With Shaq gone, Suns clearly in process of overhauling team - The Explorer: Sports

With Shaq gone, Suns clearly in process of overhauling team

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Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:35 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

Associated Press

By unloading 325-pound Shaquille O'Neal and his equally massive contract, the Phoenix Suns made it clear they are no longer tweaking.

They're overhauling — and more dramatic moves could be coming.

"We're in transition, and I think that transition has been a little awkward the last year," general manager Steve Kerr said Friday after the club introduced first-round draft pick Earl Clark at a U.S. Airways Center news conference.

It may remain awkward, at least for a while, as Suns fixtures Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash are mentioned in trade speculation.

The hottest draft-day rumor had Stoudemire going to Western Conference rival Golden State in a deal that would include former Davidson sharpshooter Stephen Curry, drafted seventh overall on Thursday. But that potential deal fizzled when Golden State coach Don Nelson emphatically said Friday that Curry "ain't going anyplace."

Kerr acknowledged that he had spoken to the Warriors about a possible trade involving Stoudemire, who could become a free agent after next season.

"Obviously, that's the sexy one that's out there right now that's flying around," Kerr said. "It's been way overblown, and I'm not going to comment on any details of it. But I will say that we've talked about that. We've talked about a lot of deals with a lot of teams and will continue to do so because that's what we do."

The deal that sent Shaq to Cleveland, where he'll team with LeBron James, brought little in return for Phoenix, aside from financial flexibility and a chance to begin looking ahead.

Shaq's year-and-a-half in the desert brought one playoff victory — a year ago. The Suns missed out on the postseason this year.

O'Neal made the All-Star Game last season but seemed an odd fit on an up-tempo team. If Kerr has any regrets about acquiring Shaq, he's keeping them to himself.

"`What we did was, we decided to give a team that was slightly in decline, and no longer a championship contender in our minds, one last chance," Kerr said. "`Whether it was the right thing to do or not, that's open for debate, and if it was not the right thing to do, then that's my fault. I'm the general manager.

"I believe when you have the chance, you go for it, and that's what we did," Kerr added. "Now with that said, it didn't pan out. We didn't win in the playoffs, and so now it's time to start moving forward."

Clark will be part of that move. The Suns selected the 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward out of Louisville 14th overall. In the second round, the Suns picked Oklahoma forward Taylor Griffin, the older brother of top overall pick Blake Griffin.

"`I still feel like I'm in a dream right now," said the 21-year-old Clark, who averaged a team-high 14.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game as a junior last season.

Suns coach Alvin Gentry said he was impresssed with Clark's defensive abilities and his versatility.

"I think he's going to be a very good player for us for a lot of years," Gentry said.

Kerr said Clark is the sort of player he's hoping to stockpile during the Suns' transition.

"I want length, I want defense," Kerr said. "Length and defense and youth is my vision. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen overnight. It takes several drafts. It takes maybe a couple of trades, but we're continuing to do that."

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