Hard to believe that by the end of this weekend, there will be just nine games remaining for the Phoenix Suns on the NBA schedule. Weren’t these guys just in Treviso, Italy like three weeks ago?

Suns reserve forward Jumaine Jones can roll with the punches.
(NBAE Photos)

It was October when the Suns were touring overseas and it wasn’t too long after that, a number of questions began to surface. Off to a 1-5 start, many were skeptical this was not the Suns team they had hoped for entering the season. Some pointed to the draining experience of international flying, others to the fact Amaré Stoudemire wasn’t playing like the STAT we remembered.

A major possibility, however, was simply impatience. The offseason had flown by and with Stoudemire back in the mix, the regular season just didn’t seem as if it was worth playing. Think about it: This year’s playoffs have pretty much been scripted from the get-go and has thus far followed that script to a tee. In November, everybody knew the Western Conference was going to be represented by Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio. Here we are almost in April and nothing has changed. The Suns were possibly suffering from impatience in the early going and that could have very much played a factor in the slow start.

Now, as Yogi Berra would say, it’s like déjà vu all over again. For the most part we know what the playoff picture is looking like and it’s time to play ball. Let’s not forget, this is something that happened last season as the Suns enjoyed a less-than-successful April. The month started with back-to-back losses to the Pistons and Clippers, and would eventually end with additional losses to teams including Seattle, Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Worries were quickly put to rest once the postseason started, and hopefully that will be the case yet again. The path to the NBA Finals will not be an easy one as many are quick to point out, but that applies to everybody. I’m not sure Dallas is doing cartwheels about the possibility of playing the Don Nelson-coached Warriors in the opening round and following that series up against the Rockets who always play them tough. To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man, and for whoever holds the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy above their heads this summer, that will certainly have been the case.

Most importantly, the players are relaxed which is what Head Coach Mike D’Antoni wants. Not too relaxed mind you, but a team that relies heavily on its shooting is never one that wants to be playing tight basketball and D’Antoni understands this. Because of that, everybody has remained cool, helping make for some memorable moments as of late.

There was some great ribbing taking place in the locker room the other night between Marcus Banks and Jumaine Jones. The two were discussing the number of NBA players who go back and finish college after they leave early for the draft. After each player realized they weren’t getting through to the other, here is roughly how that conversation finished playing out:

Jumaine: Marcus, what do you know about school any way? You went for Social Studies.

Marcus: Whatever Jumaine, the only reason you went to school was for lunch.

Good times and definitely an enjoyable one for everyone in that locker room, player and media person alike. This includes Jumaine who has proven himself as a person who can definitely roll with the punches – an absolute must with this organization. After producing the worst score during a recent team-trip to the bowling alley, Jones reported to practice wearing a throwback Suns t-shirt with the phrase “World’s Worst Bowler” screen printed on the back.

When I asked Marcus about how bad Jumaine looked out on the bowling lanes, the guard responded, “He bowled under 100 and I’ll leave it at that. He’ll definitely be hearing it until the next time we make it out.”

Having been around these guys for almost two seasons now, I don’t doubt that for a second.

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