Suns Eclipsed by Knicks

Daniel Banks/Suns.com

Daniel Banks/Suns.com

In a surreal matinee affair, a Igor Kokoskov-coached Phoenix squad took on a Phil Weber-led New York team that saw the Suns come up short in an 85-80 defeat.

 

So while former Suns assistant coach Weber and former Suns assistant Dan D’Antoni exchanged pleasantries with Suns assistants Dan Majerle and Kokoscov before the game, the game proved to be a battle. The contest was tight all along, heading all the way into the final seconds before the victor was decided.

Guard DJ Strawberry had an opportunity to tie the game with less than 10 seconds remaining, but his 3-point attempt was blocked by Knicks guard Mardy Collins. New York grabbed the loose ball before icing the game on two free throws by Wilson Chandler. The Knicks’ swingman finished the contest with 31 points.

However, the bright side of the story for the Suns was the play of “Big Three.” [Read more...]

First Impresssions

Daniel Banks/Suns.com

Daniel Banks/Suns.com

As I sat perched behind the Suns’ NBA Summer League Head Coach Igor Kokoscov at the scorer’s table, I realized that while this may seem like a working for vacation for myself, there are a lot of people with the Suns whose work-year is well underway.

 

Tell the young players attempting to make the Suns’ roster that the summer is the time for relaxing. Or tell the new coaching staff, who is trying to piece together their first team in the Valley of the Sun. Or how about second-year men DJ Strawberry and Alando Tucker? Both are looking to build upon their rookie seasons and crack a rotation filled with veteran stars.

The same could be said for rookie Robin Lopez, who along with the two veterans, led Phoenix to 98-74 victory over the Spurs on Thursday. After catching the Suns’ first game on TV and watching Lopez in tonight’s contest against San Antonio, it’s already fair to say that the young center has made his presence felt. [Read more...]

Summer in Phoenix Great for Tucker So Far

Noah Graham / Getty Images

DJ and I were at the US Airways Center again today, working on a few things with new assistant coach “Thunder” Dan Majerle. Dan will be our summer league coach in Vegas later this month and has been great to work with. He busts our chops a little bit, but he’s making sure we’re ready and we’ve all just been having a lot of fun on the court together.

I’ve talked to pretty much all the guys on the team, most of who are away doing things with their wives and kids. DJ and I are the youngest so we’ve just stayed here in Phoenix for the most part working on our games. Everybody’s excited though and looking forward to working with new head coach Terry Porter and his staff. I wish the best for Mike D’Antoni in New York, but believe change provides opportunity and that’s what I’m preparing myself for right now. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the fact that this coaching staff has set the bar very high for us and expect nothing but the best results. [Read more...]

Kerr Discusses the 2008 Phoenix Suns Draft

 Steve Kerr enjoys the moment after Robin Lopez was drafted by the Suns. (Jeramie McPeek/Suns.com)

First of all, we are thrilled with what transpired yesterday in the draft. Everything turned out exactly as we’d hoped. After contemplating various scenarios in which we might have added a pick or moved up in the first round, we felt strongly that we were best off keeping our team intact and simply adding our first and second round choices. We felt that if things played out for us, we might be able to add two players who could help us accomplish our goal going into yesterday: to find players who can help us sustain our recent success, but who can also be building blocks for the future. Only time will tell, of course, but we’re confident we have two new players who will help us make a successful transition to a new era.

Robin Lopez is someone who will help us right away. It’s rare to find an active 7 footer who can run and defend, so we felt fortunate that he fell to us at 15. Robin will provide something we don’t have – a versatile big guy who can get out on the perimeter to defend screen and rolls, but who also has the size and mentality to protect the rim. He’s still raw offensively, but he has a decent touch on a 15 foot jump shot and he is very good at keeping balls alive and scoring on offensive rebounds. Robin will complement Shaq and Amare nicely because he plays away from the ball, preferring to do a lot of dirty work. Terry Porter expects him to contribute right away, so our depth will be greatly enhanced. Robin told us a month ago when we worked him out that he was dying to come to Phoenix, so he got his wish – as did we. This is going to be a great fit. [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 Win But Still No Closer to Knowing First Round Opponent

The guest list for the Big Dance, NBA version, is finally complete. But exactly who will dance with whom and where in the West is still as undecided with only two days to go in the season as it was two months ago.

Shaquille O’Neal grabs a rebound against the Warriors on Monday night.
(NBAE Photos)
 

 

 

The Suns’ victory over the Warriors did lock idle Denver into the eighth spot, but NONE of the positions of the other seven are written in stone. Not One!

With the Big Picture so fuzzy, the plan here is to focus on the small picture — namely last night’s game. Mind you, it’s a little snowy too, but compared to the playoff picture it’s High Definition TV.

Early on in this game the Suns looked very much like a team that was ready for the playoffs, and the Warriors looked like a team that was already on vacation — showing little interest in passing and none in defense, and about as much emotion as a box of doorknobs.

It’s one thing to mail a game in, but it’s bad form to not even bother to put a stamp on it. And although they were still mathematically alive in the playoff hunt the Warriors played like they knew they were dead men walking.

But the Suns had another one of their patented 12-minute lapses of concentration in the third period and dragged the Warriors back into the game by the seat of their disinterested pants.

With their main man, Baron Davis benched, either because of lack of interest, 2 for 13 shooting in the first half, or fatigue, the Warriors went on a 38-19 run that propelled them into a lead that would grow to 11 points..

Fortunately, they still had nobody who could cover Amare, even a less than 100 percent Amare. The best they could do was foul him and he hit 7 of 9 free throws and scored 11 his 28 points to lead the charge. Leandro Barbosa sealed the deal with a three-point shot and then another basket, plus a key offensive rebound in the last two minutes.

“Well, we won,” said Coach Mike. “And I thought we looked really sharp at the end.”

That about sums up the good news. The potential bad news concerns Grant Hill, who left in the second period with a groin injury. It was not, for now at least, believed to be serious, but Coach Mike indicated Hill might be held out of practice Tuesday and Wednesday’s game here against Portland, adding he expects him to ready for Game One of the playoffs this weekend.

The other area for concern has to be turnovers. The Suns have broken out in a rash of ugly ones in recent games, and that Golden State outburst in the third period was fueled in no small part by seven of them.

But the bottom line: Not to worry. I have no idea who or where the Suns will play in the first round, but I like their chances going in as good as anybody’s. Maybe even just a tiny, tiny bit better. (The operative word there being “maybe”).

One reason for this confidence is that while the midcourse correction that brought Shaq here probably cost them top seed, it without question made them more playoff-worthy. The other reason is there is no 900-pound gorilla out there in the West. Just four or five 400-pound ones.

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.

New Addition to the Hill Household

Congratulations to new Phoenix Suns player Grant Hill and his wife, Tamia, on the birth of their second daughter – Lael Rose Hill – on Thursday, August 9, 202007.

She was born at 8 pounds, 6 ounces. There was no announcement on how tall she was. People.com reports that the couple also have a 5-year-old named Myla Grace and according to Grant, “Lael looks like Myla.”

Lael was born in Orlando where the Hill’s resided prior to Grant signing with the Phoenix Suns earlier this summer.

We wish the entire family well!