by Craig Kwasniewski
Boris Diaw and Raja Bell for J-Rich... Is that a good deal? Will this save the setting Suns 2008-09 season? How long will Larry Brown put up with Diaw's antics (taking games off, showing up in October out of shape, etc.)? Here are a few quick thoughts on the second trade of the day:
Phoenix Suns - What is the hell are they thinking? The Suns ship off outside shooting and defense in Bell to get an athletic slasher to go along with resident slashers Barnes, Hill and Stat (who is a slashing power forward off the pick and rolls with Nash). So with their biggest weakness being a lack of consistent perimeter shooting, the Suns dump another jump shooter. So OF COURSE load up with another slasher, they already have a very immobile Shaq clogging the lane (for the 50 games he plays) so it makes perfect sense.
And Nash's game of dribbling in, around and through defenses (which is spread out and guarding all the perimeter shooters during the Seven Seconds or Less era) to create open shots, how will he react with defenses packing it in?
During their losing streak to NOLA, the Hornets continually spread the defense with quality three point shooters, creating lanes for CP3 to roam through. Basically beating Phoenix at what used to be their bread and butter. Now the Suns are force feeding this new identity under Terry Porter while half the roster prefers the old one. I can't see this deal working at all.
Charlotte Bobcats - They dump one of their best offensive players for an old Larry Brown guy and a very not so Larry Brown guy. Raja Bell owes his NBA career to LB for finding and starting him back in 2001 with the 76ers. Bell will bring that defensive win-the-right-way mentality that LB is trying to instill in Charlotte. What he lacks in offense Bell will bring in leadership and heart. Boris Diaw is not a Larry Brown guy!!!! He shows up in training camp out of shape, he wanders defensively and takes random games off. What's the over/under before he's in Brown's doghouse? 2 weeks? 24 hours? 7 seconds?
Anyway, if I'm one of the 1,321 Bobcat fans who give a crap, I'm wondering where they're going with this deal. Bell seems more like a final piece to a championship contender and not a starter for a lottery-bound team. Maybe Charlotte was keen on clearing J-Rich off the payroll.
That being said, here are a few notes from the Suns-Lakers game from my seat in Section 316:
Lakers went 2007-08 down the stretch. Phil Jackson, probably tired of blown leads, poor finishes and Vujacic's slump (9 points is the five previous games), went with Gasol, Odom, Kobe, Vujacic and Fisher in the final six minutes. This is, the same lineup the Lakers used down the stretch during their playoff run last season. It worked to perfection as the Lakers held the hot shooting Suns in check and closed out nicely for a 115 - 110 win.
Teams are zoning the crap out of the Lakers. Forget defensive breakdowns, the Lakers biggest problem is their inability to score against zone defenses. You'd think that a team with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and several decent shooters wouldn't have any trouble against a base 2-3 zone but they do. Their perimeter guys are too tentative and keep waiting for Kobe to bail them out. One simple adjustment is putting the sure-handed Gasol in the high post and cutting Odom or Bryant to the hole should open up some easy hoops. Seems very basic, no?
Barnes and Hill kept Phoenix close. Grant Hills gave a good impression of 1997 Grant Hill last night hitting his J's and locking down defensively. Mix in a hot shooting Matt Barnes from beyond the arc and a very short-handed Suns gave the Lakers all they could tonight (a good sign for coach Porter, who almost lost control of the team last week.)
Bynum looks out of shape. There were too many rebounds that rolled by and too much of a tentative offense from Andrew Bymum to have me believe that he's in mid-season shape. Maybe that's also why Jackson benched him down the stretch. Whatever it is he's too young to let a loose rebound roll to Phoenix for an offensive board.
The Suns future. The J-Rich trade seems like the beginning of a few more deals down the road. They're one slasher too many and keen on changing from the 7 Seconds or Less era. Coach Porter survived a potential mutiny last week and shipping Diaw and Bell to NBA hell in Charlotte might ignite a fire to carry them through All-Star break. The "play hard or go to Charlotte" mantra will carry a lot of weight.