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Old 12-02-2012, 12:01 PM   #1 (permalink)
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The Arizona Public

How Far Can The Suns Go?
By H.R. Huffengeiger

Quote:
November 3rd, 2027 -- On the eve of the Suns season opener, there is a lot more optimism than has generally been present over the last few years. A string of years landing the Suns squarely in the loser bracket, including last year where they were the worst team in the league with only 13 wins, has left very little for true Suns fans to be excited about.

"I mean, they were the worst team in the league last year. Only reason I didn't give up my season tickets was DeLeeroy Jenkins." Stated one Suns fan who has been a season ticket holder since 2014. There's some buzz around the arena tonight however, as the Suns open up against the team many are arguing could still be the best team in the league, the 57-25 Timberwolves.

The reason for this optimism is that the youth movement which many long time Suns fans thought would never come is in it's second year, with a somewhat unexpected boost from free agency. After signing Joshua Rhett to a major offer sheet, proving to Suns fans that they weren't planning to sit on the sidelines this offseason, they signed four guys that should be seeing major minutes in Carlo Barzini, Walter Morgan, Trinnean Telfair and Michael Borden. They signed several other solid young assets, but in a surprise league decision due to misfiling of paperwork, were able to immediately trade those assets for their true prize this offseason in Joshua Rhett.

In an interview this offseason, Rhett was very candid; "They just sold me, man, no maybe about it. They was like 'Josh, we think you are the number one option on this team, and we think that we can go deep in the playoffs with you.' After they said that man, I told my agent Skeeter to make it happen. Bro I tell him and he gets it done."

It was far from a sure thing until after the dust had settled in the mandatory first part of unrestricted free agency, however. But even with the team's status up in the air, the Suns were able to convince Knicks swingman and New York fan favorite Carlo Barzini to head to the desert with a contract worth 5 years, $80 million dollars, with the first three years guaranteed.

"They say to Carlo, 'Carlo, you come here and you be one of leader of team. You provide big presence for us at wings.' I know I want to be that man who can do that, so I come." Said Carlo, sitting down with us for an extended interview. Before the Rhett deal became official, Suns officials were looking like they would be starting a slightly younger, less proven player who just put up a career year on the Celtics next to Barzini in Walter Morgan.

"We just thought that if we are putting four guys out there on the floor at the same time who have a proven ability to get around ten rebounds a game, we would always be in a good position late in games." Said general manager Zei Zao. Those plans also changed when the Suns managed to swing a deal for Joshua Rhett, in what proved to be more a matter of the Thunder not wanting to lose a young asset for free.

"The opportunity presented itself to go get Rhett, and we took advantage of it. It was simply a bet, do we want this 24 year old swingman who made a huge jump last year, or do we want to roll the dice that perennial winners like the Blazers and Warriors are going to be out of the playoffs two years in a row? It was a no brainer for us."


The season wasn't all about free agency however, as the reason Suns fans were really getting excited this offseason before free agency ever hit was that they were able to land Georgetown product Clifford Grice with the number four pick.

"We thought he was the number one big man of this draft, maybe even the best player of this draft, and we will be giving him an opportunity to prove us right." In his senior season Grice averaged 13.2 PPG, 11.2 RPG and an amazing 3.1 steals per game, and Suns fans like that he is an extremely active, workmanlike big man who uses his skill rather than athleticism to dominate the game.

"He plays low to the ground, has active hands and tremendous fundamentals. When we were scouting him in college, nobody looked at him and thought 'Wow, this guy is dominating the game athletically.' He doesn't get off the ground too much, he's not the biggest guy, but he's very fast and very strong. You can't move him, but you definitely can't dribble around him because he has lightning fast hands and quick feet." Grice is immediately expected to be starting, providing big minutes at both power forward and center.

What still remains to be seen is how all of this youth blends together, the Suns starting lineup is only, on average, 23.6 years old, and there isn't much in the way of veteran presences who have been there, done that, and can be real mentors on this team. Grigori Baranov remains the only player who has won a championship on this team, and Biff Rodriguez has been the only player who has consistently been on winning teams throughout his career. Will these young guys know how to get it done when none of them have really been there before?

"It will be a roller coaster, a real learning experience for all our guys. One thing to remember is that, though a lot of our guys haven't been on winning teams here on the professional level, the guys we've drafted were real winners in college. DeLeeroy saw his team to two separate final four bids in Connecticut, Clifford Grice nearly won a national championship, Mickey Nathaniel led his team to the top 8 in Oregon... not to mention that Barzini won a Euroleague title with Real Madrid. These are guys that have a lot of pride, and we think that they will be able to put it together to win.

That's what all the buzz is about here in Phoenix, we can't wait to see if it has any merit!
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Old 05-20-2013, 02:34 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: The Arizona Public

The Solar Powered Rebuild
By H.R. Huffengeiger

Quote:
July 3rd, 2033 -- As restricted free agency draws to a close, Suns fans are watching the moves that their front office makes very closely. A year removed from reaching the western conference finals, a devastating 2032 offseason left the Suns without horses to make their go-go-go play style keep moving. Franchise building block and fan favorite Trinnean Telfair walked to the Lions in the offseason, who rather unceremoniously traded him to the eventual western conference runner-ups in Portland. After losing such an essential piece of the puzzle, the front office was scrambling, and grabbed KVBL three point shooting mainstay Clyde Grubbs.

"We thought that Clyde could really, I don't want to say fill Trinnean's shoes, because T2 did so much for us. He scores, he distributed, he forced steals and got out on the break. I think it's very telling that once he goes to the Blazers, they make a trip to the western conference finals, because he's a winner and he does great things. But we thought that Clyde provided a new look, and some spacing that we haven't ever really managed since we brought Jude into town." Quotes General Manager Zei Zao, who sat down to interview with us for this story.

The story gets sadder as Clyde Grubbs ended up with a rather unexpected retirement due to legal issues, at this moment sentencing has been passed down and Clyde will be spending the next five to ten years in a federal prison. This, of course, voided the newly signed contract he had inked and perhaps more importantly, left a serious void at the point guard spot for the upcoming season.

"Well, we had DeVonn (Dawkins) and Darius (Sams), but I think we all knew that DeVonn was more of a plug in bench guy, and Darius was never a big enough part of the rotation, did not have enough of the coaching staff's trust, to put out there." The early results were not impressive. Suns mainstays Joshua Rhett, Terry Howard and Ken Akers all saw their production fall, newcomer Ulysses Black seemed to be the only player that was completely comfortable as a primary ball handler, creating opportunities out of nothing.

"I did it in the ATL, I did it in Philly, I don't think Josh ever done it without a real point guard though." Says veteran swingman Ulysses Black

The Suns found themselves in a no-man's land of sorts out west, too much talent to completely fail, but not enough to expect to make a real splash in the hyper-competitive top tier against the Thunder, Blazers and Nuggets. With this in mind, they made a midseason shift towards a rebuilding project.

"Phoenix was home, but that's the league. When Jude got hurt the guys saw the curtains start closing, but UB came in and we all fit well. But after Trin left we really saw the team come apart, nothing felt quite right. We didn't have no point guard." Says Rhett, now a part of a Lexington Kings team that is looking to make a splash in the east.

Rhett found himself heading out east in a package for young players and picks, including the young defensive point guard Agustin Paredes and Tomer 'Air Jewdan' Hefetz, plus veteran big man Douglas Ridenhour. The Suns also moved Ulysses Black in exchange for the occasionally-explosive defensive combo guard Michael Shakur and their own pick the following year, a pick that had left the Suns hands a few years back in exchange for Trinnean Telfair. With the new look in the middle of the season, the Suns record fell below the .500 mark that it had floated around all season and eventually found themselves out of the playoffs. The Suns crew seemed to look better as the season went on, however, and even went 7-6 over the final stretch of the season.

The Suns went into this offseason with a lot of choices, a lot of decisions, and after the Bucks were crowned with their second title a huge buzz started stirring around the front office. There were deals on the table, some small and some big, but nothing could have prepared the watching public for the blockbuster that actually happened.

"I got the phone call early, we was watching Sportscenter the night before and listening to the NBA news, all sorts of crazy stuff in the headlines like every offseason." States all-star wing Duke Lazear. "I even saw my name on the ticker, says stuff like 'Duke to Detroit?' and 'Portland to land superstar wing?' and all the (stuff) that comes through in the KVBL offseason, you know it's a business. But then I get a call at like six in the morning, it's (General Manager) Seacrest, he says he hopes I like the sun. I know we were butting heads about the playoffs, what he thought I could do better, but I didn't think it'd go down like that."

But indeed it did. Two teams that are not afraid to pull the trigger made a deal that caused a stir amongst both fan bases. Duke Lazear and Ralfs Kokorevics for Terry 'Spaceman' Howard, Tomer Hefetz and newly drafted big man (big is an understatement) Myenwe Igwe. Terry Howard, who has been with the team since his rookie contract and signed a massive offer sheet in restricted free agency, was floored.

"They tell me 'Space, we don't want to trade you son, like you know, you part of the rebuilding.' I like Phoenix, but Zei gave me a call and said he got to, ya know, he got to take the deal that's on the table. So I knew it was happening but I didn't really believe it, I thought I might always be in Phoenix, but coming here everyone was saying that the Suns always move their rookies right on draft day, so I made it five seasons, I think that's a record so I can't be mad. They bringing in Duke Lazear, you know?" Said Terry Howard in a phone conversation we had regarding the fresh wound of being traded. Suddenly with Duke Lazear in town, the buzz is a lot different. People are thinking less about 'Where will they be picking next year?' and thinking more about 'Who do you think will come to play with Duke?'

At the moment the Suns have a large offer sheet out on Lewis Barker, and a lot of indications from sources around the league say that the Pistons will probably not be matching it. It's a bit early to get excited, but this is a player that many think is comparable to Terry Howard, and it clearly indicates an intention to start winning with the group that they have put together. Just this morning the big 'Portland to land a wing?' trade was signed off on, and the Suns played a bit part in the massive trade, and word has it that Rick Lucas will be coming to town to join Agustin Paredes, Michael Shakur, Duke Lazear and Ralfs 'Koko' Kokorevics. This is an eventful offseason for sure, and a lot remains to be seen as to how the team fills out it's bench, especially if Lewis Barker does end up getting matched. Signs point towards the Suns trying to make another deep playoff run this offseason, but GM Zei Zao has a different perspective.

"We are always trying to put the best team we can out on the floor. Nobody enjoyed the three years that we were at the bottom of the league, and once Josh Rhett and Terry Howard got here to turn the team around, the expectations were right back to being sky high. We feel the only way we can hit those expectations, and continue to succeed, is by looking both to the present, and the future. We have a lot of picks, picks from other teams that may be moving towards a rebuild in the future, and we think that the flexibility we have going forward is going to be the most integral part of maintaining success. We don't want what happened last year to happen again, our fans deserve wins, they deserve playoff games and they most especially deserve a title. It's our job to bring that trophy home."

Bold words, but we've been surprised before.
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Old 05-20-2013, 04:52 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: The Arizona Public

Fun stuff Zei, good read.
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