Are the Suns "Finals-worthy"?

Several people have been writing about how the Suns don’t match up to “Finals-worthy” teams like the Spurs. I just didn’t get what everyone was complaining about so I decided to do a little number-crunching to find out what I was missing.

 

Are the Suns “Finals-worthy”?  

(NBAE Photos)

Without naming the team, which numbers would you rather have:

Team One

  • 0-3 on the road in December
  • 7-2 at home in December
  • 3.41 blocks per game in December
  • 43% shooting percentage in December
  • 5-5 in the past 10 games
  • 3-3 in the past 6 games


Team Two

  • 7-4 on the road in December
  • 3-1 at home in December
  • 7.8 blocks per game in December
  • 50% shooting percentage in December
  • 6-4 in the past 10 games
  • 4-2 in the past 6 games


Since this is a Suns blog, you probably already know that Team Two is the Suns. But my point is this: Phoenix played 11 games on the road in December and only 4 at home. In December, they had two fairly long road trips, the most home games they had in a row was two, they played 3 more games than the Spurs and still had a 67% winning percentage.

Sure, there are improvements the team can make. They can still improve their rotation on defense and they can pick up the pace on offense a bit. But if they keep winning the way they have in the past 30 games, they’ll end up with 54 wins and should take the Pacific Division title again. The Suns are good enough that they don’t really have to worry about making the playoffs. They’re like the other elite teams in the league that use the regular season to tweak their lineups, test out new things and get ready for the playoffs. And while they’re doing that, they are still pretty darn entertaining.

I’ve said this before but I would like to say it again: Let’s enjoy the ride! There aren’t too many teams in the NBA that are as entertaining and as successful as the Suns are.

Oh, and one last thing, Happy New Year!!

R.I.P. Micro Fiber Composite NBA Ball: 202007-2007

It was supposed to be a love affair that would endure the test of time. In the NBA’s case, forever lasted 62 days.

 

Rest in Peace, microfiber ball. We hardly knew you.  

(NBAE Photos)

Next Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the return of the classic leather Spalding ball after the ill-fated switch to the micro fiber composite as the official game ball to start the 2006-2007 season.

It was the first time in over 35 years and just the second time in the last six decades the league had introduced a new ball into collective play. With the same weight and circumference as the old model, the synthetic was a departure from the eight-panel version first introduced in 1970, instead going to two interlocking cross panels that made for a truer, more consistent bounce. It also boasted a “hydrophilic moisture management system” that translated into quicker moisture evaporation and a better grip for the ballhandler.

Unfortunately, the new material was sometimes gripping more than just the players’ palms. According to Steve Nash early in the 2006 preseason, it was sticking to “the floor… the backboard,” but it wasn’t until the point guard found his hands taking a real beating (or as he referred to them, “paper cuts”) on game nights that the real furor started.

 

The good times were short lived for Steve Nash and the composite ball.  

(NBAE Photos)

With a pair of NBA MVP trophies on his mantel, the league’s best assists man is about as shy speaking his mind as he’s been when it comes to playing floor general on game nights.

In other words, he had no qualms voicing his displeasure about the new ball’s results, and it wasn’t long before many of his peers across the league, including LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade, began to share a similar opinion publicly.

By December 2006, the writing was on the wall and the “switch back that was never going to happen” happened. Bowing to negative overall player response, as well as a reported grievance filed through the Players Union, the composite’s run – a run that was believed to statistically improve shooting, scoring and ball-related turnovers – would officially end December 31.

Well, at least in the NBA.

Alando Tucker, fresh off his recent stint with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds in the NBA Development League, was still going up and down the floor for the Wisconsin Badgers during last year’s NBA ball switcheroo. Nonetheless, he’s still very familiar with playing with the synthetic. That’s because the micro fiber composite continues to be the official ball of the NBDL.

“It’s all about the feel,” the rookie forward said. “The old one is better. I could immediately tell the difference in shooting. The traditional ball seems a lot lighter than the other ball and a lot easier to shoot. It just comes off the fingers a lot better.

“Originally, I thought it wasn’t that drastic of a change, but it was nothing like when I got back to the Suns. I had to get re-adjusted to the old ball. It took me awhile to get used to it again, too. I’m in love with the traditional leather.”

Like most major professional sports, tradition is one thing that is never taken lightly. This game’s most recognizable implement has come a long way since basketball inventor Dr. James Naismith first approached sporting goods pioneer A.G. Spalding to develop a new ball in 1894. From the removal of laces on the ball in 1937 to new outer shell materials, change is inevitable, especially when talking about a game that’s continually evolved since its inception 116 years ago.

With the composite still in use somewhere, never say never when it comes to re-introducing a “revolutionary” concept. Down the road, who knows? Maybe someday composite technology will re-emerge in the NBA.

Just don’t expect it anytime soon.

The Christmas Miracle

Yesterday, I witnessed a Christmas Miracle. No, three wise guys didn’t show up at my door, having been given directions from some celestial GPS.

No, the miracle wasn’t the Lakers beating the Suns. Much as I despise them, these Lakers are too good for any of their victories to count as miracles. Kobe Bryant is willingly sharing the ball and getting his points, the team is playing with a lot of confidence, and the rest of the Western Conference better watch out.

No, it wasn’t Andrew Bynum scoring a career high 28 points, yanking down 12 rebounds, and thoroughly outplaying anyone the Suns threw at him in the middle. Bynum’s a pretty fair center, but he’s not THAT good. Rather, the Suns have made it a practice this season of making “not that good” centers look “that good.” For every Chris Bosh you pretty much expect to score more than forty points against Phoenix, the Suns have made lesser lights like Erick Dampier, Nick Collison and even Hilton Armstrong look like world-beaters.

No, the miracle was witnessed outside of Staples Center two hours before yesterday’s tipoff. I’d arrived early, thanks to the total absence of traffic on the roads (a miracle in itself on Los Angeles), and as I was walking the length of the building to the ticket window, I saw up ahead of me two people, walking side-by-side. A man and a woman. He wore a (now) vintage Shaquille O’Neal Laker jersey. She wore a Steve Nash Suns jersey.

I hurried to catch up to them. Surely, they were strangers to each other, maybe not even noticing their proximity. But as I got closer, I could see, no, they were definitely walking together.

Well, then they must be exchanging trash talk. Yeah, fans of opposing clubs had bumped into each other outside the arena, and were only walking the same path long enough for some good natured pre-game jawing. That must be it. But no, now I was within earshot, and they were talking perfectly pleasantly about their Christmases.

I looked around, confused. There were no frogs falling from the sky, blood raining from the heavens, or other signs of the apocalypse. What the heck was going on here? I caught them at the northeast corner of the building. “Excuse me,” I said, interrupting them, “What the heck is going on here?”

His name was Eric. Her name was Cathy. They both lived in Los Angeles.

I asked if they knew how rare it was that a Suns fan could be seen walking with a Lakers fan. “I don’t know why more Laker fans don’t respect the Suns,” Eric said. “The Suns have played so well over the last few years.”

The pair was just back from following the Suns on an East Coast road swing. “We follow the team on two or three road trips a season,” Cathy explained. “They’re just so much fun to watch.”

A Laker fan? Traveling with a Suns fan? To watch the Suns play three thousand miles from Los Angeles?

“I always root for the Suns,” Eric said with a shrug. “I’m a Laker fan first and foremost, but the Suns play basketball right.”

My ears were ringing, and I felt lightheaded. I turned to Cathy in my disbelief. Clearly, her friend was deranged. But what about her? How could she share oxygen with a Laker fan? “I don’t mind Laker fans,” she said, before wrinkling her nose with distaste. “It’s Kobe fans I don’t like.”

She went on to say, “I was a Laker fan until about five years ago. Then, with all their squabbling, I looked around for a team that was more fun to root for. And there’s nobody more fun than the Suns. They’ve brought basketball back, and everyone wants to copy them! Even the Lakers are playing like a team!” Eric nodded his vehement agreement.

I bid them farewell and a happy holiday, then stood there reeling on the sidewalk. Inside, soon enough, there would be predictable chants of “Phoenix sucks!” and catcalls toward Raja Bell. One Laker backer even yelled, “Hey Nash, go back to South Africa,” the creativity of which suggested that not only were film and television writers on strike, so too, apparently, were qualified hecklers.

But for now, under the snowless skies of Los Angeles, Christmas spirit surrounded the Staples Center. Cathy and Eric had showed me that there really was such a thing as peace on earth, goodwill towards man.

Even if he happens to be a Laker fan.

Raja's Game 6 Bar

I have visited several places of significant interest in my travels for the Suns and Mercury over the past couple of years.

Raja Bell celebrates a Suns win against the Lakers in game 6 of the 2005-2006 playoffs. 

(NBAE Photos)

I walked through The Alamo while in San Antonio for last season’s Suns-Spurs playoff series and two years ago, I took the tour at the school book depository from where JFK was shot in Dallas over 40 years ago.

I stood outside the gates of the White House, at the base of the Washington Monument and at the feet of the Lincoln Memorial while covering the WNBA All-Star Game in Washington, D.C., and went to the top of the Space Needle (twice) in Seattle during the WNBA playoffs.

But last night, while in Los Angeles to cover the Suns’ holiday trip to California, I visited perhaps the most unique and significant non-arena location in recent team history.

After the contingent of players, personnel and their families arrived at the hotel, I met up with one of the Suns’ security guards who works the home games and occasionally travels with the team, who I will call Tony. Okay, that really is his name, but I cannot remember his last name, so I played the “who I will call Tony” card.

We went in search of a meal, not the easiest task so late in the evening on Christmas Eve. Tony suggested we try McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant, a place near the hotel that might be open. Then he revealed, quite matter-of-factly, that it also happened to be the bar where he was assigned to watch Raja Bell as he watched Game 6 of the 2006 playoff series against the Lakers after being suspended for “clothes-lining” Kobe Bryant in Game 5.

Tony recalled Raja being very quiet as the game began and nobody recognizing him through the first half. Then as the game got more intense and Raja became more vocal, someone finally did recognize him and the secret was out. Tony remembers the crowd being polite but loud as the game went back and forth, and said he is glad he will never know how the crowded bar would have reacted had the unthinkable happened and the Lakers had won.

While his recollections of the events of that night were pretty clear, his sense of direction was not and he immediately sensed we were not heading in the right direction. As we headed back to the lobby to ask for directions, I shared with him how the rest of that night panned out for both Raja and for me.

I wound up videotaping Raja’s reunion with his teammates at the airport after the Suns tied up the best-of-seven series and interviewing him on the plane about his experience at McCormick and Schmick’s. Then I captured the throng of about a dozen rabid Suns fans who waited at US Airways Center in Phoenix until 2 a.m. for the team’s return. “Raja’s back! Raja’s back,” they shouted as a smiling Bell walked to his car and then drove out of the arena.

I was just telling Tony the part about how I won a Rocky Mountain Emmy Award for that video as we were crossing the hotel driveway. We saw none other than Raja himself standing on the curb, who then chided me for still not having seen the statue before telling us how to get to the restaurant.

As it turned out, the restaurant had already officially closed, but a kindly host had the chef whip us up a couple of burgers to go. As we waited, we sat at the very bar where Tony and Raja watched Game 6 surrounded by Lakers fans.

Okay, so it might not be on par in significance with walking the grounds at the epicenter of the free world or that tall tower in Seattle, but for Suns fans and followers, it represents one of the finest locales in recent playoff history.

For me, it stands as a monument in memory of a night when I was able to match the team’s achievement and success by creating a video of archival significance and worthy of recognition by my peers.

And the burger was great, too.

All I Want for Christmas is Two L.A. Wins

As most of you probably know, the Phoenix Suns are playing the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day.

And as Steve Kerr so eloquently explained, the Suns organization is doing a great job of making the game as comfortable as possible for the players and their families. Hopefully it will make playing the game a little easier and the Suns can come out with a win!

After the Lakers game, the team stays in LA to play the Clippers on Thursday night. Same building, different floor. Both games are against division rivals yet because the Lakers are so close to the Suns in the standings (only two games behind Phoenix in the Pacific Division and 6th in the Western Conference) that game seems to be the one on everyone’s mind right now. Well, that and it’s a nationally televised game. If the Suns win the game, they go three games up on the Lakers and then go into a back-to-back with the Clippers on Thursday and Friday while the Lakers then have to face Utah and Boston. The Clippers have been struggling so far this season and are currently eight games under .500. and 9.5 games out of first place in the Pacific Division so those games are a good chance for the Suns to try and build a larger lead in their division. Obviously, nothing is certain in the NBA and the Suns will have to play hard to beat the Clippers but I like the Suns’ chances.

If the Lakers win, all of the sudden they are just a game behind the Suns in the standings and are on a roll while having 4 consecutive games at home. LA has won eight out of their past 10 games. Only Boston has a better record over the past 10 games. So that makes the Suns/Lakers game that much more important.

So what are your thoughts on the Christmas game? Will you be watching? Are you planning your day around the game or will you try to catch it if the timing is right with the rest of your day? For my family, we’ll be getting our festivities done early and we’ll be heading over to my parents’ house to watch the game. This time of year is all about enjoying your family and friends and there’s hardly a better way to do that than by watching the Suns win the game against the Lakers and then follow that up by beating the Clippers two days later.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Enjoy the game.

Suns Explosive in Win Over Raptors

Leandro Barbosa is the reigning Sixth Man of The Year in the NBA, but he doesn’t make a bad Fifth Man either.

Barbosa, starting in place of the injured Raja Bell, hit on 7 of 10 threes and finished with 31 points. More importantly, he did much of his damage in the first half when the Raptors were still hot.

The Suns are now 6-0 in Barbosa’s half dozen starts, and are averaging 35 points in the first period of those games.

Although he gets our coveted Game Ball, he was by no means a slam dunk for it. Not on a night when the Suns were at their most explosive and most watchable. They completed their passes, they made their shots, they made their cuts, and… well, in short they looked very much like the team that came within a whisker (or maybe a whistle or two) of winning it all last year.

The Raptors are struggling to stay above .500, but they are one of only eight teams in the league holding their opponents under 100 points a game, lead the league in three-point accuracy, and in Chris Bosh boast one of the toughest forwards to guard on the planet, as witness his 42 points and NBA season-high 24 free throw attempts. So this is not exactly chopped liver the Suns feasted on last night.

Amaré Stoudemire had one of his most consistently dominating nights in recent games with 25 points and 11 rebounds, and Grant Hill, aka this year’s Deal of The Century in the NBA,

And oh yes, Steve Nash had a pretty good night too.

One of the payers most NBA coaches say before going to sleep every night is, “Lord, please give me a point guard who can shoot and pass and has the wisdom to know when to do which.”

Nash, of course, is the answer to that prayer.

Nash took only three shots in the first half, but doubled the entire Toronto team’s assist total with 8, and he would go on to pile of 16 while taking only 7 shots. My personal favorite came in the third quarter when he drew a loud cheer for dragging down an offensive rebound, dribbled out of trouble and casually flipped a behind the back pass to Barbosa, who was standing all by his lonesome behind the three-point line.

The victory tied the Suns for the most wins in the Western Conference with 19 and improved their record against plus .500 teams to a spiffy 12-3. Not to shabby for a team that has played the fewest home games in the league and has been poked and prodded for signs of slippage, not to mention analyzed half to death.

There are nights, of course, when people who have been wondering what’s wrong with the Suns must be muttering to themselves, “What’s wrong with us?”

This was one of those nights.

The bottom line: Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

My All-Star Campaign

The 202007-08 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans is fast approaching, and ballots can be found online, at the arena, just about everywhere. It’s speckled with Suns players, as it should be, and come February, I expect to see Planet Orange thoroughly represented on the court.

However, there seems to be one glaring omission from the ballot:

Me.

Yes, there are positions for Center, Forward and Guard, but not Blogger. And the odd thing is, having searched extensively through NBA records, it doesn’t seem a Blogger has been elected to the All-Star Game in the extravaganza’s history.

Well, that has to change.

Starting today, I’m beginning my campaign to be selected to represent the Western Conference as Blogger. Though my contributions may not show up in the statistics, I feel they’re undeniable:

- Consistency: No matter how much Suns VP of Interactive Services Jeramie McPeek wishes I wouldn’t, I consistently turn in blog entries that he then has to run.
- Words-To-Typo Ratio: How many misspellings have you found in my blogs? Hardly any, right? You won’t find that kind of quality in the Cleveland Cavalier blogs, I bet.
- Team Player: I’m always the first one out of my seat at time outs, clapping, ready to welcome the players back to the bench with a high-five or a pat on the back. The fact that I’m at home on my couch in Los Angeles and not at the game so I can’t actually greet the players shouldn’t count against me.
- Prominence: Seriously, name another blogger who’s had a better season than I have. You can’t, can you? The fact that you can’t name a blogger for another team shouldn’t count against me.

In addition to these credentials, check out the accolades that have been rolling in, praising my work.

“Adam is a wordsmith whose creativity never fails to amaze.” – Adam’s Mom

“Adam Beechen is solid and dependable, with a fresh take on the often stodgy world of professional sports.” – Adam’s Mom

“Mr. Beechen brings all the enthusiasm and energy of a true fan to his dispatches, giving voice to the guy in the cheap seats who wishes he were on the end of the bench.” – Adam’s Mom

“We don’t have to pay him.” – Jeramie McPeek, Suns VP of Interactive Services

So, here’s what I’m asking you to do: Next time you go to the game, or the next time you’re at NBA.com, or simply the next time you have an opportunity, grab a double armload of All Star ballots. After you’re done punching out the chads (don’t leave any hanging – you know what can happen) for the Suns players, write in “Adam Beechen, Blogger” at the bottom of the ballot. Encourage your friends to do the same. Encourage your friends to encourage their friends. When you send your holiday cards, include a note reminding people to write me in. Make this an Internet craze. Wave signs at the games. Get people talking. Let’s do this.

If enough of these ballots rain down on NBA headquarters, the league will have no choice but to send me to New Orleans, where I will represent you, the true Suns fans, and typical sports-loving Joes everywhere by blogging multiple times daily about the experience. What’s it like backstage at the Slam Dunk contest? I’ll make sure you find out (if I don’t get arrested for not having a press pass). What’s it like on the floor during the Skills Challenge? I promise to give you the scoop (if my Chris Paul disguise is convincing enough). What’s it like in the huddle amongst the biggest stars of the game during a timeout with two minutes to go (I’ll be sure to ask someone).

Further, I promise not to get arrested outside a nightclub at three in the morning. I run faster than any policeman.

Now, I want to make this clear (especially if Commissioner Stern is reading – and if you are, thanks for the holiday cheese log, sir, it was very tasty): No one officially in the Suns organization condones ballot box-stuffing. This is strictly an independent operation. I want to represent you at the 202007-08 NBA All-Star Game as your Western Conference Blogger.

I mean, who else would you want there? A Laker blogger?

Beechen in ’08!

Gameday Countdown

I am asked many times what it’s like travel with the teams and visit such great cities. The truth be told, I actually spend 90% of my time in the hotel room either reading or prepping for the upcoming game.

Preparing for a game such as Phoenix vs Dallas is quite a lot of work. 

(NBAE Photos)

For example, last night I worked until about 1:30am and then today in Dallas I woke-up and immediately hit the internet(okay, after grabbing a 3 shot grande gingerbread latte at the downstairs Starbucks!). The best sites for hoop junkies are “Hoops Hype”, ESPN.com NBA, NBA.com and of course our very own Phoenix Suns website. I also jump on azcentral.com to see what Paul Coro has written about the team. We also receive daily clips from Julie Fie, the Suns Media Relations Director. Then it’s onto the local papers(Dallas Morning News this morning) along with USA Today, which had a great spread on Grant Hill written by Greg Boeck. All of that reading and note-taking eats-up about 2 hours of my morning.

It was then onto a quick lunch across the street at one of the best sandwich shops in the country: Potbelly’s. Awesome sandwiches! Today I had lunch with our producer Bob Adlhoch, who turned *#&% today(sorry, he’s sensitive about his age). We talked shop and shopping–ideas for the game tonight and if we had finished our holiday shopping. Hah!

Then back to the hotel room for 3 more hours of prep. I have a jam-packed file on every team in the league. It’s stuffed with notes and various articles I have clipped over the past few years. It’s a great resource and includes more than just the numbers that you would find in the game notes. I put my two, large roster sheets together with those notes, anecdotes and pertinent stats. Then I compile a list of “topical cards” with some sideline stories. For instance, tonight I have one on Paul Westphal, the new assistant for the Mavs and the man who coached the Suns to the Finals in ’93. I also have one on the hot topic here in Dallas: “Romo’s Romance.” Funny stuff with Cowboys QB Tony Romo and his new flame Jessica Simpson. She was at the Cowboys’ last game and he bombed, so fans and even Terrell Owens want her out of the picture. That’s sure to get a comment from Dan Majerle. I always try to come-up with a couple “unique” topics that Dan can run with!

So after about 5 hours of prep in the room, it’s off to the fitness enter to clear the head. Then I’ll pack-up and head off to the arena where it’s time to talk to some of the broadcasters, coaches and players for last-minute material. Hope you all enjoy the show. The Suns and Mavs never disappoint!

Can Grant Hill Break the Curse?

It is clear that the Suns have fought hard over the past three seasons, especially in the playoffs. It is also clear that we’ve had a string of bad luck.

Grant Hill may change the winds of good fortune to blow towards Phoenix. 

(NBAE Photos)

If the wind would’ve blown our way just a little bit (just once!) in each playoff series, we would be 3-time NBA Champions. That’s an NBA Dynasty. But the wind did not blow our way, so we’re here in 202007 trying to figure out if this will be the year if the Suns will win the championship.

Let’s take a quick assessment of our players. We have the familiar powerhouse talent in Nash, Marion, Stoudamire, and Bell. Boris Diaw is playing with strength and aggression that was missing last season. There’s no doubt that Leandro Barbosa will continue to sharpen his offensive game through the regular season to become a stronger, more consistent player in the playoffs. Newcomer Brian Skinner is a defensive and offensive force whenever he’s on the court, something we never saw coming.

The real wild car this season is Grant Hill, a player who came into Phoenix over the summer with little fanfare. Even with his unpredictable health, Grant Hill would’ve made a valuable addition to any team in the NBA, which is why he got big offers when he came up as a free agent. But instead, Grant chose to move to Phoenix because he wanted an NBA Championship.

And if I’ve learned anything from watching Grant Hill this season, it’s that he plays like a champion. I should say that I’m not a sports guy loaded with statistical trivia, nor am I a coach who understands the nuances of the game. I’m not a sports analyst. But I do know what it’s like to be a fan, and that counts for something.

Fans know how it feels to have the ball in Steve Nash’s hands. When the game is tied and the clock is ticking, there’s no greater boost of confidence than knowing that Steve Nash is calling the shots on the court. It’s not important whether he takes the final shot or he dishes it out to another player on the court, you know that the best decision-maker in the league is on your team. It’s a rush of confidence that few fans have when they watch their team in the big games. This is why Nash the two-time MVP.

After watching Grant Hill play in our jersey for the past 25 games, I’ve come to have that same confidence. His athletic ability on the court is spectacular, but what stands out most is his ability to judge the game with precision. I cannot tell you how, but Grant Hill just knows how to make it happen. And this should give us hope.

We’ll never know if the Suns would’ve conquered the Spurs last night had Tony Parker been there to deal the ball. But one thing is for sure, the San Antonio squad caught a glimmer of the championship play that Grant Hill brings to the Suns. And they have till January 31st to figure out if they can contain this new championship team. And this time, it’s on our court

…and the wind is blowing our way.

Suns Hoping to Give the Gift of a Win on Christmas Day

Growing up as a kid, watching a sporting event on TV on Christmas Day was a treat. Opening presents, eating a big meal, turning on a great football or basketball game to watch with my Dad and brother- it was all part of the tradition.

Mike D’Antoni and the Suns will be entertaining the nation on Christmas day.
 

But what I didn’t think much about was the sacrifice the players were making. After all, they weren’t enjoying the same traditional routine I was. They were off in some city, away from their families, staying in a hotel and entertaining TV viewers all over the country.

Years later, lucky enough to be playing in the NBA, I realized what it was like to actually be doing the entertaining – rather than being entertained – on Christmas Day. In my 15 year career, my teams played 5 times on December 25th. I can tell you I have mixed emotions about the experience.

The most important element of the Christmas Day game as a player is whether or not you’re playing at home. If so – like I did in Chicago as a Bull three different times – it’s great. The routine doesn’t have to change much. You can still spend Christmas Eve with your family, you still wake up the next morning in your own bed, and you still open presents under the tree. And after enjoying plenty of family time, everyone is ready to get out of the house and go see a game later that day. It makes for a fun day.

If you happen to be on the road – like the Suns will be this Christmas – you’re making a major sacrifice. You leave home on the 24th, miss out on Christmas Eve and then wake up in a hotel room rather than your own bedroom. I can remember Christmas Day in 1989, as a member of the Cavaliers, having Christmas Eve dinner in an Atlanta hotel bar with Paul Mokeski and Craig Ehlo. We ordered quesadillas, which arrived 30 minutes later with a side of cocktail sauce rather than salsa. I told Ehlo and Mokeski, ‘Hey, no offense, but I’d really much rather be eating turkey at home with my family than hanging out here eating faux Mexican food with you two.’ The feeling was definitely mutual. We lost to the Hawks the next day and flew home Christmas night. I don’t count it as one of my all time favorite Christmases.

Because of the sacrifice that our Suns players are making this year, we’re going to do everything we can as an organization to make Christmas Day in LA as much fun as possible. The players are welcome to bring their families on the team charter. We have a Christmas dinner scheduled at the hotel – turkey and all the trimmings, rather than quesadillas. And Santa will stop by, bearing gifts for all the children.

The NBA also recognizes the sacrifices the players and coaches are making, and they always provide nice Christmas gifts for them all. (Nice leather goods from ‘Coach’ with the NBA logo on them were always the gift of choice, as I remember).

Of course, the best gift our guys can enjoy that day would be a W over the Lakers. As a player, you know that the game that day is a huge event. Every sports fan in America – and every other NBA player – is watching your game. It’s The Show, basically, and you want to perform well. So even if you’d rather be home with the family, the energy of a Christmas Day game is there, and the adrenaline kicks in early.

Hopefully we’ll play well, have fun and put on a great show for basketball fans across the country. Ultimately, that’s what the Christmas Day games are about: entertaining the millions of fans who are home, looking for something to watch on TV.

Let’s just hope that next year, if the league puts us on the Christmas Day schedule, we can play in Phoenix. Our players would be much happier.