A lot's changed with the Phoenix Suns this summer. Longtime franchise linchpin Steve Nash was traded to Los Angeles to be closer to his kids (and, as luck would have it, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard). Grant Hill also headed for L.A., albeit to join the Clippers, while veteran frontcourt players Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick were shipped to the New Orleans Hornets in a (fairly protracted) three-team deal and former UNC point guard Kendall Marshall was tapped with the 13th overall selection in the 2012 NBA draft to be the team's point guard of the future. In sum, Phoenix has begun an organizational overhaul — one that's unlikely to get the Suns back into the playoff picture anytime soon, but one that needed to happen in order for the team to move on from the Nash era.
As Suns General Manager Lance Blanks — a man who's been known to take a grim, if purely truthful, view of the human condition — told Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, the goal of the overhaul was to build a roster that could sustain through the cold winters to come (metaphorically speaking) in the valley of the sun:
"The first goal was to be able to put a team out there that would handle the next era of the organization — the rigors and challenges," Blanks said. "A transition like that is not always seamless. We wanted to make sure we had people to weather the ups and downs of entering the next era and also find guys whose career paths and trajectories fit the future of the organization. Just about every guy is a fresh-start guy."
The team's main offseason additions fit that profile. Goran Dragic gets a chance to run the show full time after splitting point-guard duties with the Houston Rockets and during his first stint in Phoenix. Michael Beasley gets his third shot at becoming an All-Star after falling out of favor with the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves. And Luis Scola, fresh off a strong scoring performance for Argentina at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, gets to remind everybody that, despite his Morey's-Grand-Gambit-inspired amnesty, he's still one of the most talented scoring forwards in the world.
To hear Blanks tell it, though, the primary attraction of Scola for the Suns was neither his expansive repertoire of low-post pivots and counters, nor his smooth midrange jumper, nor the fact that he enters the season with something to prove. "Freshness" didn't much enter into it; it was something ... um ... else:
"Scola gives us a griminess and a crustiness that we need," Blanks said. "He's what I call an example. He's a good guy and a good example for young guys to be around and observe."
On one hand, Blanks' comments make sense — there's a certain type of resilience that a player develops in his journey from youngster to veteran, and with Nash and Hill departing in the offseason, the players with the most NBA experience on Phoenix's roster were Sebastian Telfair (eight years) and Channing Frye (seven). Bringing in the 32-year-old Scola, who began playing professionally in his native Argentina when he was 16, adds some needed veteran leadership to a fairly young roster.
On the other: You couldn't have found a nicer way to say that, Lance Blanks? One that doesn't make it seem like you regard your prize power-forward acquisition as something of an itinerant creep with greasy hair and a too-casual attitude toward washing underneath his fingernails? Granted, Scola's often stubbly and stringy appearance on the court does little to help him here, but this couldn't have been the most enticing way to introduce the guy who's going to be using the lion's share of your half-court possessions to the fan base.
Then again, maybe Blanks is taking the opportunity to position the Suns for future free-agent classes. I mean, if the Oklahoma City Thunder choose to max out Serge Ibaka rather than James Harden, now the 22-year-old guard (and former Arizona State Sun Devils star) knows there's a comfortable, easy-going organization that welcomes dudes with stuff like giant beards that probably smell a little like Funyuns. It's a bold maneuver, Lance; let's see if it pays off.