When the NBA started pushing their ‘Big Things Are Coming’ slogan it seemed like nothing more than a very creative marketing message from the new age Mad Men in New York. (Since Don Draper would be well into his 80’s by now I’m guessing he wasn’t involved in the creative on this one. That, and he’s a fictional character.)
That all changed when the Suns took the court for their home opener on Monday night. The slogan took on a whole new meaning as the Suns front court of Robin Lopez, Marcin Gortat and rookie Markieff Morris accounted for 41 of the team’s 84 points and 22 of their 45 rebounds. Despite a one point loss, big things were indeed coming, they just happened to be in the form of big men for the Suns.
The pleasantly surprising emergence of the Suns’ front line as a dominant force in game one provided the perfect topic for this week’s edition of our Suns Top 5. As the title already of the column already suggested, it’s the Top 5: Reasons For Optimism This Season.
5) Steve Nash
There’s a reason last week’s Top 5 was dedicated to how Nash is the greatest point guard in team history. His mere presence on a roster is reason enough for optimism.
He’s like the Nic Cage of basketball. Let’s be honest, how many times have you see Cage star in a movie you thought wasn’t going to be great only to leave the theater loving his performance for one reason or another? (Honestly, would you have seen Drive Angry for any other reason?)
Nash has that effect on a basketball team. Go back through the last seven years since he returned to the Valley. There have been more than a few times where expectations were low and he single-handedly — well almost single handedly — changed the perception of the team. Don’t be surprised if it happens again.
For most of their existence the Suns have searched for the center that has alluded them since the 1969 coin toss. Like Regis Phillbin screaming on television, for the first time since the late 1960s, it may not be something people have to worry about anymore.
The Suns might not have just one, but two answers to the question that has plagued the franchise for years. Sure, it’s just one game, but Robin Lopez looks like he found a Delorean and spent all summer driving it 88 mph — aka he’s returned to the 2009-10 Robin — while Marcin Gortat, despite a thumb injury, is picking up where he left off last season. If they keep this up the Suns will be in for a good season and they’ll deserve a nickname. (My vote is GoLo, as in go into the low post.)
3) Weaker West
There’s no denying that there is talent in the West and teams like the Clippers improved since last year. That being said, the conference, and those at the top of it last year, have gone through more changes over the summer than a high school junior.
The Lakers lost Lamar Odom, Phil Jackson and the name Ron Artest (he’s now Metta World Peace). The defending champion Mavericks lost center Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea. Not to mention the Hornets, who made the playoffs, lost Chris Paul. While a majority of the rest of the West is recovering from a major face lift, the Suns have the benefit of their starting five having played together for almost a full calendar year.
2) Markieff Morris
You can teach a lot in basketball, but rebounding usually isn’t one of them. Luckily for Suns fans, rookie Marikeff Morris comes from Kansas ready to rebound on the pro level. And he can hit shots from downtown. He’s the most NBA ready rookie the team has had in years and has the potential to make an impact. His debut was impressive and his nine rebounds on Monday led the team. That alone is a huge reason to be optimistic.
It’s not just a bad Prince song that gets stuck in your head more than gum on the bottom of your shoe. It’s also the biggest reason why Suns fans, should be optimistic about the 2011-12 season.
In the NBA’s last shortened season it was teams like the San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks that had the most success. What did the two finals participants have in common with this year’s Suns? Veteran leadership.
The Knicks were led by a 36 year old Patrick Ewing and the eventual champion Spurs had an average age of 29.6 years old (a full year and a half older than the Suns current average age). As long as they can stay healthy, the Suns age and experience will be a huge benefit for them this year.