Pre-season is Over; Now for the Real Test

(Barry Gossage/NBAE/ Getty Images)

(Barry Gossage/NBAE/ Getty Images)

So, the mercifully short pre-season preparation for the regular season is over, and the interminably long regular season preparation for the post-season will officially get underway in San Antonio this Wednesday.

And frankly, I can hardly wait. For the post-season, I mean. I say this because we won’t know for sure until then whether Year One of going back to thinking INSIDE the box after four years of exhilarating – albeit ultimately somewhat unfulfilling – thinking outside the box, will work or not. [Read more...]

New 'Do for Diaw


Diaw talks with a reporter from France after Tuesday morning’s practice.
(Josh Greene/Suns.com)

More than 4,300 fans voted in the recent Suns.com poll asking whether Boris Diaw should keep his “new long hair and goatee look” or go back to the clean-cut style he sported during his first three seasons with the Suns.

The final margin between the two choices was far greater than the reported gap between Obama and McCain is currently, with 61% of fans telling 3D to keep the new look. Apparently, the margin was not large enough, however. [Read more...]

Suns vs Suns: 2008 Edition

It’s 4:30pm in Tucson and I’m sitting at the very top of the McKale Center, listening to Steve Koek and Adam Beechen start the annual podcast of the Phoenix Suns scrimmage.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, this is my second time at the scrimmage and it’s really different this time.  At the first scrimmage, I had the privilege of driving Al McCoy to the arena.  I was surprised at how easy it was to get in when I was tagging along with Al.  No one questioned me at all.  I just followed Al and everything was ok.

This time was a little different.  With the scrimmage starting at 5:00, we had to leave for the arena mid-afternoon to get here on time and make sure we got everything set up.  Unfortunately, Suns.com’s Daniel Banks and I didn’t follow the example of our fearless leader, Jeramie McPeek, and we left a half hour later than he did.  That put us right in the middle of early Friday rush hour traffic in Tucson.  Not a good time.

After dropping Banks off at the arena to get started on setting everything up (and almost hitting Suns owner Robert Sarver with my car in my hurry to get to the parking garage – sorry, Mr. Sarver!), I found parking and was able to get inside.  I was nervous that it wouldn’t be so easy to get in this time without Al as my escort.  But the arena staff was very accommodating and helped me get in and find where I needed to be. [Read more...]

Hopes are high during Media Day

Today is the day all Suns fans have been waiting for – Media Day!  Today is the official start of the 2008-2009 season.  It’s the day when the media gets to see the players after a summer off, when all of the questions that have pent up after digesting a coaching change, the addition of several new players through the draft and free agency and the questions that still linger after the first round exit in the playoffs last season.

Today was much more relaxed than last year’s event.  During Media Day last season, the main question was about how Shawn Marion would act after declaring he wanted to be traded.  People were trying to get answers to their questions about the team while trying not to dredge up bad feelings about the Marion situation.  All the reporters felt they had to ask the questions fans wanted to know – while knowing that the players and coaches most likely wouldn’t say anything people didn’t already know.  It was a tense two hours. [Read more...]

In Game 4, Boris Diaw's Initials Stand for "Big Difference"


  

Boris Diaw’s aggresiveness on Sunday made the difference in the game.
(NBAE Photos)Game Four also came up a laugher for this blogster. All I really had to do was punch up my Game 3 magnum opus on the screen, change all the San Antonios to Phoenixes, all the Phoenixes to San Antonios, all the Tony Parkers to Boris Diaws and all the Boris Diaws to Tony Parkers — and voila!

Sunday was that complete a reversal of fortunes from Friday!

And the biggest reversal was that where Parker was the whole show in Game Three, it was his French compatriot, Diaw, who was le difference in Game Four. And as they say in Paree, vive le difference!

Coach Mike said Diaw was “phenomenal,” and that is le mot juste.

He not only was the key to putting the clamps on Parker, but his aggressive low post presence created some mismatch nightmares for the Spurs and opened up the floor for his teammates, most notably Raja Bell (who played some pretty good “D” himself, by the way).

Diaw, who historically plays better as a starter than off the bench, was in the lineup because a groin injury sidelined Grant Hill, and he came within two assists of a triple double. But the thing that distinguishes this Boris from the Boris Badenough who has drawn more ire from Suns fans than any other player is not so much numbers as aggressiveness.

His size, athleticism, multiple skills, and court sense are clearly of triple double caliber. But his aggressiveness seems to come and go. And when it goes he becomes a very expensive triple single, hence the ire of frustrated fans and blog floggers in Valley cyberspace.

And whether or not this victory was simply a one-game stay of execution for the Suns or not depends in large part on whether the aggressive Diaw or the passive one shows up Tuesday night in San Antonio.

The bottom line: In trying to come back from an 0-3 start to win a series the Suns are trying to do something that’s never been done in the NBA, and only three times in all sports (and two of those were in hockey (which doesn’t count). So when you put it in historical context, their task seems all but impossible.

But I put it this way: If the Suns can win Game Five they WILL go on to make history. And that’s not QUITE so daunting. (But please note I said “if”, not “when”.)

Suns Hitting Their Stride

What do you get on a night when a very good home team that can’t do anything wrong meets a very bad road team that can’t do anything?

Very deceiving results. I mean, there’s no way this one was as close as that 117-88 score indicates.

Now I realize that beating the T-Wolves any place beyond the Minneapolis city limits is not exactly like beating a leopard in a tree, but even when you get past that disclaimer you have to be very impressed with how many levels the Suns have raised their game in the last few weeks (or even raised themselves from the dead if you listened to the way some folks were talking during the period of adjustment)..

Offense, defense, rebounding, chemistry, body language, you name it. And bear in mind the Suns weren’t exactly chopped liver BEFORE The Trade transformed this into the strongest playoff-type team in the Mike D’Antoni era.

Even those of us who climbed out on a limb (actually more like a strong branch) and proclaimed the acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal was a great one never dared suggest The Big Difference would make THIS much difference.

It’s not all Shaq by any means, of course. It’s also a matter of Raja Bell getting healthy, Boris Diaw taking fewer naps during games, Amare going from All World to Other Worldly, Steve Nash playing back to his MVP form, and even the overlooked signing of Gordon Giricek giving Coach Mike another useful piece of the puzzle.

But No. 32 has clearly been the catalyst. And you don’t have to look any further than the four games against the T-Wolves this year to pinpoint statistically what a difference a Shaq makes.

In the three games without him the Wolves beat the Suns half to death on the boards, 153-99, with a lot of that damage being done on the offensive end. But last night the Suns had a 52-39 edge that could have been even greater if Coach Mike hadn’t emptied his bench. (And speaking of that, by the way, the seldom seen back of the bench delivered 15 points).

And it wasn’t just a one-night phenomenon. Since The Trade the Suns have clearly corrected what had been one of their most glaring weaknesses, namely frailty off the glass.

And as I mentioned earlier, they have managed to shore up their weakness, including alleged softness and defense, without sacrificing any of their offense.

And where all teams talk about hitting their stride at the right time (i.e., now), the Suns are walking that talk with a vengeance.

The bottom line: There is every indication the next few weeks will be among the most exciting in franchise history.