Another 48 Minutes of Blog

Following Jeramie McPeek’s entertaining and well-received 48 Minutes of Blog, I thought I would give it a shot on the last home game before the All-Star break. I will be filing reports live during tonight’s game from the press box at US Airways Center, so click back throughout the evening.

Nash, Diaw to Sit, Barbosa and Banks to Start

Banks and Barbosa will both be in the starting lineup tonight against the Bulls4:55 p.m. – I actually start this blog from the press room over an hour before tip off.  Mike D’Antoni has announced that neither Steve Nash nor Boris Diaw will be able to go tonight.  D’Antoni said Nash is feeling a bit better, but is still experiencing pain in his right shoulder and will be held out.  Diaw continues to deal with back spasms and will sit out the contest, as well.

Leandro Barbosa and Marcus Banks will get the starting nods to with Raja Bell, Shawn Marion and Amaré Stoudemire.  The Coach also said to expect James Jones and Pat Burke’s roles to increase, as well as possibly the first meaningful minutes from former Bulls guard Jalen Rose. 

Should be another good test to see just how deep this team is.  Stay tuned…  Until then, I’m going to hit the media meal and get upstairs to my seat in the press box.

5:53 p.m. – Ahh, another fine meal from the press lounge.  A dinner salad, chicken and dumplings, roast beef and glazed carrots. 

I am now comfortably in my press box seat.  The National Anthem has been sung by two “nationally known” recording artists I’ve never heard of and the starting line up introductions are about to be made.  

The Van Arsdale brothers just arrived in the press box as the Suns starters are being announced.  It is so great to see Dick up and about.  There are no visible signs of the stroke he suffered over a year ago. 

The Matrix and STAT were just introduced as four- and two-time All-Stars, respectively.  Can’t wait for Vegas, baby!  The staff will be well-represented, so count on some great stuff to be posted throughout and after All-Star Weekend.

6:2007 p.m. – And the game is under way.  For a guy born and raised in Chicago, and now working for the Suns, this is one of the two games during the season that seem strangest for me.  Just seeing the Bulls’ red uniforms brings back childhood memories of my dad taking me to the old Chicago Stadium, where I later worked as a member of the local Chicago media before moving to Phoenix several years ago.

There is no doubt my loyalty is now completely with the Suns (being that I’ve been here almost 20 years and the Suns sign my checks), but the Bulls are still at the heart of my love for the game, and that was even years before some Jordan guy came along and won a few titles.

6:21 p.m. -  This will not be an easy task for the purple and orange gang tonight.  Replacing the two-time MVP is bad enough, but to have to deal with two starters out should wreak havoc with the flow of the game, one of the Suns’ major strengths. And now the Suns have lost Amare Stoudemire with his second foul midway through the first quarter, replaced by fan favorite Pat Burke.

Burke has been cheered and vilified for his three-point shooting “antics” late in a couple of blow out wins early in the season.  Neither charactization seems too fair to me.  He was giving the fans what they wanted and even the Suns’ bench seemed to get into it. 

However, the coaching staff and his teammates say he is consistently among the hardest working guys on the roster.  It is good to see Pat getting some relatively meaningful minutes early in games, despite the fact that injuries have been a major reason.  Either way, it should give him an opportunity to see what he can or cannot do.

6:25 p.m. – Pat, Pat, Pat… Just when I compliment him, he takes a wild three-pointer that nicked the side of the backboard.  Not only that, but the lefty shot it from the right corner and still hit the backboard, not sure you’ll see that again any time soon.

6:28 p.m. - For those who have asked, the trim around the Suns’ uniform are flags from Latin American countries in honor of Fiesta Night. 

6:33 p.m. – Jalen Rose enters the game for the first time.  Fans have wanted to see what Jalen can do, tonight should be a pretty good example.  Mike said before the game that he needed more of a presence at the point and would see what Jalen could give him.

6:34 p.m. – Man, this game moves fast when you’re typing… 29-20 Bulls at the end of the first quarter.  Suns have a big challenge ahead of them the rest of the way. 

6:40 p.m. – James Jones open jumper from Marcus Banks followed by a Jalen Rose three, a Stoudemire spinning hoop and a Banks strong drive down the lane on the break to bring the Suns within 31-29.  Those are the kinds of plays that will give the Suns a chance tonight. 

6:45 p.m. – Pretty ally oop finish by Bulls rookie Tyrus Thomas.  Despite his immature comments about the prize money the other day, it will be interesting to see him in the slam dunk contest on All-Star Saturday Night in Vegas next week.  My pick is for Orlando’s Dwight Howard to become the first big man to win it since… ever?

6:49 p.m. – Suns are down 45-35 just past the midway point in the second quarter.  It’s amazing to me that the Suns have not lost a game by double digits yet this season. 

Hey Bodie, thanks for the kind words, although it was rainy and a chilly 61 today here in the Valley of the Sun.

Leandro Barbosa finished with 26 points before fouling out on Sunday night.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE Photos)

6:55 p.m. - The Van Arsdale brothers have left the building.  Even before his stroke, Van would typically only stay for a half or so before heading home to watch the rest of the game and the post-game from the comforts of home.  That leaves me with veteran sportswriter and current columnist Joe Gilmartin on my left, and Suns broadcaster and fellow blogger Tom Leander on my right  

Tommy gets a bad rap from fans sometimes, but he’s a great guy and growing talent who will be doing Suns broadcasts for years to come, so get used to it. 

6:57 p.m. – Good point, evetS, guess I don’t necessarily think of Nance as a Big Man, per se, but I’ll give it to you. 

7:00 p.m. – Speaking of big men, a viscous dunk by Amare. 

Suns still trail by 10, just under three minutes to go in the half.  The 50th straight Suns sellout at US Airways Center is pretty quiet at this point.  Doesn’t look like too many empty seats, though.  A lot of Bulls jerseys in the crowd, but definitely the minority.  Nothing like a Bear-Cardinals game or Giants-Diamondbacks game.  It’s hard to tell which is the home team at some of those.

7:05 p.m. – And speaking of the Diamondbacks, as if on cue Joe Gil just pointed out to me that new-old D-Backs pitcher Randy Johnson is back in his old seats behind the basket. 

7:08 p.m. – Luol Deng (officially drafted by the Suns for the Bulls) put back a lay up after an uncontested offensive rebound.  That’s NOT the kind of play that will win this game for the Suns.

7:11 p.m. – Suns down 61-50 at the half.  Almost makes me glad I spent most of the first half watching my computer screen.  Here’s to a better second half.  I’ll be back after I run down for my halftime cookie.

7:27 p.m. – Went with popcorn instead.  A little stale, but it will do (this is from the media lounge, I’m sure the popcorn sold at the arena is fresh).  More than one reply tonight has asked about the unique uniforms the Suns are wearing tonight.  Here is the release that explains it all:

Fourteen lucky fans will win the Suns Latin Night Jerseys worn during the game

PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns will host DEX Fiesta Night Sunday, February 11 when they take on the Chicago Bulls at US Airways Center. Tip-off is set for 6 PM.

The evening will feature Hispanic-themed activities and entertainment throughout the game including Ballet Folklorico Alegria and national recording artist Nina Sky. Nina Sky, best known for their hit song “Move Ya Body,” will be on hand singing the national anthem as well as performing at halftime and a special post-game concert in the B Lounge.

In addition, the first 10,000 fans in attendance, over the age of 21, will receive an authentic Suns Soccer Ball, compliments of the Arizona Lottery. Suns players will also be sporting unique Suns Latin Night Jerseys during the game, with 14 lucky fans winning the jerseys off their backs at the conclusion of the game.

7:31 p.m. – The second half is underway.  “Beep, beep,” LB for three to give him nine points on the night.  I, too, hope Steve used halftime to fire the team up.  Whatever Mike said the other night at halftime of the Hawks game didn’t seem to work.

7:38 p.m. - Back to back three point plays for LB on a dandy dish by Raja Bell (I love that Roadrunner “Beep, beep” sound effect).  Suns within seven, 69-62.

7:40 p.m. -  The Suns Gorilla in a taco suit is disturbing. 

7:50 p.m. – Another three for LB, who now leads the Suns in scoring with 18.  Suns down 75-67 with 4:51 to go in the third.  Next possession, STAT takes it to the hole to bring the Suns within 75-69.  It’s that kind of inside-outside combination that they will need the rest of the way. 

7:51 p.m. – As I’m posting the previous comment, Junior drains a Super Shot and the Suns are now within three.  The crowd erputs and would have even without the Gorilla’s clapping hands on the screen.  Okay, I’m old school, but as a fan I don’t like to be told when to cheer.  The lead was 11 and after an 8-0 push now it’s three with 3:49 left in the third, the cheering will come.

7:57 p.m. – More offensive production might have been expected out of Shawn Marion tonight, but his hustle is never absent.  The Matrix just saved the possession three times to give Bell an opportunity to drain a three, pushing the Suns run to 11-0. 

8:00 p.m. – Junior’s two free throws push the Suns to an 80-77 lead as the third quarter winds down, giving the Suns four scorers in double figures.

8:02 p.m. – STAT drains two more free throws to give the Suns their biggest lead of the night to seven, 83-77.  Banks replaces LB, who heads to the bench to rousing cheers.

8:04 p.m. – The Suns ouscore the Bulls 34-18 in the quarter to take an 84-79 lead after three.  Barbosa and Banks have combined for 28 pionts and nine assists so far.  Not good to have two of the Suns’ starters out, but a great confidence booster for both, especially if the Suns are able to pull this one out.  LB’s confidence was already sky-high, but any help Banks can lend as the second half of the season progresses will be a major plus. 

8:15 p.m. -  Bulls playing Suns basketball… All five Bulls touh it before Hinrich hits the three-pointer… Suns trail 90-89 with just under four minutes gone in the fourth.

8:20 p.m. – Time out, Suns, after Hinrich hits another three-pointer to give the Bulls a 97-92 lead with 6:29 to go… Suns Dancers ease the pain during the time out, but they can do only so much.

8:25 p.m. – Stoudemire picks up his fifth foul with under six minutes to go.  D’Antoni is leaving him in there for now, not sure he has much choice. 

LB is five points short of his career high of 30 points, but he now has five fouls.

8:28 p.m. – The last time the Bulls beat the Suns in Phoenix was 10 years ago, when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen each scored 37 points.  Hinrich and Deng currently have 29 and 26, respectively.  LB splits a pair fo free throws to give him 26 on the night.  Bulls lead 103-96 with 3:27 to go in the game.

8:30 p.m. – Crowd goes wild as the Gorilla and Sol Patrol throw free T-shirts to the crowd.  One lands in the press box.  KTAR’s Craig Greilou valiantly tosses it to a kid in the back row. 

8:33 p.m. – Bell misses both free throws and the Suns employ a hack-a-Wallace tactic with a quick foul on the Bulls’ big man.  Wallace makes both and the fans being to head for the exits.  Fans head for the exits?  Plenty of basketball to go, but okay.

8:40 p.m. – The Bulls lead has stretched to 13 with just over two minutes to go.  Not looking good at all for the home team.  As I said at the outset, this was a tough assignment with three key players out.  We come to expect so much from this Suns’ team that I for one, fully expected the Suns to able to pull this one out.  Too much to expect, I suspect. 

8:46 p.m. – I could blame myself for mentioning that the Suns had yet to lose by double digits, but I don’t believe in that sort of thing.  It was still a good experience for Banks, Barbosa, Jones and the like to get some extended minutes.  A disappointing loss in a disappointing stretch of the season, but every team has them, even the best of the best.  The biggest surprise is that it hadn’t happened yet. 

It was also a good, if nerve-racking, experience to blog during a game.  I hope it was at least somewhat entertaining and made some sort of sense.  Thanks to those of you who replied during the game, even the ones I was unable to post due to bad language, incoherent or just downright mean comments. 

My record for blogging within the game is now 0-1, as the Suns fall 116-103.  I’ll give a better effort next time, I promise.

Suns Keep Rolling, JJ in Town

They say records are made to be broken. I just don’t think they quite intended them to be broken this fast. A month after setting a new franchise record with 15-consecutive wins, the Phoenix Suns somehow topped themselves winning an amazing 17 straight in January.

Former Sun Joe Johnson and his Hawks are in town to face the Suns on Friday night. (NBAE Photos)

Of course the guys are going to downplay it, but don’t be so easily fooled. What this team is doing is spectacular and deep down they know that, they have to. No, they probably don’t focus on it as much as those in the media or the fans do (they don’t have the time), but you can’t help but look at a 33-2 stretch and not be impressed with yourself.

Best of all, this Phoenix Suns team is having fun, a lot of fun. So whether or not they’re acknowledging the fact they’re playing terrific basketball, they’re certainly enjoying it. After all, how can you not enjoy a win over the San Antonio Spurs? Especially a contest which you won playing their style of basketball, scoring just 16 points in the first quarter of play. Amaré Stoudemire was unstoppable in that game and a line of 24 points and 23 rebounds more than brought back memories of his dominance against the Spurs during the 2005 Western Conference Finals.

Perhaps the best thing though was seeing him do it on back-to-back nights this week in Denver and Portland. The latter of the two contests going into overtime no less! He and Leandro Barbosa really delivered in that game, helping this team to a win despite the fact they were without the services of Steve Nash.

While you obviously prefer having a two-time MVP in your lineup to not having a two-time MVP in your lineup, I really think these past two games have helped make this team become so much stronger, particularly the guys who are stepping up off the bench. Barbosa is looking like a completely different player on the court, while Marcus Banks has shown potential to be a spark thanks to some impressive speed of his own. Pat Burke meanwhile came in the first half in Portland and made some nice contributions from the paint. The fact that everybody is playing and that anyone’s number could be called at any point has really made this a stronger team one through twelve, something which has been evident at practice. Practices are running longer, guys seem to be participating in shootaround for as long as possible, signs of a true championship contender.

I talked to Marcus today after shootaround and he says this team by far has the best chemistry he’s seen on a ballclub. Nash meanwhile perhaps paid them the ultimate compliment a while back calling them the best team he’s ever been a part of. For a guy who has played on some pretty successful teams, that’s really saying something.

Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks make their way to Phoenix tonight meaning the “boo birds” will be out in full force. I joined the organization the year after Joe left so never got to work with him, but I heard he was a nice soft-spoken guy always willing to give a few minutes of his time.

That said, I don’t feel the guy warrants the treatment he’s gotten when returning to the US Airways Center. While I don’t necessarily respect Joe’s decision to leave the Suns for Atlanta, and love to see the fans involved in a ballgame, there are plenty of guys out there who have done worse. The guy didn’t want to feel like the fourth wheel on a championship team, he wanted to help build a new one. And it’s not like he got a nice contract from the Hawks and hasn’t done anything since, he’s proven himself more than worthy of helping the organization rebuild. It’s also not like he went to a team like the Lakers or Spurs who are known rivals of the Suns, that decision would’ve definitely made him worthy of hearing it from the fans.

Suns Playing Well, Heading to Vegas

I know it’s been a while, but things are going really good, not just for me but for the team. We’re winning games and are in as good a rhythm as we’ve been in. We haven’t done it often lately because of the streaks, but when we do lose one we know not to focus on it, but to just get back to winning.

Marcus Banks is making the best of his recent surge in playing minutes.
(NBAE Photos)

Our chemistry is at its peak. It really is a great group of guys we have here. We listen to one another, which is huge because it helps us quickly work out any kinks we might have. The chemistry is better than anything I’ve seen since being in the NBA, thanks largely to a very positive attitude from the guys. We learn and trust one another, which is a great combination for a sports team. At this point in the season we also know what each other are looking to do when on the court, which is only going to make us stronger as a team as we go forward.

Right now my focus is on getting the best of the minutes I’ve been receiving. Whether it’s defensively or offensively, I’ve got to go in there and provide some energy by playing my game. Coach D’Antoni hasn’t told me anything specific in terms of what he’s looking for, but he has told me to be myself which is always a great thing to hear from your coach. I know what I need to do in terms of taking the open shot and making things happen for my teammates.

I’ll be in Vegas next week during the All-Star break, which I’m really looking forward to. I’ll be spending a lot of time with my teammates and a lot of times with family. It’s going to be tough balancing everything, as I’ve also got a few appearances. But it’s nothing I can’t handle.
I think it’s great having the All-Star Game in Vegas. It’s going to be a good time for everybody and I know the fans out there are looking forward to it. I think it also gives the city a chance to showcase what it can do if given a professional team of its own down the line. I feel Vegas is a location we could someday see an NBA team in, but a lot of its success and whether or not it works is going to depend on who’s running the team.

Before I go I just want to say thanks again to my fans for the support. I’ll be running a couple of camps both here and in Vegas over the summer and want to invite everybody to come out and have some fun.

Just Over Half Way

We are finally over the half way mark and things continue to look good. Sure, we have incurred our share of “bumps and bruises” lately, but nothing that isn’t manageable.

Aaron “Scruffy” Nelson helps out Amaré Stoudemire during the Suns’ 17-game winning streak.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE Photos)

Personally, I made it through a couple of streaks, the first in which I wore the same sport coat for 10 consecutive wins (that can get a little funky) and the second in which I nearly scratched my face off by growing a beard that lasted 11 straight games and almost 3 weeks.

Of the 10 of us that decided not to shave until we lost, Steve Nash was the first to shave, followed quickly by Raja Bell and Pat Burke. That left Sean Marks, Boris Diaw, Jumaine Jones, Erik Phillips, Mike Elliott, Jay Gaspar, and me to carry out the original plans.

Unfortunately for the streak and fortunately for my face, the streak came to an end in Minnesota. The head athletic trainer for the Timberwolves, Gregg Farnam, is a really good friend of mine and decided to put three razors with the names Aaron, Mike, and Erik taped to each one, along with a can of shaving cream in our training room before the end of the game. In return, we all left our “whiskers” on the sink in the bathroom for him to clean up!

There are only three more games left before the All-Star Break. It is crazy to think that we can have 40+ wins heading into the break.

We play in Seattle on Wednesday and then the team is off to different locations to try to relax before the big “end of the season push.” I will be heading to Las Vegas as the third athletic trainer for the festivities.

The way it works for us is on a rotational basis for each conference (East and West). I am the third athletic trainer because Phoenix is the closest NBA city to Las Vegas. I have about five more years before I would represent the Western Conference as the athletic trainer unless the All-Star game comes to Phoenix before then — I would be the host athletic trainer.

I am really looking forward to the experience. This will be my first All-Star game and it will be with our coaching staff (well-deserved) and Amaré Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, and Steve (also well-deserved). It should be a lot of fun, but not much rest.

We come back on Sunday night after the game, only to turn around and leave again on Monday for L.A. to play the Clippers. We then come home for one game, then leave the next day for our last East Coast/Midwest trip (4 games/6 ½ days).

I will post another blog to fill everyone in on the All-Star events. It will then be time to gear up for the playoffs and a run toward the championship! Keep cheering!

What the Well-Dressed European Man is Wearing This Year

A while back, I blogged about Suns gear and memorabilia, and invited all of you to share stories of your favorite Suns stuff.

Well, today I opened this e-mail from international Suns fan extraordinaire Pablo Cardona, whom I met when I attended the Suns’ training camp in Italy last fall.

Clearly, this is man with a wardrobe we should all aspire to.

TV Trades a Success For Broadcast Team

We have been wheelin’ and dealin’ on the TV broadcasts this season. Hopefully the fans are enjoying this new wrinkle as much as we are!

Elliot “Socks” Perry was a Valley fan favorite in his two stops with the Suns (1993-96, 2000-01).
(NBAE Photos)

Over the past summer, producer Bob Adlhoch and I discussed the possibility of swapping analysts while we are on the road. It would give us the opponents’ perspective while allowing those teams to experience the knowledge and personality of Thunder Dan and EJ.

It’s not exactly a novel approach in televised sports. I see it all the time with baseball broadcasts. But it is fairly groundbreaking in the NBA arena. And it has been embraced by all our participants and the NBA office. In fact, now other teams around the league are making the “TV Trade!”

We have been graced by some wonderful personalities. My favorite so far was Elliot “Socks” Perry while we were in Memphis on MLK Day. Socks is just beginning his broadcasting career on the radio side, but I thought he really sparkled with us! He thoroughly enjoyed (as we did) talking about his days with Charles and the Suns. He nearly jumped out of his courtside seat when he saw himself blowing past Scottie Pippen in some old-school highlights we played. He was so pumped after the game; he came over and asked for a copy of the show for his resume reel!

We also had a pair of Clydes: Drexler (in Houston) and Frazier (in New York). Two Hall of Famers who really added a nice perspective on Nash’s opportunity to someday enter the Hall as well. Both resoundingly said Nash is a lock! I also loved the “Clydeisms” that Frazier spewed while in the Garden.

Johnny “Red” Kerr joined us in Chicago. He was the Suns first-ever head coach and had some good stories about the early days including the famed “coin toss.” Tommy Heinsohn supplied his gravelly tones and unique analysis while we were in Boston. Ron Boone sat alongside recently in Phoenix during the loss to the Jazz. He was actually an 11th round draft pick of the Suns before their first season in 1968.

Which brings me to the only negative… Every time we make the trade, the Suns seem to go into a coma! Maybe it’s a coincidence, or maybe it’s because Nash is always on the bench to begin the 2nd quarter when we make the switch.

Either way, we’ll probably keep it up. Hope you’re all enjoying this fresh approach!

Showing Up for Busy Week

Today has been a very busy week. We spent most of the week getting ready for the weekend’s game, and also for our charity show, Show Up AZ ’2007, which was on Sunday.

We had rehearsals Monday and Tuesday, and then our first game of the weekend on Thursday. We faced off against the San Antonio Spurs. It was a very exciting game! The crowd was extremely pumped up that night.

Right before our first dance, Amaré Stoudemire was fouled by Manu Ginobili. Our fans were not happy and they made sure everybody knew it. It made for an exciting couple of minutes until the ball went back into play.

It was a really close game the whole way through but in the end the guys were able to pull it out and won! It was a very exciting and decisive win for our team, especially after having just lost to Minnesota ending our 17-game winning streak.

Friday was a day of school for me and lots of homework. I had to get all of my work done before Monday because I was not going to have time Saturday or Sunday to do it.

Saturday came and we arrived at the game earlier than usual at 2:30 p.m. We needed to do our normal game-day preparations and also prepare for the next day’s show. It was a busy couple of hours.

The game started at 7 p.m. It was an exciting game as well. We played the Jazz who kept right up with our team. The lead teetered back and forth the entire game and ended with an exciting finish where we unfortunately lost.

It’s always a little depressing when we lose at home, which we fortunately haven’t had to experience much this year. After the game, I went home and went straight to bed.

Our call time at the Dodge Theatre was 9 a.m. We were all exhausted, but got straight to work. We practiced the dances we would be performing in the show and then made sure we knew which groups we were overseeing and what to do once they arrived.

We practiced our lines if we were speaking in the show, made last minute touch-ups to hair and makeup, got dressed, and then started the show. It was a fantastic show that went off without a hitch. Everything ran really smoothly and most importantly we raised money for The Frank Foundation that benefits local children’s charities.

All in all it was one busy week, and as a dancer I have many more ahead of me; all of which I will gladly take on.

Getting a Little Lucky!

I don’t believe in luck, except to say I think you have to be a little lucky to win an NBA
Title! At least lucky enough anyway to be ready, rolling at the right time.

Last season, the Miami Heat got hot late in the season, peaked going into the playoffs and assisted by the Dallas Mavericks a team that gave the finals away. They are now the defending NBA Champs!

In 1977 The Portland Trailblazers got an amazing season, an unusually healthy year from Bill Walton and won their only title. The Sonics in the finals for a second season in a row, won their only championship in 1979, just in time before Magic and Bird made their entry and set up a Celtic and Lakers Domination for a decade.

In 1994 and 1995 the Houston Rockets won back to back titles after Michael Jordan left the game to pursue a baseball career. Lucky Huh!!!

The Suns in 1976 and 1993 came so close to winning it all. Yet, in my estimation they are still the best franchise to have never won an NBA Title.

Two seasons ago who knows, what if Joe Johnson hadn’t had his face re-arranged on the floor? What if Amaré hadn’t been shelved by his knee surgery? The Suns with a little luck might have captured two NBA Trophies!

All right, at least one!

It’s been said that luck is the “residue of design.” The Suns have the design, the plan with which to get it done, now they need a break in the luck department. The Suns are the most exciting team in basketball!

Broadcasters from other teams continually come up to me and say, “How much fun is it to broadcast this team.” The biggest problem we have is finding enough adjectives to describe what we see!! These Suns are the best show in the NBA. Can the league’s best show win it all?!

Stay Tuned!


48 Minutes of Blog

As you may (although probably don’t) recall, I wrote a blog entry on my Blackberry as I drove to work on Opening Day this past October. Well, I’ve decided to try it again for tonight’s big Suns-Spurs showdown.

Amaré Stoudemire was a force in the Suns’ 103-87 win over the Spurs on Thursday night.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE Photos)

This time, however, I’m safely seated in the press box in Section 102 instead of slowing down traffic on Grand Avenue. Anybody see the report on the news the other night about the dangers of texting and driving?

I’ve got to admit, I’m pretty fired up about this game, which should tip-off in another 10 minutes or so, I’d guess. The Suns-Spurs rivalry doesn’t have quite the history that the Suns-Lakers do, but the two teams have met up in the playoffs six times in my 15 years with the organization, so I always look forward to this match-up, even in early February.

Tonight also marks the Spurs’ only visit to US Airways Center this season, unless of course, the two teams square off in the playoffs yet again.

8:37 p.m.

I haven’t seen too many games in person lately, as I often watch on TV in my third floor office. I can get a little extra work done that way. So I forgot all about the Suns’ new “circle of friends.” In the past, they connected arms and rocked back and forth in a big circle, whereas now they actually start spinning the circle around and around.

I was actually scared for the guys for a moment or two when their circle grew larger and began drifting towards center court, where the Gorilla’s giant flame cannons were shooting spirals of fire into the air.

8:38 p.m.

Hey, there’s Steven J! Just outside the circle is our publishing coordinator Steve Koek, filming the scene for you, our loyal online fans. And there he was for a moment or two on the giant screen on the center-hung scoreboard, larger than life. Pardon me while I text him, “you’re big time!”

Steve is our resident video expert. He shoots most of the behind-the-scenes footage you enjoy during the playoffs, edits our two web shows, Nothin’ But Net and Home Court, and got us up and podcasting on iTunes this season. And coming soon to an iPod near you, video podcasts!

8:39 p.m.

I haven’t seen either of them, but I hear through the grapevine that Eva Longoria and Hillary Duff are in the building tonight. Eva, of course, is engaged to Spurs guard Tony Parker.

Quick tangent and one of many to come I’m sure: My wife enjoys reading all the weekly celebrity magazines… Us, In Touch, People, Star, etc… and told me over the phone one night when I was in Italy for Training Camp that Eva and Tony had broken up. Although I wasn’t all that shaken up by the news myself, I went to my inside source, Boris Diaw, for the real scoop.

“No, they’re not broken up. Don’t believe everything you read.”

My wife wasn’t sure she believed Boris, but sure enough, their engagement was announced soon after.

Speaking of celebrity sightings, I ran into my pastor at the game tonight. You know, the one I told you about who showed a clip of Raja Bell clotheslining Kobe Bryant when he spoke on anger one Sunday earlier this year? You didn’t read that blog entry either, did you? Why do I bother? I should have introduced him to Ra Ra.

First Quarter

9:46 Hmmm, not much to write about just yet. Spurs have jumped out to an early lead.

5:35 A huge Shawn Marion block of Tim Duncan starts the fast break. Is fast break one word or two words, you think? I’ve never really known for sure. We used to publish a monthly magazine called Fastbreak, although I typically see it as two words in the newspapers. Anyway, the Suns miss the lay-up on the other end of the court, lowering their shooting percentage thus far to a dismal 9.1 percent.

4:20 Marion hits a running floater in the lane. It’s not the prettiest shot in the world, but boy is he accurate with that thing. It reminds me a little bit of the floater Jeff Hornacek used to use in the lane. Suns 7, Spurs 16.

3:12 Matrix again, this time for three from the corner. Suns 10, Spurs 18. Timeout Spurs.

While there’s a break in the action, I want to take a moment and congratulate Shawn on his fourth NBA All-Star selection. There was some doubt in the media as to whether or not Shawn would make it this year with so many talented forwards in the West. But there’s no question the guy’s deserving, averaging 19 points, 10 boards and two steals for the best team in the league.

It’s only fitting that he be in the spotlight, especially this year in Vegas, where he played at UNLV and where he calls home still today. Which is why we’re going to be filming a very special edition of Suns Home Court in Vegas over the Weekend. Make that “editions” of Home Court, as we’ll be posting exclusive videos of Marion each day we’re there, in addition to all the normal behind-the-scenes footage of our whole All-Star entourage.

00:00 Quarter ends with the Spurs on top, 22-16. Ugh. Not exactly what I was expecting from our boys. But it’s early. Nothing to get too worked up over.

Second Quarter

Before we begin quarter two, we’ve got a special Grease performance from the Suns Dancers. Which I really only mention as a way of slipping in a plug for the soon-to-launch new Suns Dancers web site! The flash-animated site will be the best dance team site in the NBA. Watch for it around All-Star.

11:48 And the 2nd quarter is underway with a 3D reverse lay-up. Suns 18, Spurs 22.

11:10 James Jones knocks down the 17-foot jumper. Suns 20, Spurs 24.

10:57 Diaw steal, pass to Leandro Barbosa, who crosses over Robert Horry and lays it in for two more. Not this is more like it! Suns 22, Spurs 24.

10:20 Marion picks off a pass… the Suns are running…. LB scores again… After shooting only 30 percent in the first quarter, Phoenix has hit its first our shots in this one. And the Blur appears to be too fast for the Spurs. Although, as our veteran columnist Joe Gilmartin correctly points out, “He’s too fast for everybody.”

7:48 LB again

7:01 Spurs guard Manu Ginobili scores on one of his patented out-of-control, body flailing slashes to the basket, as a teenage girl one section over waves the flag of Argentina. I’m sure if this guy was on my team, I’d love him. But boy does he get on my nerves as an opponent. At least he doesn’t have that long greasy hair flapping in the wind as he wildly runs through the lane anymore. I’m sure Spurs fans say the same thing about Nash, right?

5:25 A scary moment as STAT hits the deck wincing and is slow to get up.

4:47 Apparently, he’s okay as he just threw one down hard off a give-n-go from Nash. Suns 41, Spurs 44. I wonder if Duncan is having any flashbacks to the 1995 Conference Finals?

3:40 The crowd boos as the Gorilla and his Adio Sol Patrol make their way onto the court in Chicago Bears uniforms. Apparently Suns fans are pulling for the Indianapolis Colts. But it’s not the Super Bowl Shuffle they perform, it’s the Peter Piper Shuffle! Boy I could use a slice of that pepperoni right about now.

2:41 Duncan fouls Diaw, his third of game. Enter Fabricio Oberto, as Duncan takes a seat next to Gregg Popovich, who has no tie on tonight for some reason. Or
maybe he ripped it off in frustration as the Suns have come charging back.


The Suns are right in this game, 50-53 as they enter the locker room, and I’m on my way down to the press room for my customary fruit plate. Ah, who am I kidding? I won’t be able to resist the complimentary ice cream from Stone Cold Creamery when I get down there.

Third Quarter

Back to business. You’re wondering about my halftime snack, right? Just as I suspected, the Oreo cookie ice cream was calling my name. I was able to ignore the screams of the Snickers pie, however. Back in my younger days I would have done both, and probably picked up a couple cookies for good measure.

When David Griffin (Suns VP, Player Personnel) and I were Media Relations interns in the early ‘90s, we often ate handfuls of candy bars for lunch. I’m convinced the years of Baby Ruths and Butterfingers are what led to my high cholesterol.

You could care less, right? I don’t blame you. Let’s talk (type?) hoops. The second half is about to begin and Tim Duncan has his starters together in a tight huddle on the court. They’ve got to want this one bad, as they’ve fallen a ways back behind both Phoenix and Dallas in the Western Conference standings, and just lost to Utah last night.

11:03 Nash knocks down the three-pointer. The Suns have totaled more than 440 treys so far this season. I really hope they have someone in the three-point shootout at All-Star this year. I don’t care if it’s Raja, Leandro, Jalen Rose, Pat Burke, the best three-point shooting team needs somebody in the three-point competition.

8:42 Beep! Beep! LB picks Brent Barry’s pocket and races down court for yet another lay-up. Suns 59, Spurs 55.

A young fan with a “New winning streak starts now” sign is up on the big screen. I’m going to make a prediction here and now: The Suns will not lose another game before the All-Star break!

7:15 Stoudemire hits the jumper over Duncan. Suns 63, Spurs 56.

The last time these two teams met, in San Antonio way back on November 8, was the night Amare made his first start. I have to admit, I thought it was a mistake at the time. STAT was 0-for-4 shooting in the previous two games, was playing limited minutes, and just did not look ready to play a significant role. But that’s why I’m the web guy and Mike D’Antoni is the coach of the Western Conference All-Stars.

6:40 Marion blocks Duncan under the hoop, but is called for the foul. Shawn is incredulous as he holds his head in shock, and the crowd is going crazy. The replay above clearly shows it was a clean block. Of course, we’ve got the advantage of a slow-motion replay, whereas the referee had to attempt to make the right call in the heat of the action.

It was a totally different situation, but this just brought to mind a play in the 1995-96 season. Then-Suns rookie Michael Finley (now a Spurs reserve) elevated for a monster dunk on then-Spurs center David Robinson, which resulted in an offensive foul. It was one of the most vicious, posterizing dunks I’d seen, and the Suns’ game operations crew at the time replayed it about a dozen times in a row, as the crowd’s displeasure over the bad call grew and grew. Anybody else remember that?

Speaking of the Admiral, he was a guest on the Gambo & Ash show on Sports 620 KTAR earlier this week. Fantastic interview! The guy is a true class act. I just wish he had played in purple and orange instead of black and silver.

5:25 Junior Seau sighting. The pro bowler is sitting near Suns owner Robert Sarver along the sideline.

00:00 Suns still leading, but just barely, 72-70 entering the fourth and final quarter.

Fourth Quarter

11:18 Marcus Banks drives baseline on Francisco Elson for a contorted lay-up and the foul! Nice to see Marcus getting some minutes. Although not at the expense of Raja Bell, who hasn’t played since the first quarter. And now we know why.

The basketball communications department just handed out an “Injury Report,” explaining that Bell is doubtful to return to the game, due to an inflamed left knee. Here’s hoping that’s nothing a little rest won’t cure.

9:2007 Ouch!!! Ginobili, driving full-speed towards the hoop, just extended his leg into Stoudemire’s crotchal region. Here’s hoping he was wearing a cup. Worse yet, Amare is called for the foul! Are you kidding me? Fire up the replay!

Now STAT is called for a technical, apparently for stepping towards Manu in a threatening manor. But he’s now laying on the court in some serious pain. I think I felt that all the way up here.

7:17 Diaw is stripped under the basket, but gets the ball back… dishes out to LB for three… YES… Make that 20 points for Barbosa and an 83-78 lead for the Suns.

6:32 Manu is getting booed unmercifully by the sold-out crowd every time he touches the ball. I love it!

2:22 Barbosa drains another three-ball, only this time is fouled behind the line by Manu. The Suns are officially pulling away.

1:19 Nash is pestered upcourt by Parker, but calmly drives around a STAT screen and pulls up for the jumper to put this game out of reach, 99-87.

00:29 Stoudemire hammers his second dunk in the past 20 seconds to put a couple of exclamation points on this one.

00:00 Suns win, 103-87! Hopefully all those doubters who’ve been pointing to the Suns’ poor record against the elite team’s of the West – failing to recognize that four of their losses to the elite came in the first 10 days of the season – will pipe down for a while.

I, meanwhile, am off to the visitor’s locker room. Steven J and Josh “JAG” Greene, our other talented publishing coordinator, have the Suns’ clubhouse covered. In other words, I drew the short straw tonight.