Experts projecting mediocrity for Suns due to lack of 'clutch' scorer; Harden's future with Thunder hazy.
By RANDY HILLFS Arizona
After a summer of roster juggling, the
Phoenix Suns have inspired the big thinkers from at least one basketball-bouncing website to expect a fourth-place finish.
That's fourth in the Pacific Division.
This judgment was passed down by five writers from Hoopsworld.com (three fourth-place votes, one fifth and one third), who are taking the time to examine each NBA team in categorical form.
Perhaps the most telling aspect of their Suns critique was the uncertainty inside the "Top Clutch Player" category. With Steve Nash now working in Hollywood, the author of this Suns preview listed Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola as clutch candidates.
We'll see if someone emerges as the season progresses; unfortunately, entering training camp with this question in the wind pretty much explains why the Hoopsworld guys expect little more from Phoenix than a hearty stab at the eighth playoff spot (if that).
If Beasley becomes the stretch-run leader on a nightly basis, it would strongly suggest that the Suns have struck reasonably priced gold. Beasley is the only player on the payroll with the physical capacity to be special.
I know. Dragic has a shot at being really good, too.
NASH RIDING OFF TO SUNSET BLVD.
In a recent tweet, Nash informed his followers of a "last stand" night on the town with the Suns' training staff. The two-time MVP indicated he was picking up the tab for dinner and upper-tier transportation.
It's only right that these expert caretakers of muscles, joints and ligaments be shuttled around town in a stretch limo.
We'll soon see how much of a stretch it will be for Lakers coach Mike Brown to present the merging of Nash into Kobe Bryant's traffic.
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins -- who often is given credit for more than he seems to deserve -- recently took on the role of front-office media emissary.
When asked about the contractual future of teammate James Harden, the fabulously remunerated Perk assured his inquisitor that OKC and Harden were closing in on a deal. That, of course, would be funeral music for fans of the Suns or any team seemingly interested in hiring Harden as a free agent next summer.
But subsequent reports strongly suggest the luxury-tax-threatening franchise is not close to re-signing the former Arizona State star. And, by the way, Harden reportedly is still seeking a max deal.
A max deal probably won't come directly from OKC, but the Thunder could wait for another team to offer its max-level deal (which would be less than the Harden or any other player's own team can offer) and match it ... and then chew on the luxury-tax ramifications.
So, like that nerdy character on the Cox telephone commercial who gave his phone number to three "smokin' hot ladies," we're saying there is a chance.
Former Suns forward Matt Barnes is moving down the hall from his Lakers stall at Staples Center for a space in the Clippers' dressing room.
The addition of the crusty journeyman raised a few eyebrows from league observers who may think ol' Matt may not fit in with solid citizens such as Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill.
Not so fast, chemistry students.
"First of all, they're trying to win a championship ... not a trophy for having the most nice guys in a locker room," an NBA personnel executive said of the Clippers. "Second, he (Barnes) fills a need for a wing defender and he brings them some toughness."
By the way, in case you're thinking the Clips already had some knuckleheads in new additions Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom, please note that both players are considered solid teammates.
Well, as solid as they can be when not associated with their cable TV shows.