I was having lunch with fellow Suns.com reporter Stefan Swiat at Tony Roma’s today when we were approached by an Indian Wells resident/Phoenix Suns fan. He had noticed us sporting our Suns gear and asked if we had come out here for the game. A conversation ensued and he soon explained that he had lived here in Indian Wells his whole life a Phoenix Suns fan and tonight was finally getting the opportunity to attend his first Suns basketball game. Needless to say, he was pretty excited about it.
As I sit here overlooking the court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, I can’t help but wonder how many other fans are also receiving their first ever opportunity to watch the team they’ve spent their entire lives rooting for. Suns General Manager Steve Kerr commented yesterday on the possibility we’d hear some boos being in the backyard of “Laker Country” but judging by the response we’ve been receiving throughout, I’d definitely say that isn’t the case.
“Their popularity on a global scale is amazing,” McCoy said. “But it’s not only the response our players have always received, but how knowledgeable fans throughout the world are about NBA basketball.”
The “Voice of the Suns” said that every time he’s had the opportunity to find a home away from home with the Suns is special, and each manages to stand apart for a different reason. This weekend’s AutoTrader.com Open under the stars proving to be no exception.
“It’s not the first time I’ve had the chance to watch the Suns take part in an outdoor game, but it has been a very memorable trip,” McCoy said referencing the team’s 1972 trip to Puerto Rico. “We played the game in San Juan in an entirely different atmosphere. We played on the dirt of a baseball infield and it was nowhere near the experience that this has been. This is such a unique setting here at Indian Wells, it’s unbelievable.”
SUNS HAPPY WITH PROGRESS OF BARNES
Offseason acquisition Matt Barnes contributed 19 points and 13 rebounds in Phoenix’s victory over Utah on Thursday. But while some viewed the contest as a coming out party for the swingman following his less-than-stellar performance in the preseason opener, Suns Head Coach Terry Porter says he and the staff have been more than pleased with Barnes’ play from the get-go.
“I think everybody focused on his shooting 5-for-15, but he does so many other things for us,” Porter said. “He rebounds, moves the ball well and makes good decisions on the court. He is a guy who finds ways to score either by shooting the basketball or playing aggressive and finding ways to get to the line.”
Following his third preseason game with the Suns, I talked to Barnes who said he is continuing to learn with his new team, but isn’t alone in the process.
“It’s a transition, not just for me but for everybody,” the forward said. “The guys are learning a new system under a new coaching staff and we think it’s going pretty smoothly so far. We’re also learning how to play together as a team which sometimes takes a little time, but we have definitely seen improvements and will continue to work throughout the season.”
I’m sure I won’t be the only one making the correlation between the cold weather and the cold shooting of both teams in the outdoor game (heck, I probably won’t even be the only member of Suns.com to do so). Still, it’s worth noting that a combined shooting total of just over 20 percent from 3-point land can’t be coincidence.
While playing outdoors is nothing new to most of the guys on each ballclub, playing outdoors at the time of year people are partaking in annual traditions like carving pumpkins and watching the Rays take out the Red Sox in the postseason certainly can be.
“I grew up playing outside,” Suns Head Coach Terry Porter said of his days as a youth in Wisconsin. “I just don’t think it was ever in October.”
With the Suns being such gracious hosts in the AutoTrader.com Open, the Denver Nuggets got a little lost in the shuffle. I got in a few of their huddles before the game to see how they felt about coming to Indian Wells and making a little basketball history.
“The only thing I think we’re missing is the chain nets,” Nuggets Head Coach George Karl of the setup. “As a team tonight we need to forget about the other elements which could be a factor tonight and build on the way we’ve been playing.”
Carmelo Anthony was unable to participate in the contest due to a bruised finger, but still sat on the sideline beforehand and shared with reporters his thoughts of the outdoor game concept.
“The WNBA held a game outside in New York not too long ago and I enjoyed watching that,” the former Syracuse standout said. “I always wondered what it would be like for an NBA team to do something similar. I’m pretty sure this is something the league will explore as an annual option and I think as long as we’ve got the same court to play on, guys will be good to go.”