A week ago tonight I was eating dinner alongside the Mississippi River and watching paddlewheelers, tugboats and cruise ships pass by. About a dozen of my fellow Suns front-office executives and I were in New Orleans for the NBA’s annual marketing meetings.

It was my first trip to the Big Easy and I’d have to say I enjoyed the experience. Not as much as some of my co-workers, perhaps. I did have a couple of cold Bud Lights in tribute to our official blog partner, but I’m not really a Bourbon Street kind of guy. [Watch for exclusive video of Suns.com TV’s Jamie Morris on the karaoke circuit, coming soon to a monitor near YouTube]

Our conference was in the heart of the French Quarter, which is back in business now, for the most part, nearly 18 months after Hurricane Katrina. Its fingerprints were visible everywhere we went, however, from the understaffed and understocked restaurants to the still-dark and deserted shops in the Riverwalk Marketplace. The local IMAX is featuring a film on the aftermath, and a Public Health notice taped up in the window of another movie theater caught my eye. “This establishment has been approved for reopening.”

We did take one trip into a nearby community, which was virtually wiped out by the natural disaster, one of the worst in U.S. history. On our way to a local charter school, where we helped construct a new playground as part of the NBA Cares initiative, we passed empty apartment buildings and deserted strip malls. Very strange seeing an Eddie Bauer and an Office Max abandoned. And then came the homes, or what was left of them.

Although I was told we barely saw the surface of the destruction that remains, we passed several blocks worth of rubble; one-time neighborhoods reduced to piles of brick, wood and debris. An eye-opening and humbling experience to say the least. I couldn’t help but feel both blessed and selfish at the same time.

NBA Commissioner David Stern hard at work in New Orleans.While several hundred NBA team representatives helped construct an impressive playground and pretty-up the grounds of the charter school, dozens more helped Habitat for Humanity construct a home in the pouring rain. Even NBA Commissioner David Stern (pictured) and legends Dominique Wilkins, Clyde Drexler and Willis Reed picked up hammers, and lifted new walls made of 2x4s and hope.

The Commissioner made a statement during an interview with a local TV station that I thought was particularly insightful. He admitted that our efforts were primarily symbolic, with few of us bringing experience in construction or architecture. But that we were there to show our concern for the people of New Orleans, and the NBA’s long-term dedication to the city and Hornets franchise.

The marketing meetings themselves were fantastic. At least the breakout sessions that I attended. This was the first time the league had included specific internet sessions as part of the two-day event, and the first time since 2001 that the team web site editors had gotten together as a group to share ideas. My only criticism at the conclusion was that the meetings didn’t last longer. We could have easily spent another two days diving deeper into internet strategies, of which I won’t bore you with here.

I will, though, ask for your opinions, your feedback and your requests. In another paragraph or two, that is. But first I have to thank my fellow web site editors around the league, and my creative, talented and hard-working staff (Steven Koek, Josh Greene, Brad G. Faye).

I am very proud and grateful to report that Suns.com was named the Site of the Year, as voted on by the 30 NBA teams. Although I was very excited to accept the award (one of eight marketing awards the Suns family brought home) and to have my photo taken with the Commissioner, I have to admit there are a number of teams that could have just as easily claimed the crystal trophy.

That was, perhaps, the biggest thing I took out of the meetings. Seeing some of the “best practices” from around the league and hearing about some of the unique content and components my fellow web editors are creating, left me feeling inspired, if not inadequate in some ways. The internet is continuing to evolve and the possibilities and opportunities that still exist for Suns.com are literally endless.

Now where do we begin? I’ve got a list a mile long of things I would like to add to the site, but I want to hear from you first. If you’re a regular visitor to Suns.com – or even an occasional visitor, for that matter – tell me what you want to see us add. What do you enjoy most about the site currently? What do you dislike about the site? What are we missing? What have you seen on other sites that you think we should incorporate?

While we consider Suns.com our baby, Suns.com is really your site. We want this to be THE place you go for your Suns info and entertainment, and everything in between. Now tell us what you want. Let the replies begin…

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