

Explain this, Steve Kerr.

Alvin Gentry, who was fired as the Suns’ coach in January, said that last season, Markieff Morris kept urging Phoenix to trade for his brother. And Gentry said that Bill Self, the Kansas coach, told him: “You need Marcus. If you can get him, he’ll make Markieff work harder.”

The two brothers worked out in Phoenix last summer. On Feb. 21, the Suns sent a second-round draft pick to Houston, and Marcus was reunited with his twin after a troubling season and a half apart.

A “total coincidence?” Suuuuuuure. Can’t wait for them to draft the third Gasol brother, trade for Ben Hansbrough and make Marcus Landry’s knees work again. Total coincidence … pssht.