Friday, April 10, 2009

New Orleans Sports Scuttlebutt 4-9-09

Posted By on Fri, Apr 10, 2009 at 7:55 PM

by Clay A. Smith

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click to enlarge Nash going the Wright way

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Photograph by Jonathan Bachman

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With the playoffs drawing near, seeding in doubt, and facing three fading stars detached by postseason irrelevance, the Hornets fell to a Suns team that was there for the taking. Though Rasual Butler's miracle shot against Miami launched the Hornets into the  playoffs, the 105-100 loss to Phoenix conjured ominous overtones.

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Pride not withstanding, the Suns literally had nothing to play for. Mathematically out of the playoffs Phoenix is on the precipice of yet another disastrous extreme makeover, Steve Kerr edition. And though their numbers would suggest otherwise, at their core the Suns are a team comprised of aging vets oblivious of their impending obsolescence - their enduring debility being an indifference toward all things defense.

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Okay, sure it could be argued that the Sun's lack of success can in part be attributed to a competitive  Western Conference in which, give or take a few games, any number of teams could be in their position. Steve Nash has actually improved on his career numbers, averging 16 points and 9 assists. Shaquille O'Neal is experiencing a "Shaqaissance" averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds and Grant Hill has established himself as a reliable sixth-man. He's been healthy the entire season and is scoring 11 points a game in just under thirty minutes. But the Suns don't have the personality or personnel to defend well (opp. avg. 107 points a game against them) and their seven-second offense put on a few pounds with O'Neal's arrival.

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The  Hornets and the  Suns are just two different teams with very disparate futures. The Hornets are built around youth. Chris Paul and David West are two of the most under-appreciated stars in the league-ofttimes tasked with carrying their team during protracted periods of poor play. Paul is widely regarded as the games best point guard and West, a two time All-Star, has shown a toughness and tenacity that is rare in today's NBA.

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The Suns on the other hand, are plagued with declining MVPs, disgruntled infighting, megalomaniacs, and front office blunders: Amare Stoudemire wants to be traded. Nash isn't getting any younger. Hill, the NBA's version of the the Bionic man, is just happy to be on the court and out of surgery. And O'Neal is contented with being a live action caricature-more personality than player. But while that’s all “Shaqutastic," clever witticisms, narcissistic word play, and slamming the leagues up and coming superstars won't help you in the win column.

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So how do you explain a team with so much potential and so much to play for losing to a bunch of senior citizens spiraling in apathetic free-fall? How can New Orleans expect to make it out of the first round of the playoffs if they don't right themselves and play like a team that wants to be champions? No really I'm asking. Anybody?

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