Big Fella Going to Make Big Splash

 

Shawn Marion was traded for Shaquille O’Neal on Wednesday and Tim Kempton explains why this could help push the Suns to a championship. (NBAE Photos)

He’s going to be missed on the court, too. He’s been here a long time and there’s a reason for that. Although there have been a lot of rumors in recent years about the Suns trading him, he is a unique player and brought a lot to this team. He’s a guy that can defend several positions. He’s a guy that gets out on the break. He’s only 6-7, but he’s always among the league leaders in rebounding. And no matter what people say about that crazy shot of his, he has increased his range and can score from the three-point line.

If you’re going to give up a Shawn Marion, you have to get someone who’s going to come in here and make a splash, and I think Shaquille O’Neal will make that splash on and off the court.

Shaq is the most dominant player of all time. His sheer size and strength just overwhelms teams. Sure, he might not be the same player he was in his prime, but he will take away that whole lane area where the Suns have been weakest.

People aren’t going to come in there and take over the glass anymore. Even if Shaq just stands there, his size alone will keep people out of there and he will gather rebounds. So from that standpoint we get very strong in an area where we were very weak, the interior defense. [Read more...]

Road Ramblings

I’d like to start this blog entry by taking a look at my Top 5 NBA cities, many of which were on the Suns’ latest road trip:

 

1) New York: Growing up in Long Island, it was always great returning home to play in front of my friends and family. We’ve had countless arenas come and go over the years, but Madison Square Garden is still standing. Everybody wants to play well under the bright lights of the Garden. I’d be going through lay-up lines, and guys I played against in high school would come down and say hello or just yell something out at me from the stands. There is no better place to play.

2) Indiana: It’s a little bit of a homecoming for me because I played college ball at Notre Dame, but I think Conseco Fieldhouse is by far the best basketball building out there. The atmosphere is unbelievable and the fans are really knowledgeable. They also appreciate the way the Suns play basketball.

3) Toronto: It is very similar to New York in that it is a very cosmopolitan city and the basketball culture is getting better. The food and the atmosphere in that city are outstanding.

4) Chicago: It is a terrific basketball city and the arena has some history to it because it is the “House That Michael Built.” Plus, I am a fan of the Midwest.

5) Boston: I hate the building, but love the tradition. It might be the worst building in the NBA, but Boston is still fantastic because legends like Red Auerbach and Larry Bird make up its championship history.

 

My honorable mention choice would be Seattle. They have a storied past, as well as excellent food and restaurants. And lastly, if we could get a team back there, Vancouver might crack my Top 5. It was so much fun going back there in the pre-season, especially when you have someone like Steve Nash on your team.

 

 

You never know who will be in the crowd at the Garden.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE Photos/Getty Images
 

 

New York Stories

 

Having just visited New York last week with the Suns, it made me recall some memorable stories from the road, one of which occurred during the 1992-93 season. We were facing the Knicks, and Charles Barkley was really getting into to it with an official named Eddie F. Rush. As Charles was going off, I was trying to stand between him and the ref. When the official started walking away, he went over a table in pursuit of Rush and I tried to tackle him. Unfortunately, my plan didn’t work out because he broke the tackle and I came up with a fistful of air. I looked up and saw Charles storming after the official into the locker room.

 

A good New York story comes from when I was playing with the Nuggets. After finishing our game at the Garden, I went out with some family and friends and stayed out pretty late. When I got back to my hotel room, I was so tired I just collapsed onto my bed, dead to the world. The next thing I knew, I woke up and the bus was already gone, so I had to hightail it to the airport in a cab. It was the only time I ever overslept in the NBA.

 

Back in my playing days, we used to always stay overnight in New York because we flew commercially. But now that we have charter flights in the league, coaches have tried to keep their players out of places where they might get into trouble. That’s why a lot of coaches don’t allow their teams to stay overnight in New York. They don’t want their guys out all hours of the night.

 

Although most teams adhere to that practice, the Suns did stay overnight during their recent visit. Everything was fine with our guys because we have a mature team. The players talk amongst themselves about being responsible and Steve Nash will talk to them about when they need to rest and when they can enjoy themselves a little bit. Not that there are many teams with a curfew in the NBA, but there is no need for one with the Suns. They are much better than most teams as far as taking care of their bodies.

 

Speaking of Steve, being on the road with him is a great experience. Since Steve spends his summers in New York, he has a few favorite joints that he likes to go to. This past week we went to one of his favorite restaurants in the East Village. All of the people at the restaurant love him and he even has a picture of himself in his soccer uniform hanging on the wall.

 

 

 

Nash always leads with a smile.
Barry Gossage/NBAE Photos/Getty
 

 

I talk about him all the time and people may get tired of it, but I don’t. People absolutely love him, but not just as a basketball player. They love him as this Canadian guy who loves to play rec-league soccer and goes to Greenwich Village because he’s not going to be recognized. He is like the Pied Piper on the team in that if he wants to go somewhere, everyone follows him. They follow him because they know he’s such a good guy and that they are going to have a great time.

 

Basketball fans love Amaré Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, but with Steve it’s different. He’s much more diverse in his fan base. His reach extends much further than basketball.

Basketball is just a microcosm of Steve’s influence on people. It’s very similar to what it was like being around Jordan and Barkley. They were all-encompassing, as well. But Charles was a little different though. Charles’ personality was so large and loud, whereas Steve is so laid-back and genuine. But they both had the same effect on people. Even kids that don’t know basketball know Steve Nash. That’s what’s amazing to me.

 

Road Blunders

 

Sometimes life on the road can get guys preoccupied, and that’s when blunders can happen. On this recent trip, the assistant coaches and I were walking into the freight elevator in Madison Square Garden. The freight elevator is quite large and is used to transport elephants for the circus, so it can fit at least 15 people. So all of us were crammed inside of the elevator, and all you heard was Dan D’Antoni yell out in disgust. It was at that point that he realized that he had forgotten his suit at the hotel.

 

It wasn’t so bad that he had forgotten his suit. In fact, he called his brother and had him bring it with him on the second bus. The problem was that he let everyone else in the elevator know that he did. With three games still left on the road trip, that’s not something he should have done. All he heard about for the rest of the trip was how he forgot his suit. He’s still hearing about it.

 

And although most blunders happen on the road, they can happen to a home team, too. When we visited Minnesota last week, we noticed something off with Wolves guard Marko Jaric. He came out of the tunnel and onto the court with his uniform top on backwards. You never know what’s going to happen next in the NBA, so check in soon for the latest and greatest……

Tim Kempton's Season Outlook

The regular season has arrived and the Phoenix Suns are poised for a special year. Having watched this team closely throughout the preseason, I think we are in great shape and have made some real improvements over last season.

 

The Suns improved in a number of ways by acquiring Grant Hill. He is just a phenomenal basketball player. What a lot of people don’t remember is that he is a 20-plus points a game scorer over his career and you just don’t lose that ability. In addition, his personality fits so well into the team and he is so intelligent. I think that he’s going to have a super year in this system

I have also been impressed with the bench play, especially Marcus Banks and Sean Marks. Marcus appears to have finally grasped his role on this team and accepted it, and due to the Suns’ lack of big men, Sean has been a real bright spot because of his ability to get up and down the floor, and score inside. He’s similar to Kurt Thomas, but even more athletic.

 

I actually kind of see myself in Sean because I was in a similar situation during my career. We always knew that he could play, it was just a matter of him getting minutes. Now he’s getting minutes and showing what he can do and his confidence is growing with the playing time that he is receiving. It’s a cycle. More minutes equals more confidence, which leads to more minutes and more confidence.

 

 

Kempton sees promise in Marks.
(NBAE Photos)
 

I have taken a personal interest in his story because I love the way he plays, he’s a great guy and very level-headed about the game. All the guys at this level are talented. If you make it to the NBA, you make it here for a reason. It’s just a matter of finding your way into the rotation, and Sean is doing just that.

 

The rookies have shined through, too. Both Alando Tucker and DJ Strawberry earned valuable experience by staying all four years in college. They weren’t drafted in the top 10, so they aren’t considered superstars, but they are off to a tremendous start.

 

It’s important to have rookies that understand the game and themselves. You can see it right away because the difference between college and the NBA is drastic. A guy who gets by on talent in college can struggle in the league because almost everyone is physically gifted in college.

 

We all know that the Suns are an upper-echelon team, but there are about five or six teams that have the pieces to possibly make a run at the Finals. As the year goes on, though, you will see a certain type of progression and consistency that will be limited to just a couple of those teams.

When the 1992-93 team I was on entered the season, we thought we had the pieces in place to make it to the Finals. We had Charles Barkley, we had leadership and a great point guard in Kevin Johnson, a three-point threat in Dan Majerle, role players like Cedric Ceballos (who averaged 13 points a night without a play getting called for him) as a hustle guy. We had a solid big man in the middle in Mark West, who despite not being counted on to score points, accepted his role for the good of the team. We also had some solid veterans in Tom Chambers and Danny Ainge.

We knew we had all the pieces headed into that season and we progressed as the year went on. It was a magical season, but we just ran into the wrong team. In the Finals, the Bulls were just a little bit hotter than we were. An interesting fact from that series is that although we lost in six games, we scored the same amount of points as Chicago in the Finals. I think we both scored 706 points. That’s how close those six games were.

 

With this year’s Suns team, we’ve seen improvement already. Now the question is whether they will progress during the season. Will everybody stay healthy? I think that is the main key to the Suns winning it all. They have the right amount of youth mixed with the right amount of experience, and they have great guys coming off the bench in Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa.

Will this be the year the Suns win their first NBA Championship? We won’t know for another eight months, but it’s going to be a lot of fun watching their progression along the way.