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To the surprise of no one, the New Orleans Hornets matched the Phoenix Suns max offer on Eric Gordon on Saturday afternoon meaning that the shooting guard will stay in the Big Easy at least for the time being. It also means that the Suns still have a huge hole at the shooting guard position which has existed ever since Jason Richardson was dealt to Orlando a few years back.

The remaining options left available on the market are no where close to Gordon's skill and overall talent level, but they can still help the Suns win games next season and well into the future.

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With the strong possibility of the Hornets matching the Suns max offer on restricted free agent Eric Gordon, Phoenix's front office is missing no time looking to address a glaring hole at the shooting guard position. O.J. Mayo, an unrestricted free agent who has spent his first four seasons in Memphis, tweeted out that he is in town to visit with the Suns.

Drafted third overall out of USC in the 2008 draft, Mayo has averaged 15.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists over the course of his career. His best totals came during his rookie season where he averaged more than 18 points to go along with 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per contest. Over the last two seasons, Mayo has seen his playing time go down due to the Grizzlies quality depth in the backcourt.

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Steve Nash and Grant Hill have been critical parts of the Phoenix Suns franchise both on off the court for the last several seasons. Not only have they been the Suns two best players but also the team's best leaders. Come next season though, there is a distinct possibility that both won't be playing in Phoenix.

To the frustration of many Suns fans, myself included, Nash has teamed up with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles to form a possible dynasty in the making with the Lakers after the Suns officially traded the two-time MVP earlier this week for a pair of first round picks and a pair of second rounders. Now there are reports that Hill can join his former teammate and good friend in LA. Hill is said to be leaning towards joining the Lakers, according to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 620.

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Before we begin with our regularly scheduled piece on what the Phoenix Suns and their players are up to during this lockout, I would just like to take a moment to apologize for the lack of activity on this site as of late. Obviously with the lockout there hasn't been a whole lot of news happening in regards to the Suns, but that is still no excuse for the lack of posts as of late. I'm going to make every effort to get more content up in the days, weeks, and months to come, and I hope that you'll make your way back to Suns Rising for all of your Phoenix Suns news.

With the formalities out of the way, here is your regularly scheduled post:

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"At the end of the day, all the people that was rooting for me to fail...they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. I pretty much don't listen to what everybody has to say about me or my game or what I've done with my career...This is year after year for me." 

Those were the words spoken by LeBron James in the hours following his team's loss to the Dallas Mavericks on South Beach that clinched the first title in Mavericks' history. The Heat, a super-team composed of James and his co-horts Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, were much maligned all year as they struggled to find the chemistry necessary to succeed in today's NBA, but they overcame a lot of that talk and made it all the way to the NBA Finals, defeating a couple of really good teams in the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls. While they were unable to overcome Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs, they were able to have a modestly successful season despite all the hate they received.

All of that being said, the Heat obviously brought a lot of this grief on themselves. Their celebration after signing James in the off-season came across to many as the height of hubris, and a lof of people were delighted when they started the season out slowly. The biggest villain of all was of course the man who calls himself "King James," after the way he left Cleveland in a televised special. Plenty of media types ripped into James for allowing himself to defer to Wade so often, and it seemed as though nothing any of the Heat players could do would quiet those critics.

The NBA Finals provided even more examples of this type of arrogance that have made the Heat the NBA's answer to the New York Yankees. Most notable among these instances was the video taken before Game 5 of Wade and James mocking Nowitzki, who played several games while ill during the Finals. They faked coughing as they walked down the tunnel, and while Dirk took the high road and didn't light into them like they likely deserved, it was just one more piece of ammuntion for haters of the duo to use. The Heat thrived all year in proving people wrong about whether or not their experiment would result in success, but in the end, their egotistical posturing came back to haunt them as Nowitzki had the last laugh.

Back to what LeBron said postgame, it is just one more example of how James has tried to make it appear as though all of the criticisms lobbed his way don't bother him, but instead it appears as though they bother him quite a bit. Obviously media questions make it difficult for James to truly get away from the issue of what people who dislike him are saying, but he has brought it up on his own as well during this time, and his answers have ranged from portraying remorse for the way he left Cleveland to statements like this one that show a feeling that he needs to lash out at those that attack him. It is truly sad to see a superstar athlete having to feel this way, but with his actions on and off the court over the past calendar year, it's hard to feel sorry for the guy. 

On the opposite end of the "feelings" spectrum, you have the truly awesome ways in which Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been celebrating his team's championship. During the presentation of the trophy by David Stern (who looked genuinely uncomfortable throughout), it would have been an incredible moment if the commissioner had to hand the hardware over to Cuban, who has been the bane of Stern's existence for years now. Instead of taking the opportunity to rub his success in Stern's face, Cuban did the classy thing and invited Don Carter, the man who founded and was the first owner of the Mavericks franchise, onto the stage to accept the Larry O'Brien trophy. It was a truly touching gesture to the man who was the face of the team for so long, and it showed that Cuban is willing to cede the spotlight when it is appropriate to do so.

Cuban also has remained remarkably quiet during this playoff run, a rarity for someone as out-spoken as he is. Sure, after the Mavericks won last night he talked about the Dallas fans "punking the *&#( out of Miami's fans", but other than this celebratory jab, he has been on the down-low as his team was chasing its title. He didn't want the focus to be taken away from the players on his club, and by allowing them to remain at center stage, he showed that he has matured from the boorish court-rushing buffoon that received so much press during his early years as the owner of the club.

The morning after the Mavs won, Cuban sent out a couple of cool tweets that underscore once again just how much of an every-man he is. He said that he was sleeping with the O'Brien trophy (and who among us wouldn't do that if given the exact same opportunity?), and then he tweeted a picture of himself, cigar in his mouth, flying back to Dallas with the trophy in the seat next to him. Owners certainly have enjoyed winning the NBA title, but it's doubtful if anyone has been as willing to express his joy with fans of his team has Cuban has been.

Finally, the coup de grace in the Cuban celebration train was his insistence that he will pay for the championship parade in the city of Dallas. Normally this is a taxpayer-funded soiree, complete with police officers and all the bells and whistles, but Cuban didn't feel as though it would be fair to make citizens pay for the team's party, and so he said that he would pick up the bill. It was a classy gesture in a string of awesome moves by the Mavs' owner, and it's hard not to like the guy a little bit more now, even if you are a Heat fan.

All in all, the last 24 hours have shown the highs and lows of the NBA experience. From Chris Bosh bawling his eyes out walking down the tunnel after the Heat's loss (and the classy way that he answered questions during the postgame press conference), to Dirk Nowitzki nearly not coming out for the trophy presentation because he was so overcome with joy, these NBA Finals proved to be an enormously rewarding experience for anyone who watched it. Congratulations have to go to the Mavericks, as they celebrate their first title in their history, and big props go to their fans, who showed up in a big way to support the team in Miami. The end of October may be a long way off, but for right now, seeing a team revel in their victory is truly a sight to behold.

 

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In society today, the most divisive topic remaining in the age after the Civil Rights movement is sexuality. Whether in the general workplace or in our everyday lives, homosexuality is a topic that makes people uncomfortable, and inevitably leads to arguments about gay rights and the like. Whatever side fo the aisle you are on with this issue, you likely feel very strongly about it, because there is very little middle ground. 

Nowhere is the topic of sexuality more taboo than in the sports world. The topic has been discussed at length in terms of whether or not a gay athlete would be welcome in a professional locker room, and for the most part, the prevalent attitude seems to be one of hands-off detachment. The argument frequently is made that the topic of sexuality (and many other controversial issues) should be kept out of the sports realm, and this has successfully kept homosexuality in the sports world under wraps. Until now.

Over the weekend, Phoenix Suns President and CEO Rick Welts revealed that he is gay. It was a huge story, because he is the first executive in any of the four major sports to come out of the closet, and the reaction from around the sports world was largely positive. Steve Nash perhaps said it best when he said "anyone who's not ready for this needs to catch up. He's doing anyone who's not ready for this a favor." Nash isn't just saying these things now either. Inf act, last October he actively discussed the issue of teens committing suicide because of being bullied about their sexuality, so this has been a topic that Nash clearly feels strongly about. 

Suns head coach Alvin Gentry offered similar words of support, saying "to me, what does it matter? I know he's great at his job; he's very organized and he does a brilliant job. To me, his sexuality is irreleveant."

Not only did Welts come out to members of his own organization, but he also spoke with several other notable NBA figures, including commissioner David Stern and legendary Celtics big man Bill Russell. Stern was quoted in the New York Times piece on Welts as saying "I think there's a good chance that the world will find this unremarkable," Stern said. "I don't know if I was confusing my thoughts with my hopes."

The reaction to Welts' revelation was largely positive, but there has been plenty of negative feedback as well. The most popular negative comment on message boards, on the Times' website as well as others, is to be dismissive of the announcement as some type of ploy to obtain "job security," because he can claim discrimination if he is fired. There is also the typical blend of folks who disagree with homosexuality on religious grounds. 

While the religious argument is one that will always rage, the argument that this is some type of ploy is patently absurd. No one in their right mind just comes out and says they're gay for no reason other than self-advancement. Homosexuality isn't accepted enough in this country that people will just say they're gay just for the heck of it. It's still a tremendously difficult decision to reveal your sexuality, and to dismiss it as some type of publicity stunt is just about as idiotic as one can get.

Other members of the Suns organization have been active in making homosexuality less of a taboo topic this weekend as well, as Jared Dudley and Grant Hill came out with a Public Service Announcement concerning people using the word "gay" as a derogatory term. Almost immediately after the ad aired for the first time, a slew of negative tweets were sent to Hill, including one particularly troubling one from Twitter user the_only_yump, who said "@jalenrose have you seen the commerical of that uncle tom @realgranthill33 talking about how using gay is unacceptable? #whatafag." 

Hill did something that many celebrity athletes, including sexual abuse victim and former NHL player Theo Fleury, have done: retweeted as many of the hateful tweets as possible, both to hold these buffoons to the fire and also to hammer the point home that this commerical was necessary. In fact, that's exactly what Hill said on his Twitter account after retweeting numerous insults, saying "as you can see from my retweets, the PSA was necessary."

If Welts' coming out and Hill's PSA have taught us anything, it's that this country of ours has a long way to go toward acceptance of those of different sexual orientation than ourselves. Gay rights has made some significant steps forward in recent years, but judging by the lengths that the Suns are going to in order to fight for equal rights, there's still a lot of work that needs to be done.

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After a narrow victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, the Phoenix Suns’ brass and players gathered on Thursday for one final get-together with the media before a long summer break. This break will be a lot longer than last year’s hiatus after a Western Conference Final loss to the eventual champion Lakers, and could be even longer than normal if the NBA’s labor dispute isn’t settled in time for the regular season.

Even with that cloud hanging over the entire league, Thursday’s media session focused more on the task at hand of re-tooling a franchise that seems to be running out of gas after a long stretch of excellent play. Several issues were addressed by head coach Alvin Gentry and Suns president Lon Babby, but there were three in particular that provide an interesting look into where the Suns are headed in the future.
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