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Suns Regain Title Hopes with JRich Acquisition

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During the second week of December, the Phoenix Suns traded guards Raja Bell and Sean Singletary with forward Boris Diaw-Riffiod to the Charlotte Bobcats for swingmen Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley.

As Phoenix and Peoria, AZ native and current Arizona State grad student Dan Wandrey delicately put it: "I...hate the Suns management. (General Manager) Steve Kerr can eat it."

The trade solved a couple of issues for the Suns and has actually given them more to work with in the transition with new head coach Terry Porter, the newfound defensive philosophy and the paramount thoughts of winning the NBA championship. One issue that was solved was the ornery airs protruding from the shooting guard spot, particularly from Bell. Bell chaffed under Porter's new style and was not happy about the change in style--in fact, multiple news sources reported soon after the trade was announced that Bell had requested a trade just a fortnight prior to the deal.

Another issue that was solved was the issue of athleticism from the same position; Richardson, in his prime at 27, is known for his elite athleticism and energy and brings with him deft shooting touch and the ability to penetrate defenses and solid defense (all of which are needed with age being a major issue with Shaquille O'Neal, Steve Nash and Grant Hill)--all of those attributes were declining in Bell's game, as his numbers dipped considerably from the previous two seasons and is now working away from his prime years, at age 32.

Thirdly, Diaw, in the middle of a 5-year, $45 million contract, has been relegated to bench duty and has been a sub-par reserve ever since Amare Stoudemire returned from his double microfracture surgery two summers ago. The Frenchman, naturally a point guard who size has now dictated his unnatural slotting as a post player, was not helping the Suns nearly enough to keep his salary on the books and the change of philosophy of play was not highlighting his skill set, both as a starter or as a reserve player.

The only downside to the trade for Richardson, on Phoenix's end, was having to give up a competent backup point guard in the rookie Singletary.

Current Ohio State University student Matt Duthie weighed in on the trade, saying that he "felt bad for Phoenix", essentially because of Richardson's rep as a Vince Carter clone and sporadic injuries that have ailed him from time to time; on the contrary, history says that Richardson is more durable, and while he lacks the star power of Carter, he has the ability to positively contribute to a team's winning success, not unlike his 2006-2007 season with the Golden State Warriors.

The onus of criticism is more appropriately directed toward Steve Kerr, former coach Mike D'Antoni and ownership, for past blunders for the sake of cost-cutting, while simultaneously pursuing a championship.

Up until the previous two seasons, while underwhelming individually, the Suns never truly played good team defense as a free-wheeling, offense-oriented team. Tradition dictates that teams have to defend well in the playoffs to win championships, but the Suns did no such thing. Nash has been historically known for his shortcomings physically, as a slender guard with serious back issues, Stoudemire has not yet distinguished himself as being an elite post defender (let alone a reliable shotblocker), and former Sun Shawn Marion was greatly irked because of Amare's laziness on the block, only adding to his lists of insecurities as a "role" player. Bell and former center Kurt Thomas were the only ones that cared enough themselves to check their man solidly.

In truth, the management set the Suns back, even before the trade for Shaquille O'Neal in February 2008, by trading away the rights to Rajon Rondo (who led the Boston Celtics to the 2008 NBA title), the rights to current Portland Trail Blazer Rudy Fernandez (who almost singlehandedly won Spain Olympic gold in 2008) and Thomas (who after being traded to the Seattle SuperSonics in 2007 for 2nd round picks, helped the Spurs compete for a title in 2008).

In short, deductive reasoning urges that Phoenix should have kept Rondo, Fernandez and Thomas. Using Diaw as the 6'9" point guard that he is would have also helped--it was the position he played in France, which allowed him to become an elite 1st round prospect in the 2003 Draft; and Grant Hill should probably never have started at small forward (to preserve his health). Former owner Jerry Colangelo, current owner Robert Sarver and D'Antoni, all mindful of the team's strengths and weaknesses, just did not capitalize the long-term aspects of building the Suns.

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