Alando Tucker played 25 minutes and scored 10 points in the Suns win over the Blazers on Wednesday.
To be honest, I was getting a little winded towards the end after playing the whole second half, but it just felt so good to be out there, I didn’t even think about taking a breather. That’s what you work all season for, opportunities like that. All in all, I felt like I could’ve played a lot better, but I know I played hard and I know there are some adjustments I’ll be looking to make. It was also nice getting the chance to show some of the adjustments I have made throughout the course of this rookie season. I played some good perimeter defense against both their point guards and power forwards and was glad I got to show some versatility on that end of the floor. Offensively, I think I did exactly what the coaches are looking for, using a couple of dribbles to get into the lane and if need be, kick it out to a teammate for an open shot.
We’ve had some fun today ribbing Brian Skinner about his ejection. He’s been told if he gets kicked out of another game, he’ll have to shave the beard to shed his image. Some of the guys even offered to sign him up for anger management classes. All kidding aside, it was unfortunate seeing Brian ejected last night, but he’s having fun with it.
Although we were minus Brian, it was great being out there with DJ Strawberry, Sean Marks and all the guys I’ve been practicing with this season. Still, you’re definitely not going to hear me complaining if I’m on the court with anyone on this team. The key is to just be out there playing hard, and I love any opportunity I receive.
But like I said, that was the regular-season finale, and now it’s time to look ahead to the playoffs. This is obviously my first year in the playoffs, and I’m as excited as you could imagine. All year, I just kept hearing the questions about whether or not we could beat San Antonio and now our destiny is in our hands. We’ve got to go out there and show we can get over this hump, and mentally, everybody on this team is ready. It’s going to be a tough series but I’m feeling good about our chances, and the confidence level on the team is great.
I was watching last season when the Suns and Spurs met in the Western Conference Semifinals. It was such a close series, and this team was really just a call or two away from seeing some very different results. This was a rivalry before that series, and last year just seemed to take it up another level.
Also raising things up a notch was obviously the addition of Shaquille O’Neal and the battle that’ll be taking place between he and Tim Duncan. Those guys have been going at it a long time, and it’s always entertaining when they square off. I used to watch Shaq a lot as a fan, but only now do I have a real appreciation for how much he puts into getting ready for each game.
Another element of Shaquille you don’t really see from the outside is his ability to lead not only on the court, but in the locker room. When everybody was speculating about who we’d be playing, Shaq stepped up and said, “No matter who we play, if we want to win a Championship we’re going to have to step onto their court and win.” That’s obviously become the case now with us opening up these playoffs in San Antonio. As far as playing the Spurs, Shaq pointed out that we knew we were going to be playing the best teams come the postseason, so why not get started with the defending champions in the first round?
I definitely watched a lot of “Laker” Shaq as a youngster, but growing up in Chicago, I’ve got a lot of playoff memories involving the Eastern Conference. Obviously, I remember Michael Jordan leading some of the greatest teams of all time, but there were also some great teams playing in Detroit and New York at that time, also. What I remember most about watching basketball as a kid though is the intensity. Even as a youngster sitting in front of the tube, I could feel the intensity and just how much everything picked up in the playoffs. Now I’m getting the opportunity to experience it first hand.
Practice just wrapped up a little while ago, and you can already see by the amount of media who showed up that the playoffs are here. Everybody just poured in after practice was over, and it’s only expected to get crazier. As far as whether or not things like that are a distraction, that’s far from being an issue with this team. We’ve got way too many veterans to let anything distract us and guys like Steve Nash, Amaré Stoudemire and Grant Hill have been through just about it all during their careers, not to mention the Diesel, who’s a four-time NBA Champion.
For me, the playoffs are hopefully going to give me a nice chance to settle in. I’ve obviously acquired a ton of frequent flier miles between Albuquerque and Phoenix. It’s been a journey and it’s good to be back with this team whether we’re in Phoenix or on the road.
We’ve got one more practice tomorrow before taking off to San Antonio for our Saturday afternoon contest. We know you guys will be ready for our return, and I’ll try to check back in as soon as possible. Thanks again for all the feedback. You guys have definitely been a big part of this being such a memorable rookie season.