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Eric Musselman is entering his third season without a job in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean he is no longer a coach.

In fact, Musselman has spent the past two years meticulously studying every NBA team. That includes the Suns.

And he’s one man who is not surprised that the Suns looked good — and were victorious — in their season-opener against Clippers.

“I heard great things about their (training) camp at the University of San Diego,” Musselman, who played his college ball at USD, told Suns.com. “The players are really buying into Coach (Alvin) Gentry. They have taken ownership in the style of play that they have now. The chemistry between Alvin and his team is excellent.”

Musselman was the head coach of Golden State from 2002-04, and Sacramento during the 2006-07 season. Before that, he spent nearly a decade coaching in the minor leagues and had stints as an NBA assistant with Orlando, Atlanta, Minnesota and Memphis.

He is the son of the late Bill Musselman, who coached Cleveland during the early 1980s and was the first coach in Timberwolves history.

Today, he is an analyst on Comcast SportsNet broadcasts of college games, and attends various NBA training camps and practices to pick coach’s brains in his spare time. Musselman also plans out practices for each of the 30 teams, as if he were coaching them, during the season.

“I literally pick a different NBA team each week of the season, and act as if I’m part of that team’s staff,“ Musselman once explained to me. “I do it in alphabetical order — so the first week, I was with Atlanta, the next week I was with Boston, and so on. The practice would vary depending on the team’s personnel, schedule, strengths and weaknesses and upcoming opponents.”

For instance, if the Suns were Musselman’s team of the week, and they had a game on a Tuesday, Musselman would watch the game and plan out their practice on Wednesday. On top of the written plan, Musselman also does 15 minutes of film work, figuring out what the Suns would need to review and improve upon.

During the preseason, he found the Suns to be a cohesive unit consisting of players who understood their roles.

“Their roster is built to run, so their personnel and system and style all fit well,” he said. “They have been playing with an identity.”

This bodes particularly well for veteran point guard Steve Nash, whom Musselman believes “will have another great season.”

And what does the coach think of the team overall?

“In the West, the Lakers, Spurs, Blazers and Nuggets should be the top four,” Musselman said. “The Hornets, Rockets and Suns should battle it out for the other playoff positions.”

As someone who now coaches every team in the NBA, he should know.

AROUND THE NBA

* Keep an eye out for Golden State rookie guard Stephen Curry. The lottery pick out of Davidson is starting for the Warriors, and is a true bright spot on a team that’s otherwise infested with issues. Curry displayed a high basketball I.Q. and lots of composure in the Warriors’ season-opening loss against Houston, scoring 14 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor. He also passed for a team-high seven assists.

* The Suns play 10 of their 15 games in November on the road, including two games in three nights against the past two Eastern Conference champions. That would be Boston (Nov. 4) and Orlando (Nov. 6). Two nights after Boston, the Suns travel to Washington — and the Wizards are widely expected to be the league’s most improved team with a healthy Gilbert Arenas, and some nice off-season additions in Mike Miller and Randy Foye, as well new coach Flip Saunders.

* In other words, it ain’t gonna be easy, kids. The good news is, the Suns get to play a very young (albeit feisty) Minnesota team before bolting for the East Coast.

* So, what do we know about the Timberwolves? Not much. Other than the fact former Suns forward Kurt Rambis is their new coach. They also came from behind to beat New Jersey on a buzzer-beating basket by Damien Wilkins on opening night.

* Other than that, perhaps the most notable thing about the Wolves for Suns fans is that Sasha Pavlovic is on the team. Pavlovic was one of the guys whom the Suns acquired in the Shaquille O’Neal trade, but was quickly released. Pavlovic scored eight points in the opener.

* More impressive, Wolves rookie guard Jonny Flynn scored a team-high 18 points in his NBA debut, grabbing four rebounds in the process. Flynn has a lot of Steve Nash-like qualities, and it should be a lot of fun watching them go toe-to-toe when Minnesota rolls into town Sunday.

Sam Amico writes for NBA.com and is a regular contributor to Suns.com. He can be reached at amico@probasketballnews.com.

  • JOHN SERPE

    Suns may be the smallest team in the west, but if the first two regular season games are a barometer, heart and grit won’t be questioned this year. WOW!! Talk about taking a team apart, Golden State had no chance with this steamroller bunch. Other than a few to many blown free throws and turnovers, this was classic Suns with the addition of the missing elements over the past seasons, DEFENSE and TENACITY. We will have our ups and downs, make no mistake about that, but if this continues to be the way were going to play every game, 5 or 6 in the west is no pipe dream.