Hello again. I want to thank you for all your support, particularly the past month or so since Shaq arrived.
Skinner is the Suns’ best shot blocker and can help the team in certain matchups the rest of the season. (NBAE Photos)
The response to the trade has been overwhelmingly positive, and I just want
you to know how much we appreciate your passion for the Suns. We’re doing everything we can to make sure our team is prepared every night and making improvement as we head towards the playoffs.
Thanks also for the emails, of which there have been plenty the past month! The interest in the Suns is at an all time high, and I’m going to do my best to respond to your many inquiries. Keep ‘em coming!
Question: First of all, you were the guy I idolized on the Bulls. Secondly, I was wondering if you have ever considered giving speeches at colleges? I have listened to your interviews over the years and you are a wonderful speaker. I would love to hear you hold lecture or write a book.
– Joseph Henderson, Overland Park, Kansas
Thanks for the compliment – I really appreciate it. Those Bulls teams were special – I was lucky to be a part of NBA history. As for speaking, I have done my share over the years in various forums, but now that I have this job there’s really no time. I’m so busy with the Suns that I’m not doing much public speaking anymore. Plus, when we started our Shaq-era 3-6, I was trying to stay out of the public eye altogether! (I guess it’s safe to go outside again).
Question: What happened to the rotation with Brian Skinner? He was a solid defender and bench player for us all year and then all of the sudden he hasn’t played a game since Shaq arrived. Playing a 7-man rotation is not going to get us far into the playoffs. Also DJ strawberry is a good defender and he can take minutes off of nash, who by the way has been playing WAY too many minutes as of late. I don’t understand what the coach is doing to the rotation.
– Chris Malnar, Glendale
Brian Skinner has been a valuable reserve for us all season, and I still think he’s going to have his moments for us. But the fact is, Shaq’s presence lessened Brian’s role, and there just aren’t as many minutes for him anymore. But there’s no doubt that he’s our best shot blocker, and in certain matchups he can really help us.
Question: With Marion gone, how do you expect to defend all-star caliber guards such as Kobe or Carmelo? Raja Bell can not shoulder the load by himself and the Suns were in the bottom half of the NBA in defense even with Marion. Why not give some of he rookies (DJ Strawberry or call up Alondo Tucker) a shot? Thanks for taking my question.
– Wazir, Dallas, Texas
Excellent question. That is something we mulled over for a long time before making this deal. What we ultimately decided is that between Raja and Grant Hill – and now Gordon Giricek – we had enough defensive versatility to compensate for Shawn’s absence. If we hadn’t made the trade, we would have been asking ourselves how on earth we were going to cover Tim Duncan, Andrew Bynum and Yao Ming. I believe that even though we’re not as good defensively on the perimeter now, we’re much stronger inside. And as we continue to gel, our overall defense should be better.
Question: Just wanted to say congrats on landing Shaq. I believe as soon as they gel with him, you guys are going to roll. It’s also nice to see that you’re still communicating with your fans. What’s your input on the MVP senario? Kobe or LeBron?
– Alex Ritz, Rochester, NY
Thanks for the compliment. Now that Shaq is getting comfortable with our team – and visa versa – we’re starting to show our potential. Hopefully we can keep it going and really build some momentum going into the playoffs. As for the MVP race, my belief is that Kobe should win it. As well as LeBron is playing, the Lakers have had the better season and Kobe is the main reason why. KG will get some votes too for what he’s done in Boston, but I think it’s Kobe’s year.
DJ Strawberry can guard nearly anyone and may get a few minutes the rest of the season.
Question: Hello Mr. Kerr,
Since your 8 player rotation is not working out, would you consider playing DJ Strawberry more? He can defend anyone in the whole league and he has an awesome jump shot.
– Hunter (age 9), Darnestown, Maryland
Hi Hunter, I like DJ Strawberry and I think he’s going to be a good player in this league, but it’s a lot to ask of him at this point to be a regular contributor. The way Gordon Giricek has played the past couple of games, he has clearly become our 8th man. But you’re right – DJ can guard just about anyone, and he may get a few minutes here and there to try to slow people down.
Question: I can shoot 50% 3pt for the rest of the season. Will play for free.
– Jake, Mesa
But can you play any D? We’ve got enough guys who can shoot!
Question: Hi Steve, I’ve been a Shaq fan since the beginning, out of LSU. I knew from the beginning that Shaq is a man of honor and dedicated to what he does. Anyways I want to keep this short and sweet. I feel he needs a bit more offense, i.e. giving him the ball at the right time, otherwise it’s a 3-second violation. As he always said, feed him the ball. What I also notice is Steve will drive to the rim Shaq going in parallel but somehow Steve would kick it out to someone else, when Shaq is working for the ball but the ball doesn’t come to him. PMilize the big man. He’s 7’2″, 320 lbs and strong still at 35 years old. My two cents and I’m sure you and your staff are well aware of these kinks.
– Roland Flores, Guam, USA
The past few weeks it’s been interesting to see our players – especially Steve – react to Shaq and make adjustments. Remember, we haven’t played with a low post man for the past few seasons, so this is a big adjustment. I thought our post passing was very poor early on, probably because we weren’t used to it. But in the past couple of weeks we’ve made adjustments. Mike D’Antoni has done a great job of adding plays for Shaq, and our players are making better passes to him on the block. I think that’s a big reason for our recent improvement.
Question: First of all I like the addition of Shaq and it is great to see us control the boards for a change. But shouldn’t the Suns be slowing the tempo more and feeding him down low instead of running him through the pick and roll all the time? It just seems like that is causing a lot of turnovers and that is why these teams are scoring so much lately.
– Mike Lorenzo, Mesa
You make a good point. Taking care of the ball is really key for us, because when we do our tranition defense is not so vulnerable. You’ve probably noticed in the last few games that Mike has really gone to Shaq on the block more,and we’re starting to get more comfortable. I really believe that we’re capable of playing two different styles – our old one, where we run teams into the ground – and the new one with Shaq, where we pound the ball inside. As long as we’re comfortable and efficient with our new look, we’re going to be really good. But it’s still going to take some time to adapt.
Question: Would Jud Buechler have made the Shaq trade? See you soon.
– Tom Heitz, Atlanta, GA
There’s no doubt Buechler would have made the Shaq deal. He’s got the guts. The question is, would YOU have had the fortitude to make it?
Question: I think a 3-game winning streak will ignite the team’s confidence and morale. As the GM, what do you do to help the team see the light at the end of the tunnel? Or is it something they just have to fight through?
– Karen, Phoenix
Well, you hit it on the head. You wrote this email before our current 4 game streak, and you’re right – now that we’re rolling, our confidence has soared and morale is way up. As GM, my job is to support our coaches and occasionally pitch in with advice for the players, especially during the rough patches. I tried to communicate with our guys when things weren’t great, reminding them that this is all part of the process of getting better. Fortunately we have great maturity on our team and guys like Steve, Grant and Shaq can remind their teammates of that fact. I thought their leadership helped us out of our rut, and now we’re feeling good about ourselves.
Question: I know that you would probably not want to share strategies, but has the coaching staff considered a zone defense? This may hide the individual defensive deficiencies and mis-matches. There is a noted rebounding improvement with Shaq, but the Suns have lost some of the defensive versatility. This is probably a coaching question rather than personnel, but do you have any thoughts? Thanks for your time.
– Dennis Silva, Jr. (UA alum, 1998), Honolulu, HI
You probably noticed that we played quite a bit of zone during the Golden State game. I guess you and Mike are on the same wavelength!
Question: Do you think seeding in this year’s playoffs really matter? I think as long as you get in this year anything can happen, your thoughts?
– Eric, Grand Junction, CO
Answer: Eric, I’m with you. I think seeds don’t matter much, but matchups do. And with everyone so jumbled in the standings, it’s going to be next to impossible to control your matchup. The main thing is, you want to be playing well going into the playoffs, and if you can get home court advantage you have to go for it. But nothing’s guaranteed – just ask Dallas after last year’s first round knockout.
If you you have a question you would like to see answered, send me your questions and check back soon.