I’m thankful I get to watch Amar’e Stoudemire play basketball.
I’m thankful Steve Nash is having as fabulous of a season as he did in either of his back-to-back MVP seasons. And yes, he’s 35.
I’m thankful the Suns have returned to their up-tempo style, originally instituted by former coach Mike D’Antoni and seemingly being shifted into an even higher gear by Alvin Gentry.
I’m thankful Gentry is the coach of the Suns, that the Suns are led by an intelligent man who not only understands the Xs and Os of basketball, but how to manage professional athletes. I’m thankful that the players appear to thoroughly enjoy playing for their coach. I’m thankful the Suns helped change the philosophy of NBA teams everywhere. Before the Suns started running and gunning and having tons of fun earlier this decade, the league with the ultra-quick and high-flying men in uniform was getting dull. It was becoming a league of great athletes who were inexplicably playing an elbows-out, feet-on-the-floor brand of basketball in the post-Michael Jordan era.
I’m thankful the Suns fixed all that.
I’m thankful the Suns are finally being blessed with some good fortune after GM Steve Kerr rolled the dice on the trade for Shaquille O’Neal a couple seasons ago. It wasn’t a disaster (far from it), but it didn’t work out to the liking of Kerr or the fans.
I’m thankful the Suns received nothing beyond cap relief in return for the talented-but-aging O’Neal this past summer, yet still managed to be the first team to win 10 games this season. That includes victories at Boston, at Miami, at Washington and a remarkable comeback at Philadelphia.
I’m thankful opposing teams continue to overlook veteran forward Grant Hill, a classy guy who still has plenty of game — as the Suns were 9-1 when Hill scored 10 points or more heading into Wednesday’s game against Memphis.
I’m thankful Stoudemire has completely recovered from a devastating eye injury, that he was a starter in the All-Star Game last season and amazingly looks to be even better this year. As good as Nash has been, Stoudemire may be the biggest beneficiary of the Suns’ return to the fast-break philosophy.
I’m thankful Channing Frye has slowly become the NBA’s steal of the off-season. I’m thankful he has fit seamlessly into the Suns’ lineup, scoring around than 13 points per game, a career-best. Or how about this: One season after keeping the seat warm in Portland, Frye became the first center in league history to make six 3-pointers in back-to-back games (Oct. 30 and Nov. 1).
I’m thankful guard Jason Richardson has adjusted to his teammates less than one year after coming to the Suns via trade, and how he has returned to the brink-of-stardom scorer he was earlier in his career.
I’m thankful Nash is still automatic from the line, making better than 90 percent of his free-throw attempts. Foul shots are among the little things that often win big games, and making them is something all winning teams must do well.
I’m thankful it’s taken me this long to mention Leandro Barbosa and the Suns bench — but only because it means things must be really going well for the starters. I’m thankful Barbosa is very business-like in his approach, yet still remains one of the game’s most exhilarating players.
I’m thankful for reserves like Jared Dudley, Louis Admundson, Goran Dragic, Earl Clark and others who are having banner seasons, as the Suns’ bench is scoring better than 33 points per game. Pretty impressive when you consider none of the key bench players were drafted higher than No. 14 overall. And that was Clark, who’s still a rookie.
Mostly, I’m thankful that I have never given up on the Suns. And you should be, too.
Sam Amico writes for NBA.com and is a regular contributor to Suns.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.