It's safe to assume that Manu Ginobili was happy to learn that the Suns have traded Raja Bell and Boris Diaw to the Bobcats. Diaw, along with Bell, was an annoyance to San Antonio. In my estimation, they were Phoenix's best two defenders. Additionally, Diaw created match-up problems for the Spurs, at least under the reign of D'Antoni. In short, one would expect that Ginobili's teammates joined him in a collective sigh of relief. Or not.
Raja Bell is no longer the defensive ace of 2005 vintage. John Hollinger:
Bell had been visibly declining over the past two seasons and is probably better suited to a bench role at this point in his career. That might happen if the Bobcats opt to use D.J. Augustin and Raymond Felton together in the backcourt. Brown will value Bell's feistiness, but his offensive output and lateral movement aren't what they once were.Making matters worse, Bell had become something of a locker room Bartleby over his disenchantment with the Suns new Spurs-lite approach. And while Boris Diaw still creates problems for the Spurs, his role was marginalized with arrival of Shaquille O'Neal and further diminished with the advent of Terry Porter. In short, these were players who crooned out renditions of Now I Am A Was and I Don't Mind If You Forget Me during late night karaoke.
Jason Richardson is the proverbial shot in the arm that Phoenix needs to play better. He adds athleticism and shooting. He should thrive by hovering around the arc when Shaq and Stoudemire are working the block. I would go on, but by this point most readers have read similar analysis elsewhere. In general, I concur with the consensus: this trade makes the Suns a better team.
Does it improve the Suns' chances against San Antonio? Yes, and for the same reasons stated above. Shaq is playing well for Phoenix and Amare routinely puts up gaudy numbers against the Spurs. It will make the Suns a difficult out. But they're still an out. While this trade is beneficial to Phoenix, it has merely elevated them from a non-playoff team to a probable first round elimination. As Graydon wrote over at Hardwood, these are not your daddy's Suns.
Nevertheless, they'll give their opponent a feisty 6 game series with a little drama. And the Suns faithful is likely to take enough time away from Zapruder film studies to find at least one conspiracy theory to work into their gloomy folklore. Probably something about Bill Ayers, killer bees making their way north from Texas, and Dick Bavetta receiving foul calls from Gregg Popovich's beard. You know, the usual. Oh yes, and someone will bemoan Bowen. Someone is always bemoaning Bowen. "He plays defense," they say. "It's not fair," they say.
For what it's worth, I can see the Spurs and Suns meeting in the first round yet again. As is par for the course, the Spurs are a better team than the pundits planned while New Orleans has a flawed roster and Houston is--surprise, surprise--unhealthy. The Spurs will finish first or second in the SW and earn a playoff seed somewhere between 2-4. If Phoenix makes the playoffs, it will be in the bottom half of the bracket. So maybe we can have one last dance for old times sake.
Update: The Bleacher Report is reporting the expected, Boris Diaw has joined Raja Bell with a sad, nostalgic tune.
Diaw's is quoted as saying "It definitely wasn't as fun," It wasn't as exciting for the fans. It's not as fun for everybody [on the team]. I'll always remember Phoenix with Mike [D'Antoni]. We went from a winning team that was the most exciting team in the league to a half-winning team that wasn't exciting at all."Somewhere a young sports psychologist has a ready-made thesis. What affects does disemboweling a successful run and gun team with the jagged-edge of a slow, plodding half court blade have on a locker room (or some such title)? More than anything, Steve Kerr has defeated his team before they step onto the court. Dark place, indeed. In an effort to save time prior to February, I'll start the Shaq to Cleveland for Wally's contract and Anderson Varejao trade rumors. The sounds coming from Phoenix's locker room are the moans of discontent. Talk amongst yourselves.