Happy New Year, Suns fans.
Now if only that year was 2004.
Because, with the signing this week of swingman Michael Redd, that gives the Suns a trio that, in that faraway year, would have been nearly the equal of the super-threesomes in Miami and Boston today.
Imagine these three guys, in their primes, playing together: Redd, who, in 2004-05 while playing for the Bucks, averaged 23 points per game and 4 assists; Grant Hill, who, as a member of the Magic, had a rare nearly-injury-free season and racked up a stat line of 19.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals; and Steve Nash, who, in his first year back with the Suns after some seasons in Dallas, put up 15.5 points and a league-leading 11.5 assists, and placed the first of his two MVP awards on his mantle.
Jeez. Makes you wish Wedding Crashers was in your local multiplex, all those weird people were still stuck on that island in Lost, and that Gwen Stefani were still belting out Hollaback Girl, doesn’t it? It may even make some of you out there long for President Bush. The second one, that is.
Close your eyes, and you can almost see it – Nash driving fearlessly through the paint, under the hoop and out the other side before finding Hill in the corner; Hill puts it on the floor and slashes to the hoop, drawing three collapsing defenders and dishing to Redd alone at the top of the key…Redd rises with that perfect form and swish, it’s a three, and the hometown crowd roars to its feet.
Of course, we know what’s actually happened in the intervening years: Nash struggled with a debilitating back condition…only to have the Suns training staff help him extend his career years past what Dallas owner Mark Cuban figured would be his “sell by” date, won those two MVP awards, and has remained a top-flight NBA point guard well into his late 30s. Hill sat out the best part of his prime battling ankle injuries that simply would not heal…until he got to Phoenix, where the trainers again worked their wonders and restored him to a high level of functionality. Grant may not be the superstar he once was, but since joining the Suns, he’s been remarkably durable, a solid scorer and rebounder, a clutch role player, and arguably the team’s best defender.
Now there’s Michael Redd, once one of the league’s premier shooters and most feared scorers, with a twice-blown-out knee, just hoping to catch on with a team for the last few years of his athletic prime. What better place for him than Phoenix? If anyone can get him upright, in shape, and hoisting jumpers under game conditions, it’s our friendly neighborhood trainers. If they can, he might be just what the Suns need – an outside scorer. Chances of rust are minimal, because jump-shooters never forget how to shoot (see Miller, Reggie and Allen, Ray).
Can the addition of Redd restore the Suns to playoff relevance? Doubtful. Though the Suns have only played two games as I write this, an awful lot of flaws have already been exposed, and by the time Phoenix gets its act together in this compressed season, it might be too late. And the rushed schedule, with its back-to-backs and even back-to-back-to-backs, won’t do elderly legs any favors.
But Redd, on a one-year contract at the veteran’s minimum salary, is a low-risk, potentially very high-reward signing. Yes, it’d be nice if he’d landed in the Valley in 2004, when he’d yet to meet the surgeon’s knife. But if Redd can mount a comeback anywhere close to the one Grant Hill has made in a purple-and-orange uniform, it’ll make the Suns that much more competitive, and give Suns fans a happier New Year than perhaps they expected.