Suns Work Overtime Against Charlotte

(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)

I began writing this blog post about the Suns versus Charlotte game at halftime on Monday night. I thought I was getting a head start on my postgame work but little did I know the game wasn’t even half-over at that point. I’ve heard it said that “Game Seven” are the two most exciting words in sports but the most exciting four words would have to be: “double overtime preseason game”.
[Read more...]

Campout stories

Danie Banks/suns.com

Daniel Banks/suns.com

My alarm began blaring at 6am Thursday morning, but I was already up. I couldn’t sleep knowing it was my turn to go to Tucson to attend Suns Training Camp 2008. I had so many questions: What would Coach Porter look like in action? How was the returning team dealing with the offseason changes? And is Boris growing his hair out to challenge Robin’s Fro-pez?

I did not get off to a great start. Rush hour and wrong turns marked my escape from Phoenix. We finally got out on the open road but the trouble followed me. We stopped for breakfast at a McDonald’s off the freeway and I ordered a sausage burrito for my co-worker and an Egg McMuffin for myself. Simple right? When I received my bag it contained one Sausage McMuffin. That was the type of day I was having. [Read more...]

Going Home

I’ve got a mound of work waiting for me when I reconnect to the Internet on the ground, but for the moment I’m looking out the window wrestling with a strange feeling.

For the first time in my life, I’m glad to be leaving Texas.

My conversion to a Phoenix Suns fan is nearly complete. I know ahead of us is a long day of listening to people worry about the Suns’ chances but looking around this cabin, I find comfort in the team I’ve followed all season.

There are no hanging heads or pointing fingers. The same group that was playing cards on the way to San Antonio is enjoyng the same game on the red eye back home. DVD players are still lit up with the latest movie releases and every few minutes a laugh will cut through the flight noise. Panic? No thanks.

The Spurs did what the Spurs have done for years – find a way to win. In Game 1 they used a comeback fueled by big shots. In Game 2, it was hack-a-Shaq and oppessive defense. It’s nothing new.

But now we’re headed to the place where the Suns have their own bag of tricks. It’s time for the Suns to do what they did __ in the regular season. Defend their home.

I can already hear some of you saying, “But the Spurs are too hard to beat.”

Tell that to the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers. The group of veteren stars (sound familiar?) fell down 0-2 to the defending NBA champion Spurs (sound very familiar?) and headed back to the Staples center where they decided the Spurs would get no closer to the trophy.

Tell that to the 2005 Detroit Pistons. They also stumbled out of the gate in San Antonio and flew to Detroit with their backs against an 0-2 wall. They answered the challenge and evened things up with two convincing wins.

Oh yeah, and tell that to the 2008 Phoenix Suns.

It's Just a Building…Right?

The AT&T Center has caused a lot of pain for the visiting teams.

I’ve explored every level and I assure you that there is no death star being constructed in a secret room. It’s just a building… or is it?

The Suns’ playoff opener goes down as one of the most thrilling games in recent memory, but it was just par for the course for an arena that has haunted opponents since 2003. Shaquille O’Neal has been around long enough to know the history. When asked about his foul trouble in Game 1 Shaq said, “I’m used to things like that happening in this building. We’ve just got to find a way to continue playing.”

Other Suns remember all too well “The Incident” in Game 4 last year when a fourth-quarter flagrant foul sent Steve Nash to the floor and the Spurs to the Western Conference Finals. The Nuggets also know what it’s like to draw the wrath of the the building. Twice they opened the playoffs with a win on the Spurs’ home court and both times that was their only win of the playoffs.

The AT&T Center has seen the Spurs crowned champions twice (’03 and ’05) and it will pull out every trick in the book to see it again. Tim Duncan hits a clutch three-pointer in the closing seconds? Only in that arena.

But not so fast. Before we run and hide from the mysterious power of that building, let’s remember that it has turned on the Spurs in the past. In the 2004 playoffs, the Spurs hosted Game 5 in their semi-final series against the Lakers. With the series tied 2-2, the pivotal game went down to the wire and the Spurs, thanks to an incredible shot by Tim Duncan, had the lead with 0 seconds remaining. Actually, there was 0.4 seconds remaining. I was in the building for Derek Fisher’s miraculous shot that crushed the Spurs spirit and for the first time I tasted the bitterness that building has fed to so many opponents over the years.

The Suns have a chance to harness the power of the AT&T Center and give the Spurs a taste of their own medicine once again. They were a Tim Duncan three-pointer away from winning Game 1 and as Shaq famously remarked back in 2004, “One lucky shot deserves another.”

If that’s true, we’re due.

Home Again

The Suns flew over enemy territory as they landed in San Antonio on Friday.
(Daniel Banks)

In my introductory blog for Suns.com, I explained that I spent the past four seasons working for the San Antonio Spurs before making the switch last summer. I admit it wasn’t an easy thing watching the Suns and Spurs play each other during the regular season. I was like a mother watching her two kids wrestle in the back yard: “It’s okay as long as no one gets hurt!”

But as my first season with the Phoenix Suns turns into my first postseason with the Suns, we run smack-dab into the Spurs. Now instead of kids wrestling, they’re sword fighting. Someone is most definitely getting sent home after this series. It’s time to choose a side.

Suns in six.

Why will the Suns win? Because they say so. This group of guys isn’t fearful or even (ahem) sternly focused… they’re downright enthusiastic. Steve Nash, Amaré Stoudemire, Shaq, and company are eager to shed the ghosts of last year and put on a performance that will haunt the Spurs for a change.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to tag along with the team on their trip to Texas. For me, it was a return home, but for the Suns, it was a trip into enemy territory. We flew over the AT&T Center, saw Spurs billboards on the freeway, and I even ran into the Spurs Coyote (more on that in a second). Despite this town’s love for their team, there is a nervousness in San Antonio. The Spurs know they can be beaten and they are questioning if they have what it takes to stop Shaq from demanding that they start their summer early.

Finally, allow me a quick personal note about the trip. The travel day is a blur of buses, airports and new experiences. One minute I’m getting screened by airport security out on the tarmac and the next I’m enjoying a delicous lunch (orange chicken from Pei Wei!) on the charter flight while watching Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Brian Skinner try to take all of Tim Kempton’s chips in a game of poker. Then we land and find our way to the hotel, where I get to work (check out the photos from travel day). But there was one more thing that had to be done though. Fiesta.

Fiesta San Antonio is actually several large festivals around town all tied together with the same theme: Eat a lot. I can get behind a mission statement like that. Anyway, after my work I cabbed it to one of the festivals still in my Suns gear from the flight. As I approach the entrance I ran into none other than the Spurs Coyote. He did his best to deny me entry, but ladies and gentlemen, I would not be stopped. Did I get some comments? Sure, there were more than a few people who pointed at my shirt and yelled, “WHAT IS THAT??” I politely informed them, “It’s a 2008 Suns Championship shirt… I just bought it early.”

Suns Basketball: A Love Story

Boy falls for girl.

Boy loses girl.

Boy gets girl back.

The Phoenix Suns are counting on a happy ending of their own this season.

 


(NBAE Photos)

Under the guidance of Coach Mike D’Antoni, the Suns brought the NBA a passionate, exciting style of basketball and fans couldn’t help but fall in love. The fast pace, the unselfish spirit, and a sense of genuine joy were the hallmarks of a team that proudly brought fun back in style.

Perhaps everyone got spoiled on the excitement. Maybe it was the all-too-early exit from last year’s playoffs. Whatever the reason, there was a feeling that fun was getting harder to find. The Suns entered the season with a serious goal – championship or bust.

The team got off to a hot start, but it wasn’t long before the team’s potential was questioned. Despite claiming the best record in an intensely competitive Western Conference, there was a sense that something wasn’t quite right. Whether it was chemistry or matchups, Steve Kerr candidly told reporters, “Ultimately – going into the playoffs – would we have felt comfortable with what we had? Maybe not.” [Read more...]

The Big Picture

Do you know what is most annoying about clichés? They’re usually true. Even though I’ve heard them countless times before, I have to admit they are good things to hear and even better things to do.

It’s a long way to #1. 

(NBAE Photos)

When the Suns lost their home opener to the Lakers, some clichés came to mind:

  • Take things one day at a time.
  • Don’t get ahead of yourself.
  • Learn from your mistakes.
  • See the big picture.

Blah, blah, blah… boring, right? Well, maybe, but not when you see the big picture…

Back in October, the Suns.com news team set up a base of operations in Tucson, AZ to cover training camp. It was my first time in Tucson and I didn’t have one of those handy satellite navigation things that talk to you. I don’t know if I could handle that all the time – I don’t want some computer with a British accent telling me what to do. Anyway, the point is that I didn’t know where I was going.

As I drove north on a busy city street, I noticed the traffic getting lighter. Then buildings were replaced by rocks and trees. Eventually the road narrowed to two lanes winding through the landscape complete with bumps, blind curves, and the occasional furry creature. I wondered where I’d taken the wrong turn – surely this wasn’t going toward civilization. I thought I heard the faint sounds of a banjo coming from the trees. Although I doubted the directions, I stuck to them and eventually reached the team’s hotel – a beautiful resort overlooking the valley below.

One day the team had the morning off and I had a chance to take in the scenery. I walked to the edge of a small cliff and took in the amazing view. Looking down, I saw cars appear and disappear through the trees as they were making their way toward the hotel. And then it struck me: this is the big picture. I could see the exact same street I was on before, but this time I could see where it was leading. From up on that mountain, I realized the bumps and curves were all necessary to get me to where I was going.

We’re on another road now – toward an NBA Championship. The season is young – the street still busy – but things will lighten up as we get closer. We’ve already seen some bumps in the road (sore knees, big losses, etc) and it’s easy to start doubting the directions – to wonder if we’ve taken a wrong turn. But the clichés are true: Learn from the setbacks, take each day at a time, and remember the big picture. When we’ve reached the mountaintop, we’ll be thankful for all the twists and turns that got us there.

Howdy Y'all

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

 

Amaré Stoudemire blocks Tim Duncan in the 2005 playoffs. 

(NBAE Photos)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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