Pippen says that Heat won’t break 72-game record

Via ESPN Chicago…

Scottie Pippen, during Hall of Fame festivities Friday morning, took exception to a prediction Van Gundy made to the Miami Herald that the Heat will break the mark the Bulls set in the 1995-96 season.

“Those guys’ biggest goal is to win a championship and not try to win 72 games,” Pippen told reporters. “But if Jeff Van Gundy wants to take a bet, I would bet him that they won’t break it.”

“I think that Boston is still the best team in the East. Miami has to prove themselves.”

Steve Kerr said something funny on Bill Simmons’ B.S. Report the other day about turning into the Mercury Morris of the ’96 Bulls:

I’m gonna put the champagne on ice and Jud Buechler, Bill Wennington and I are going to get together when they lose their 11th game.

He wasn’t serious, but the thought of the three of them celebrating the Heat’s 11th loss with champagne is funny as hell.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Steve Kerr on LeBron, Kobe, the Knicks and why he didn’t trade Amare

Steve Kerr appeared on the B.S. Report with Bill Simmons and had some interesting things to say. Feel free to head over to ESPN and spend an hour with Bill and Steve or read the highlights below:

On Ron Artest’s game-winning put-back in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals…

I wake up at night still thinking about that rebound — I mean, why didn’t it just hit the rim, and taken a normal bounce. I’ve thought about the game constantly, but as far as how that would have impacted my job, I haven’t looked at it that way.

On Ron Artest…

He was fantastic in the last couple of games of the Finals. I just think that Artest is one of the strangest players in the league because in a normal environment, in a normal game, sometimes he doesn’t look that great. He doesn’t make shots, he takes bad shots, he makes weird decisions, but when the game becomes kind of a street fight, especially like Game 7 of the Finals, there’s nobody you’d rather have. He’s just so strong and physical. And like that play he made against us in Game 6 — or Game 5 I guess it was — he just seems to have a knack for coming up with the loose ball, the rebound, whatever it is. He’s a crafty player, he really is.

On whether or not Amare Stoudemire is worth $100 million…

I was on the same page with Robert [Sarver, the owner of the Suns], with our management. We talked about it all year long. We really wanted him back, but if the price was too much though, then it didn’t make sense. And the main reason was because of the injuries. He’s had four knee surgeries, including a microfracture. You’ve seen what’s happened over the last few years with guys like Tracy McGrady and Jermaine O’Neal — the guys who come out of high school and play huge minutes right away. Their clock ticks a lot faster and they get to 29, 30, and they really start to slow down. I think you’ve even seen it a little bit with KG and Kobe last year although both guys really turned it on in the playoffs. But because of that, with Amare, I think he’s got a few really good years left in him. You know, years four, five and six though, if he can’t go and can’t produce, now you’re really tied up and locked down with a bad contract and that can be a major problem.

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Steve Kerr out as Suns GM

Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic has the scoop.

Kerr’s contract expires June 30 but he had been expecting and hoping to return until negotiations for his contract and an opportunity to return to television as a NBA commentator prompted him to leave the organization after three years as its GM, Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver said.

Kerr, who could not be reached for comment, reportedly was asked to take a cut in salary during negotiations.

Owner Robert Sarver said that finances barely played a role:

“I wouldn’t say it’s a big surprise,” Sarver said. “Television is what he did before he came on board. It’s a change of plans from during the season. It boiled down to a number of things, including lifestyle and the opportunity. I was hoping to have him back.”

Sarver said the differences in financial negotiations played a “small part,” if any at all.

It’s funny — I thought Kerr might be fired after the Marion-for-Shaq debacle, but he hung in there, unloaded Shaq and his monstrous contract, and put together a nice team that was playing Top 4 basketball at the end of the season. The Suns had great chemistry, and I’m not sure if that was on purpose or by accident, but Kerr was ultimately responsible.

Being an NBA general manager is something of a dream job for me, but I can see how doing color commentary for the NBA would be a far less stressful occupation. Kerr won’t have fans dissecting his every move and there won’t be any “Fire Steve Kerr” websites out there clamoring for his dismissal.

That said, whomever takes over for Kerr will have to hit the ground running. The Suns have a big decision to make with regard to Amare Stoudemire, who is looking for a max contract (and probably isn’t worth it).

Where do the Suns go from here?

On the heels of their Game 6 loss to the Lakers, the Phoenix Suns once again start an offseason after coming up short in the postseason.

In reality, despite the sour finish, making the Western Conference Finals represents a resounding success for the Suns, who weren’t expected to be a legitimate title contender heading into the season. But after the trade deadline, Amare Stoudemire played like an All-NBAer (27-10 after the All-Star break), and the Suns’ bench — specifically Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley and Channing Frye — provided a much-needed punch when the starters weren’t getting it done.

This team already has great chemistry and is playing championship-caliber ball, why mess with it? Well, the Suns have a huge decision this offseason — whether or not to offer Stoudemire a max contract.

Is he worth a max deal? He doesn’t rebound as well as he should — and grabbed just nine rebounds in the first two games of the WCF — and he’s not known as a very good defender. Shouldn’t a max player excel at scoring, rebounding and defense?

Stoudemire is open to staying in Phoenix, but it seems like he wants a max deal. Without it, he’ll probably go elsewhere, providing they’ll offer him the non-Bird max.

If he leaves, the Suns will have about $13 million of cap space assuming Grant Hill opts in and Channing Frye opts out (which they are rumored to do). What that means is that if Stoudemire bolts, the Suns will be a player in this summer’s free agency frenzy. They may not have a shot at LeBron James or Chris Bosh, but they could potentially afford someone like Carlos Boozer or David Lee, who would both fit in well with the Suns’ up-tempo system. However, neither player is known for his defense, so the Suns will probably continue to struggle on that end of the court. Also, such a move would only serve to further highlight the length issues that the Suns have when they face the Lakers.

Steve Nash is already 36 and his game has to fall off at some point. However, he’s in tremendous shape and the emergence of Goran Dragic should continue to offset the decline in Nash’s game. The Suns have a nice core, so if they re-sign Stoudemire or end up with someone like Boozer or Lee to pay power forward, they should stay near the top of the Western Conference. It doesn’t appear that they’re built to get by the Lakers, but if there’s a playoff-threatening injury to Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol, the Suns would be in position to pick up the ball and run to the Finals. That’s better than blowing the whole thing up and starting over, right?

Photo from fOTOGLIF

How did the Suns get here?

In his latest column, regular Steve Kerr critic Bill Simmons breaks down the series of events that turned around the Phoenix Suns.

You need luck with these things. Somehow, some way, Kerr got lucky four straight times. In order …

1. Gentry. Who fell from the sky, basically.

2. Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry talked himself into Shaq. Beautiful. Kerr dumped him for Ben Wallace’s expiring contract and bought Wallace out, saving Phoenix about $13 million (including tax), and leaving the Suns some wiggle room to sign Channing Frye, yet another good-chemistry guy and someone Kerr’s staff felt could spread the floor and shoot 3s. As weird as this sounds, Frye was a better fit for Phoenix than one of the greatest centers of all time.

3. Last summer, Kerr had to sign Nash — only the face of his franchise, the most popular Phoenix athlete ever and the heart of his locker room — to a contract extension. Kerr knew Nash couldn’t stop rehashing the past four years, thinking of all the couldas and wouldas and whatmightabeens. He knew Nash wondered if Kerr and Sarver knew what they were doing. He knew that, if this were anyone else, Disgruntled Superstar X would have demanded a trade or made it clear, “I’m playing this last year out, and if we fall short again, I’m out of here.”

But he also knew Steve Nash isn’t wired that way. He’s loyal. He’s Canadian. He’s old-school. He believes in things like, “I am the leader of this team, so as soon as I say that I might want to leave, I can’t lead anymore.” Nobody else would have stayed. Steve Nash stayed. Kerr promised him things would be better, that the window hadn’t closed, that he would, for lack of a better word, fix this. He even believed it.

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