Most of you know by now that I not only work for the Phoenix Suns, but I also am one of the team’s biggest fans. If you were anywhere in the East Valley and had your windows open during the playoffs last year, you could probably hear me yelling.
Steve Nash has passing down but still is working out during the summer. (NBAE Photos)
Whether it was because the Suns won or because they lost, I seemed to be doing a lot of yelling last post-season.
I happened to be traveling during Game 5 of the Suns/Spurs series and I watched the game in my hotel room. Most people would probably have gone to a sports bar to watch the game, but I am superstitious. I had to watch the last three games of the Suns/Lakers series the year before in a hotel room and they won all of those games, so I figured I’d keep the tradition going. If anyone was in the room next to mine, they probably wondered what the crazy guy next door was doing when I started banging my head against the wall as the Suns’ lead slowly began to fade in the 4th quarter.
A couple of years ago, the team had a promotion where you could submit a paragraph about why you were a Suns fan. I submitted something and about a month later heard from the team. They wanted to wrap my car in a “full-body” wrap to advertise for the Suns for the year. I jumped at the opportunity and loved driving around town with the coolest car around. I was devastated when I had to take it off once the season ended. Even now, there are people who wonder where my cool car went. (Maybe I can talk the team into doing that to my car again now that I work here…I’ll have to ask my boss about that!)
Anyway, the point of all this is to hopefully let you know just a little bit how I felt as I ventured down to the practice court Thursday morning just to see what was going on. As we went to the lower level of the arena and started getting closer to the court, we heard basketballs bouncing so I knew something was happening.
We tried to slip in without anyone noticing us but Mark West, Vice President of Player Programs, was sitting right by the door. We said “hi” and continued into the room where we could get a good view of the action on the court. I could see there was a game of 2-on-2 and immediately recognized Steve Nash and Grant Hill. After a minute, I recognized the two guys they were playing against – Alando Tucker and DJ Strawberry. So it was the veterans against the rookies.
We had come in about halfway through the game and watched the rest. It appeared the rookies won the first game by making several 3-point shots in a row. Want to know a huge difference between watching NBA players play 2-on-2 and just normal guys? The NBA players don’t miss. I’ve watched regular pick-up games go for 10 to 15 minutes or more, even if it was only the first team to seven points. These games went so quickly it was amazing. But when you make almost every shot you take, that tends to happen.
After the first game was over, the veterans stayed on the court and talked while the rookies sat down for a little rest. They only got about a two minute break before everyone was at it again. This time the MVP didn’t even shoot the ball unless it was as he was cutting to the basket and he caught a pass by Hill. He didn’t take any jump shots at all. But you could tell the wily veterans had some moves the rookies weren’t quite ready for and the Nash/Hill combo won the game easily.
While we were watching the second game, several more people entered the room to watch including our old friend, Kurt Thomas! Everyone was genuinely glad to see him, including Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations, David Griffin, and Suns assistant coaches Phil Weber and Dan D’Antoni – who were there watching the action as well.
We decided to leave soon after the second game so we didn’t outstay our welcome. I was getting ready to leave anyway because I just couldn’t hold my smile in any longer and didn’t really want to be sitting there grinning like a Cheshire cat. Sure, I’m on cloud nine even thinking about the opportunity to watch these pick-up games – but I don’t have to let everyone around here know that! Even three months ago, I couldn’t have imagined that I would be able to take a 15-minute break from my job and go watch a pick-up game between NBA players.
I’m sure there will be other instances like this that Suns fans would die for. And I hope to be your eyes and ears and blog about the experience throughout the season to give you the kind of behind-the-scenes look at the Suns you’ve never had before.