The scene seems eerily similar to my kindergarten class, where we sat in a circle and passed around what my teacher called “the conch.” If you held the conch, just a regular seashell, you were allowed to speak. If you didn’t have the conch, your silence was insisted upon. It was kind of like Lord of the Flies, except an adult was actually in charge, and I don’t think my teacher considered us savages when the conch was somebody else’s.
The 20-24 Phoenix Suns gathered at mid-court during yesterday’s practice, to discuss how to right their recent wrongs. Their defense has too often resembled a five-man fish net, with holes everywhere. Their rebounding, too often non-existent. Their offense, not enough to carry their obvious flaws. Never mind that those are natural side effects of a roster that combines twenty-five small forwards. These Suns are frustrated, and they want to fix this leak before it sinks the entire franchise.
“We had a good stretch and now we’re having a bad stretch and we’ve got to find a way to end this as quickly as possible,” Steve Nash told the Arizona Republic. “We’ve just got to come out, play hard and compete and give ourselves a chance to win. If we lose, we can sleep at night if we compete. I feel like there’s been moments where we’ve been caught thinking instead of fighting.”
Questioning his team’s fight, Nash sounds the alarm, pleading for change. But it’s difficult to imagine a team that starts both Channing Frye and Vince Carter ever being tough. The problem is personnel more than anything else. Carter is who we thought he was, a disinterested star who continues to underachieve despite natural physical gifts that make even Michael Jordan envious.
One recent Carter anecdote sheds more light on the unfulfilled promise of his career: Grant Hill, noted great guy and awesome teammate, questioned Carter’s diet and conditioning. “He eats one too many cookies on that plane,” said Hill during a radio interview. Carter has never been willing to take the extra step to corral the greatness that once seemed his destiny. He’s never been willing to cut that extra cookie out of his diet, or to cut hard on every play. Now 34 years old, Carter’s an old dog. And it’s tough to teach an old dog new tricks. To continue using cliches, it’s not the size of the athleticism in the player, it’s the size of the combination of athleticism and fight in the player. Err, or something like that. What I mean to say is, Carter’s never been known as a fighter. If you ever did have to make a fighter analogy with Carter, he’d be the one with a glass jaw.
Maybe Carter should take notes when playing against Kendrick Perkins tonight.
“(Perkin’s) is a really physical guy,” Marcin Gortat told SB Nation. “He’s a guy who will never let it go. I’m going to kind of compare him to a little dog. These little dogs, they will never let go. They’re so small, they just keep barking and just keep running around you. You’re going to keep throwing the little ball and they’re going to keep running and bring it back. He’ll grab to your leg and he’ll never let go. That’s how is Kendrick Perkins. He’ll never let go. He’ll keep fighting with you, he’ll keep pushing you, keep hitting you and at some point you’re going to go like, ‘damn dude, you don’t have enough?’”
“But honestly, that’s great,” Gortat continued. “That’s character and I really respect him for doing that. I always seen this guy battling Dwight (Howard)…I really respect his game and respect him as a player. Even though right now he’s my enemy because we play today, I’m happy he’s back on the floor. He’s a good player and I believe that he deserves to play because of his hard work and his heart.”
According to Gortat, Stan Van Gundy used to say the key to playing against a player like Perkins wasn’t strategy — the key was having balls. Some of Gortat’s teammates should find some. Carter’s, specifically, have been lost for quite some time.
It’s a shame, too, that these Suns lack fight. They are wasting the remarkable twilight of Nash’s career.