And here I was, all set to be depressed this summer. As top free agents were discussing sexy destinations, “big threes” and contract extensions, I was roaming the aisles of my supermarket for comfort food, Netflixing the first two seasons of “Downton Abbey” and ordering tissues in bulk.
Then a funny thing happened. The Suns went and made themselves interesting again. They added seven new names to the roster, whether by draft or free agency. They radically changed the makeup and chemistry of the team practically overnight, while refusing to sit and pout if free agents bid farewell. No time for tears. Moving on. Next starts now.
It’s tough to leave a fondly-remembered era behind. But you know what’s even tougher? Leaving a fondly-remembered era behind and not having anything to look forward to. Now, of course the future isn’t written for these new, young Suns, but there are possibilities – and that’s what gets me interested and excited.
Goran Dragic is back, baby! Having shown flashes of brilliance in his first stint in Phoenix, he became a bright light in Houston. The fact that the Suns were able to reacquire him is something of a shock to me. He’s young, he’s dynamic and creative. He can finish at the rim, he can find the open man and he can defend better than Suns fans are used to seeing out of a point guard. I think he’s a good candidate to be a leader for a franchise, and I think he, Marcin Gortat and Channing Frye will do a lot of damage on high pickand-rolls. The only thing about Dragic that I’m not sure of is his nickname. The way he plays doesn’t make me think “Dragon” at all. With his energy and hustle, Goran strikes me as more of a “Go-Go.” But I’ll leave that to the Department of Nicknames. The important thing is that he’s back. And we all remember the last point guard we walked away, only to reacquire a few years later.Things worked out pretty well with him in the driver’s seat.
Michael Beasley? You’re telling me the Suns picked up the former No. 2 pick in the draft for a song? A guy who can create his own shot (the No. 1 thing the Suns needed on their roster) while facing the basket or with his back to it? A 6-10 small forward who’s a matchup nightmare? Forget what you may have heard as knocks on the player and remember that when he was drafted he was 19 years old. Would you have been ready for the NBA emotionally at 19? How many guys are? Beasley is just 23 years old now. He’s been around the league for a little while, he knows how it works and he’s become an adult. He’s moving into his physical prime, and no one’s ever said he didn’t have massive, frightening skills. If he’s going to really blossom as the star people thought he was coming out of Kansas State the Suns will be the beneficiaries, and a lot of other teams are going to be sorry. Yes, please.
Wesley Johnson? A 6-7 shooting guard who can shoot 35percent from the 3-point line? Who was buried on a snowy bench in Minnesota? Who, like Beasley, is just coming into his prime and needed a change of scenery more than anything else? Does the name Joe Johnson mean anything to you? Also like Beasley, he’s a low-risk investment, and a young player with incredible talent who just needs to put it together. And if it happens while he’s wearing purple and orange? Again, lots of other clubs are going to be pulling their hair out.
Kendall Marshall! Ignore the knocks you’ve heard about his shooting and whatever else. Do you know how hard it is to average nearly ten assists per game in college? Marshall did it at North Carolina, meaning he did it in the ACC, the toughest conference in the land. Meaning, if there’s a scoring option on the floor with him, he’s going to find that guy. Marshall has great size for a point guard, and terrific feel for the court. And with Dragic and perhaps Sebastian Telfair ahead of him, he has little pressure on his young shoulders to be a savior. He has time to work on his jumper and his defense. Perfect.
Luis Scola? He’s only one of my favorite players in the NBA. He’s one of those, “If he’s on my side, I love him. If I have to play against him, I think I feel a cold coming on” guys. He works. And works. And works. And works. Offense, defense… He probably even tapes his ankles with relentless determination. In addition to his skills, he’ll set a great example for younger players. I’d staple Markieff Morris, who’s already well on his way to being a fine player in the Association, to Scola’s hip all year long. And as a side bonus, he opens up the possibility of a fun contest: “What’s the over-under on how many times Luis Scola will be mistaken for Russell Brand on the streets of Phoenix during the 2012-13 season?”
Add in P.J. Tucker and Jermaine O’Neal – a hungry youngster at the end of the bench, and a former All-Star primed for a Grant Hill-style rejuvenation – and the Suns are looking a lot less like pincushions than I feared they might when last season ended. There’s new blood in the old system, new parts that fit right into the machine that should make the Suns better, stronger, faster. Contenders? Who knows? But it’ll be fun to see the elements mix, and see what comes out of the reaction. My guess and my hope is that it’ll be a tight-knit, overachieving team that plays hard every night.
The mac and cheese is staying in the cupboard. I’m returning the tissues. And does anyone want to borrow my copy of “Downton Abbey?” I’m trading in the weepies for something with a little more excitement and adventure – the 2012-13 Suns.