Take Sunday’s 101-100 victory over visiting Toronto. The Suns looked flat in shooting just less than 45 percent from the field (and they only reason their percentage was that good was because Amar’e Stoudemire was 10-of-15). They were a little stagnant on offense — at least, they were compared to what we’ve grown accustomed to. Their defense was so-so.
Yet they won. They displayed a winning mentality. They overcame some adversity and showed that, hey, we’re not just gonna go away.
As Steve Nash said, “We had to grind it out. We struggled a little bit offensively, so we had to find a different way to win.”
But what matters is they won. And all Nash did was score 23 points, pass for nine assists, and make the night’s biggest basket with 38 seconds left.
Or how about this: Of the Suns nine wins, three have been by four points or less. Also, four have come after trailing by double digits.
In other words, the Suns are proving to have an outstanding mix of veterans, youth and on-court chemistry — three things GM Steve Kerr was hoping to find when he re-arranged the roster during the off-season.
Through 11 games, the Suns are the only NBA team to have scored at least 100 points every time they’ve taken the court.
They have done it at home, they’ve done it on the road, they’ve done it with just one two-day break between games this season.
At this point, a record of 7-4 or even 6-5 would probably be acceptable. But these Suns are giving us so much more.
Even when they’re not always great.
WESTPHAL HEATS UP KINGS
The NBA’s early season surprise so far? How about Paul Westphal and the Sacramento Kings?
You remember Westphal don’t you? If you love the Suns, you most certainly do.
After all, he was the last man to coach the team to the Finals, back in 1993 when Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson and the rest lost in six games to Michael Jordan’s Bulls.
And if you’re as old as me (I pray for your sake that you’re not), you may remember Westphal also was a star guard for the Suns in the 1970s. I was too young to really follow the NBA back then, but I do remember owning Westphal’s rookie card and proclaiming that he was my favorite player. Of course, the fact I never once saw him play was beside the point.
Anyway, back to today.
After a coaching stint in Seattle (much like his playing stint there) and then in college ball with Pepperdine, Westphal made a less-than-celebrated NBA return to the less-than-celebrated Kings before this season. And let’s be honest, we all had to chuckle.
I mean, seriously. The Kings? This was Westphal’s idea of a good time? Apparently, the answer is yes.
Granted, it’s very early, but the Kings started 5-4 and following last week’s win over Houston, have won four straight. It also marked the first time since 2006 they’re over the .500 mark.
Again, there is still a long way to go, and no one is having any illusions of the Kings making the playoffs. Things could be considerably different when they play the Suns for the first time this year on Dec. 5 in Phoenix.
But it’s been so far, so good for the Kings, and they have a Suns legend to thank.
* As for the Rockets, things have been so-so without last year’s triple terror of Tracy McGrady (injured), Yao Ming (ditto) and Ron Artest (gone). Not surprisingly, the Rockets have been playing very hard, but it’s a lot different going to battle with 6-foot-6 Chuck Hayes starting at center, as opposed to the 7-6 Yao.
* In other words, the Rockets have been playing a lot of “small ball.” It should make for an especially fast-paced game when the Suns roll into Houston on Tuesday.
* Detroit is in a similar boat as the Rockets, having lost a lot of big-name players (Chauncey Billups, Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace) in recent seasons. They are also on their third coach in three years in John Kuester. So a team that not long ago made it’s living on defense and veteran leadership is today relying a new-look, faster offense featuring Rodney Stuckey, Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon.
* Suns fans can take a look at the Pistons in the Pistons’ lone visit to Phoenix on Nov. 22.
Sam Amico writes for NBA.com and is a frequent contributor to Suns.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.