Phoenix Suns: Rebuilding year turns dismal for Suns

2013-04-19T00:00:00Z Phoenix Suns: Rebuilding year turns dismal for SunsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - The Phoenix Suns traded away two-time league MVP Steve Nash and let former All-Star Grant Hill leave to kick off a rebuilding effort, knowing it would likely lead to a difficult 2012-13 season.

They probably didn't expect it to be this tough.

With no go-to scorer, continuing defensive deficiencies and an interim coach who doesn't know if he'll be back in front of the bench, the Suns finished 25-57, the second-worst record in franchise history behind their 16-66 effort in their inaugural season in 1968-69.

After a season like this, there's plenty of room to grow.

"It was a tough season," Suns point guard Goran Dragic said on Thursday as the players cleaned out their lockers at US Airways Center. "We struggled to only have 25 wins. I don't know who is going to be here next season, but we have to remember this season, how it was, try to fix the situation so the next season is going to be better."

The Suns went through a dramatic overhaul during the offseason, revamping their roster with an eye on getting younger.

Unable to come to terms on a new contract with Nash, Phoenix left fans irate by trading him to the hated Lakers. Hill, another popular Suns player, also was allowed to become a free agent, signing with the Clippers, and forward Channing Frye, a former Arizona Wildcat, had to sit out the season due to an enlarged heart.

The Suns tried to make up for the losses by rebuilding their roster.

They signed Dragic, the former backup to Nash who was traded to Houston in 2010, along with Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson, two former high draft picks still trying to live up to their potential.

Phoenix also added gritty forward Luis Scola, center Jermaine O'Neal and used the No. 13 overall pick in last year's draft to get North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall.

The pieces never fit into a cohesive unit.

Phoenix struggled from the start and went into a tailspin in December and January, losing 13 of 15 to cost popular coach Alvin Gentry his job after five seasons.

The Suns then turned to player development director Lindsey Hunter as interim coach, a move that infuriated assistants Dan Majerle and Elston Turner, who left the team.

The change in leadership didn't do much good; Phoenix closed the season with 16 losses in its final 19 games to finish a whopping 31 games behind the Clippers in the Pacific Division.

"It was a struggle for us - I'm not going to sugarcoat it," Suns guard Jared Dudley said. "But hopefully we can get better next year."

Dragic had an impressive return to the desert, leading the Suns with 14.7 points and 7.4 assists. Scola gave Phoenix a boost as well, averaging 12.8 points - second-best on the team - while grabbing 6.6 rebounds per game.

The rest of the newcomers were inconsistent.

O'Neal played well at times and was Phoenix's third-leading rebounder, but was limited to 55 games.

Johnson had a hard time earning minutes under Gentry and took a little while to find a role under Hunter before finishing the season strong.

Beasley never fully lived up to the potential of his talent in four seasons with Miami and Minnesota, occasionally putting up big numbers, but also making bad decisions off the court.

The Suns are set up to rebuild in the future, with plenty of salary cap space and a stockpile of draft picks. The question is whether Hunter will be leading them next season.

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