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DARK DAYS FOR THE SUNS

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Kevin Johnson is beyond redemption. What makes KJ's case more dangerous is that some people even think his total domination of the offense and constant histrionics actually help the team win.

Sorry, folks, KJ can only help the Suns win against a team like the Knicks last Sunday--a team that was incapable of shooting at even a mediocre level.

KJ may even be the biggest source of trouble this team has to cope with. The Suns won't win unless the ball goes through Barkley on the offense, and KJ has decided that he will control the ball at all times.

In case you haven't noticed, he also seems determined to grab as many microphones as Barkley. For example, how many times now have you seen KJ's postgame speech about his determination to win at all costs?

Oliver Miller, once a promising rookie, seems on the verge of eating himself out of the league. He has turned into a big, fat guy who can make an occasional good play. Aside from that, he is lazy and temperamental.

Danny Ainge has gone over the edge. There are too many turnovers and he can't cover anyone in the final five minutes.

Cedric Ceballos is a complementary player. He will be as good as Barkley makes him. Left to his own devices, Ceballos will do nothing but shoot. Combined with Barkley, he has the potential to become a 30-point scorer.

But neither of them will score unless KJ gives up the ball.
I used to think Paul Westphal was to blame because of the Suns' laid-back attitude on defense. It is much more than that. The league itself is to blame if it will only admit it.

There comes a time in life when things like tough defense and diving to the floor for the ball are beneath the dignity of players who make too much money.

Here are the annual salaries of this year's Suns as published in various pro basketball publications. I do not include Barkley's reported $10 million for national television commercials:

Charles Barkley, $2.4 million; Dan Majerle, $1 million; Kevin Johnson, $1.9 million; Cedric Ceballos, $1.2 million; Mark West, $1 million; Danny Ainge, $1.4 million; Oliver Miller, $750,000; Joe Kleine, $1.5 million; A.C. Green, $2 million.

Basketball was devised by Dr. James Naismith to keep teenagers out of trouble in winter. I don't think Dr. Naismith ever envisioned that it was complex enough to permanently capture the attention of grown men who are millionaires.

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Tom Fitzpatrick