With the Knicks in the bag, we have now landed in Indianapolis. It was a sobering win in New York when we all heard on the bus about Stephon Marbury’s father passing away. His dad was at the game last night and then left for the hospital with chest pains.
Amaré Stoudemire and Grant Hill are working together to bring about a successful season. (NBAE Photos)
Steph was notified in the lockeroom after the game that a heart attack apparently took his father’s life. Another bizarre and tragic chapter to Marbury’s emotional ride with the Knicks. And though during his stay in Phoenix he didn’t endear himself to many within the Suns organization, I certainly hope he can find some peace and strength in his life. It certainly makes you stop and begin to appreciate what you have in life and even in a basketball team.
As the Suns continue to roll along with one of the best records in the league, they are doing so in workman-like fashion. There is not a lot of levity or collegiate enthusiasm with this squad. The veterans have been through the paces before and don’t get too high after wins, or too low after the few losses they’ve sustained. Mike D’Antoni has talked about the need for added enthusiasm and energy with this team, but right now their talent is carrying them through the early-season battles. Make no mistake, the chemistry is good on this team, but let’s face it: the fans, the broadcasters and even the players may be taking this successful run for granted at this time of the year. It’s human nature. And we saw it even in the mid ’90s after the first few years of the Barkley era. The team was rolling out 62, 56 and 59 wins a year, but even with the most charismatic, outspoken player ever to grace the NBA in Sir Charles, the team’s magnetism began to wane in the 4th season. They finished at .500, lost in the first round of the playoffs and began to lose that “buzz” which surrounded the Barkley Years.
So here we are in Year 4 of the Nash Years, but fortunately this team is not regressing. In fact, the Best Show on Sneakers still appears headed for another 55-60 win season. With the addition of Grant Hill and Brian Skinner, they should be better equipped for the rugged playoffs. But it’s the journey to that ultimate goal we ALL need to appreciate and savor. We all realize how “life comes at you quickly” and before you know it, we’ll be talking about the good ol’ times with Nash, Shawn and Amare kickin’ tail and taking names in a system designed by Mike D’Antoni that features freedom and a fast-pace brand of basketball that is now being replicated around the league. But while many will attempt to imitate, few will ever duplicate this wildly entertaining product. So enjoy each game, each pinpoint, left-handed Nash spin pass, each Marion steal and breakaway jam, each Amare crush and Boris kick-out to an open 3-point shooter (don’t groan, fans, his teammates love him for it!), each Raja big shot, each Leandro blur-by and sweet pull-up J by Grant.
Enjoy each step along the way. It’s a lot like reading a Pat Conroy novel, rich in text and imagery. You can’t skip the middle chapters if you are going to fully appreciate the dynamic ending.