Getting a Little Lucky!

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

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

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

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

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

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

All right, at least one!

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

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

Stay Tuned!

 

48 Minutes of Blog

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

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

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

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

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

8:37 p.m.

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

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

8:38 p.m.

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

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

8:39 p.m.

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

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

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

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

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

First Quarter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Quarter

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

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

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

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

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

7:48 LB again

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

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

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

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

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

Halftime

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

Third Quarter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fourth Quarter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVP Three-Peat

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that “Man tends to become what he thinks most about.” Or in my case, what I was forced to think about. My dad, a very successful college coach had decided to leave his profession to take over his father-in-law’s farm in western Kansas.

Wilt Chamberlain changed the way the game of basketball was played.

Now understand, it was not the type of farm you would see in a Better Homes and Garden Magazine. The farm was 40 miles from the nearest town, and I was forced to attend a one room country school. As a seventh grader, my total existence during the summer was on a tractor plowing a field.

I would get up at 5:00 a.m., milk two cows, eat breakfast, gas up the tractor, eat my sack lunch in the field, gas up the tractor again, plow until sundown and then milk those same two cows, eat supper and go to bed. Exciting, huh!!

So, to survive those long hot summer days I was forced to make up ballgames on the tractor. I would act like I was in Yankee Stadium one day, the Rose Bowl the next day and sing the National Anthem before every one of my imaginary broadcasts. I would even do the commercials!

My Dad, after suffering through four years of drought, couldn’t make any money so we moved 40 miles into a small town and he resumed his coaching in the local high school. In my junior year we had the first undefeated football team in the school’s history and as an end result my dad promised he would take me 400 miles to see Wilt Chamberlain make his debut at the University of Kansas. Freshman were not eligible to play in college at the time and so Wilt’s first appearance would be against Northwestern at Home in Allen Field House as a sophomore.

The game was an epiphany for me! Wilt “the Stilt” appeared in a sold-out field house, bigger than life. At 7-1, he was all arms and legs. He exploded for 52 points in a performance that convinced me I wanted to be a sportscaster.

Why do I tell this story? All year long in the Suns Game Notes, it’s been noted that only three players in NBA History have captured three straight NBA-MVP Trophy – Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird.

Steve Nash has a chance to be only the fourth to do so. I think it’s a mistake to try to compare the previous three greats with Nash. For instance, Wilt one season averaged 50.4 points a game, in one contest scoring 100 points and in another game grabbing 55 rebounds. He with tremendous grace and power changed the face of the game.

But, so has Steve! He is changing how the point guard position is being played. Statistics don’t completely tell the story, even though the reigning back-to-back MVP is averaging a career-high in points and assists, and on pace to be the first since Magic Johnson to average 19 points and 11 assists.

Joe Gilmartin, one of the best basketball minds I’ve ever been around, says Steve does things that only Boston Celtics Great, Bob Cousy was able to do. If you watch some old black and white TV games, you can see some similarities. Their creativity is matchless.

Steve does something nobody else does; he will dribble into the middle of an opponent’s defense, continues the dribble until he finds the open man, and then sets his teammate up for a wide-open shot. I could go on, but my point is this; Nash, like Russell, Wilt and Bird changed the way the game is played.

That’s enough in my books to make him an MVP 3-peat!

Nash's Unseen Assist!

The whiskers are falling, but the Suns are still rising!        

Rendering of Nash’s ‘stache.

While many of the Suns have ditched their “facial hair pact” due to rashes and itchiness (and overall grooming dissatisfaction — Sean Marks DID look like Tom Hanks in Castaway!), the team is bonding better than ever and flat-out taking care of business on the court.

As I sit here tonight in Milwaukee — awaiting a possible team-record 16th straight win — it occurs to me that we may never experience a team or a run like this again! Two 15-game win streaks before February 1st is a lot like Joe D’s hit streak, the Dolphins impeccable, unbeaten season or UCLA’s dominant run in college hoops.

We’ll probably never see anything like it again in our lifetime, especially when you consider how much parity there is in sports (and the NBA) due to salary caps and player movement with free agency.

We will be weaving stories about the exploits of Steve Nash for years to come. A little (by NBA standards) Canadian who can dominate a game dominated by taller, stronger, faster freaks of nature. His fire and desire is unmatched along with the leadership skills he brings to the locker room.

Before one of the more anticipated games of the season — in Washington versus a Wizards team that undermined the last Suns 15-game win streak and called themselves the “Suns of the East” — Steve took the edge off by taking his scraggly beard off… though leaving a razor-thin mustache that must have made Boris Diaw feel right at home!

“Pepe” Nash looked like a lil’ Frenchman from a bad movie when he got onto the team bus. But the result was more fascinating.

Raja Bell did a double, then triple-take and burst out in hysterics, later telling Steve, “I needed a good laugh.” Shawn Marion hopped on the team bus, walked right past Nash and sat down. We all just waited for Shawn to get a good look at Steve, and when he finally did, “Trix” too erupted and asked Steve if he was really going to take the floor looking like that!

Steve then made his way into the visitors’ locker room in D.C. to the hooting and hollering of his teammates, coaches and training staff (Aaron Nelson, Mike Elliott, Eric Phillips and Jay Gaspar were also leaders of the Beard Brigade). Nobody could believe what they saw.

But what they were really seeing was their team leader, their two-time league MVP (and working on a third) and darling of the basketball nation not taking himself too seriously. Steve eventually shaved the mini-moustache off before taking the court, but his sense of humor and sense of timing had an astounding impact.

If you caught the first quarter, you saw a loose team that unleashed its offensive fury on a dazed Wizards squad. Before Gilbert Arenas could say “hibachi” for the second time, his “Suns of the East” were down by 27 to the one and only Suns team.

Now, could the Suns have come out that way if Nash had not pulled-off his “Pierre” impersonation? Maybe. Possibly.

But the end result speaks for itself. Steve’s “stache” ploy helped relax and propel a team that seems to be on a journey for the ages led by their captain who has captivated us all!

The Great Dictators

For a mid-season, midweek game, the Suns’ recent battle with the Wizards in Washington earned a lot of hype. It was billed, in many quarters, as “the Suns vs. the Suns of the East,” which I thought was a pretty telling description.

There is only one Amaré Stoudemire.(NBAE Photos)

The Wizards, like several teams, have decided to use the Suns and their fast-paced, freewheeling offense as a template, trying to build their team to the Suns’ specifications. The game, it was said, was going to be a measure of just how legitimate the Wizards were as a contender, while it would also show what the Suns could do against a team with their full roster of top players, a team that was one of only two to beat the Suns in the prior month and a half.

The first half of the game left little doubt as to the answers to any of those questions and as I watched the Suns hang a staggering 71 points on a pretty fair Wizards club in the first 24 minutes, I realized why these Suns look so different to me from any other incarnation in the team’s history – even last year’s squad, which had basically the same key personnel. And four letters kept repeating in my head:

U.C.L.A.

Famously, John Wooden’s college basketball powerhouses of the 1960s and 1970s spent very little time preparing specifically for opponents, if they spent any time at all. Instead, they spent all their practice time on their own game plan, refining it, tweaking it, drilling it over and over and over until it was flawless. So secure were they in their own system, they didn’t bother scouting or game-planning to combat an opponent’s strengths or exploit their weaknesses.

“Here we are, here’s what we’re going to do,” they seemed to say. “If you can beat us at our game, more power to you.”

And as we all know, they lost very few games (Yes, it certainly helped that many of those Bruin teams were built around Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton, but UCLA under Wooden won titles before, between and after those players). It wasn’t arrogance, per se, but a kind of supreme confidence that if they did their best at what they did the best, it would be enough to better anything that could be thrown at them.

Other basketball teams through history have exuded the same kind of confidence. I think of the Celtics of the 1960s, with their fast break and legion of versatile role players. I think of the Lakers of the 1980s, and their rivals, the Celtics of the same period, both of whom were committed to particular styles of brilliant play, and both of whom made no allowances for the style of any opponent – which made their matchups all the more fascinating.

The Bulls of the 90s had their relentless Triangle Offense (which, by the way, Cotton Fitzsimmons had the Suns running in the early 1970s). In college, Princeton stubbornly rode their deliberate offense of high-post passing and back-door cuts to repeated NCAA basketball tournament upsets in the 80s and 90s.

And there are examples outside of basketball, as well. Bill Walsh’s San Francisco 49er football teams of the 1980s notoriously scripted their offense’s first twenty-five plays.

All of these teams, it’s vital to note, were trend-setters. Teams that followed them looked to their styles and asked, “How can we make that our own?” These teams found successful formulas and then bred imitators, few of whom ever did it as well as the original.

Team sports contests are often decided by which team can impose its will on the other. Can I get you to stop what you’re trying to do and focus on trying to stop what I’m trying to do? Can I get you in a position where you’re not doing what you do best, but rather trying to outdo me at what I do best? Can I force you to try to run with me, or shoot with me? If I can get you out of your comfort zone by executing so well within mine, if I can dictate tempo and style, I like my chances of winning.

That’s what these Suns are doing, on a night-by-night basis – fifteen games in a row, now, thirty of their last thirty-two games. They’re dictating to their opponents, forcing them acknowledge, “Our style doesn’t work against a team like this. How can we become more like them?”

Only to run up against the considerable roadblock of the fact that there’s only one Steve Nash. Only one Shawn Marion. Only one Amare Stoudemire. One Boris Diaw, one Raja Bell, one Leandro Barbosa. And one Mike D’Antoni, one Marc Iavaroni, one Alvin Gentry one Dan D’Antoni and one Phil Weber. Only one team that can combine all of them. That’s a lot of parts you have to replicate if you want to be like the Suns. And, we may find out come June, too many, if you hope to be better.

Even in the “gloriest” of glory days of the franchise – the Westphal-Adams-Davis powerhouses, the KJ-Chambers-Majerle-Hornacek young guns, the Barkley-led juggernauts – I’ve never seen a Suns team like this, with this kind of look in their eye.

It’s a look that barely acknowledges the team right before them, but at the same time doesn’t ignore or take for granted the immediate challenge. It’s the look of a team continually striving to play the best possible game their system will allow – they’ve come scary close already. It’s the look of a team – dare I say it? – that has its eyes on the prize.

Here they are, NBA, here’s what they’re going to do. If you can beat the Suns at their own game, more power to you.

But, fair warning: It’s only happened twice in the last thirty-two games, so I don’t like your chances.

Going for Sweet 16!

Wow, what a fast start for us in Washington. I think that was the best quarter of basketball I’ve seen in a while. It felt good to avenge the loss in Phoenix.

J.R. is a jhoopSTAR!
(NBAE Photos)

That said, the Wizards are a good team. They could have laid down, but they fought back and made it a
game. Arenas and Butler deserve to be All-Stars. It’s going to be tough to beat us when we play like this. We need fast starts every night.

When we play like this teams have nothing in the tank for the 4th Quarter.

The SUNS shine in N.Y.

It’s cold everywhere on this trip. But that’s O.K. the Suns are heating up.

Despite this sluggish start, we handled our business. We knew it wouldn’t be easy and it wasn’t. Eddy Curry is huge. There’s no way he can be guarded 1-on-1. He was tough in the first half.

Our double teams were good but their execution was better. I made too many stupid fouls in the first half. I tried fouling Curry, but he made free throws.

But all of that didn’t matter. In the second half we came
alive. Once we did that, it was over.

Look out MIL, here we come. Its time to go to Milwaukee and re-introduce ourselves to the Bucks.

WE NEED NUMBER 16.

JHOOPS hoops with the J ….. J.R. is a jhoopSTAR !!!

Hitting the Coach's Buttons

If you want to hit the hot button of Coach Mike D’Antoni, just ask him if he is concerned about the minutes his players are averaging per game.

Mike D’Antoni has made all the right calls this seasons.
(NBAE Photos)

I made the mistake of inquiring about a recent article by the much-respected Paul Coro in the Arizona Republic, which voiced concern about the Suns work load. Mike wasted no time telling me, “Why is everybody so hung up on having to play more than seven or eight players in the rotation? Can’t people change their thinking?”

Mike has been on the cutting edge of changing some thinking on how to approach the game since he took over as the Suns Head Man. Initially, the naysayer’s said the offensive system of the Suns just couldn’t work.

You can’t run like the Suns do and survive! That theory or thinking has been put to rest, as many teams are attempting a facsimile of that approach. So as Mike is suggesting, those same doubters are surfacing in regards to mpg. He thinks the only concern is to slice Steve Nash’s minutes by maybe two per game, but he is very comfortable with what’s happening with the rest of the team.

“We have some 24 year old players who can handle the load and I am not concerned about their minutes played,” Mike said. Diaw just never gets tired, Amaré and Shawn thrive on their work load and would complain if asked to play less. Bell is so tough that the minutes he plays don’t even compute.

What is so helpful is how productive Leandro Barbosa is when he comes off the bench. Mike continued, “LB thinks he is superman right now and there’s nothing he can’t do”

A healthy Kurt Thomas is critical come playoff time, as is the continued return of James Jones’ shot now that he has his leather ball back.

Most experts will tell you that Dallas’ depth will be the difference in the playoffs. The Mavs have a deep bench with many interchangeable parts. But, the Mavs don’t have a Steve Nash and some believe the continued growth of Amaré Stoudemire’s game will be huge by post-season play.

What if all means is… These two teams are headed on a collision course, with a broadcaster like me and fans like you, salivating for the showdown!

Stay tuned!

Suns Using Chemistry For Historic Run

The Suns have reached the halfway point of the season, having put together one of the best runs in NBA History! It’s a team that has that one ingredient that makes it special…. Chemistry.

Suns Head Coach Mike D’Antoni. (NBAE Photos)

It’s a team that’s so uniquely individual, but in some grand way fits together. You have the “Frenchman,” Boris Diaw, the poker-faced big man who has a pass-first mentally. His high basketball IQ allows him to give the team what it needs at critical stages of the game.

Then there’s Raja Bell, the smiling assassin who brings to the team such toughness. He is borderline out of control and if you’re his opponent, he scares you!

Amaré Stoudemire plays the game with such fury, with anger as he tries to overcome lost time with his injury. I think Amaré uses his game to overcome a difficult family background.

The Matrix plays the game in a different atmosphere, defying gravity, giving us an electric moment every night.

Then there’s Steve Nash, who is playing point guard like nobody has ever played the position.  Sometimes I want to freeze the moment and just keep replaying what he just did. His greatness has redefined how the position should be played. He leads the system that has taken the league by storm. I hope fans realize they are seeing a player in their lifetime that will be the standard by which all who follow will be judged

It’s an old adage that a team is an extension of the coaches and that’s where all of this great chemistry is coming from. All you need to do is sit in a corner of the coaches’ office and watch. They are on each other all the time! They like each other to the point that nothing is out of bounds. As Phil Webber put it with a smile, “What they say about me is none of my business.”

Phil is the brunt of unmerciful kidding about all the beautiful women he dates. But, his ability to help the players with their shooting technique is huge. By no small measure he is the reason the Suns are the best shooting team in the NBA.

Mark Iavaroni, a quietly efficient coach with a fire in his belly, is in charge of the big men. Mark, who played on an NBA Championship team, attended several Pete Newell Big Men
Camps, the standard by which all coaches use. In his understated way, Mark holds his own in the intensely funny debates.

Then there’s the vet, Alvin Gentry – very serious, a worrier who has a way of summing up the entire moment in a humorous way.

The two D’Antoni’s couldn’t be more different. The older brother, Dan, has a way of subtly causing the whole fracas. Dan, who has changed Leandro Barbosa into an almost unguardable player, comes to it naturally after developing so many outstanding point guards in his days as a high school coach in South Carolina.

But, the man who put them all together, who brought the system to the Suns, Mike, is hilarious. As intense as he can be on the sideline, he is as fun loving off the floor. He loves to stir it up, then sit back and watch.

If this team stays healthy, the franchises’ first NBA Title may be a reality! Wouldn’t it be timely that as Jerry Colangelo vacates his office in the Arena in June, that he takes an NBA Trophy with him!

The Feats of Strength

I know there are some that come to Suns.com in hopes of reading the latest in basketball news, but with the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl I’m afraid I’m going to have to start elsewhere.

Wilt’s 100-point game has been a sports record that has so far passed the test of time. (NBAE Photos)

I do this not because I am a long-time Colts fan, that’s not it at all. It is also in no way an attempt to gloat towards Patriots fans I know who have disgusted me for years, I’m much bigger than that (although not much). I’m doing it because in recent years the Colts have been viewed by some as the Phoenix Suns in cleats. Like the Suns, the Colts have had the reputation of being an offensive juggernaut who couldn’t win in the postseason because it is defense that wins championships. Quarterback Peyton Manning and company quieted naysayers on Sunday with one of the most impressive comebacks in NFL history, leading some to believe it only a matter of time before the Suns do the same. Yes, I believe defense does win championships and yes, I believe rebounds do get you rings. At the same time, however, there’s no denying that if you outscore your opponent you will win the game. And in the words of Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game.”

During practice today there was plenty of Super Bowl talk, primarily on the parts of Mike D’Antoni and Shawn Marion. Mike is a Colts fan and an admirer of Manning while Shawn is a Chicago guy who isn’t shy about being a Bears fan. There was also some talk about some streak I guess the Suns are enjoying, something about 13 games.

I’m following the lead of Steve Nash in being modest about the accomplishment, the truth is what the Suns have done is amazing. The team has won 32 of 34 games, the two losses including an overtime defeat at the hands of the Wizards and a tight contest lost in Dallas. Two losses by a combined seven points separate this team from challenging one of sports seemingly most unbreakable records.

Obviously you could play devil’s advocate and point to the games Phoenix pulled off by the most narrow of margins. Leandro Barbosa not making an incredible three-point shot in Chicago or Steve Nash not coming up clutch the next night in Toronto could have easily had those games going the other way. The fact of the matter is though, that those shots did go in and are responsible for Phoenix’s current streak which stands at 13. A streak which has people remembering an unforgettable record set by the 1972-73 Los Angeles Lakers. That team featured legends like Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West who ran off 33 consecutive victories on their way to a 69-win season and an NBA title. No team since has even surpassed 20 consecutive wins, and only eight teams have even gotten halfway there.

This leads me to my blog topic of discussion (just six paragraphs in, not bad): Which record is the Al Capone of the sports world? Which record is truly untouchable?

If I could veer away from basketball for just a moment, baseball truly has some spectacular records which I don’t think will ever be touched. Cal Ripken Jr. playing in 2,632 consecutive ballgames certainly comes to mind. The streak – in the words of broadcaster Dan Majerle – is inconceivable, especially when you consider baseball is generally played six days out of the week. Most impressive about that mark is the fact that it ever got any steam to begin with. Players taking a day off is nothing rare in the game (especially for Barry Bonds, he seems to do it three or four times a week). That said, it would’ve been no big deal for Ripken Jr. at around consecutive game 150 to say, “Hey coach, I’m gonna sit this one out.” I doubt he had the record on his mind at 150, and I doubt his coach would have had any problems with the future Hall of Famer taking a breather. But as Ripken saw it, if he could walk he could play and it’s why he’s one of baseball’s all-time greats. The other mark in baseball I’m constantly amazed by was accomplished by Vander Meer in 1938, a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds who threw two consecutive no-hitters. To break this record, a pitcher would have to pitch three consecutive no-hitters!!! It’s a thought so improbable it demands three exclamation points, punctuation I’m not usually too generous with.

Back to basketball, the first record which usually jumps out at NBA fans is Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point performance against the Knicks in 1962. A feat you’re more likely to see in a farfetched Disney cartoon than accomplished on the hardwood again. But while the feat is nothing less than amazing, and while it may never be duplicated again, I wouldn’t say it was necessarily untouchable. Kobe Bryant went off for 81 last season against the Mavericks and that’s with Phil Jackson as his coach. Imagine if he had a coach who encouraged him to take every single shot from the start or if a great player actually game planned to do it. I’ve seen guys call a timeout to get a triple-double, I don’t think it too farfetched a guy would ask his teammates to help him reach the plateau.

On the other end of the spectrum is a record set by former Orlando Magic point guard and former Suns Head Coach Scott Skiles who dished out 30 assists in a 1990 contest against the Denver Nuggets. Again, a jaw dropping accomplishment, but one which is not untouchable considering Steve Nash has reached the 20-assist margin twice this season. No, 20 is not 30 but the argument is not whether or not a record is impressive, the argument is whether or not it is untouchable.

Known to some for his Lucky Charms-like hair, former defensive specialist Dennis Rodman was known to many as an unbelievable rebounder. So unbelievable that he actually led the league in the statistic for seven consecutive seasons. Chamberlain meanwhile once grabbed 55 in a single game against the Syracuse Nationals.

The numbers are preposterous, but to me none equal the accomplishment of that 1973 Lakers team. Chamberlain’s 100 point game will most likely never be touched, the chances of that 55-rebound game being approached perhaps even slimmer. But while they may never be broken, the fact is all it would take is one game. Not to downplay those marks, but it takes one really, really ridiculous game for the numbers to be surpassed. For that 1973 team to see their record shattered would take a total team effort for 34 consecutive games. Thirty-four consecutive games where a ballclub is able to stay healthy, stay consistently on the same page and pull out a victory. It’s a mark so impressive, the Suns have us talking about it and aren’t even halfway there.

Lucky No. 13

We are currently on our way out east for a five game trip that will take the next seven days. Up first are the previous streak busters, the Washington Wizards.

Steve Nash is getting closer to the Tom Hanks Casaway character every day.
(Image courtesy of fan Joe Corrao)

This first game should be a very tough one, with the Wizards superstar, Gilbert Arenas having really established him as one of the top marquee players in the league.

Last nights game marked the second time this season that the team has won thirteen or more games. Hopefully we can keep this streak alive for a long time yet. Going along with the streak is the facial hair that many of you may have noticed on several of the guys. It would be great if we could all end up looking like Tom Hanks in castaway, however our wives would probably beg to differ. All I can say is that I have not packed any razors on this trip.
One of my interests outside of family and basketball is classic and American muscle cars. Last week I was able to head down to the Barrett Jackson and Russo and Steele car auctions for a day. What a sight! There were some absolutely incredible cars there. What was perhaps even more remarkable was the turn out of people that had come from all over the world for the events. Hopefully once we get back a successful trip we will be able to see the Phoenix open, something I have not yet seen. From everything that I’ve heard from the other guys its another fun event to be apart of here in the Phoenix area.

The more time I spend in Phoenix the more things I find the city has to offer.

Keep the streak and the beards alive…..