Phoenix Suns General Manager Steve Kerr took some time over the past few days to answer questions fans have sent in. Check out the questions and Kerr’s answers below.
The chances for making the playoffs are looking bleak, and it doesn’t appear to me that we will have anything better than the number 14 pick in the upcoming draft and next year’s pick is gone. Several of the players are getting old and don’t have that much trade value. Plus, given the state of the economy, it seems that making trades will be harder. Where do we go from here? Are we looking at multiple years of lottery until the team can rebound?
-- Jim Lotgam, Phoenix
There’s no question we’re in transition, like all teams are from time to time. We’ve been really good for the past 4 seasons, and this year we’ve hit some bumps in the road and struggled at times. But I still feel very positive about our future, because I think we have great talent. Steve Nash, Shaq and Grant Hill may be older, but they’re all still playing at a high level. Amare, Leandro and J-Rich are entering the prime of their respective careers. Matt Barnes has been really good this season, and our young crew – Goran, Robin, Lou and Jared – has shown a lot of potential, especially these past few weeks under Alvin. Our scouting department believes our 1st round pick in the upcoming draft will yield an excellent player, too, so we’ll go into the offseason with a lot of options. We have to decide the direction we’re going as a team, whether to tinker with the roster or make a significant overhaul. But I know we’re not starting from scratch. We have a lot of great assets, so we’ll be working from a position of strength. I think the future is bright.
Will Alvin Gentry get a shot at head coach next year, or is he really just the interim coach?
– Shawn Northrop, Niceville, Fl
Alvin has done a terrific job as our coach since taking over for Terry. We’ll let the season play out and go from there, but I think there’s an excellent chance he’ll be our coach next season. Alvin has instilled a lot of confidence in our team, he’s done a nice job of finding minutes for our younger players, and he is a great communicator. We’re thrilled with the job he’s done.
Since you took the team over as GM, the team seems to be on a downward trend. Would you say this is your fault or bad timing? What can you do to make the team exciting again and a winner in the near future?
– Jon Gotcher, Scottsdale, Ariz.
When I took the general manager position a couple of years ago, our team was near the top of the league. I was well aware that we were either going to take another step upward and get to the NBA Finals, or we’d descend a bit. That’s the way pro sports are – there are ebbs and flows in every organization. Ultimately it’s my job to keep the team near the top, so if there’s been a decline I’ll take the blame. I’ve made some controversial decisions, knowing that the team we had wasn’t quite good enough to get to the Finals. Obviously to this point things haven’t worked out as well as I had hoped, and that’s been disappointing. But we’re going to keep plugging away every day.
I thought that signing Stromile Swift was a great move as he’s very comparable to Amare, but it seems that Coach Gentry is not committed to really letting him play. Will you put any pressure on Gentry to get Swift on the court for more than the token appearances he’s been getting?
– Eric Smevold, Davis, Calif.
Stromile is extremely talented, but unfortunately he is way behind the players ahead of him – Lou, Jared and Matt Barnes. Stro didn’t play much this season in New Jersey, and it’s tough to show up in a new situation with only 20 or so games left in the season and try to fit in. The other guys have been here all year, they’re in great shape and they’re totally in tune with what we’re trying to do. I won’t ever tell Alvin or any coach who to play. It’s up to the coach to make that decision, but ultimately it’s up to the player to earn his minutes.
There was a lot of talk about trading Shaq and Amare at the deadline, and there has been more rumors on sports radio in the last week that the Suns will trade Nash this summer. Do you think there’s a possibility that you would trade all three of those guys this summer? You had said before that you hoped to extend Nash. Are you reconsidering that now? How tough are these decisions going to be?
– Adam D, Phoenix
We’re going to weigh all our options this summer. We’re in a position where we have to figure out the best direction to go as a franchise, and the only way to do that is to examine all possibilities as it relates to the draft, free agency and trades. Trades are a difficult part of this business, because you forge relationships with players, the fans make connections with them, and most importantly, the players’ families are uprooted and have to move to a new city. It’s not easy, but it’s a part of the business. We’ll do whatever is best for the organization and our future.
Do you regret the Shaq trade at all?
– Najm Haque, San Jose, Calif.
I’ve been asked that question a lot. Shaq has been fantastic for us, both in the community and on the court. He has played better than we ever could have expected. In fact he has been one of the best centers in the league this year. Unfortunately our team just hasn’t played as well as we had hoped, but that’s not any one player’s fault. Things just haven’t clicked. To answer your question – no, I don’t regret the deal. We knew we weren’t going to be able to beat the best teams in the league the way our team was constitued prior to the Shaq trade, so we tried to get better. Not to go Herm Edwards on you, but ‘you play to win the game!’ That’s what we’ve tried to.
I think you’ve taken a lot of unfair blame over the team’s performance this season. I agreed (and so did a lot of the media, I might add) with most of the moves you’ve made over the last 18 months, but they just haven’t worked out. How hard has this been on you personally, seeing the team struggle and hearing the criticisms of yourself? Or do you think it’s fair for fans to blame you?
– Joseph, Glendale
It’s never fun to take a lot of heat – we’re all human. But I understand that criticism goes with the territory in this job, and I stepped into a situation that was filled with expectations and pressure. I just try to go about my business each day and focus on our team and what we can do to be successful. There’s nothing I can do about what people are saying, so there’s no sense in getting worked up about it. It’s just part of the job.
What current player most reminds you of yourself as a player? What player from your era does Steve Nash remind you of?
– Bryan Enaws, Phoenix
When I played, I really wasn’t a point guard and I wasn’t big enough to be a two guard. I was a shooter, but I was a tweener, so I was very dependent on the teammates I had around me. If the mix was right, I could be part of a rotation. If not, I sat on the bench. The guy like that in the league right now who is in a similar situation would be JJ Redick. I think he can be good, and sooner or later he’ll be in a good spot. As for Steve Nash, the player who most reminded me of him was Mark Price. I played with Mark in Cleveland, and he was the best shooter I’d ever seen. But he was also quick and a great ballhandler and passer. He was Nash before Steve was!
Now that you’re back to playing a fast pace game again, and also with the injury to Amare, do you regret the trade of Raja Bell and Boris Diaw, who could be instrumental in running this offense?
– Lance Foust, Moiese, Montana
When we traded Boris and Raja, we felt we were making a clear upgrade at the 2 guard position. Jason is a big time scorer in his prime, and he fit our roster nicely. Boris was a very good player for us when he was the focal point of our offense a few seasons ago, but he struggled as a backup the last two years. Obviously now that Amare is hurt we could use Boris, but that’s the way it goes. Financially it was tough to have a guy making big money playing a backup role, and that played a part in the trade. But I’m happy with Jason’s production, and Jared Dudley has been really good for us too.
Hey Steve, I’ve been watching Lopez play and even though he’s not much of an offensive threat, every so often he shines. Why isn’t he playing more? He’s a lot harder to shoot over than a 6-9 guy that’s guarding Dirk.
– Terry Fisher, Yuma, Ariz.
Robin has a bright future in this league because of his defensive potential. He’s 7 feet, active, athletic and plays hard. Eventually it will click for him, but right now he’s playing behind Shaq, so he’s not going to see a lot of minutes. It takes big men longer to adjust to the league than it does guards, so we have to be patient. But I see signs from Robin that I really like. He’s going to be good.
What do you see in the future for Lou Amundson? Do you feel he has a long term future with the Phoenix Suns or the NBA?
– Phil Freeman, Henderson, NV
Lou’s next stage in his development is his jump shot, and he’s going to focus on that this summer. He’s had a terrific season for us, and I hope he’s with the Suns for a long time to come. He’s athletic, energetic and very versatile defensively. He’s under contract for next year, so he’ll be back. I know the fans like watching him play – he goes hard and can guard anyone on the floor.
Considering the Suns current record and the slim chance of making the 2009 playoffs, could you list the top 3 mistakes you’ve made with the team during your short tenure as GM? Also, what moves do you feel are necessary to turn this team around for next year?
– Dwight Downs, Flagstaff, Ariz.
Wow, you want me to list my 3 top mistakes as a GM? I think that’s what the media is for, isn’t it? Listen, I realize that the team has not lived up to our expectations during my tenure, and it’s been disappointing for all of us. It’s fair to question the moves I’ve made, but the fact is, basketball is an inexact science. There’s no magic formula to make it work. So we have to look ahead and continue to try to make our team better.
I would like to go into Sport Management after college. I am currently a sophmore in high school. What can I do now that will help me someday reach my goal of becoming a GM?
– Steven Force, Scottsdale, Ariz.
The most important thing you can do is excel in school. Being a GM requires a variety of skills – communication, writing ability, personnel management, talent evaluation…I use skills that I learned in high school and college and through simple life experience. As you get older, you’ll want to get involved with sports to broaden your experience, so I would pursue internships with teams, educational programs in sports management, and opportunities in PR and sports information. It all adds up, and the more experience you gain, the better prepared you’ll be. Good luck to you!