Suns Looking Within For Improvement

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — With the Steve Nash era over and no sign of a Valley of the Sun-themed version of the Big 3 on the horizon, fans of the Phoenix Suns are bracing themselves for a rebuilding project that could be as painstaking a process as they have witnessed in years.

It’s a fact of life for fans of basically every franchise in the NBA (save for the Lakers), and a reality that the Suns organization is tackling in a somewhat unconventional and rather refreshing way.

Instead of scrambling for a quick fix or looking for some superstar to rescue them, the Suns are focusing their attentions within their program and going about the business of trying to build a playoff contender from the inside. They are making player development the staples of their operation, with 17-year NBA veteran Lindsey Hunter leading the charge as the coach in charge of helping develop homegrown talent.

Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic provides some details:

Hunter began working out players this month with more individualized plans to come in September, when voluntary sessions begin.

“We’re trying to put together a system where we’re no longer looking for outside influences to create a better product,” Hunter said. “We want to do it right from the interior. A lot of people say, ‘You got to go get better players,’ which is true. But you have to make what you have better and we’re serious about it now.”

The Suns intend to hire a young former NBA big man and make the staff available to players “24-7,” General Manager Lance Blanks said.

“This is really important to me,” Blanks said. “It’s not something that was needed. What the organization was doing worked. It won at a very high level. Different personnel and situation. This will create a lot of continuity between front office, coaches and training staff.”

Mark West, the Suns’ vice president of player programs, will be used more — and that is long overdue for how he serves as a strong role model and an intelligent basketball man. High-character people such as West and Hunter can be an after-hours extension of the coaches.

“You have to approach a guy where you find him,” said West, who fared well with teenage Amar’e Stoudemire. “With some guys, you have to egg them on and build the relationship. With some, once they know what you do, they come to you and get issues off their chest or want me to be an advocate. Sometimes, I need to tell them, ‘You’re not playing because you’re not working hard enough.’ With tough love, you’ve got to bring it.

” … Trust me, the clock is ticking. There’s an end to this. We’ll try to make sure they get the most out of their careers.”

They’ll get a chance to test their program immediately with Michael Beasley providing the ultimate challenge for Hunter and this new initiative.

If the Suns can get the most out of Beasley’s immense raw talents, Hunter’s work will be validated. They have an intriguing mix of young and seasoned talent to work with — guys like Wesley Johnson and Kendall Marshall and Luis Scola and Goran Dragic — that will require someone to help mold the group together off the floor while coach Alvin Gentry does the same on the floor.

That said, we have to admit that we admire Hunter and the Suns taking on the old elbow grease approach to improving their program. Time will tell if it works or was even the right approach. But in a league where trying to copy someone else’s blueprint for success has been the norm for years, a novel approach is welcomed.


  1. suns are cold right now…need some more better players

  2. jared says:

    So Kobe is undeveloped?

  3. Willy says:

    Bring back the mound round of rebound! He can still play, or coach!

    • Bizzman23 says:

      He barely beat the 100000 year old ref in the foot race a few years back, if your talking about Chuck.

  4. grantstern says:

    They’re copying the Miami Heat’s model! Sure, everyone thinks it was just as simple as signing a Big 3 and going to the Finals, but the Heat brought in Alonzo Morning to be a liaison from upper management to the players, have always had an extensive organization and personal growth mantra. Half of the Heat’s roster were mainstays groomed over a multi-year period last year or younger role players…

    • Michiel says:

      You honestly believe that..
      This world is doomed

      • dattebayo says:

        Well the Heat do develop their players to some degree and they are better at it, than many other franchises. Joel Anthony, James Jones, Dexter Pittman, Eddy Curry, and Udonis Haslem are all players that do 1 thing really well and are solid or even not good at other things. Joel Anthony is a great defender and shot blocker, but he has no offensive game. James Jones is a spot up shooter, he can’t take 2 dribbles and get a good shot up and he is only a solid defender. Haslem is a great rebounder and he has an elbow jumper, but he is not a great pick’n’roll player and he can only guard the 4 effectively. Eddy Curry and Dexter Pittman are limited in their athleticism and conditioning and they don’t produce yet, but they are still on the team (Pittman is at least). Because of the Big Three, the Heat probably are forced to play these kind of guys in some ways, but they sure use them well during the season despite their deficiencies and they continue to believe in them and their abilities.
        I don’t think we need to mention, Wade, Chalmers and Spoelstra, who are homegrown stars in some ways. Wade is probably the best SG in todays game, if he is healthy. Chalmers is a solid starter and would be on half the teams in the league and Spoelstra has been with the organization for over 17 years now and has 2 Conference Titles and a Ring to show with the Big Three…

        I ain’t sure, but have the Lakers ever developed a rookie (like Anthony or Chalmers) into a starter over the last 10 years, that has stayed with the team? Did the ever Knicks do that? Look at players like Javale McGee and Danny Green, they weren’t in high regards around the league when they were with Washington and Cleveland but they sure do well in Denver and San Antonio at the moment.

      • Durantula says:

        Nice! you had some pretty good points in your comment