Summer Pick-Up Games

Most of you know by now that I not only work for the Phoenix Suns, but I also am one of the team’s biggest fans. If you were anywhere in the East Valley and had your windows open during the playoffs last year, you could probably hear me yelling.

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Steve Nash has passing down but still is working out during the summer. 

(NBAE Photos)

Whether it was because the Suns won or because they lost, I seemed to be doing a lot of yelling last post-season.

I happened to be traveling during Game 5 of the Suns/Spurs series and I watched the game in my hotel room. Most people would probably have gone to a sports bar to watch the game, but I am superstitious. I had to watch the last three games of the Suns/Lakers series the year before in a hotel room and they won all of those games, so I figured I’d keep the tradition going. If anyone was in the room next to mine, they probably wondered what the crazy guy next door was doing when I started banging my head against the wall as the Suns’ lead slowly began to fade in the 4th quarter.

A couple of years ago, the team had a promotion where you could submit a paragraph about why you were a Suns fan. I submitted something and about a month later heard from the team. They wanted to wrap my car in a “full-body” wrap to advertise for the Suns for the year. I jumped at the opportunity and loved driving around town with the coolest car around. I was devastated when I had to take it off once the season ended. Even now, there are people who wonder where my cool car went. (Maybe I can talk the team into doing that to my car again now that I work here…I’ll have to ask my boss about that!)

Anyway, the point of all this is to hopefully let you know just a little bit how I felt as I ventured down to the practice court Thursday morning just to see what was going on. As we went to the lower level of the arena and started getting closer to the court, we heard basketballs bouncing so I knew something was happening.

We tried to slip in without anyone noticing us but Mark West, Vice President of Player Programs, was sitting right by the door. We said “hi” and continued into the room where we could get a good view of the action on the court. I could see there was a game of 2-on-2 and immediately recognized Steve Nash and Grant Hill. After a minute, I recognized the two guys they were playing against – Alando Tucker and DJ Strawberry. So it was the veterans against the rookies.

We had come in about halfway through the game and watched the rest. It appeared the rookies won the first game by making several 3-point shots in a row. Want to know a huge difference between watching NBA players play 2-on-2 and just normal guys? The NBA players don’t miss. I’ve watched regular pick-up games go for 10 to 15 minutes or more, even if it was only the first team to seven points. These games went so quickly it was amazing. But when you make almost every shot you take, that tends to happen.

After the first game was over, the veterans stayed on the court and talked while the rookies sat down for a little rest. They only got about a two minute break before everyone was at it again. This time the MVP didn’t even shoot the ball unless it was as he was cutting to the basket and he caught a pass by Hill. He didn’t take any jump shots at all. But you could tell the wily veterans had some moves the rookies weren’t quite ready for and the Nash/Hill combo won the game easily.

While we were watching the second game, several more people entered the room to watch including our old friend, Kurt Thomas! Everyone was genuinely glad to see him, including Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations, David Griffin, and Suns assistant coaches Phil Weber and Dan D’Antoni – who were there watching the action as well.

We decided to leave soon after the second game so we didn’t outstay our welcome. I was getting ready to leave anyway because I just couldn’t hold my smile in any longer and didn’t really want to be sitting there grinning like a Cheshire cat. Sure, I’m on cloud nine even thinking about the opportunity to watch these pick-up games – but I don’t have to let everyone around here know that! Even three months ago, I couldn’t have imagined that I would be able to take a 15-minute break from my job and go watch a pick-up game between NBA players.

I’m sure there will be other instances like this that Suns fans would die for. And I hope to be your eyes and ears and blog about the experience throughout the season to give you the kind of behind-the-scenes look at the Suns you’ve never had before.

Howdy Y'all

I hated “Tom and Jerry.”� When I was a kid, that cartoon about the perpetual struggles of a cat and mouse drove me crazy. Maybe it was because the family pet was a cat, or maybe it was because I was raised with a sense of justice.

 

Amaré Stoudemire blocks Tim Duncan in the 2005 playoffs. 

(NBAE Photos)

Tom the cat was only trying to do what comes naturally – chase down a prize – and every time he’d be thwarted in some ethically questionable way by Jerry the mouse.

Every…single…time. It simply wasn’t fair.

Having said that, I understand many Suns fans feel the same frustration towards a certain team from South Texas. That’s where I come in…

I spent the past four seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, and this summer I followed the light and made the move to Phoenix to work with the best organization in professional sports. While it was hard to leave Texas (literally, it took nine hours of driving just to get to the border), I am very happy to be here. Pardon the pun, but the future is bright with the Suns.

I’ll be part of the Suns.com team that is made of different members each with a unique skill (some might say superpower). My area of interest is design, graphics, and generally being a geek. Geek, however, is not to be confused with being a dweeb or nerd – no matter what my friends and family think. I’m getting to work on some very cool projects that you’ll see soon and hopefully y’all will forgive my Spurs experience.

During my time in San Antonio I experienced the heartbreak of Derek Fisher’s “Point Four,” the tension of two Game 7s, two NBA Championships, and even the romance of Tony and Eva. In fact, I was in the locker room to witness their first meeting. Eva was waiting to meet Tim Duncan (friend of her TV-husband, Ricardo Chavira) and explained this to Tony before blurting out, “But I like you too!” …and the rest was history.

Now I may be new, but I’ve already picked up on a sense unfinished business with San Antonio. The Phoenix Mercury can’t avoid questions about the rivalry as they prepare to face the San Antonio Silver Stars in the WNBA Western Conference Finals. I get grimaces when I show my license at the grocery store. My coworkers still suspect I’m leaking secrets back to Pop.
Let me start the healing with the story of how and when I became a Suns fan…

In late May of 2005, the Spurs were rolling through the playoffs. They’d grabbed a 3-0 lead over Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals and had a chance to sweep with Game 4 on their home court. But the Suns showed them they were not the kind of team to go quietly. Playing with the intensity of nothing to lose, they held a slim lead in the final minute. With 34 seconds remaining, Tim Duncan attacked the rim and Amare Stoudemire rose up to meet him – recording his only block of the game. That play – and that game – raised eyebrows around the league and sent the series back to Phoenix. The Spurs may have advanced, but to me, the Suns evolved during that series.

Ever since then, I’ve watched them play every chance I got.

How can you not love this team? They play a fast-paced style that has led me to yell, “Press B Button! Spin Move!” as if I was watching an X-Box tournament. Steve Nash navigates passing lanes so tight I swear he’s sending the ball through defenders like Patrick Swayze in “Ghost.” I am convinced Stoudemire has shoes made of flubber. Everything about this team is entertaining, and they exude an enthusiasm for the game that is simply refreshing. I’m not saying anything y’all don’t already know.

I cannot get by without discussing the most recent Suns/Spurs series. Early on, the matchup was billed as a gentlemen’s contest, a challenge between old friends, but by the end of the series it felt more like Hamilton versus Burr (yay history!). Game 1 was a near-classic marred by a bloody awful ending.
Game 3 gave Manu a black eye and gave the Suns a reason to be fired up for Game 4.

The “Horry Incident” was, frankly, a stupid move. It wasn’t diabolical, it was dumb. Even his teammates were angry about it. I can still remember a furious Tony Parker refusing to take questions about it after the game telling reporters, “You should ask Robert,” every time they brought it up. I was one of many basketball fans who wanted to see a full-strength Game 5, but that didn’t happen. I also was rooting for a full-strength Game 7, but San Antonio advanced in six games and the curtain closed on the story of the Suns’ playoff run – unhappy ending and all.

Yes, the Spurs have been the “Jerry” too often to this town. Yes, they have gone through here on three of their four title runs. However, the Suns are poised for a little payback this season, and I’m thrilled to have a front row seat for the show.

Almost Back to School Time

It rained here in Los Angeles over the weekend, just a sprinkle, but enough to break the heat for a day and give us our first faint whiff of fall. And, like any right thinking person, autumn makes me think of NBA training camps.

The rookies are about to head to NBA school. 

(NBAE Photos)

(Someone told me football was starting soon, and I just stared at them blankly until they made kicking motions and said very slowly, “You know…football?”)

Now, everything is making me think of the Suns’ upcoming season. The news that DJ Strawberry has come to contract terms. Watching Amare play in the Tournament of the Americas. Even walking through the drug store, looking at all the shiny new school supplies makes me think that the Suns themselves will be going back to school soon, studying up on how they might bring Phoenix its first NBA championship.

So I’m smiling a lot these days. I’m picturing a gym in Tucson, where the Suns will hold training camp, and Raja Bell taking DJ, known for his defensive skills in college, aside and saying, “You know what else really bugs Kobe Bryant? When you tickle him under the arms while he’s dribbling. Also, when he drives, whisper ‘Two playoffs in a row.’ He hates that. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Ginobili and Iverson. Oh, and here’s some tips on shooting three-pointers…” Then Steve Nash wanders over and says, to Ra-Ra, “Let me borrow the new kid for a few minutes for floater-in-the-lane practice, and to show him how to penetrate against defenders with four times the foot speed.”

You know who else used to do stuff like that? Veterans teaching their eventual replacements the tricks of the trade and the team system? The old Boston Celtics. The ones that won every championship in the 1960s but one. They played without ego and put team first, each man wanting the organization to succeed because if it did, it meant they did. Championships equalled enhanced individual reputation, which equalled better contracts.

So Frank Ramsay taught John Havlicek how to be the consummate sixth man, never worried that the younger player would take his job away. Ramsay had a fine contract and an important place in the organization. The important thing was keeping the good thing the team had going. And when Ramsay was unable to fulfill the responsibilities he’d shouldered for so many years, Havlicek stepped in and the Celtics didn’t miss a beat. They just kept measuring rafter space for banners.

Now, I’m not naïve. I know those Celtics existed in the days before big-time free agency, when players couldn’t shop their services to the highest bidders. Players can, and should, look out for number one – Their careers are too short, and their risk of injury too high, for them to do otherwise. It’s increasingly rare for players to stay with the same team for their entire careers, to develop rapports with their communities and their organizations. Therefore, the incentive for veterans to teach younger players – and the young players are a lot younger than they used to be, coming out of college now as early as after their freshman years – is pretty low when they feel they have their own livelihoods to protect. And I’m sure some veteran/rookie mentoring already goes on, and I have a feeling the guys on the Suns are better about it than most other teams.

But still…

Nash, Bell, Amare and ‘Trix aren’t going anywhere (if the Suns didn’t move STAT and Shawn this off-season, they’re simply not going to), and they all make kajillions of dollars. Their window to win is still open, and they can keep that window open longer if they help the coaching staff train these youngsters to be contributors faster than they’d learn otherwise. And then everybody benefits. Our current stars stay stars longer (and get paid better accordingly) because they have a better supporting cast that allows them to perform better. The organization wins more games. The fans stay happy. And maybe we measure our own rafter space for banners.

Ooh, just had another vision: Shawn Marion and Alando Tucker standing at midcourt in that gym down in Tucson. The Matrix hands the kid a basketball, takes one for himself, and says, “Now, follow me…I’m going to show you how to fly.” And then they glide to the rim.

I can’t wait for school to start.

* * *

Personal note, Suns fans: I’ll be in the Valley this weekend, signing comics at two local shops, SpazDog Comics on the west side on Friday, August 31, from 6 until 8 pm, then Atomic Comics in Mesa on Saturday, September 1, from 2 until 5 pm. Come on out and say hi, and we’ll talk a little hoops in between arguing who’s stronger, Superman or the Hulk (everyone knows Amare’s the strongest)!

Greetings from Slovenia

Bonjour, Suns fans, from Maribor, Slovenia! I am currently traveling with the French National Basketball Team during their preparation, Pool Play, and FIBA European Championship matches.

Boris Diaw is traveling with the French National Basketball Team 

(NBAE Photos)

My only job while here is to attend to our own player, Boris Diaw. While Boris has done great work to get in shape physically over the summer and has received the proper medical insurance to play for France, it is my job to get him through the rigorous three-week tournament while maintaining and improving upon his physical fitness level. We all want him to come back in top shape
when the Suns start training camp in October.

I left Phoenix on August 22nd and traveled to Paris via Philadelphia. About 13 hours later (22 hours with the time change), I landed in Paris.Unfortunately it was very cloudy and I didn’t
get to see anything out of the airplane window.
After retrieving my luggage, I took a train to another terminal and met
the team. I met the team’s GM, coaching
staff, training staff, equipment manager, public relations director, and
players. I was familiar with some of the
team – Tony Parker (Spurs), Ronny Turiaf (Lakers) and Yakhouba Diawara
(Nuggets) – as well as a few others that I had seen through pre-draft
workouts. The team and staff was
somewhat hesitant to accept me, as expected, because they are preparing for Olympic
qualification and visitors are usually not invited into practices, team meals,
therapy sessions, or sitting on their bench during games, etc. Luckily, Mike Elliott, the Suns Assistant
Athletic Trainer was with the team for a few weeks prior to me and they
hopefully understood that we are just looking after Boris’ health. Over the last few days they have really
warmed up to me and my attempt at speaking French. The staff has been helpful in explaining most
things to me, albeit a few minutes after everyone has finished laughing! One of the players, Frederick Weis, has been
especially helpful in teaching me phrases that I can’t repeat on this website! Thanks, buddy! Thankfully, I have Boris around to check with
before I make a fool of myself.
Seriously though, the French Federation led by Patrick Beesley has taken
tremendous care of me. Once I arrived in
Paris, they booked all my travel and hotels, I eat every meal with the team,
and I am included on all the team schedules.
I couldn’t have asked for a smoother trip or access to working with
Boris.

To back-up a little, we flew from Paris to Ljanljana, Slovenia (about a two hour flight), then bussed to Maribor
(another two hours). We checked into a hotel at the base of a ski slope. The area is much like Vail or Steamboat Springs, CO. We practice and play at an arena, the Dvorana
Tabor, which is in the town. We practiced the next few days, two times per day, then had our first game vs. Slovenia (led by Rasho Nesterovic of the Toronto Raptors). France
beat them 90-87 in a close game. Tony
Parker and Florent Pietras played well and Boris was very steady with 11 points,
eight rebounds, and seven assists. The
crowd was great, complete with drums, fog horns, buzzers, and chants. It was a tough battle with a few scuffles and
questionable refereeing. Both teams were
actually staying at the same hotel and we scrimmaged them without fans the next
night, which France
won by 20 points behind strong play by Ronny Turiaf and Sedrick Ferchaud.

Personally, I enjoyed Maribor. I have gone on a few jogs into town and back
(about five miles) and met some of the staff for a 7 a.m.. hike to the top of
the mountain. It took about one hour, 15
minutes to get to the top and about 40 minutes to get down. I’d say it rates right up there with Camelback Mountain. I took a trip into town to take pictures and
site-see but it was Sunday so there weren’t a lot of shops open. It was very relaxing though! There was some sort of mountain bike race
over the weekend at the ski area so there were a lot of people, music, etc. It was fun to watch.

Well, off to Alicante, on the
east coast of Spain
for the next eight days. It is supposed
to have great beaches and night-life and is very close to Ibiza. I mean… I’m here working, so if I get some
time off, I will let you know!

Au Revoir!
Adios!
Good-bye!
Word.

Excitement Level Rising For Mercury

I know what you are going to say. I’ve heard it all before, sometimes even out of my own mouth. The WNBA does not hold the same appeal as their male counterparts – it’s just not as exciting.

You and I were both wrong.

 

The Mercury play a different brand of basketball, there is no denying that. The game is not peppered with the kind of gravity-defying moves and raw power that the NBA supplies on a nightly basis. There is not the name or face recognition that comes with a saturation of marketing campaigns and high-profile media coverage.

But, there is excitement and there is great appeal. The Mercury had been shut out of postseason play for the past seven seasons. But they are now on the verge of advancing to the second round for the first time since the went to the WNBA Finals in 1998 after beating the Storm in Seattle 101-84 on Friday night to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three opening round series.

That alone should be enough for even the most casual Phoenix sports fan to take notice, but there is so much more about this team to rally around.

While killing time in the Seattle airport waiting for our return flight to Phoenix this morning, I was chatting with Mercury athletic trainer Tamara Poole, a veteran in the field of professional sports team training, who summed up the demeanor and attitude of the team in five words.

“It all starts with Coach.”

Head Coach Paul Westhead and I have a couple of common denominators which connect us in odd ways. I was a teenager in Chicago at the time he was the Bulls’ head coach. His Reggie Theus-led teams in the early ‘80s made me an NBA fan for life and that was a few years before some guy named Jordan came along to bring the rest of the world on board (“If Michael came when I was there, I might still be there,” Westhead quipped.)

Several years later, I was sitting baseline in the photographers’ row at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum when Cotton Fitzsimmons’ Suns scored 12007 points in the first half against Westhead’s Nuggets and finished with a record-tying 173 points.

In my experiences watching Westhead both as a fan and from the “inside,” he had come across as a stern, serious, if not downright surly, man. Be it age, experience or the grandkids (or maybe he was never really like that, he just seemed like that), Coach has a lighter aura around him these days.

He can still be stern and demanding with his players, but they respect and love him as a coach, and as a person. They want to play hard for him and give him their best.

I realize fans generally do not support a team because of its coach, but Westhead has set the table and served up a team that you can really get behind. The run-and-gun style he is famous for has worked wonders with the Mercury after many said the faster-paced game could not work in the WNBA. It is a style that has not only been successful, but it is, dare I say, very exciting to watch.

They run, they shoot and they rack up points like no team in the WNBA ever has, and they have fun while doing it. Their fast breaks look like choreographed Globetrotter routines at times and while their rebounding has been a sore spot, they are adept at cutting off the passing lanes and creating fast break opportunities in other ways.

Sound like another highly successful basketball team from the Valley?

It is often the case that when you begin to root for a particular team, they become less appealing when you get past the skills as players and start to get to know them as personalities.

This current Mercury team, also much like our current Suns team, is one where the appeal is only greater when you begin to get to know the players as people.

All-Star guard Diana Taurasi should be called “Perpetual Motion.” She is never still, whether it’s waiting on defense for her opponent’s offense to set up or sitting on the plane watching a movie with reserve guard Kelly Mazzante. She’s always moving, jumping, tapping her leg or biting on her iPod cord.

The three-time NCAA Champion with Connecticut is also an extremely hard worker and her desire to win is only slightly greater than her likeability factor. She always stops for autographs and looks into the eyes of the fans who want to meet her or take a photo.

She leaves you with the impression that she not only understands the importance of reaching out to her fans, but actually embraces it and enjoys the interaction.

All-Star forward Penny Taylor is a friendly and funny mate with an intoxicating Australian accent. Just don’t make her mad. Once on the court, Taylor is as physical a player as there is. She gets knocked around every game and does her fair share of bruising, as well, but always shrugs it off as part of the job, which for her it is. It is simply not a Mercury game until Taylor is on the bench at some point grimacing in pain.

The third in the trio of Mercury representatives in this year’s All-Star festivities is second-year guard Cappie Pondexter. The leading scorer in the team’s Game 1 win, Pondexter is as focused and determined a player as I’ve seen. Her drives to the hoop are lightning-quick and her pre- and post-game demeanor tell the story of someone driven to win a championship.

And while the three All-Stars garner the most attention and credit for the team’s success thus far, there is a general consensus among the organization that this team would be nowhere near what it is without playmaker Kelly Miller and center Tangela Smith, both of whom exude a quieter confidence about them than the more vocal leaders like Taurasi and Pondexter.

The fact of the matter is that this is an exciting and likable team with a legitimate chance at a WNBA.title, if not in the next couple of weeks, then in the next couple of years.

So here is my challenge to you, sports fans from the Valley and elsewhere. Give this team one chance. If you are around the downtown Phoenix area on Sunday afternoon, buy a ticket and see if they can get the two-game sweep of the Storm and move on. If you cannot make it to watch it live, tune in to ESPN2 and watch on TV. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.

If you give them that one legitimate look and it is still not the game for you, you’ve lost nothing but a couple of hours watching a basketball game. If it is for you, you can jump on board now and enjoy the rest of the ride.

Steve Kerr on "The BS Report"

ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons interviewed Phoenix Suns GM, Steve Kerr, on his aptly named podcast, “The BS Report,” this week.

I know I said this about Amare Stoudemire and Mike D’Antoni in my rundown of the Suns.com Newsroom Grand Opening earlier this month, but Steve Kerr is a great interviewee. He has the best stories to share.

And Simmons is a pretty good interviewer, too. Whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit that he asks the questions fans want to ask. That’s why I found this podcast so interesting. If you go to any Suns fan blog or discussion board, a lot of the questions people are bringing up these days are brought up by Simmons in this interview.

Run-down of topics they discuss:

  • How Kerr found out that Larry Bird was going to retire
  • Kerr’s moving from announcing at TNT to the GM of the Suns
  • Why the Suns traded Kurt Thomas
  • Steve’s thoughts on the luxury tax
  • Are NBA general managers getting smarter?
  • How the Suns justified giving up two first-round picks in the Thomas trade
  • How getting rid of the hand-checking rules helped the Suns
  • Discussion of why Kerr should have been the MVP of the 1997 NBA Finals
  • What it was like to play with Michael Jordan
  • How the chemistry is between players on the Suns team
  • What Kerr learned when he played with the 2002 Trail Blazers
  • The difference between Jordan and Tim Duncan
  • The FIBA Americas games in Las Vegas
  • KG moving to the Celtics (you didn’t think Simmons would go the whole podcast without mentioning his beloved Celtics, did you?)
  • The 202007 playoffs and whether the Suns are still in angst over what happened
  • Why Boris Diaw is the sleeper pick in Fantasy Basketball this year

This is a good listen and it really gives you some insight you may not have had before in not only the Suns, but also into the type of person Kerr is and maybe even what type of a GM he’ll be. He has been on championship teams wherever he has gone in his career so I have high hopes for the 202007-08 team. What are your thoughts on the podcast?

Hello, He Must Be Going

Quick, name one man who coached the following basketball legends in his career:

Connie Hawkins, Dick Van Arsdale, Charlie Scott, Gus
Johnson, Bob Lanier, Dave Bing, Bill Bradley, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Wilt
Chamberlain and Pete Maravich.

Here’s a hint. His initials were WH”B”VBK.

Basketball lost one of its great characters, and the Suns
lost a small, but interesting, piece of their history earlier this week when
Willem Hendrik “Butch” van Breda Kolff passed away in a Spokane nursing home.

To the hoops world at large, Butch will be remembered either
as the man who coached Bill Bradley in college at Princeton, or as the man who
left Wilt Chamberlain on the bench in the fourth quarter of the seventh game of
an NBA final. But around Phoenix way, he’ll be remembered for having the shortest
coaching tenure in Suns’ history – seven games in 1972 – after being hired to
replace Cotton Fitzsimmons, who’d departed for Atlanta after winning 97 games in two seasons…and
missing the playoffs both times.

Butch’s record wasn’t particularly terrible in those seven
games – the team got off to a 3-4 start – but the team’s play was pretty
unstructured (He’d call it “freewheeling,” which was a pretty good description
of Butch himself, who had a reputation as a guy who enjoyed a good time),
defense wasn’t a priority, and VBK clashed with then-General Manager Jerry
Colangelo, then-owner Richard Bloch, and NBA referees (He got thrown out of his
first regular season game…in the third quarter). So after 16 days of regular season action,
Butch was let go. Colangelo stepped in
as interim coach for the second time in four years, finishing out the season, then
the club was turned over to John MacLeod for an unprecedented period of coaching
stability.

Butch? Well, he went
on to coach some more. A lot more. The man was a lifer, who tried to walk away
from the game time and again, only to be drawn back by the thump of the ball
against the hardwood, and wherever he went, he coached with the same passion,
sense of fun, energy…and combative spirit when it came to referees. His vagabond career took him from Phoenix to the ABA, to New Orleans with the
Jazz, back to college, to a women’s pro team, and even back to high
school.

Butch wasn’t the right fit in Phoenix.
You could make the case that he wasn’t the right fit in a lot of
places. But if that many people hire you
for that many jobs over the course of your career, you’re doing something
right. VBK knew a lot about basketball –
He made it his life’s work, whether he was living in luxury in Los Angeles
coaching three Hall of Famers to the Finals, or shacking up in a run-down cabin
while coaching high school ball in Picayune, Mississippi.

No matter where he was, whether he was coaching
stars or kids, Butch van Breda Kolff cared about basketball. And basketball will surely miss him.

Suns Players in the News

There have been a few good articles about Phoenix Suns players over the past few days that readers here might find interesting.

The first came out on ESPN.com by J.A. Adande on July 19 and is all about Amaré

Stoudemire. Some excerpts:

“When I suggested it could be a compliment that the trade rumors meant he was equal to Garnett,
[Stoudemire] said, ‘I guess you could look at it that way. But I’m not really
trying to be equal to anybody. I think Kevin’s a great player. But I’m trying to
raise the stakes on my end.’”

Another Adande article
quote:

“(Stoudemire) wants to
get better. Suns assistant coach Phil Weber has set two goals for Stoudemire:
win the Most Improved Player award and be named the NBA Finals Most Valuable
Player. I don’t know how you can improve on being First Team All-NBA. First
team All-NBA Ultra-Platinum Edition?”

And my personal
favorite:

“When asked how far he
can take this, he says, ‘If the sky’s the limit, and the sky’s clear, I guess
you can figure it out from there.’”

The second and third
articles are by Ian Thomsen from SI.com. First up from Thomsen is his
All-Current Dream Team. Steve Nash obviously made this lineup as the point
guard. Really, who else are you going to put in his place? Amaré Stoudemire
also made Thomsen’s reserves list (behind Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal). So
according to Thomsen, the Suns have two of the best current NBA players in the
league. Not too shabby!

Next from Thomsen is
his All-Future Dream Team. In this list, Thomsen pictures Amaré moving back to
power forward and overtaking everyone to become the best in the league.
Considering he’s nearly overpowering everyone as a center, it’s not too far of a
stretch to picture what he can do if he does move back to the forward
position.

These are just a few
articles to continue to whet your appetite for Phoenix Suns news while we’re in
the dog days of summer. But don’t despair, Suns fans! We’re only 41 days from
training camp!! Until then, feel free to discuss these articles (or suggest
others if you find them) and to get excited about the Suns 202007-08
season!

More Exclusive Steve Nash Charity Classic Videos Released Today

At this point during the summer, you’re probably looking for anything new about the Suns or the Phoenix Suns players.

Steve Nash visited Vancouver in July to open his new sports club and to participate in his charity classic. 

(NBAE Photos)

To help fill that void, Suns.com updated three Steve Nash videos today regarding Steve’s events in Vancouver earlier this summer. You probably remember several of the articles and videos discussing this event right after it happened. The reason more videos are coming out now? The awesome Phoenix Suns Productions guys had so many hours of exclusive video it took awhile to edit it all for online consumption!

First up is the Press Conference before the Steve Nash Charity Classic. The funniest part of the press conference in my opinion? When asked about the Charity Game, Steve said, “I like to play hard. But I’m just looking forward to not getting my nose busted, not getting kneed in the groin and no suspensions.” I was really impressed with how Steve was so open with everyone during the conference. It was a good conference and well worth the listen. Just like anyone with their hometown, Steve is proud of where he’s from and he is excited to show it to his friends. He mentioned Raja Bell several times in the press conference and Raja even attended. Finally, he mentioned some interesting projects the funds from the Charity Game will be going to including building a clean, self-sustainable water source for a community in Paraguay.

Up next is the Steve Nash Sports Club opening. According to the Steve Nash Sports Club site, “When Steve Nash was approached about developing a sports club he knew two things: he wanted to promote fitness as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle, and he wanted the club to be in his hometown province of British Columbia. From collaborating with a successful team, to emphasizing the importance of sustainable design and choosing the club’s location, the Steve Nash Sports Club reflects Steve’s vision.”

The video shows Steve in a mini-press conference and then signing autographs for fans. I couldn’t believe how excited some of the fans were. One fan looked like she might shake Steve’s arm right off when she shook his hand. He seemed to enjoy meeting all of the fans but you could tell he really enjoyed meeting the kids and signing things for them. Two kids even got their foreheads signed! It was a great thing to see! One of the main things Steve said he wanted to do when the club was built was limiting the gym’s “eco-footprint”. It’s interesting to hear him talk about how that affected the planning and what was used to build and maintain the club.

The last video is footage of the Charity Classic itself. The first several minutes of the video show Raja Bell, Steve Nash and other players signing autographs and around the fans. One sign in the video says, “Our Nash-ional Hero.” Sure, we’ve seen that sign before but still it’s got to make Steve feel good to have the people where he grew up so supportive. Something else I found interesting was that after nearly every signature Steve gave the person said, “Thank you.” These aren’t just “celebrity hounds” or people looking to get an autograph so they can sell it. They are there to see the players and enjoy the time around them.

After the fan stuff, keep watching to get a duet by Steve Nash and Leandro Barbosa. It’s a classic. And after some player interviews and the introductions of the players, the game actually begins. If you’ve been dying to get a look at the Phoenix Suns’ draft picks, check out the highlights of the game. Alando Tucker shows how high he can jump and if he can learn to do this in a real NBA game, he’s going to be a great addition to the Suns lineup. In fact, after the game footage wait until you get the Leandro Barbosa interview and you’ll see how impressed Tucker’s teammates are with him. If anything, you should watch the Barbosa interview just because it’s fun to watch him. He’s definitely a great interviewee and doesn’t ever seem bored with a question.

Overall, these are some great videos that are worth the time spent in watching them. These should fill your Phoenix Suns tank up for a little bit while we all wait for the preseason to get under way in several weeks.

When the Chips Are Down

John Paxson. Mario Elie. It’s stung for Suns fans
in the past, but never quite like this.

 

Jeter and Manning have been on both ends of monumental victories and defeats. 

(NBAE Photos)

Phoenix’s elimination to arch-rival San Antonio for the second time in three seasons was tough, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t reason to be optimistic.

I know what you’re thinking – here we go with another “rah rah” Suns.com blog justifying why next season will be different. I’m not here to predict anything but I did want to stop by and share a few stories with you.

It’s hard to call Peyton Manning the most underrated player in football. After all, how do you call a league MVP underrated? It’s simple, Manning carries that team and orchestrates that offense like no player we’ve seen this past decade. He makes reading an NFL defense look easy, and better than any player in the NFL (including running backs) allows his defense to rest on the sidelines for extended periods of time.

For whatever reason, however, Manning just could never seem to take his team deep in the playoffs, particularly when it involved getting beyond the New England Patriots. Even in 2005, after Manning shrugged off his 0-7 record in New England to help improve Indianapolis to an 8-0 regular season record, the Pro Bowler couldn’t appear to get over that postseason hump as the Colts fell, this time to the eventual World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

I’ll never forget the night Manning was officially able to get over the hump. It didn’t come in the Super Bowl, but rather the AFC Conference Championship Game against those Patriots. I was working a Suns game that evening and was unable to watch the memorable gridiron contest. I did, however, receive a number of calls from people who wanted to rub it in that my favorite quarterback on my favorite team was again about to come up short to a team which plays near a city I can’t stand. On this evening, I did make a guarantee. To everyone who called to update me on the Colts’ 18-point deficit, I spoke of the events which would follow.

In my best rendition of Paul Westphal’s 1993 Opening Round Series guarantee, I said, “We’re going to win the ballgame. We’re going to overcome the deficit and tomorrow everybody will talk about how Manning was finally able to get over the hump after doing the impossible.”

Manning indeed pulled off the comeback, riding the momentum to an eventual Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears. The guy who just couldn’t seem to beat Tom and his Brady Bunch did so when absolutely nobody gave him a shot – well almost nobody.

The tables were turned in 2004 when it was Boston doing what many felt was a mission impossible. Trailing their long-time rival Yankees in the American League Championship Series 3-0, all sports fans heard about was that fun little statistic discussing how no team in NBA or MLB history has ever climbed back to win a series when trailing 3-0. As if that wasn’t enough for the Red Sox, to mount a comeback would mean mounting one against the Yankees, the team which had provided them with a lifetime of wedgies and swirlies.

With the series suddenly tied at three games apiece, I again remained confident. Perhaps biased by my New York blood, I claimed that this was all a marvelous setup, constructed by the Yankees themselves. The team had seemingly ripped out the hearts of Sox fans in every way possible, why not get creative? What better way to hurt a sports fan than by taking one who has gone from hopeless to hopeful and punching them in the stomach?

On this night, however, it wasn’t meant to be as the Red Sox destroyed the Yankees in the house that Ruth built – Yankee Stadium. It was the first and only time in my life I actually had people calling me to see if I was alright due to the result of a sporting event. It should have been a sign that I had become too emotionally involved in the world of sports, but of course it didn’t.

Life as a sports fan is filled with hard times, but it’s those hard times which make climbing the mountain worth it. And there’s no better feeling than doing it when it appears you’ve had your last chance, just ask Peyton Manning or any of the players who were forced to wear Red Sox jerseys in 2004.

A lot of people feel the Suns had their best shot at winning a championship in 202007, but a lot of people also thought Manning could never get past New England and that the Red Sox could never get past the Yankees. When the clouds are darkest are when the great ones rise – and who better to rise next season than a team which calls Phoenix home?