In the wake of the coaching merry-go-round that spun Coach Mike off to New York, both General Manager Steve Kerr and Coach Terry Porter vowed these Suns would be different.  And one of the few things we could get out of last night’s game was that that promise is being kept.

These Suns are indeed “different”.

It’s still far too early to shout “Vive le difference!,” of course. But on the other hand, echoing the Beatles lament, “Where have all the flowers gone?” would be even more premature. (You inevitably use a lot of “on the other hands” when trying to draw ANY conclusions from any first exhibition game – and what with Amare in street clothes, Leandro Barbosa in Brazil, and the offense still in the shop for a major overhaul, the tendency is to lean even more on that escape clause).

Still, I think “different” can stand alone without need of any crutch.

These clearly are not your “We don’t need no stinkin defense” and/or “Anything you can score we can score more” Suns who have dazzled not only Planet Orange but the entire NBA galaxy the last few years.

Never mind the numbers from last night’s loss. They mean even less than the loss. But you could definitely see the early effects of Doctors Steve and Terry’s personality transplant in the way the team went about its business at both ends of the court. In fact, it may be necessary to alter the team’s uniforms to correct the misspelling of the team’s name (i.e. — insert a “D” in SUNS.)

The natural question arises; will the fans come to adore the SUNDS as much as they did the SUNS? The answer, of course, is they will if the new team wins at least as often. And this is a tough act to follow, since the Suns cranked out some 60 wins a year and many think were cheated out of two titles by injuries and injustice.

On the other hand, as Amare said on Photo Day, “We have played a lot of good basketball and won a lot of games, but still don’t have a championship, so it was time for a change.”

However, this doesn’t mean the Suns are going to morph from run and fun into grind and grim. Coach Terry understandably focused on changing the team’s mindset defensively than on polishing the offense in training camp. Which is why, as he said before last night’s game, “The defense is ahead of the offense.”

Probably the most meaningful morsel of good news last night was how healthy, effective, and interested Shaq looked. Also, he clearly seems more comfortable in an offense that’s more “set” in its ways than was Coach Mike’s. It’s always easier to change you offense to fit your monster center than change your monster center to fit your offense. (Not that Coach Mike ever had time to do either).

Another plus is that Goran Dragic is definitely a point guard, not another project they are trying to convert into one. He didn’t set the world on fire against the Hawks, but it can clearly be seen he has point guard genes. And at 22 he’s got plenty of time to develop into what the Suns hope will be their Steve Nash of the next decade (Nash fully expects to finish out this one).

Newcomer Matt Barnes didn’t start any fires either, but he did make one spectacular block, and there’s every indication he’s going to be one of those unheralded acquisitions who will be upgraded from deal to steal before the season is very far along.

So, at the end of the day what did we learn from last night?

Nothing much. But on the other hand…

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