Suns Address Future

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
By Stefan Swiat,
Posted: April 14, 2011

Today was officially the day that the Suns ceased focusing on winning games in the present and began pondering their future. After conducting exit interviews with the entire roster, Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby and Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry gave their analysis of the 2010-11 season and thoughts for the future to a crowd of media gathered in a press conference room of US Airways Center.

“It’s a strange feeling to come to work today and realize that other teams are going to be playing for a few more months, and we’re finished,” Babby said. “It’s certainly not where we expected to be.
“I don’t think any of us deluded ourselves in thinking that it was going to be a year like last year when we started, but I think we all believed that we were a playoff team, so not ending up that way is profoundly disappointing.

“But we have to take it as a positive and look to see where we can get better. I think the outcome allows us to do that in a way that maybe had we snuck into the playoffs, we might not have been as honest with ourselves about where this franchise is and where we need to go.”

After finishing the 2009-10 campaign 54-28 and in the Western Conference Finals, Babby and Gentry are challenged with propelling a 2010-11 squad that went 40-42, finishing six games out of the eighth and final playoff seed in the West. So the question on everyone’s minds today was, “What will it take to steer this club back into the playoffs and into the running for a championship?”

First, Gentry and Babby both talked about the need for each and every player currently on the roster to improve individually. When broached with the idea of going outside of the current team’s structure to improve, Gentry outlined three areas he’d like to see bolstered.

Whether it’s through free agency, trade or the draft, the Suns will likely try to target another “go-to guy” to take the pressure off Steve Nash on the offense end. This season, it was common to see Nash working extremely hard to get his team good looks, especially at the end of the shot clock or at the end of games.

Possessing a player that can create his own shot or get an easy basket is on both the coaching staff’s and the front office’s radar. While Gentry talked about finding that scoring on the wing, both he and Babby talked about adding such a player, as well as pinpointing a player whose post moves were so lethal that opposing teams would be forced to double team him on the block.

However, finding that player becomes challenging when all NBA teams are heading into a summer where the collective bargaining agreement is predicted to dramatically change. It’s hard to structure a team and roster, when the rules of how to govern one’s team still remains unwritten.

“We’ve got to begin to prepare ourselves for whatever the new rules are going to be,” Babby said. “A collective bargaining agreement isn’t just about the relationship between the players and the teams. It’s also about dictating what mechanisms are available to you for building a successful team. So until we know what those tools are, we’re trying to prepare ourselves for every conceivable scenario.”

The next area that Phoenix talked about upgrading was in the size department. Although the Suns traded for a nice addition in center Marcin Gortat, the importance of having quality bigs has proven itself time and time again the playoffs.

However, that doesn’t mean that any size will do.

“They have to be good players,” Gentry said. “We can’t be adding size just to be adding size.”

Lastly, the Suns would like to shore themselves up defensively. After taking a step forward last season, the team regressed in that area this year.

Phoenix finished second to last in the league in points allowed, defensive rebounding and rebounding. The Suns were also the fifth-worst team in the league for defensive field-goal percentage.

“I think we have to do better with dribble penetration, and I think we improved on our rotations and our weak-side defense, but we still have to be better than we were,” Gentry said. “I think you can do that some by the internal improvement that you make, but you also have to look on the outside in terms of bringing somebody in that can help in that area.”

Babby and Gentry not only agreed that all of those areas could use a boost, but they’re also united in believing that their starting point guard is vital in developing the franchise’s future. Before Gentry fielded questions, he announced to the entire media contingent that Nash wasn’t going anywhere.

“Steve is coming back,” Gentry said. “We’ll put that to rest right away. He wants to be back and I want him back.”

With that being settled, the Suns have one building block set in their future foundation. As it stands right now, due to circumstances out of their control, how the rest of that foundation will be formed remains uncertain.

Any questions or comments for Stefan Swiat? Click here to send him your comments by e-mail.