The Phoenix Suns have a chance to win one of the most remarkable championships in NBA history. Their star point guard,
Mostly, though, this Suns group looked finished a year or two ago -- and it seemed to know it. General manager
Breaking up is hard to do in sports -- it's one of the toughest questions general managers and owners have to ask. Do you just say "Ah, the hell with it" and start over, or do you add one more piece and hope you can make a run?
The question involves every element of running a sports franchise: ticket sales, payroll, fan interest and, of course, trying to win. The decision can define two eras of a franchise.
Normally, there are four stages in the life of an NBA team:
Just look at the teams that have won championships since the early '90s. Bulls general manager
One of the first steps in the dismantling of the Bulls was a sign-and-trade deal that sent
The Shaq-Kobe Lakers had their last stand in 2004, when they melted down against the Pistons in the Finals. The Pistons still don't get enough credit for applying the heat that caused the melting, but that's another column. Anyway, the Pistons were There through 2008, when they lost to the Celtics in the conference Finals. Then they traded
The funny thing about the Pistons is that GM
Meanwhile, Shaq was in Miami, where he slimmed down, helped the Heat win the 2006 title, signed an enormous contract extension and spent most of it on pizza. The Heat almost instantly fell apart and have been trying to build another title contender around
Phoenix, of course. That was more than two years ago, and it seemed like a desperate move by the Suns at the time. That's because it
The Suns sent Shaq to Cleveland (which itself was making a desperate move, to appease His Highness
The other dynasty of the last decade, the Spurs, is in "Still there?" territory too -- and the Spurs seem to believe the answer is yes. They spent millions to acquire
But you do have to wonder if the Spurs really are Still There. I suspect the answer is no, but I would have said that about the Suns and Celtics as recently as two months ago.
Now the Suns might play the Celtics in the Finals. I don't think it will happen -- I think the Lakers will win the whole thing -- but that's not really the point. It seemed like these Suns should have prepared a concession speech at least a year ago. Kudos to them for refusing to deliver it.