With only Jason Kidd, Danny Manning and Steve Nash under contract
for 1998-99, the Suns were headed for major off-season changes
even if they hadn't been eliminated in the first round of the
playoffs for the third straight year. Cliff Robinson disappeared
in the team's 3-1 loss to the Spurs (he had a nasty habit of
vanishing with the Trail Blazers, too), which means he'll
probably disappear from Phoenix next season. Dennis Scott is
telling friends that he's expendable because the Suns want to
make a serious run at free-agent-in-waiting Scottie Pippen.
While Rex Chapman will return, Kevin Johnson is likely to retire
unless he can swallow hard and accept being paid about half of
the $7 million he made this season.
The most important decision facing Phoenix involves 6'9",
220-pound Antonio McDyess, 23, perhaps the most athletic young
power forward in the game. Though the Suns have doubts about
whether he'll develop into a superstar who can win it all for
them, they do believe in his upside. That's why they will give
strong consideration to paying him as much as $80 million over
the next seven years.
McDyess must be more aggressive to justify the $80
million deal that Phoenix is considering.
(John W. McDonough)
"I would love to have this guy my entire coaching career,
because of his talent and because he does whatever you ask,"
Suns coach Danny Ainge says. "He wants to get better. So many
young guys don't care about that."
McDyess caresperhaps too much for his own good. Nearly a year
ago, after the Nuggets granted his request for a trade by
dealing him to Phoenix, Denver officials declared that he would
never be a franchise player. McDyess is still stung by that. He
had hoped to leave the Nuggets without rancor, but instead he
felt betrayed by the team's management. "I said nothing but good
things about Denver," says McDyess. "Then I read all these
comments. I couldn't believe it."
He lugged that baggage to Phoenix. McDyess struggled as he tried
to adjust to a new role, a new system, a new coach. Before the
All-Star break he averaged 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds. "I put
too much pressure on myself," he says. "I came in here thinking,
I'll show the Nuggets they were wrong. I didn't want anyone in
Phoenix to think they made a mistake by getting me. I was trying
so hard to fit in. And then there was the money thing. Was I
worth this or worth that? Sometimes, it got inside my head.
Finally I just said, What have you got to lose? Just play."
McDyess's numbers in the playoffs: 17.8 points and 13.3 boards.
More than anything, he needs seasoningand a little more
cockiness. Consider Game 1 against San Antonio. With 10 seconds
to play, the Suns, trailing 100-96, ran a play that called for
McDyess to receive the ball near the free throw line. He could
look for a cutter in the middle, kick it back to the wing for a
three or take the shot himself. McDyess wound up with both a
wide-open 14-footer and a lane to the basket, but he was so
intent on exploring the other options that he passed up the
easiest and best ones: his own. He kicked it out to Scott, who
missed a hurried three, and the Suns lost 102-96. "I didn't want
to make a mistake that would cost us the game," McDyess says.
"Next time, I won't think twice about shooting it."
"Look," Ainge said, "we don't need him to be a superstar
overnight." True. But for $80 million, sometime soon would be
Issue date: May 11, 1998