The offseason of 2001 was a big one for the Suns. Jason Kidd was traded to New Jersey in exchange for the talented but troubled Stephon Marbury, Dan Majerle returned to finish his playing career where it began and the franchise hired a new television producer.
Joe Crispin taught Bob Adlhoch that sometimes losses like Monday’s just happen. (NBAE Photos)
OK, maybe that last one wasn’t so big for the Suns, but it was a pretty big deal to me. After covering the NBA and the Suns in a variety of roles for 10 years, I became a team employee and began living life on the NBA road.
That 2001-‘02 season was memorable for very few things – mostly losses and the dismissal of coach Scott Skiles. After one particularly bad road loss, I boarded the team bus and was greeted by the smiling face of Joe Crispin. You have to be a die-hard fan to remember Joe – a 6-foot combo guard (euphemism for a short guy who can shoot but isn’t quick enough to cover other point guards) from Penn State. As we talked on the way to the airport, I asked him how he managed to be in such a good mood in the midst of a season gone wrong. “Bob,” he said, “I learned a long time ago not to tie my happiness to the outcome of basketball games.” This thought had never occurred to me – not bummed out after a loss? Some might argue that’s why Joe isn’t in the league anymore, but I learned a good lesson that night that has been affirmed by Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni many years later. An 82-game season is a LONG time. You can’t get too high after wins or too low after losses. It’s too easy as fans, coaches, broadcasters and players to fixate on one game. After a great win you feel invincible, after a bad loss like you may never win again.
Phoenix rode an 8-game win streak into Oakland on Monday night, only to be out-run and out-gunned by a smaller, quicker, (and on this night) better shooting team. On the same night, San Antonio lost to the same Sacramento team the Suns hung 80 first-half points on 5 days ago, Dallas lost at home to a Gilbert Arenas-less Washington Wizards and the post-KG Timberwolves upset the red-hot Hornets.
The point of all this is that these things happen. The Suns played well enough Monday to win most games against most teams. And as I’ve written before – you wouldn’t know on the plane ride home from Oakland that an 8-game win streak had been halted tonight. While the players relax, the coaches begin planning for the invasion of T-Mac and Yao on Wednesday night (6:30 PM, MY 45 HD) and Dwight Howard and the Magic on Friday. The season’s too long to do anything else.
And one more fact to pass along about this team and what lies ahead. At 11-3, the Suns are off to one of their best starts in franchise history – but you knew that. What you might not know is that over the last 3 seasons, the Suns’ record after December 1st has been 149-56 (.727). Let’s enjoy the ride.
One last story about Joe Crispin and the Warriors: we were in the Bay Area for a game and Joe attended a college game the night before at Stanford. He was down near the court just before halftime and someone in the athletic department asked him if he wanted to be that night’s contestant in the half-court shot. He politely declined, saying it wouldn’t be fair for a professional to take the shot, but was talked into it by his buddies. He promptly drained the shot in front of a sold out arena (not like he hadn’t hit a big shot or two in his life) and won an autographed Michael Jordan jersey for his effort. Nice parting gift.