Well, it's official. Phoenix Suns head coach Terry Porter was fired today and replaced (on an interim basis) with long-time Phoenix assistant and former Los Angeles Clippers head coach Alvin Gentry (pictured).
"I hired Terry because I believed he would be able to provide the balance our team needed in order to perform at a very high level. Unfortunately the transition from last season to this one proved to be very difficult, and we have not played to our potential. It's imperative that we move forward and do what's best for our team. Alvin has been an integral part of our successes the previous four years and knows our talent as well as anyone," Suns GM Steve Kerr said.
It's an understatement that the Suns haven't played up to their "potential." And they haven't since Porter's been here. But it really started last season, when owner Robert Sarver, Kerr, and former Coach Mike D'Antoni traded Shawn Marion to Miami for Shaquille O'Neal. (The Heat moved Marion to Toronto the other day for Jermaine O'Neal.)
At the time, it was said that it was D'Antoni and Sarver who wanted to bring in Shaq, that Kerr had to be convinced.
If Sarver hadn't been so tight-fisted and team management had been more astute, the Suns could've gone after Pao Gasol, who's now keeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the hunt for an NBA championship. Gasol, the former Memphis Grizzlie, is a lithe big man who could've run with the Suns under D'Antoni.
Thus, there would've been no reason for D'Antoni and his fast-paced system to have split town for New York. Sure, the Suns needed better defense, but not at the expense of what put them among the elite in the league.
We love Shaq. He's the biggest personality in the game, and we're not talking about his physical immensity. And none of this is his fault; he's been the consummate pro. But he was wrong for the Phoenix Suns. Though he's had an All-Star year personally, accommodating to his game has ruined the Suns. The current Suns are neither fish nor foul. They can neither play a low-post game nor run and gun effectively.
Look at the massive number of turnovers they've committed this season. It had gotten to the point before the All-Star break that if they had only 15 in a game (a massive number for a good team like the San Antonio Spurs or the Boston Celtics), everybody would be jumping for joy.
We're saying, surely Shaq must also hit the bricks in all this. The Suns are going back to the speed game, and the Big Cactus may be thorny but he ain't speedy.
After all the love he was getting from Kobe Bryant (who we all know really runs the Lakers), we're wondering if he might be headed back to La La Land before Thursday's trade deadline. Lakers starting center Andrew Bynum's out with a knee injury, and who knows whether he will be back to full speed in the 12 weeks he was estimated to be out. This could turn into an all-season problem for a team with title aspirations.
The Lakers haven't really missed a beat with Gasol playing in the middle, but Shaq -- especially after his show-off performance in the All-Star Game, which won him a co-MVP trophy with Bryant -- would give LA the insurance it needs.
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Unlike Porter and D'Antoni before him, Lakers coach Phil Jackson would be able to figure out a way to use Shaq effectively. And owner Jerry Buss is famous for spending whatever it takes to land talent.
Something to think about -- as news reports say it's Amar'e who's principally on the block. And they could be right. After all, Sarver's tight-fisted, and Stoudemire's departure would give Phoenix salary-cap relief in this tough economy. STAT will be seeking the max in a new contract before next season.
Another argument for O'Neal's going back to the Lakers is that he famously said not long ago that he'd like to finish his career in the place where he and Bryant won three championships. And that Kerr's said the Suns are entertaining offers for any player except Steve Nash.
The next couple of days should be interesting.