A Blessing in Bandages?

And so we reach the All-Star break, and I picture the Suns’ offices filled with recipes for chicken soup, prayer beads and magic crystals sent in by Suns fans all over the globe concerned about the health of Boris Diaw and Steve Nash.

These fans see the team’s first prolonged slump since the start of the season and are torturing themselves with visions of a promising year going down in flames over the Salt River.

A wave of injuries, in any sport, can spell doom for a team. In the NBA, frequently the team that has stayed healthiest over the course of its 82 games is the one that wins the championship. Boston and Milwaukee certainly weren’t going to challenge for the throne this season, but did anyone think they had a prayer after Paul Pierce and Michael Redd, respectively, went down for prolonged periods? How good do you feel about Utah now that Carlos Boozer is on the sidelines?

Suns fans have been down this road before. The team was just starting to get its act together in 1974 when Charlie Scott decided to try climbing Mount Smith – 6’ 11” Elmore Smith of the Lakers – only to crash back to Earth with one of the worst broken arms you’ll ever see (and I saw it a lot – for some reason that was always on the “highlight” films we were shown every summer at Suns Basketball Camp). The Suns sputtered after that.

Walt Davis fractured his elbow in a preseason game in 1981, and while they made the playoffs and even won a round, the slow start they experienced without their star likely cost them home court advantage, and they were swept by the Lakers in the second round.

We won’t even get into poor Danny Manning, brought in to the be the Suns’ bench leader on their powerful teams of the mid-1990s, only to blow out both of his knees something like a combined forty-eight times. Or Jason Kidd snapping an ankle during the stretch run a few years later, leading to a Suns second-round playoff exit, not to mention Kidd’s dubious decision to return with his hair dyed blond.

Now, Suns fans are bound to feel, here we go again. Steve Nash, the team’s unquestioned leader and quarterback, has missed games with a shoulder ailment. Boris Diaw, arguably the team’s second-best ball handler, has been out as well, and in their absence, the Suns have looked thoroughly lost. Without a doubt, the team still has enough talent on paper to deck the majority of the NBA’s squads on a given night, but it goes to show you how fragile a club’s makeup can be – take away the orchestrators of that talent, and suddenly everyone’s out of tune.

But I don’t think there’s a reason to panic. For I believe in the wise man (I think it was Joe Gilmartin) who said, “If you’re going to have injuries, have them right before the All-Star break, while you’ve got a big lead in your division, and while the team behind you looks worse than you do.”

Nash and Diaw will have what will amount to two weeks of uninterrupted rest, rehab and conditioning. The Suns go into the break leading the Pacific Division by ten and a half games over the hated Lakers (who have their own injury problems with Kwame Brown and Luke Walton out, and Lamar Odom playing much of the season at less than a hundred percent).

And the Lakers have been very accommodating to their desert neighbors in recent weeks: While the Suns may have lost three in a row (which only seems like fifty after the season’s two long winning streaks), the Lakers have kindly lost five straight. The bottom line is, the Suns can afford to coast a little (but only a little) if it means Nash and Diaw come back thoroughly rested and rejuvenated. These injuries coming when they do might just be a small blessing wrapped in bandages – two of the Suns’ key players will be fresh as daisies at a time of the season when other teams’ stars are running on fumes.

It would have been nice if the healthy Suns had learned how to win together in the absence of Nash and Diaw. But there might be another important benefit – the team has certainly learned it can’t take Nash and Diaw for granted, and when they return, my guess is they’ll play with renewed vigor and precision. They’ll probably tear off another huge winning streak.

Nash and Diaw will be back. Soon. Their injuries were relatively minor, requiring rest, more than anything else. They’re not going to get too out of shape, and the team’s not going to need to adjust to their presence when numbers 13 and 3 re-take the floor. This remains the most promising Suns team in many years, and while they don’t need our chicken soup and prayer beads, I’m sure they’re grateful for our concern, and for the knowledge that we’re with them every step – and sniffle or pulled muscle – of the way.

The No. 1 Seed

Just how important is a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference?! In the past, the team with the best record has reached the finals 14 times and won 12 championships (since expanding to 16 teams in 1984). Teams with the second best record have won six titles, including three of the last six.

Amaré Stoudemire is the Suns’ X-factor the rest of the season.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE Photos)

The way the Dallas Mavericks are rolling right now, it’s going to be a challenge for the Suns to overhaul them for the No. 1 seed. The general consensus is that the Suns would have to go on another double-digit winning streak to catch the Mavs.

The Suns, with a 3-4 record since their 17 game win streak, can find some solace in that Dallas has a very difficult closing schedule. My broadcasting partner, Dan Majerle, doesn’t think the No. 1 seed and the opportunity to host a game seven at home is all that important.

“I’ve been in both situations, winning a seventh game at home and losing it,” Thunder Dan told me. “I just think the best team wins, regardless. However, I want the Suns to get a 7th game at home, so I’ll have a great crowd at Majerle’s (Grill).”

Mike D’Antoni puts it this way: “It’s not all that important, you have to keep it in perspective. We are not going to die if we don’t have the No. 1 seed. However, we obviously will try to do it.”

In years past a No. 1 seed allowed you to avoid have to play both Dallas and San Antonio. But the question surfaces, who would you want to avoid this season? The Suns are 1-6 versus the best of the West (0-3 vs.. Utah, 0-2 vs. Dallas and 1-1 vs. San Antonio). Mike continued on to say, “Despite our current record against those three, we feel we match up well with all of them. All we do is play, if we are rolling; we are as good as anybody.”

The X-factor is Amaré Stoudemire. The Suns are counting on his addition to get them past the Western Conference Finals. Amaré has matured as a person and as a teammate.

“I am really proud of Amaré; he has become such a good teammate,” says Steve Nash.

Amaré gives the Suns a dimension, a powerful dimension they so sorely lacked. He has become a monster inside!

The season is such a marathon. The Suns have had a remarkable season thus far, putting together 17- and 15-game winning streaks. Yet, there is still a lot of basketball left to be played!! The health of the team is being tested.

Meanwhile, they are committed to just trying to get better and improve in time for the playoffs. It’s a team that hopefully is building something special!!!

Suns and Stars Come Out for Charity

Saturday night was our annual Suns & Stars Gala which is the main fundraising event for Phoenix Suns Charities. This year the event was held at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa. The entire team, coaching staff, owners and alumni came out for this great event.

Musician Seal poses with Jamie Morris and her husband, Steve Levine at the Suns and Stars Gala on Feb. 10.

Guests enjoyed a silent auction, dinner and entertainment by Grammy Award winning musician, Seal, who was AMAZING!

Everyone got dressed up in cocktail attire which is a nice change for all the guests to see the players out of uniform and in suits and ties. The players’ wives/girlfriends looked beautiful in their cocktail dresses. Especially Cindy Bell who was sporting her cute pregnant belly in a beautiful gray strapless dress, she is adorable!

The night started with a meet and greet with Suns players and Seal to a group of about 100 people consisting of the Playmakers (who donate a lot of money to Phoenix Suns Charities) and special guests of Bank of America. As always, everyone loves meeting our players because they are so approachable.
But as soon as Seal made his way into the room everyone stopped what they were doing to focus on him instead of the players.

He talked and took pictures with everyone. He was so engaging with everyone he spoke with and loved meeting all the players and coaching staff. Apparently Seal is really into photography so anytime someone took a picture of him he asked what kind of camera it was.

Steve Nash couldn’t make it to the meet and greet and Seal was a little bummed out because he really wanted to meet him. So when Steve arrived we escorted him to Seals room at the hotel where they spent some time together. They were like two kids in a candy store, chatting away.

They would have stayed there all night chatting but the show was getting ready to start so we rushed Steve back to his table in the nick of time.

Minutes before Seal took the stage, The Matrix, Stat and Seal were all backstage shooting the breeze the way they do. Topics included Amaré’s jewels and Seals one of a kind black leather jacket. Seal took the stage at about 9:30 p.m. and put on a phenomenal show. During the show he talked about how touched he was that Steve Nash came to his room to hangout with him in his cute British accent!

I also want to give special shout out to Seal’s biggest fan, the lady in purple and if you were there then you know who I am talking about. It started at the meet and greet with her appearing in every other picture and ended with security removing her from the stage after Seal’s first song. After the show Seal told us that that is the first time he ever had a fan of this nature make her way on the stage.

At the conclusion of the event, Eddie Johnson presented Seal with a personalized framed Seal jersey and autographed team ball. It was a special treat for everyone to see how surprised Seal was in receiving this gift. Suns & Stars was huge success!

Thanks for reading my first blog… More to come from Vegas this weekend as I head to the All Star game and festivities… And what happens in Vegas will be all over SUNS.COM!

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 Suns.com 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 Suns.com columnist Joe Gilmartin on my left, and Suns broadcaster and fellow Suns.com 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:

SUNS HOST DEX FIESTA NIGHT IN CELEBRATION OF HISPANIC HERITAGE
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.