Time: The Suns host the Raptors on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at US Airways Center.
Records: Suns 21-39 (fourth in the Pacific Division) vs. Toronto 23-38 (fifth in the Atlantic Division)
PG: Goran Dragic (14.2 points and 6.9 assists) vs. Kyle Lowry (12.7 points and 6.0 assists)
SG: P.J. Tucker (5.4 points and 4.1 rebounds) vs. DeMar DeRozan (17.7 points and 4.1 rebounds)
SF: Jared Dudley (11.1 points and 3.4 rebounds) vs. Rudy Gay (18.1 points and 6.1 rebounds)
PF: Luis Scola (12.7 points and 6.2 rebounds) vs. Andrea Bargnani (13.1 points and 3.7 rebounds)
C: Marcin Gortat: (11.2 points and 8.5 rebounds) vs. Jonas Valanciunas (6.7 points and 5.6 rebounds) [Read more...]
Time: The Suns host the Raptors on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at US Airways Center.
“Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, ’nostalgia’ literally means ’the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards … it takes us to a place where we ache to go again.”
Don Draper may have been talking about a slide projector as he made an advertising pitch to Kodak in the AMC drama Mad Men, but the description can be also be used for the way we view sports, and in particular the Phoenix Suns.
As a lifelong fan first and a writer second, I can understand the frustration that many can have during a transitional season like this one. The team and uniforms (current or the retro Hardwood Classics) remind us of what made us fall in love with the franchise in the first place. Coming to US Airways Center conjures up images of Suns teams past and memories shared with 18,000 of our closest friends. Hearing Al McCoy’s familiar tones emanating from the car radio takes us back 40 years in time and back again.
It all pulls at the heartstrings, reminding us of past successes and failures that the fans have been a part of. It’s more powerful than simple memories. It’s like a friend or family member who has been there during the good and bad times in our lives. It’s a constant. It’s a passion. It’s about pride.
That’s why I find it frustrating when fans (or media) make the suggestion that a team, any team, should lose on purpose to improve its draft position. If being a sports fan is about having passion and pride, shouldn’t we expect that from the athletes we root for every time they step on the court? Sure, they might not win every time out, or not even a majority of the time, but should we ever expect anything less?
Losing on purpose isn’t good for the game, for business or for the fans, even if they want to think it is. Every night, in every arena around the league, there are kids attending their first game ever and some people attending the last game they’ll ever get a chance to see for numerous socio-economic reasons. Should they get any less of an effort or performance for their hard earned money based solely on record? The answer is simply, no.
Don’t take my word for it. Take it from the guys whose livelihoods are directly dependent on the team’s performance.
“Tomorrow is not promised to any of us,” Coach Lindsey Hunter said when presented with the notion of tanking. “We have to give everything we have. Every day we come out here between these lines we’re going to work and get better. We’re going to strive for perfection. That’s the only way I know how to do it.”
Hunter also poses an interesting question to anyone making the assertion.
“That’s like telling someone to perform poorly at their job,” he passionately proclaimed. “Would they go perform poorly at their job? No! I don’t think they would. It’s the same thing for us. We want to compete. We want to win as many games as possible. We want to get better.”
It’s a solid point. Would any average person perform poorly on purpose with no guarantee of future success because of it? Not if they wanted to stay gainfully employed or had any real pride in their work.
One player who takes his job seriously is swingman Jared Dudley who echoes the sentiment of his coach.
“For us it’s a job. If you try to do bad you can be out of the NBA,” he said with a conviction. “For us, it’s trying to finish up personally on a good note and as team on a good note. Usually when you’re reaching your goals that means you’re winning. When you’re losing that means something is wrong. Guys have pride and want to finish well. Whatever draft pick or lottery pick you have you usually don’t worry about until June comes.”
As a fan can you really be upset with players wanting to give their all every night regardless of the odds or records? Isn’t a memory of a great game attended or a buzzer beater what we watch sports for in the first place? Isn’t the drama on the court more important than the drama of ping pong balls?
Dudley isn’t alone either, his outspoken teammate, Marcin Gortat, shares his feelings about playing hard and always trying to win.
“Screw that, no,” he said with a fire in his voice about losing on purpose. “Even though that’s for the team, we are not going to lose. It’s all about winning. We want to win basketball games. It’s not fun to put in work every day and try to get better, go to the game and lose on purpose. I can tell you, hell no.”
Isn’t that the passion you want from your favorite players on and off the court?
Their dedication to improving has shown in more than just their quotes. It’s also appeared on the court as well since the All-Star break. Point guard Goran Dragic is putting up career numbers having posted double-digit assist totals in five of the team’s seven games and is averaging over two steals a game. Center Jermaine O’Neal is starting to look like his old self since the break averaging 12.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks and playing key minutes. Swingman Wes Johnson has gone on a tear playing his best basketball of his NBA career and hitting big shots. All of this has equated to a 4-4 record that included a three-game win streak including wins over the playoff bound Spurs in San Antonio and against the Hawks at home.
As fans, and the organization as well, we ache to go to a place again where Phoenix is at the top of the west and we’re nostalgic about things that have passed. But that nostalgia is just the pain from past wounds. Losing on purpose doesn’t fix that. Only hard work and dedication will.
Luckily for us fans, history and nature has proven, the Suns always rise and it happens after things are their darkest.
The Suns are currently riding a season-high-tying three-game winning streak as they face the visiting Raptors on Wednesday. With four days between games, the Suns had a nice little respite before resuming the final 22 contests of the regular season. Check out what was uncovered after practice Tuesday.
In order to catch a flight to Boston to visit his daughter, Suns center Jermaine O’Neal left practice early Tuesday. His 13-year-old daughter, Asjia, will undergo surgery to repair a leaky heart valve Wednesday. [Read more...]
Suns One On One host Greg Esposito caught up with Suns swingman, and recent late game hero, Wesley Johnson after practice Tuesday. The two talk about how he choose basketball over football, what it was like transferring after his sophomore year of college, living up to expectations and making an impact on the Suns lately. Hear all that and much more on this episode.
Time: The Suns host the Hawks on Friday at 7 p.m. at US Airways Center.
Records: Suns 20-39 (fifth in the Pacific Division) vs. Atlanta 33-23 (second in the Southeast Division)
PG: Goran Dragic (14.1 points and 6.9 assists) vs. Jeff Teague (14.5 points and 7.2 assists)
SG: P.J. Tucker (5.5 points and 4.1 rebounds) vs. Devin Harris (8.9 points and 2.7 assists)
SF: Jared Dudley (11.2 points and 3.4 rebounds) vs. Kyle Korver (11.3 points and 4.0 rebounds)
PF: Luis Scola (12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds) vs. Josh Smith (17.4 points and 8.7 rebounds)
C: Marcin Gortat: (11.4 points and 8.6 rebounds) vs. Al Horford (17.1 points and 10.1 rebounds) [Read more...]
Records: Suns 18-39 (fifth in the Pacific Division) vs. Minnesota 20-33 (fifth in the Northwest Division)
PG: Goran Dragic (14.2 points and 6.8 assists) vs. Ricky Rubio (8.4 points and 6.7 assists)
SG: P.J. Tucker (5.5 points and 4.0 rebounds) vs. Luke Ridnour (12.2 points and 3.9 assists)
SF: Jared Dudley (11.4 points and 3.5 rebounds) vs. Andrei Kirilenko (13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds)
PF: Luis Scola (12.9 points and 6.3 rebounds) vs. Derrick Williams (10.3 points and 5.2 rebounds)
C: Marcin Gortat: (11.4 points and 8.6 rebounds) vs. Nikola Pekovic (16 points and 8.9 rebounds)
Suns One On One host Greg Esposito caught up with the newest Sun and first Iranian born NBA player Hamed Haddadi after shoot around Tuesday. The two talk about how he fell in love with basketball, what it was like growing up in Iran, why he chose No. 98 and what he wants Phoenix fans to know about him. Hear all that and much more on this episode.
Over the years there have been numerous honors bestowed upon Ann Meyers Drysdale. Whether it was the first athletic scholarship given to a woman at UCLA, a trip to the Olympics, being the first woman to ever be invited to participate in an NBA training camp or winning WNBA titles as the architect of the Phoenix Mercury, she has done it all. Well, almost.
Things will come full circle for Ann on June 14 when she’ll return to UCLA for another honor. She will be dispensing wisdom to the graduates of the College of Letters and Science’s as the commencement ceremonies speaker. [Read more...]
The NBA trade deadline is an exciting time for fans. During the days leading up to it they gather around their computers, tablets, phones and televisions to see the latest and greatest rumors. While the buzz and intrigue about the game is great for the teams, media outlets and those with a rooting interest, there is another side to it all. A more personal side.
While everyone loves watching athletes perform at the highest level on the court, it can cloud our perception. We lose sight of the fact that, in the end, these warriors we metaphorically and emotionally live and die with are simply just regular men with regular feelings who just happen to be extraordinary physical specimens.
That becomes abundantly clear during the trade process to those on the inside.
“It’s the worst part of the job,” Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said. “I’ve been on both sides of it now. When I was on the agent side you’re just commiserating with your clients around the trade deadline who may be moved. I used to say to people in my law firm ‘imagine if you got up in the morning and somebody said you’ve been traded to a law firm in San Francisco and you have 48 hours to get there.’ It doesn’t happen in any other business. It happens in our business and it’s a part of it and everybody understands it going in. That doesn’t mean it’s easier for your wife, family kids or yourself.”
Jared Dudley, who came to the Suns via trade in 2008, knows all too well the difficulties of the process.
“At that time I didn’t have any kids so it was easier to move,” the swingman said. “I got the call and you have to be there within 48 hours. You pack two or three suitcases and you’re living out of a hotel.”
It’s not just the moving that is difficult, it’s leaving personal relationships behind and trying to form new ones while also trying to do your job at the highest level in a new city.
“You form a relationship with these guy that are here,” Babby said. “We see them every day. We travel with them. You develop those relationships. Whether it’s waiving somebody or trading somebody you can’t not consider the personal aspects of it. At the end of the day though, we have a job that requires us to do what we can and fulfil our obligations to our franchise to do our best to get better.”
Someone who is in the midst of the process, Marcus Morris who just arrived in Phoenix, knows those emotions first hand.
“Being around certain people for a long time and having a good connection with them and having to move is kind of weird,” Morris said sorting through the whirlwind 48 hours he’s just been through. “But moving to be with Keef is like going where family is. Anyone that is close to him will be the same with me because we’re identical personalities.”
It’s not just the player arriving in a new city that has to make an adjustment. His new teammates have to adjust to someone else joining their tight knit group.
“It’s kind of like a brotherhood,” Dudley said of the NBA. “Even though you’re not on the same team, it’s a respect for one another. It’s always difficult at first but then a new guy comes in and you have a new buddy, a new friend and new personalities.”
The key to a smooth transition though is how the organization welcomes a new player and helps make them feel at home as soon as possible. It is something Babby and his staff take a great pride in doing well.
“Everything we do here is about making sure we have an environment that is player friendly and accommodating to our players to give them the best chance to succeed,” he said. “We do everything we can to welcome them and their families. With Marcus it’s easy because he has a built in advantage and been an honorary member of the family all along.”
Basketball is a business and player movement is inevitable. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a very real and personal effect both for those leaving an organization and those coming in that comes along with fans excitement. There’s not just a personnel side but personal side to each trade.
Suns One On One host Greg Esposito caught up with one of the newest Suns Marcus Morris on his first morning in Phoenix. The two talk about how he found out he was traded, his new number, being reunited with his brother among other things. Hear all that and much more on this week’s bonus episode.