L.A. Dreaming

Just about a half-hour away from heading to Staples Center for Game 3 (on MY-45!). Thought I’d pass along a few musings before Gametime.

The Suns and Lakers tip off tonight at 7:30 p.m. on My45.
(NBAE Photos)
  • I have a sneaking suspicion we will see some rough play from the Lakers, who want to send a physical message along to the Suns especially in front of their home fans. Odom (and Charles Barkley) have said L.A. needs to put Leandro “down.” Phil Jackson said the Lakers were “punked” in Game 2. And Ronny Turiaf was visibly upset at James Jones for going in for a monster slam in the final minute of the blow-out. Don’t be surprised to see the chippiness return between these two teams–maybe even an ejection or two tonight.

 

  • Raja Bell and his wife Cindy need a short series. She’s expecting their first child any day now.

 

  • We may have some fun tonight with Phil Jackson and his “throne.” He sits with extra cushions after the hip replacement surgery. So for those that say he sits on his high horse…

 

  • I enjoyed seeing EJ present Leandro with his NBA Sixth Man Award trophy on Tuesday night, but I’m very disappointed in Eddie after he refused to go up on stage last night at a local night spot and sing karaoke for us here in Los Angeles (I even tipped the deejay $20 to slip EJ ahead of the others waiting to show their “Idol-like” skills!)

 

  • I have constant thoughts of how sweet a Suns run to the championship would be for Jerry Colangelo, who has been quietly watching from the shadows – but is always at the forefront of our minds.

 

  • A recent survey of GMs around the league gave the MVP award to Dirk. Think they may want to take those votes back?? He doesn’t look like an MVP after their first two playoff games. To me, Josh Howard has been their most valuable Mav!

 

  • Finally, I still feel strongly that our training staff (Aaron Nelson, Mike Elliott, Jay Gaspar and Eric Phillips) should collectively win Dan Majerle’s Hustle Award. Nobody works harder, hustles more than this group. They NEVER have a day off!
Later, from L.A.

The Chemistry Club

Rock the boat, don’t rock the boat, baby. Rock the boat, don’t tip the boat over…”

 

Pat Burke is member in good standing of the The Chemistry Club.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE Photos)

Name that band! Okay, it’s The Hues Corporation with a classic from the ’70′s. But apparently some of our fine friends around the league never heard these lyrics or just don’t buy into that theme. Check out this list of disgruntled players who have – at one point during this past – have rocked the boat and gone public with complaints about playing time or clashed with their coach: Andrei Kirilenko, Earl Watson, Damien Wilkins, P.J. Brown (one of the classier guys in the league!), Robert Horry, Corey Maggette, Ben Wallace, Smush Parker, Linton Johnson, and Marko Jaric just to name a few.

Some of these players have paid a price for their venting. Johnson is deep in Byron Scott’s doghouse with the Hornets, a team that desperately needed healthy bodies down the stretch. Horry reportedly ticked off Gregg Popovich to the point that the next game the coach ordered Horry to be listed “DNP-Old Age” for his insubordination!

Of course, there are many examples of players who bite their tongues, bide their time, and are rewarded for their classy patience. Look at Eddie Jones. One of the great locker room guys in the NBA, he was wilting away on the MEMPHIS bench – where even the ushers at Fed Ex Forum could crack the line-up! But Eddie remained a positive presence and was respectfully relocated to Miami and is now logging meaningful minutes for the playoff-bound Heat.

Now, enter the Phoenix Suns and their “Pine-Time Players.” Pat Burke, Eric Piatkowski, Jumaine Jones, Marcus Banks, Sean Marks and Jalen Rose have declared themselves members of the Fitness Club. But I submit they are better served by the moniker “Chemistry Club” for helping to keep the chemistry strong all season long while – as true competitors – certainly steaming deep inside, aching for a chance to showcase their skills.

Yet, when was the last time you heard Pike say: “I’m getting hosed here.” Or Jumaine Jones saying, “I am being disrespected.” How about Marcus Banks, who was trumpeted as the point guard who would finally give Nash a rest and also inject the Suns with some much-needed defensive intensity. He has every reason to provide the Arizona Republic with juicy, inflammatory comments.

Jalen Rose falls into the same category. He could be logging meaningful minutes in Miami, but he has been a true pro while idling on the bench. Pat Burke refuses to air his frustrations, instead obliges every time the team asks him to star in a comical spoof about all his “free time.” You could even throw Kurt Thomas into the mix. His minutes come and go but his professional demeanor never wavers.

In fact, last night after a rousing slaughter of the Jazz in Utah, many of these “Chemistry Club” members led a spirited and comical exchange on the plane and bus ride to the team hotel in Houston. Believe me, after reports of internal strife over the past couple of weeks, the chemistry has never been better.

And these Pine Time Players are a major reason why we are witnessing the third 60-win season in franchise history. All 3 of these teams had great character guys (and guys who are truly “characters). So move over Paul Shirley and Bo Outlaw (class of ’04-’05). Step aside, Tim Kempton and Frank Johnson (class of ’92-’93). Make room for these new members of the all-time Chemistry Club. The guys who opt not to rock the boat and just enjoy sailing toward a possible championship.

Off Day Adventures and Serious Hoop Talk

A season of adventures continues for the Suns. This time, tornado warnings in the Memphis area kept us grounded for an extra hour and a half following a grisly win over Memphis.

 

Amaré Stoudemire and the Suns take on Tim Duncan and Spurs in San Antonio on Thursday night (6:30 p.m., My45).�����(NBAE Photos)

Once loaded onto the plane, we were advised of a “bumpy ride” into San Antonio. Bumpy? At points it felt more like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. Needless to say, we are happy to be on the ground here in San Antonio. I know I quickly text messaged my wife and kids and told them how much I love them!

We had a great day off! Tim Kempton set up a day of “comp” golf for me, Eddie Johnson and our TV producer Bob Adlhoch. But these are not your ordinary, everyday rounds of golf. Not with Eddie and Tim. This is combat golf! Insults, sarcasm, and mental warfare are encouraged; etiquette and humility are forbidden. Certainly makes for an entertaining afternoon (and we all toasted our margarita glasses at dinner, so no hurt feelings!).

Now for some serious hoop talk. The Suns meet up with the Spurs in another late-season exam. They received A-pluses across the board at home against the Mavs, and to match that kind of effort and performance on the road in San Antonio would once again rearrange all those “Power Rankings.”

Here are some of the things I will be watching for against the Spurs:

• The Spurs 3-point defense can be stifling. The Suns coaching staff admits that San Antonio is the best at clamping down on the Suns 3-shooters.

• That should open the lane for Amaré, who as we all remember absolutely torched the Spurs in the playoffs two years ago and then had a 20-20 game last time out against Duncan and company in the paint.

• The Suns like their defensive match-ups with San Antonio. Steve Nash can check Bruce Bowen (coming-off six three-pointers in the Spurs’ last game), while Shawn Marion’s length and quickness can help neutralize Tony Parker. Raja Bell will have the unenviable task of tracking Manu Ginobili, but Raja has the tenacity to make Manu work for his points.

• A couple of wildcards will be Leandro Barbosa and Kurt Thomas. The Spurs will struggle to match up with the small-ball Suns when LB is on the floor with Nash, Raja and Shawn. Defensively, though, the Suns may rely on Kurt Thomas if the Spurs big bodies – Duncan, Francisco Elson, and “Fabio” Oberto – begin to dominate the glass (you may remember Oberto hit all 11 of his shots in the first meeting between these two teams).

The Spurs still have those savvy, 3-point shooting vets – Michael Finley, Brent Barry and Robert Horry. All three are now well into their thirties, so we shall see if their aging legs can run with the Suns. Right now Barry and Horry have nagging injuries, so we may not even see them on Thursday night.

But if the standings hold firm, we could see these two teams in the second round of the playoffs. The Suns have a strong desire to hold down that second seed so that THEY can claim the homecourt advantage for that potential series. It could be the determining factor between these two powerhouses.

We will all eagerly await the sneak peek. All you have to do is dial-up the game at the AT&T Center on My45 starting at 6 p.m. (PHX time) with Suns Gametime! Then sit back and enjoy The Best Show on Sneakers.