Sunday, January 22, 2012

Time to trade Nash and Hill?

In a time when neither athletes nor the teams they play for have loyalty to one another, it seems that one team is being loyal to a fault. The Phoenix Suns have made it very clear that they do not plan to trade Steve Nash. For his part, Nash has stated several times that he wants to finish his contract with the Suns. The question becomes, is this the right thing for both parties.

I am all for loyalty in sports. There isn't enough of it in the business work of professional athletics. This is why it is so hard for me to come to the conclusion that the Suns need to trade Steve Nash, and Grant Hill as well. I commend them for wanting to keep Nash until he retires, but we all know that it has more to do with putting butts in the seats than it does to show loyalty to the 2 time MVP and good guy Hill. The Suns are afraid that if they trade Nash, the fans will stop coming. There may be something to that, but in the long run, starting the rebuilding process now could save the team from losing money for longer.

This upcoming draft is thought to be one of the deepest in years. While that could mean that the Suns could be a border-line lottery team and still draft a good player. The fact of the matter is that when experts say that a draft is deep, it generally means that there are really good players at the top, and many others that will turn into solid contributors at the professional level. The Suns could very well keep themselves in the dreaded position of not being good enough to make the playoffs, but not bad enough to receive a high draft pick. As long as they have Nash, the team will succeed to a certain level, but they will not win a championship. That is unless they convince a star player to come to Phoenix, which is a severe long shot.

Now I am not going to try to convince anyone that Nash and Hill will bring back a large haul. That ship sailed a few years ago. However, they would still be valuable to many teams. The problem being, that any team that would give Nash a chance at a championship, which would be the best way to show Nash loyalty, give him a good chance at a title, would not have a high draft pick. The Suns could though, get a couple young players with potential back, and low first round pick. These would be added to the inevitable low pick the Suns would receive when they finish lower in the standings without two of their best players. Marc Stein of ESPN suggested a trade to the Pacers, asking for Darren Collison in return. This would be a good starting spot in a search for a good trade partner. A third team could be brought in as well, to add to the talent. Another team could be the Knicks, who covet Nash, for Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert. Though the Knicks have no draft picks to give up.

The Suns could go for a long-shot and trade Nash to Portland, which is close to his home town, Vancouver. They could look to take back Batum, a draft pick, and ask for Oden back. Oden may never pan out, but I would give my training staff, who helped Grant Hill come back from almost certain retirement to have many healthy years. Shaq looked about done before he came to Phoenix, and then didn't last long after he left. Maybe, and it is a big maybe, they can work their magic on Oden. Could be worth a shot. Batum, a draft pick, and the chance and getting Oden healthy, would be better than losing Nash for nothing. Plus Oden is only on a one year deal.

The Suns are not going to get equal value for Nash or Hill, but getting something of some value would be better than losing them for nothing. I understand that the Suns would get cap room for those players, if they let them walk for nothing, but then convincing free agents to sign in Phoenix would be difficult for several years. since that would be the case, it is better to collect young talent and draft picks. Even if they are not top young players, they will have value in the future.

The player currently on the Suns roster that may fetch the most in return may be Gortat, and it may be worth trading him as well. Gortat has been playing well, plays a position(Center) that is always in demand, and at the age of 27, won't be a player they can build around in an effort to reshape the team.

The Suns are in a difficult spot right now, but it important that they understand the position they are in, and take advantage of the chips they have to use. Rebuilding is always painful, but the best franchises know exactly when to start the process, rather than waiting too long. The Suns already waited too long by not trading Amare before his contract was up, they cannot afford to make the same error in judgement again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Slowly Eradicating Defense in Sports

Offense is sexy. Especially when it is fast paced and high scoring. More offense in the NBA means more dunks, more three point shots, and unfortunately more free throws that stop the action. More offense in the NFL mean more touchdowns, field goals, and passing yards. It has led to the monster passing era that we are now witnessing. It also means more penalties that again, stop the action.

I realize that the commissioners and rule makers of these sports are trying to drive up interest in their sports by shaping the rules to significantly benefit the offense, but is it good for the for the sport?

The commissioners like to use the "safety of the athletes" excuse, and I do believe that to be a positive by-product, but money and viewership is what drives these decisions. These business men, and make no mistake, that is what they are, think solely about the profits.

I am not against the leagues and owners making money. That is what allows the athletes to be paid so handsomely. (This is another issue I have, but that is for another blog) I do however, have an issue with money getting in the way of what is best for the sport.

I miss the Pistons of the 1980's, even though I am an avid Bulls fan. I miss the New York Knicks of the 1990's, again regardless of my fandom. I miss the Pat Riley led Miami Heat of the 90's. The 90's Bulls themselves were a ferocious defense that would have multiple people fouled out every game under today's offensive coddling NBA rules. I miss the New York Giants of the late 80's and early 90's. The Steel Curtain could never be as effective under today's rules.

One reason I have an issue with defense going by the way side, is that I loved watching defense as much as I love watching offense. Even more, I loved seeing players be so good that they overcome incredible defense to make spectacular plays. Think the "Jordan Rules" employed by the Detroit Pistons, and Jordan learning to overcome the beatings he took, to sweep the Defending champions out of the playoffs. The closest thing we have seen to that type of defense in recent years was the 2008 championship when the Celtics stifled Kobe and the Lakers. Kobe had no idea how to overcome that kind of defense. The Lakers of 2004 didn't have any idea how to overcome a similar defense from Detroit. The bottom line is that today's stars don't know how to handle good defense, yet they are still being compared to the former stars who had to learn. Not only did they have to learn how to overcome those defenses, most of them had to learn how to play that kind of defense in order to be successful. Even if there were no individual defensive stalwarts on a team, team defense was immensely important.

I hear fans use zone defenses as support for the defense of today's NBA. If any person listens to sports talk radio, and has heard the vast majority of former NBA stars who have been interviewed, they say that Michael Jordan would average 50 against today's defenses. Those same former players have stated that players like Magic, Larry, Kareem, Hakeem, Isaiah, etc, would destroy the zone defense. (Keep in mind, they all played zone defense in college, and understood as well as today's players do)

I am in no way saying that players like Kobe, LeBron, Dywane Wade, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, or Derrick Rose are not great players. They are. I am only suggesting that they may not be as high on the list by the end of their careers that they will be given credit for being.

The NFL has had some of the same issues with offensive favoritism. I understand the concern for concussions. It is a real issue that needs to be addressed. Defensive players now have to ease up, change their body position, think rather than react. Having played football, and spoken with doctors and trainers, this can be dangerous to the defensive player as well. Tensing up, changing head position, or easing up at the last second leads to injury.

Speaking for my own viewing pleasure, I miss seeing the big hits. I don't want to see anyone get hurt, but there have been years of football with big hits, where no one was hurt. I understand the dangers. I myself was taken off the field on a stretcher because I couldn't feel anything below my neck for ten minutes. I still would not have wanted the rules to have been changed. If safety is the desired goal, then teach these guys proper tackling technique and head placement. Even at the NFL level.

All in all, I know what the changes are about, but I do not like them. I feel the integrity of these games are being damaged.