Commentary: Suns chances all but gone

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Thursday, January 22, 2009
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As the Suns traveled to New York to face former coach Mike D’Antoni on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but reflect.

Well, that sucked.

It’s time to stop kidding yourselves, Suns fans. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh —

I, too, rep. the gorilla — but let’s face it.

The good days are over.

The running, the laughing, the anticipation and hope? Kaboom.

Since 2005, the Suns have had two Conference Finals appearances (with only three total wins to show for it), some exciting controversy (thanks, Robert Horry), and a masterpiece of a series against the Lakers in the first round of the 2006 playoffs.

But all in all, the Sun really wasn’t as hot as once believed.

Phoenix had perfected being the worst of the best. They were arguably one good trade away from truly striking.

Enter General Manager Steve Kerr, who in a life before drained the hopes of Phoenicians with his play as a Wildcat (not to mention as a part of opposing NBA teams).

Apparently he’s not quite finished with his masterpiece, which I call “The Dismantling.”

OK, so maybe it’s true. A 7-seconds-or-less-style offense — one that invokes fast movement with screens and an emphasis on transition — can’t survive against a dominant inside or half-court game.

I am, of course, referring to the living legend Tim Duncan and his San Antonio Spurs.

Save 2006, when the Dallas Mavericks did the job, San Antonio has held the sword to the Phoenix’s throat since the 2004-2005 season.

As Los Angeles got bigger by adding Pau Gasol (giving the Lakers two 7-footers), Kerr decided it was time for the Suns to compete with the half-court threat in the West.

Challenge the unchallengeable.

Who better for the task than Shaq?

Oh wait, it’s 2009. Shaquille O’Neal might be a monster, but even Hercules got old.

I agree that the Suns needed a change. But it’s loss versus gain, and loss is tipping the scale.

When the Suns lost Shawn Marion (who admittedly wanted a change), Phoenix lost its ability to transition — at least to the degree they had been able to.

If the Suns were willing to sacrifice the best part of their offense, they needed an adequate replacement.

Sparse minutes from a proficient yet declining center wasn’t the change the Suns should have banked on, especially not in terms of longevity.

And now — as the West continues to scare small children with the likes of Denver, Los Angles and San Antonio leading the pack — the Suns attempt to attack with Grant Hill as their premiere starting forward, rookie Robin Lopez as Shaq’s backup, and guys like Louis Amundson as support.

Will the Suns make the playoffs?

Well, that’s a cheap party.

But I’d love to hear from anyone who actually believes the Phoenix Suns are a team that can compete for the Western Conference crown.

O’Neal, Steve Nash and Hill are getting older, Amar’e Stoudemire would like a ticket out (he can opt out of his contract in 2010), and despite Terry Porter being an excellent coach, they’ll never have D’Antoni back.

I’m sorry, my friends. I’d suggest you all start thinking of a lie about how you were born or lived in a different NBA city. That way, you’ll at least have a team in the near future to get excited about.

As long as the team you choose isn’t the Lakers, or the Spurs, of course.

Think the Suns still have a chance? E-mail Josh at ­