Phoenix Suns Eliminated From 2009 NBA PlayoffsCategory: Basketball
The door to the 2009 NBA Playoffs has been officially slammed shut for my beloved Phoenix Suns. A hard-fought 105-100 win against Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets today did not prevent the team from missing the playoffs for just the third time in 21 seasons, the last one in 2004. Superman Shaquille O’Neal will miss the postseason for only the second time in his 16 year career. The first time was during his 1992-93 rookie season.
The Phoenix Suns actually had a big chance to sneak into the playoffs when they played the Dallas Mavericks last April 6. In the team’s most important game of the season, it was overwhelmed 140-116. Had the Suns won that game, the Mavs will only have a 2 game-lead over them for the 8th playoff spot. Because of that loss, in order for the team to make the playoffs, it must finish 5-0 and Dallas 0-5. That’s virtually impossible!
Later in the day, the Dallas Mavericks made sure there will be no miracles for the Phoenix Suns when it defeated the Utah Jazz 130-101.
And so ended a tumultuous season for the Phoenix Suns. There are many factors that contributed to their demise. These are some:
1. Coaching Change – a drastic move was made during the preseason when former coach Mike D’Antoni was replaced by new coach Terry Porter. Porter tried to instill a defensive approach but the players favored the old run-and-gun system under D’Antoni. In effect, the team lost its identity. After the All-Star break, Porter was fired and replaced by Alvin Gentry. He brought back the “Seven Seconds or Shaq” offensive philosophy. That is, the team will try to score within seven seconds and if that failed, give it to the Big Cactus in the middle. It worked for some stretch but by then, it was probably too late.
2. Trades – also after the All-Star break, Raja Bell and Boris Diaw were shipped to the Charlotte Bobcats for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley. While Bell and Diaw immediately boosted the Bobcats, J-Rich was so inconsistent and has not brought much to the table.
3. Injuries – All-Star forward Amare Stoudemire’s season-ending injury has a huge impact on the team. Suddenly, they lost a player who could bring in 21 points and 8 rebounds per game. Add to that the fact that in close games, he is the #1 scoring option due to his ability to give a quick basket and excellent free-throw shooting. Sixth-man Leandro Barbosa also suffered from a knee injury causing him to miss some games. His immediate spark off the bench was missed in that strecth.
4. Defense – there was simply NONE. Yes, I still believe in the old adage, “Defense wins championship”. Team President of Basketball Operations Steve Kerr tried to implement that when he brought in defensive specialist Terry Porter as a coach but because he lacked the experience, he failed. Then, when Raja Bell and Boris Diaw were traded, the two best defensive players of the team were effectively carted away. The Phoenix Suns can’t just outrun and outscore other teams hoping that they’ll get tired and miss their shots. They should have also known how to stop them from scoring. Yes, they are exciting but sometimes, being boring can be fun to watch too especially if they brought with them a championship crown. (Remember the San Antonio Spurs?)
After this heartbreaking season, all I could do is just ask, “Quo vadis Phoenix Suns?”
UPDATE October 28, 2009: Shaq was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Is this good for the Phoenix Suns?