Suns, NBA Assist New Orleans Reconstruction Efforts During All-Star Weekend


Former and current NBA stars (Bill Russell and Steve Nash pictured) came together in New Orleans to help in continuing hurricane recovery efforts.
(NBAE Photos)

It was 1981, I was weeks away from high school graduation and 150 of my closest friends Amtraked it to the Big Easy for our yearly band tour. Given that most of us had recently reached the then-drinking age of 18 and the fact that we fancied ourselves as the artsy group of our class, it was quite literally the time of our lives.

We drank Hurricanes, walked Bourbon Street, hung out by the river’s edge and even managed to perform a couple of concerts, most notably in historic Jackson Square.

When the footage of Katrina’s devastating aftermath began to air two years ago, I joined all who had ever been to New Orleans in a personal feeling of loss. Only those who had the opportunity to enjoy the French Quarter and its eccentricities pre-Katrina could truly know what was lost when that massive storm blew ashore and changed the region forever.

So when I heard that the NBA’s All-Star Weekend was heading to Louisiana I jumped at the chance to return to the source of such great adolescent memories. I knew it would not be the same. Natural disaster and human error had combined to make New Orleans a bleak skeleton of what it once was – a proud and unique destination, combining European style and class with Southern hospitality and good old American entrepreneur spirit.

Upon our arrival on Thursday, the airport shuttle to our hotel made a couple of stops to drop others off in the French Quarter and the memories from our trip over a quarter-century ago (yikes) came back clearer than ever. [Read more...]

All-Star Weekend Blog’s Stefan Swiat brings you continuous updates of everything that’s going on at All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.



As my friend said, I guess Batman can dunk on Superman.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images

Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008
So while the West was narrowly defeated by the East, 134-128, the representatives from the Suns put on a pretty good show. Amaré could have been MVP of the game if the West had pulled it out, being one of three players to lead the West with 18 points. He shot 8-of-11 from the floor and also added five rebounds. Steve was his usual steady self, shooting 4-of-8 from the field to total eight points and six assists. His six dimes tied Denver’s Allen Iverson for a team high.

The All-Star Game is a fantastic show and you could tell the players turned it on down the stretch. They definitely wanted to win. Sure, they all want to look good during the game, but the pride factor will inevitably kick in when you have that many competitors on one court.

STAT certainly agreed. [Read more...]

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...]

Tom's Top 5


Joe Kleine is on Tom Leander’s First Team of top per-sun-alities. (NBAE Photos)

Well, I figured we know the great performers on the court, but what about off the court. Since joining the Suns in 1993 as a studio host, many colorful characters have come and gone. I have intereacted with these players through various interviews and features for our pregame show, Suns Gametime. Also, for the last 5 years, I have been travelling with the team, and you really get to know a guy while 35 thousand feet in the air amidst wicked turbulence!

So I am submitting my own Top 5 with the caveat that my 3 broadcasting partners(TC, Thunder and EJ) are ineligible because they are obvious “shoe-ins” and then I’d have only two spots left! Also, I am disqualifying two of my all-time favorites–Hawk and Van(Dick Van Arsdale)–because they have received so many honors(Ring of Honor, Hall of Fame etc.)that making my list would be like Angelina Jolie winning a State Fair beauty contest.

So here goes…

Tom’s Top 5 “Per-Sun-alities” [Read more...]

Back to the Future – Behind the scenes of the Suns' 40th anniversary broadcast

The Suns rolled back the clock when they hosted the Sonics on Jan. 3.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE Photos)

The game was chosen in large part because the Suns’ first-ever game was a 116-107 win over Seattle back in October of 1968. If you watched the game on MY 45, you might have been wondering what happened to your television.

Although the idea of a “retro” broadcast is hardly new (we did one against Milwaukee five years ago in celebration of our 35th anniversary season), this was the first one done in the age of high definition. Viewers got to experience a history lesson of sorts through a few distinct eras of sports television. By the time halftime rolled around and you had been watching the first quarter in grainy black and white and the second quarter with not-so-sharp color images and obnoxiously big graphics, your new HD set looked even better. Here is how the broadcast played out from behind the scenes, era by era.

Game open / First Quarter– There was a short “tease” segment in which Tom Leander’s voice explained the course the broadcast would be taking over some great old highlights from the Madhouse on McDowell. David Hughes, who produced the broadcast with me, did a fantastic job of putting together this piece. The shots of Dick Van Arsdale, Connie Hawkins, Alvan Adams and Cotton Fitzsimmons brought back a flood of memories. [Read more...]

A Day at the Track

Me, Allan Greene and my favorite Gorilla of all time hanging out at Turf Paradise. 

(NBAE Photos)

Being too young to go myself, I stayed at home, most likely playing Tomb Raider and picking fights with my younger sister. When my parents got back, they said they had a little surprise and handed me a betting stub. Always the polite son, I pretended to be happy about the lackluster gift and it wasn’t until turning it over I saw what all the hype was about. The souvenir featured the autograph of Cotton Fitzsimmons, who at the time was serving as the Suns’ chief color analyst on KTAR and KUTP-TV broadcasts alongside Al McCoy. The item went up on my wall and needless to say, has been an important keepsake ever since.

When I first moved to the Valley back in 1994, the only thing about Arizona I was familiar with was Phoenix Suns basketball. I had never heard of a swamp cooler, thought roadrunners only existed in cartoons and soda to me was soda, not “pop”. New to the area, Suns broadcasts quickly became my best friend and the one-two punch of McCoy and Fitzsimmons was a gigantic reason for that. [Read more...]

Summer Pick-Up Games

Most of you know by now that I not only work for the Phoenix Suns, but I also am one of the team’s biggest fans. If you were anywhere in the East Valley and had your windows open during the playoffs last year, you could probably hear me yelling.

Technorati Profile

Steve Nash has passing down but still is working out during the summer. 

(NBAE Photos)

Whether it was because the Suns won or because they lost, I seemed to be doing a lot of yelling last post-season.

I happened to be traveling during Game 5 of the Suns/Spurs series and I watched the game in my hotel room. Most people would probably have gone to a sports bar to watch the game, but I am superstitious. I had to watch the last three games of the Suns/Lakers series the year before in a hotel room and they won all of those games, so I figured I’d keep the tradition going. If anyone was in the room next to mine, they probably wondered what the crazy guy next door was doing when I started banging my head against the wall as the Suns’ lead slowly began to fade in the 4th quarter.

A couple of years ago, the team had a promotion where you could submit a paragraph about why you were a Suns fan. I submitted something and about a month later heard from the team. They wanted to wrap my car in a “full-body” wrap to advertise for the Suns for the year. I jumped at the opportunity and loved driving around town with the coolest car around. I was devastated when I had to take it off once the season ended. Even now, there are people who wonder where my cool car went. (Maybe I can talk the team into doing that to my car again now that I work here…I’ll have to ask my boss about that!)

Anyway, the point of all this is to hopefully let you know just a little bit how I felt as I ventured down to the practice court Thursday morning just to see what was going on. As we went to the lower level of the arena and started getting closer to the court, we heard basketballs bouncing so I knew something was happening.

We tried to slip in without anyone noticing us but Mark West, Vice President of Player Programs, was sitting right by the door. We said “hi” and continued into the room where we could get a good view of the action on the court. I could see there was a game of 2-on-2 and immediately recognized Steve Nash and Grant Hill. After a minute, I recognized the two guys they were playing against – Alando Tucker and DJ Strawberry. So it was the veterans against the rookies.

We had come in about halfway through the game and watched the rest. It appeared the rookies won the first game by making several 3-point shots in a row. Want to know a huge difference between watching NBA players play 2-on-2 and just normal guys? The NBA players don’t miss. I’ve watched regular pick-up games go for 10 to 15 minutes or more, even if it was only the first team to seven points. These games went so quickly it was amazing. But when you make almost every shot you take, that tends to happen.

After the first game was over, the veterans stayed on the court and talked while the rookies sat down for a little rest. They only got about a two minute break before everyone was at it again. This time the MVP didn’t even shoot the ball unless it was as he was cutting to the basket and he caught a pass by Hill. He didn’t take any jump shots at all. But you could tell the wily veterans had some moves the rookies weren’t quite ready for and the Nash/Hill combo won the game easily.

While we were watching the second game, several more people entered the room to watch including our old friend, Kurt Thomas! Everyone was genuinely glad to see him, including Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations, David Griffin, and Suns assistant coaches Phil Weber and Dan D’Antoni – who were there watching the action as well.

We decided to leave soon after the second game so we didn’t outstay our welcome. I was getting ready to leave anyway because I just couldn’t hold my smile in any longer and didn’t really want to be sitting there grinning like a Cheshire cat. Sure, I’m on cloud nine even thinking about the opportunity to watch these pick-up games – but I don’t have to let everyone around here know that! Even three months ago, I couldn’t have imagined that I would be able to take a 15-minute break from my job and go watch a pick-up game between NBA players.

I’m sure there will be other instances like this that Suns fans would die for. And I hope to be your eyes and ears and blog about the experience throughout the season to give you the kind of behind-the-scenes look at the Suns you’ve never had before.