Last Thursday, in one blink of Amar'e Stoudemire's bum eye, the Phoenix Suns' playoff chances took a sucker punch to the gut.
Most people's first thought: "Oh. Crap."
Most people's second thought: "Oh. Crap. We traded away Boris Diaw."
Our second thought: "Oh. Crap. Most people are gonna say we shouldn't have traded away Boris Diaw."
Sure enough, last Friday's local sports-radio airwaves were a-buzz with revisionist invective from fans who thought Suns GM Steve Kerr should be drawn and quartered for shipping the forward to the Charlotte Bobcats late last year. "Poor Boris, he was never utilized properly here." "Another idiotic move by Kerr." "Diaw was our only other viable power forward." "Look what Boris has done with the Bobcats since the trade."
Are you freakin' kidding?! We're lucky the Bobcats didn't laugh Kerr off the phone when he tried to unload the professional underachiever and his boat anchor of a contract back in December. But not only did Kerr somehow get Charlotte to swallow Diaw's obscene, $9 million-per-year salary, he also got some value in return in the form of Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley, and a 2010 second-round pick. The Suns see great promise in Dudley, who will get a chance to at least partially fill Amar'e's shoes at the four position for the next eight weeks. And Richardson? While we can't in any way condone J-Rich's felonious antics behind the wheel since his arrival here, the dude's a speed demon on the court, as well, and is a key to any sort of playoff hopes the Suns still harbor in '09.
But Diaw? This is your would-be savior? Here are the numbers from his 33 games with the Bobcats through Sunday, February 22: 14.4 points per game in an average of 38 minutes. Field-goal percentage: a sucky .463. Free-throw percentage: a Shaq-ballpark .657. Rebounds: 6.5. Assists: 4.8.
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While Charlotte has had its spurts with Diaw and fellow former Sun Raja Bell in the lineup, and even played above-.500 ball for a short while, the team's fallen back on hardscrabble times of late, something that's pretty much to be expected with Diaw as one of your centerpieces. Duh.
Oh, yeah. The radio numskulls naturally harped on the Suns' humiliating 98-76 loss to the Bobcats on January 23 in Charlotte. In the teams' first meeting since the Diaw/Richardson trade, Boris went berserk, scoring 26 on 10-16 shooting, hitting all of his free throws, and pulling down 11 boards. It was an aberrant performance, both from a stats perspective and because the scattered Suns were entering the final death throes of the Terry Porter mini-era.
Don't bet on a repeat performance when the Suns host the Bobcats at 7 p.m. tonight at US Airways Center. The lazy Frenchman pretty much emptied out his motivational piggy bank with the January 23 game, and the Suns have a new coach, an old-school outlook, and their backs seriously against the wall. If they can't handle the sorry likes of Boris Diaw and the Charlotte Bobcats, well, the jig's up, 'cause their next nine games are a minefield that includes the Lakers (twice), Orlando, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Cleveland.
It's now or nada. You do the math. TV: FSN AZ. Radio: KTAR-AM 620. More info: http://www.nba.com/suns/.