He's Still Got the Touch

<”Thunder” Dan Majerle has spent the past several years as a Phoenix Suns broadcaster.� But one thing he hasn’t lost during the time spent sitting in the broadcast booth is his shooting touch.

Dan Majerle still has the shooting touch.
(Daniel Banks/Suns.com)

You may recall the Suns Gametime clip on Majerle’s pregame half-court shot. Even ESPN’s show “Pardon the Interruption” discussed the pregame ritual.

On Monday morning, several of the assistant coaches were working out a draft entrant and Majerle decided to take a few shots while there was some downtime. Suns GM Steve Kerr, SVP of Basketball Operations David Griffin, Head Coach Terry Porter and others were sitting on the other side of the court discussing something when they saw Majerle start shooting. Of course, they couldn’t let him take shots at the basket without getting in a few “shots” of their own.

Someone shouted to new Assistant Coach Igor Kokoskov, “Let’s see Dan shoot off the dribble!” And the official ribbing began. Majerle kept shooting the ball as various people shouted comments, including “He’s only worth a minimum contract” and “Minimum contract? Maybe a 10-day, non-guaranteed contract at best!”

Soon after the workout ended, I spoke with Kerr and Griffin about Majerle’s shooting. Specifically, I asked who shot better while playing in the NBA: Dan or Steve. Kerr actually took a couple of steps back and said, “What kind of question is that?!” Griffin answered for Kerr when he commented, “Dan was to Steve as a shooter as Steve was to Dan as a defender.”

I caught up with Majerle a few minutes later and asked him about his shooting practice and whether he thought he could still compete in the NBA if he only had to shoot. “Shooting never goes away,” he said. “If I didn’t have to run or play defense, I could probably be an All-Star. It’s all of the other skills that go away when you get up in age.”

Jeramie McPeek, VP of Interactive Services, proposed a shooting contest between Majerle, Kerr and Porter while we were watching the workout. I brought this idea up to Dan. He said, “That would be a fun contest. We should put that together before the end of the season.” I asked him to let Suns.com know if they ever did something like that so we could film it and the results could be part of Phoenix Suns lore. He assured me he would.

So here’s the question to you, Suns fans: Who do you think would win in a contest between Dan Majerle, Steve Kerr and Terry Porter? Why?

My Private Suns Workout

Having made myself eligible for the NBA draft, I notified all teams that I was available to work out privately. None of the teams responded, but that’s okay. I only really want to play for the Suns anyway. Of course, the Suns didn’t respond either, but I assume that’s just because their invitation got lost in the mail.

How hush-hush was this workout, you ask? Let me put it like this: All parties were so desperate to keep it out of the press that there was no pre-workout communication between the Suns and myself. No plane was sent to ferry me from Los Angeles to the Valley; I drove myself. No swank hotel reservations were made in my name; I stayed with my mother (she wasn’t expecting me, either – I’m telling you, this was very hush-hush).

When I got to US Airways Center, the Suns continued the subterfuge, just in case there were any nosy NBA reporters lurking around. The team brass pretended they had no idea I’d be coming. In fact, they pretended they’d never heard of me. They carried the act so far, I actually waited in the arena lobby for a good six hours before anyone even came out and spoke to me – that’s the sign of a first-class organization! [Read more...]

Porter, Kerr Ready to Lead the Suns into the Future

New Suns Head Coach Terry Porter and GM Steve Kerr answer questions at a press conference on June 9th.
(NBAE Photos)

The good news is Terry Porter and general manager Steve Kerr are obviously, absolutely and completely on the same page, which is not surprising considering they are from the same school (i.e. — old).

The better news is there is no reason not to think it is the right page. None. Nada. Zip. Nil.

I know every new coaching era is launched with everybody wearing happy faces and saying exactly the right things. And Porter’s introductory press conference was certainly no exception.

But beyond the happy faces and right words, Porter’s resume not only indicates he is the right man at the right time for the Suns, it positively shouts it.

In fact, it stamps him as the most qualified coach the Suns have ever hired AT THE TIME OF HIS HIRING.

You could, as they say, look it up.

John Kerr was more of a genial emcee and raconteur extraordinaire than coach, Jerry Colangelo was an executive pinch hitter, Butch Van Breda Kolff was a last minute desperation choice with baggage, John MacLeod and Cotton Fitzsimmons had zero NBA experience of any kind the day they were hired, John Wetzel had almost no coaching credentials, Paul Westphal had no NBA head coaching experience, Danny Ainge, Scott Skiles, and Frank Johnson also were all rookie head coaches, and Mike D’Antoni was a legend in Italy but an unknown coaching factor on this side of the pond.

But what Porter brings to the table is 17 years of NBA experience as a player, two as a head coach, three as a top assistant coach in Sacramento and Detroit and 20 trips to the playoffs in 22 seasons. And his resume also includes stints as a player and/or coach under the likes of Jack Ramsay, Rick Adelman, and Flip Saunders, not to mention certified geniuses Pat Riley and Greg Popovich for closers.

And it’s just as impressive for what it DOESN’T include – namely baggage. The guy doesn’t even have carry on. He’s been respected and admired everywhere he’s been and in every role he’s played.

He’s been touted by some, who grew disenchanted with his predecessor, as something on an anti-Mike who will bring the gospel of defense to the heathen natives. But he is not so much the “anti” as the logical successor in terms of philosophy in that he clearly believes in much of the system that made D’Antoni’s teams the most entertaining in the league while averaging 57 wins a year.

But as successful as it was, it was a system Kerr felt needed tweaking, and alas, what the GM saw as tweaking the coach saw as meddling, and a no-fault divorce beneficial to both parties was arranged.

And so Porter takes over what is arguably the most successful franchise in any sport to never win a title. His immediate assignment is to try and squeeze a championship run out of a group many around the NBA feel is on its way down, not up.

But while that may be true, down is not out. And if Steve Nash stays healthy, Shaq stays interested, and Amar’e buys into the tweaking this is still a 50-plus-win team with a shot if everything breaks just right.

But the freshly minted Kerr-Porter team is about more than just trying to take one last shot at squeezing through a title window many feel has all but slammed shut. Much more.

For better or worse, these are the guys who will determine what life will be like beyond Steve and Shaq.

There are no guarantees, of course. But if you were drawing up specifications for a young general manager and coach to lead the way into the future, you’d find that the Suns appear to have the two people who fit those specifications.

And on paper, you can’t ask for a better shot at the future than that.

Suns Fans: Fill in the Blank

“I’d rather root for _________ than the Lakers.”

Changes to the Phoenix Suns Blog

You probably haven’t noticed the changes that happened today but I wanted to explain what they were because I think they’ll help you get more out of this blog.

If you’re a frequent visitor to the blog, you’ve probably stopped looking at the left-hand side of the screen on the blog front page and on each blog post where there is a list of all of the contributors on the site. If you look over there right now you’ll see a list of 29 different RSS feeds you can subscribe to. Those RSS feeds have recently changed. So if you are subscribed to the old feeds that looked like this: http://suns.marqui.com/blog/rss/default.xml you will want to change your RSS reader to the new feeds that look like this: http://feeds.feedburner.com/PhoenixSunsBlog.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, there are plenty of places you can go to learn more about RSS feeds. I’m addicted to them. Most sites I am interested in reading on a daily basis have RSS feeds. They make it easier to look at new content for multiple sites all at once. There are a lot of feed readers but some online readers include Google Reader, Bloglines, Rojo, NewsGator and NetVibes. I personally use NetVibes but I don’t know that it is especially better than any of the others. It’s just what I’m used to.

If you’re interested in reading all of the content on the blog, you’ll want to subscribe to the “All” RSS feed. That will give you everything that goes up on the blog. If you are only interested in a specific person, you can subscribe to their specific blog by clicking on the RSS link next to their name.

We are also going to be making some larger changes on the blog over the next few months. We have some pretty good ideas of what changes we want to make already but I wanted to open it up to the readers of the blog as well to get your thoughts. Have ideas of a running topic you want to see, visual changes to the blog, changes to how the blog is set up, or anything else? Feel free to leave comments below or e-mail me at blog@suns.com. I’m anxious to hear from you and get your thoughts.

Enjoy your summer, keep checking back at Suns.com for updated news on the coaching changes and GO SUNS!

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah: Beechen Goes to Camp


Adam Beechen in his training camp gear.
(Adam Beechen)

I thought, you know, it’d be me and a bunch of the other prospects, sitting around a bonfire in the woods, singing songs, roasting marshmallows, sleeping in bunks and telling ghost stories. We’d share bad meals and “bug juice” in the Big Cabin. We’d do some crafts (I’d been wanting to make my Mom a new dreamcatcher), go swimming in the lake, have some singalongs, and best of all, stage a few panty raids on the girls’ cabin. Most importantly, we’d have a chance to bond, share our dreams about the future, and just have a great time in the fresh air.

Well.

I got out of the Orlando airport with my backpack on my back and my sleeping bag under one arm and hopped in a cab, asking the driver to take me to NBA camp, and next thing I knew, we’d pulled up in front of a gym. Okay, I figured, the bus must leave from here for the real camp. But no. I stood in line to check in, and the guy asked me what hotel I was staying in. Hotel? Then I was issued a practice uniform (a camp shirt!) and told to report the next day.

I gotta confess, I was a little confused. I mean, I had three boxes of graham crackers in my backpack and I was ready to make some s’mores! I was ready to meet my bunkmate! And dude, where were the girls? [Read more...]

Beechen Declares There's a Draft

Adam Beechen hopes to follow in Amare Stoudemire’s footsteps and be the next Suns’ star chosen through the draft.
(NBAE Photos)

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that I’ve made myself eligible for the 2008 NBA Draft. What? You weren’t watching my press conference at 4 a.m. on Sunday on the Tennis Channel? It was on just between a replay of the 1983 US Open Men’s Doubles Quarterfinals and a really interesting documentary on how to improve your lob.

Well, in any case, I’ve taken the plunge. Okay, I didn’t play in college…or high school…but that just means I haven’t developed any bad habits. And I may be a little older than your typical prospect, but my knees haven’t seen the wear and tear of countless competitive basketball games. And yes, I can’t jump, but the bright side there is that I’m not likely to get faked off my feet.

So you can see why I think I’m a cinch for the NBA. In the weeks leading up to the June 26th draft, I’ll be letting you peek behind the scenes at my journey from Superfan to professional basketball player for (hopefully) your Phoenix Suns, culminating in a draft-day diary that I’m sure will capture all the excitement and emotion of my life changing forever.

The first thing I decided I needed was an agent. It’s never too early to get started on endorsements, getting my name out there in the media, making sure teams are aware of me. Generate a little buzz. Luckily, I live in the buzz capital of America, Los Angeles. You can’t swing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar around here, without knocking over an agent. So I went right to the phone book and called the first agency listed: [Read more...]

Suns Hop on Coaching Carousel

“Here,” meaning without a coach and without an immediate plan for succession.

With Mike D’Antoni’s departure, the Suns are back on the coaching carousel.
(NBAE Photos)

In fact, the last time it happened for the Suns was in 1988, when the team looked outside the confines of the immediate organization and called on Cotton Fitzsimmons to run the bench and help rebuild the roster. And Cotton was an old pal, having coached the team for two years in the franchise’s early seasons.

Every time there’s been a coaching change in Phoenix since then, the new team leader has come from inside the organization, generally from the ranks of assistant coaches such as Paul Westphal, Danny Ainge, Frank Johnson, Scott Skiles…and Mike D’Antoni. That’s led to great continuity and organizational stability over the last twenty years. With a coach in place, the team has generally had an idea where they were going next, should the coach be fired, retire, or move on to greener pastures.

That’s not really the case, this time. New ownership, new style, new rules. And the team’s likely soon to be heading in a somewhat different direction than the one they’ve been traveling the past couple years.

I’ll miss Mike D’Antoni. We all will. He brought a lot of success and excitement to the Valley. The team was perfectly molded, for several years, to his style and preferences. And, very simply put, the pairing of D’Antoni with Steve Nash was the greatest teaming of coach and point guard since Magic Johnson and Pat Riley (sorry, Sloan and Stockton fans, but I give our guys the slight edge). [Read more...]

The Divorce is Final

Coach Mike D’Antoni will spend next season in New York after he couldn’t help bring a title to Phoenix over the past several seasons.
(NBAE Photos)

Watching this affair agonizingly wind its way through a maze of lawyers was a little like watching a split where you like and respect both parties, but at the same time knowing that staying together “for the sake of the children” is like the slightly fractured definition of an oboe (i.e. — an ill wind that nobody blows good).

So the bottom line here is that, given the circumstances, D’Antoni to the Knicks for a bundle and Kerr getting to select a coach more compatible with his philosophy is a win-win situation for the parties of all parts. Really the only way to go, in fact.

The operative words there, of course, are “given the circumstances.” And while one is shedding no tears over the result one can and does very much regret the “circumstances.”

In other words, whereas D’Antoni and this Suns roster were a perfect match for each other, and he and his MVP point guard were attached at the basketball hip, and whereas Kerr is widely recognized as a sharp basketball mind and universally acclaimed as genuine great guy, it’s a shame things they couldn’t resolve their differences.

Simply put, although they fell short of a title, both D’Antoni and Kerr had it very good together, and the immediate prospects for them apart are not all that promising for either.

D’Antoni is walking into the mother of all messes. And the best Kerr can hope for is that he gets as good a coach as he had, that Nash has at least one more great year in him, and that Shaq stays focused if neither of the above turns out to be true (see his track record in Miami).

The thing here is that, whatever your thoughts on the coaching upheaval, the Suns’ prospects for next year are clearly not nearly as bright as they were at this time last year – partly because of their own turmoil/question marks and partly because of the rising young powers in New Orleans and Portland and a possible return of the Lakers to their dynastic ways.

On the plus side it is possible that both Kerr and Coach Mike will learn something from the split.

Maybe a more experienced Kerr, who is after all a rookie general manager, won’t be so quick to take subtle public digs at his coach next time around. And maybe Coach Mike will develop a little thicker skin (heaven help him if he doesn’t in New York, which has been known to pierce the skin of a rhinoceros).

Also, a less defensive and more secure Coach Mike may come to realize there was nothing wrong with suggesting he needed to pay a little more attention to defensive detail, and a more experienced Kerr will understand that a more realistic key to good defense is good defenders, not better coaching.

With the personnel he had at his disposal, D’Antoni gave Phoenix fans the most entertaining and competitive team possible – a team that not only reenergized the Valley but the entire NBA.

So he owes nobody any apologies as he heads East, neither for his body of work nor for seeking a lot more money and security.

One of the Van Gundy’s, I forget which one, had it right when he said, “The Suns didn’t keep coming up just short because of Mike’s philosophy but because they kept getting nosed out by slightly better teams.”

Amen.

The bottom line: Best of luck in your new post and thanks for the memories, Coach Mike.

Season Wrap-Up


The game has begun to slow down for me.
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images

The 2007-08 campaign ended a lot sooner than we expected and following our loss in San Antonio on Tuesday were back in Phoenix on Wednesday to clean out our lockers. Talking to some of the guys following the elimination game, it seems we just have to do a better job of paying attention to every detail. Personnel wise and player wise we don’t feel San Antonio was necessarily better, but they’re so great at paying attention to every little thing and closing out games which makes them a championship team. They’ve done it four times in the past nine years by doing that and that’s what we have to learn. Every player has to be ready from start to finish and we can’t take any plays off, we have to stay consistent the entire game. I think we have points where we have a lot of energy, we make great runs, but we don’t sustain those runs. You watch San Antonio, they play consistent the whole game and that’s somewhere I think we can improve. [Read more...]