Suns News: Week 14 (1/17 - 1/23)

Discussion of the league and of our favorite team.
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AmareIsGod
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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by AmareIsGod »

One of my favorite articles I've read in a long time! Thanks Split for sharing! I was curious how our team was the year following our 93' Finals elimination. 59-23! Holy crap. What are we on pace for this season to finish at?

Edit: https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/20 ... edictions/

59-23. Whoa!
What is smallball? I play basketball. I'm not a regular big man. I can switch from the center to the guards. The game is evolving. You got dudes like Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, all these 7-footers, doing everything. There's no stopping us. - Ayton

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bajanguy008
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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by bajanguy008 »

AmareIsGod wrote:
Tue Dec 21, 2021 9:42 am
One of my favorite articles I've read in a long time! Thanks Split for sharing! I was curious how our team was the year following our 93' Finals elimination. 59-23! Holy crap. What are we on pace for this season to finish at?

Edit: https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/20 ... edictions/

59-23. Whoa!
Well sir, we're basically one third of the way as 82 game season will be 27
So our 23 - 5 record can translate to 22 -5 , 44 - 10 in the remaining 58 for a win total of 67 - 15 :D

Dare I say, realistically speaking let's say then again humbly speaking our second third of the season is 19 - 8 ? final third 17 - 10 ?
Those are still solid win totals and would put us at 23 - 5 (36 - 18) and I didn't do this intentionally but the same 59 - 23 record lol :lol:

I guess it's obvious Maths/Numbers is part of my job, had too much fun with that so I will quit now :oops: :lol:
SUNS Fan from the Land of Sun, Sea and Sand ;)

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by JeremyG »

AmareIsGod wrote:
Tue Dec 21, 2021 9:42 am
One of my favorite articles I've read in a long time! Thanks Split for sharing! I was curious how our team was the year following our 93' Finals elimination. 59-23! Holy crap. What are we on pace for this season to finish at?

Edit: https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/20 ... edictions/

59-23. Whoa!
59-23 was actually in 1994-95. In 1993-94 we were 56-26.

Right now we are on pace for 68 wins.

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by ShelC »

We'd get 68 wins and everyone would say it didn't count because of injuries/covid protocols.

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by In2ition »

Always an excuse.
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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by specialsauce »

Superbone wrote:
Mon Dec 20, 2021 3:47 pm
Shabazz wrote:
Mon Dec 20, 2021 3:38 pm
What's the deal with Nader? Is he gonna play again this year? Another mysterious recovery timeline for "injury management."
You know who it hurts the most? Saucy. He's got nothing to complain about. Somehow he gives Payton a free pass.
Lol I really don’t. I love this team. I even love Frank. I got nothing to complain about this year, other than the fact that the end of our bench has nobody who has any NBA skill (but that’s nitpicking). There’s a reason I’m not posting as much. I usually use this place to vent, and I have very little to vent about right now. The last game was pure art.

I absolutely 100% hate Elfrid Payton if you’ve followed my posts. He just doesn’t play enough for it to drive me crazy.

I’ve been to the game and sat next to the Suns bench. I don’t see how he could possibly be more disengaged from his team other than simply not showing up. He doesn’t even watch the game, he’s usually staring at the crowd or ground. Doesn’t celebrate with the team. Doesn’t participate in the huddles.

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by specialsauce »

Split T wrote:
Tue Dec 21, 2021 7:53 am
I thought specialsauce was a doctor, not a podcast host ;)

Gold, pure gold 😂

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by ShelC »

Iman doesn't want to play basketball. If he did, he'd be on a team. And I'd rather have Nader than him.

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by bajanguy008 »

SUNS Fan from the Land of Sun, Sea and Sand ;)

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by BKinSJC »

That Zach Lowe article was very well-reported and put together. It helps to get to the top at ESPN if you're a clueless, take-spewing, mouth-breathing, only-in-it-for-the-outrage talking head, but it's nice to get a reminder every now and then that it's not 100% necessary.

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by Superbone »

specialsauce wrote:
Tue Dec 21, 2021 1:30 pm
Superbone wrote:
Mon Dec 20, 2021 3:47 pm
Shabazz wrote:
Mon Dec 20, 2021 3:38 pm
What's the deal with Nader? Is he gonna play again this year? Another mysterious recovery timeline for "injury management."
You know who it hurts the most? Saucy. He's got nothing to complain about. Somehow he gives Payton a free pass.
Lol I really don’t. I love this team. I even love Frank. I got nothing to complain about this year, other than the fact that the end of our bench has nobody who has any NBA skill (but that’s nitpicking). There’s a reason I’m not posting as much. I usually use this place to vent, and I have very little to vent about right now. The last game was pure art.

I absolutely 100% hate Elfrid Payton if you’ve followed my posts. He just doesn’t play enough for it to drive me crazy.

I’ve been to the game and sat next to the Suns bench. I don’t see how he could possibly be more disengaged from his team other than simply not showing up. He doesn’t even watch the game, he’s usually staring at the crowd or ground. Doesn’t celebrate with the team. Doesn’t participate in the huddles.
OK, I feel better that it extends to Payton too. It makes the Nader targeting a little less irrational. :P
"It should burn. It'll probably burn forever. But last season is done." - James Jones

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by Indy »

Payton is the worst player we've had on our roster in 3 seasons (that actually plays). And it isn't close.

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by LazarusLong »

Indy wrote:
Tue Dec 21, 2021 5:41 pm
Payton is the worst player we've had on our roster in 3 seasons (that actually plays). And it isn't close.
I think the pace of the team is too fast for him.
It's like he's driving an old DeSoto in a NASCAR race ...
Forget about Sarver--keep your eyes on the prize.

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by Flagrant Fowl »

specialsauce wrote:
Tue Dec 21, 2021 1:30 pm
I’ve been to the game and sat next to the Suns bench. I don’t see how he could possibly be more disengaged from his team other than simply not showing up. He doesn’t even watch the game, he’s usually staring at the crowd or ground. Doesn’t celebrate with the team. Doesn’t participate in the huddles.
This is why it's important not to take guys like Javon Carter and Abdel Nader for granted. Take away the on-court stuff (crazy, I know) and they're great for team chemistry. The better players want to see Nader succeed because they know he's engaged and working hard to get into the rotation, so they erupt on the bench when he draws a charge or hits a shot. Frank is another guy who fit into this role, but he outperformed his expectations and put together one of the best stretches of his career. But it started with accepting a role that will help the team, and by your first hand account, it seems Payton hasn't bought in mentally.

His signing seems more and more like charity at this point given his connections to Monty and Paul in New Orleans, but I don't think he's long for this roster if he doesn't change his approach.
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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

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8-)

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by AmareIsGod »

Look at that muscular leg on Booker! :oops:
What is smallball? I play basketball. I'm not a regular big man. I can switch from the center to the guards. The game is evolving. You got dudes like Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, all these 7-footers, doing everything. There's no stopping us. - Ayton

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by Superbone »

AmareIsGod wrote:
Wed Dec 22, 2021 10:44 am
Look at that muscular leg on Booker! :oops:
Gotta support those hammies!
"It should burn. It'll probably burn forever. But last season is done." - James Jones

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by Nodack »

Awesome!

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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

Post by BigLewy »

Amazing article from the The Athletic about the SSOL days...still feels like yesterday to me somehow.



NBA 75: How the Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns changed the league: ‘We’re about to let it fly like Peyton Manning’
David Aldridge 6h ago 16
HURRY UP OFFENSE EASIEST
You get the best shots in first seven seconds

— Pregame instructions board, Phoenix Suns, May 24, 2006, from “:07 Seconds Or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Runnin’ and Gunnin’ Phoenix Suns” by Jack McCallum

Analytics didn’t drive the 2004-05 Phoenix Suns to change the NBA into its current look: four-out, one-in offenses, raining 3-pointers, broken up with the occasional 1-5 pick-and-roll lob. Common sense did, in the form of a 7-1, 300-plus pound behemoth at the height — and weight — of his dominance.

“At that time, trying to figure out how to play, Shaq was with the Lakers,” Mike D’Antoni says today of Shaquille O’Neal. “He hadn’t been traded to Miami yet. Our big thing was, you can’t out-Shaq Shaq. If we line up as a traditional team, they’re going to beat us. He’s too good.”

Eventually then, out of necessity — the Big Aristotle wouldn’t be traded to the Heat, and out of the Western Conference, until mid-July of ’04 — D’Antoni, his coaching staff and Phoenix’s front office collectively arrived at a decision that turned the league on its head and fundamentally changed the way the game was played.

With Hall of Fame guard Steve Nash leading the attack, Phoenix introduced — more accurately, re-introduced — fast-break basketball to the league. There are precious few innovations in the NBA, and the ’04-05 Suns didn’t reinvent the wheel. The Celtics of Bill Russell and Bob Cousy ran opponents to death in the ’50s and ’60s. The Celtics and Bullets and Knicks pushed it in the ’70s. Magic Johnson’s “Showtime” Lakers ruled the ’80s.

What made the Suns’ fast break different — and revolutionary — was that they had similar success while playing smaller … and by incorporating the 3-pointer as a staple of their attack.

Before the Splash Brothers, then, before the Rockets’ revolution, even before Stan Van Gundy’s underrated role in turbocharging the league by putting Rashard Lewis at the stretch four in Orlando, in the late aughts, there were the Seven Seconds or Less Suns.

They blitzed the league, starting 31-4, with 22 of those first 31 wins coming by double figures. The NBA didn’t know what to do with them, or how to stop them. By the end of the season, Phoenix ranked first in the league in scoring (110.4 points per game), offensive rating (114.5), pace (95.9), 3-pointers made and attempted, and 3-point percentage (.393). They finished the regular season having attempted 2,026 3s — 800 more than they’d shot the previous season.

The Suns were an aesthetic gift that kept on giving, with Nash’s passing wizardry, along with Shawn Marion’s wild athleticism on alley-oops and on the break — which led to his receiving one of the most iconic nicknames in league history, from TNT’s Kenny Smith: “The Matrix.” There were, also, Quentin Richardson’s finishes and Joe Johnson’s two-way play. But, most of all, there were Amar’e Stoudemire’s rim-rattling dunks.
Amar’e Stoudemire played the five in Mike D’Antoni’s revolutionary small offense. (Rocky Widner / NBAE via Getty Images)

Before his knees gave out later in his career, Stoudemire was one of the NBA’s most electric dunkers, finishing with force and flair, intimidating and entertaining. Known as “STAT” — for “Standing Tall And Talented” — Stoudemire was an equal-opportunity destroyer, giving it to Yao Ming and the Timberwolves in the regular season, as well as Tim Duncan in the playoffs.

“We let Amar’e attack and beat that rim up,” Marion said. “STAT put it on people’s heads.”

The 2004-05 team made it to the Western Conference finals before losing to the Spurs in five. That started a pattern of playoff futility — some about which the Suns remain salty — that denied them the championship that would have silenced all critics. The Suns constantly fought the perception that you couldn’t win a ring playing the way they played, and that they didn’t care about defense. (They were never as bad defensively as their most vociferous critics would have you believe, nor as good at that end as their acolytes argued.)

But the Suns won 232 regular-season games over the next four seasons. They filled what was then America West Arena. And their imprint on the game is still visible today, because of that first great Phoenix team.

“Literally, like five, six, seven minutes left in the fourth (quarters), and we’re literally getting iced up and stuff,” said Richardson. “We started looking at each other like, this is kind of crazy a little bit. We’re really running through people. Then, the competition, our peers, some guys we know, (at) different little dead-ball moments, halftime or before the game, they’d be like, ‘Man, what the hell y’all be doing?’ And we were like, ‘What do you mean?’ We didn’t understand it.

“To a man, we didn’t really realize what we were doing. Because we did it every day in practice. It was normal to us.”

Hired by Suns president and general manager Bryan Colangelo in 2002 as an assistant coach to Frank Johnson, D’Antoni took over for Johnson a quarter of the way through the 2003-04 season, on a team that eventually finished 29-53.

D’Antoni played a pretty traditional lineup to finish out the ’03-04 season, with two bigs upfront — Antonio McDyess and Stoudemire — and Marion at small forward. But O’Neal made approaching another season the same way untenable. The Lakers made it a moot point by trading Shaq to Miami on July 14, 2004, thus removing every West team’s most significant impediment to advancing in the conference. But the Suns were still contemplating shaking things up.

It started with Nash’s arrival from Dallas, which shocked the league.

Initially, the Suns’ top target was Kobe Bryant; Phoenix was ready to offer the Lakers’ superstar six years and $100 million. But that dream faded quickly; the Clippers actually came closer to bagging Bryant, but he wound up re-signing with the Lakers. After losing out on Bryant, the Suns quickly pivoted to Nash, who became a star in Dallas after Phoenix had traded him there in 1998. (That deal netted the Suns the 1999 first-round pick with which they took Marion.)

So Phoenix went all in on getting Nash from Dallas. It, similarly, seemed like a pipe dream. The Mavs were one of the West’s up-and-coming powers, having just come off a 52-30 season. Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley were a formidable trio; Antawn Jamison and Antoine Walker provided huge support. Mark Cuban was loud and boisterous and headline-grabbing, but also paid lavishly to keep his stars comfortable. Meanwhile, the Suns were retooling.

Phoenix shot its shot anyway, offering a six-year, $66 million deal. But Nash still wanted to go back to Dallas.

Except Cuban balked at the years the Suns were offering. The Mavericks didn’t think Nash’s oft-balky back would hold up over the life of the deal. The most Dallas would offer was four years, not six. It was “shocking,” one person involved at the time said, but, a distraught Nash decided to move on, after calling Finley and Nowitzki to let them know.

“It’s exciting, but it’s also bittersweet,” Nash told longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein at the time. “I’m really sad to leave my teammates, but I’m glad to be going somewhere where they really wanted me.”

D’Antoni had his quarterback. At the end of the month, Phoenix got Richardson, then just 24, from the Clippers after LA declined to match Phoenix’s offer for the dynamic two guard.

The Suns had additional changes in mind. The biggest involved playing Stoudemire at center, which would mean Marion, who’d be giving away 3-5 inches and 20-40 pounds pretty much every night, playing power forward rather than the small forward spot he’d played his first four seasons in Phoenix.

It was a major ask. The Western Conference at the time was loaded with elite fours: Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Nowitzki, Chris Webber, Rasheed Wallace. Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko wasn’t in that class, but he’d just made his first All-Star team. Pau Gasol was just entering his prime years with the Grizzlies; ditto, Elton Brand with the Clippers. Karl Malone was near the end of his career, but he still had enough juice to be signed by the championship-hungry Lakers. Wily vets like the late Cliff Robinson still started at the four nightly.

“I came in, we was playing traditional basketball,” Marion said. “The system didn’t come into play until D’Antoni. When he took over, he was like, ‘Shawn, look, we need you to come in and play power forward. We’re going to move Amar’e to center.’ I was like, ‘Really?’ I wasn’t very optimistic about it, to be honest. I wasn’t 100 percent on board with it. I’m 6-7. At the time, power forward was the most dominant position in the league. Look at who I had to guard.”

Marion took convincing. But, eventually, he relented.

“I was like, ‘OK, fuck it, let’s try,'” he said.

“We got through training camp and preseason. I’m seeing some things out there. Maybe I can pull it off. I’m having to overextend myself in ways I didn’t even think about it. But if we were winning games, I’m OK with it. We were on the same page, locked in. Everybody bought in.”

During camp, Richardson and Johnson had to figure out where they stood in the pecking order. Johnson had started 77 games at the two the previous season, averaged 16.7 points per game and looked like he’d be the top offensive option, along with Stoudemire, going forward. But Richardson had just come in from LA with a $50 million deal, and he played the two, also.

“If you’re looking at the team, Phoenix brings in Steve Nash, and they sign me,” Richardson said. “Well, they already had Joe Johnson. Joe is like, ‘This is my contract year; what the fuck y’all doing?’ He’s looking at me like, ‘He’s not better than me.’ And I’m looking at him like, ‘I’m about to take your shit.’ That’s how I’m coming in. It was literally that. When we got to the pickup (games), Joe’s doing his thing, letting them know, I’m me. And I’m like, nah, they brought me here for a reason. I’ve been busting y’all ass, and I’m about to keep doing so. So it was intense.

“And that’s what got us right. It got us sharp as hell.”

And, eventually, the Suns decided to play Richardson and Johnson, together, along with Nash. There was no staff meeting with charts or graphs or advanced stats pushing the narrative; no ‘Aha!’ moment that determined going small or pushing the ball up the floor early would lead to easier shots. It happened organically. It was more hunch than prophesy.

“We always talked as a group,” D’Antoni said. “We were at lunch one day. I think Jerry (Colangelo, the Suns’ owner at the time) came out and said, ‘What are you going to do? Who are you going to start?’ I said, ‘We’re torn between putting our best five out there and trying to match up a little more traditionally.’ And he said, ‘Hey, go with your best.’

“I go OK, here we go. It kind of started the ball rolling. It was my second stint as a head coach (he’d lasted one year in Denver, going 14-36 in the 1998 lockout season) and probably my last if it didn’t go well. Obviously, you have reservations, and you kind of tiptoe in water. But when your boss is confident enough to say go for it, we went for it.”

Phoenix hit the ground running, winning its first four games by an eye-popping average of 23.5 points. The Suns lost back-to-back games to fall to 4-2 but then ripped off 19 of their next 20 and 26 out of 28. The winning begat the confidence in the coaches to keep playing small; the improved individual stats across the board and ease of winning gave the players the evidence they needed that it was worth continuing.

Nash was a maestro, probing defenses over and over, famously never giving up his dribble, seeing all the possibilities in an instant.

“There’s a saying in Italy, ‘You steal with your eyes,'” D’Antoni said. “We stole Steve’s greatness.”

The spacing created by playing small gave Nash multiple angles of attack. He could suck in defenses with the high pick-and-roll to Stoudemire and throw the oop; he could sneak a peek to see if Marion was open in the right corner or crashing down the baseline. He could either go opposite to Johnson — who shot 48 percent on 3s that season — or let Richardson post up the still-rotating D, or shoot from the corner. Or, Nash could just shoot it himself; he fell just short of being a member of the 180 Club — 90 percent from the line, 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3.

“Steve led the way,” Marion said. “The first year, Q and Joe Johnson sprint to the corners. I brought the ball in, typically, most of the time, gave it to Steve. Amar’e did a drag. Either they’re going to double-team him or not, and if not, Steve kicks it to one of us for a wide-open 3-pointer. Or, we drive and kick to somebody else on the 3-point line. It wasn’t hard. We had a couple of little movement things, but it wasn’t much. It was four out, one in.”

Richardson had already found out what kind of quarterback Nash really was. The two of them had arrived in Phoenix together in July to sign their respective deals the second the 2004-05 salary cap number was officially set by the league, and they were in a conference room together. Then, the Suns’ basketball brass came into the room. There was a major problem. The cap had come in at a smaller number than projected. Both Nash and Richardson would have to rework their contracts to make them fit under the lower cap.

“This was the point where I knew I’ll run through a brick wall for this dude, any day,” Richardson said. “Once they kind of broke it down to layman’s terms, Steve looked at them like, ‘Is that the problem?’ He was like, ‘Man, take it off of mine and give it to Q, and let’s fucking go. We can sign this. Me and him are trying to go to the bar.’

“And I looked at him. It was more than a million dollars. It might have been a few million. And for somebody to do that, and we didn’t know each other past competing on the court against each other and stuff like that … I had never known Stevie more than that. I was like, this dude is selfless as hell.”

It was actually ironic that it was a D’Antoni team that turned the NBA on its head offensively.

D’Antoni’s own dreams of NBA stardom lasted 130 games, through parts of four seasons between 1973 and 1977. Playing for the Kings and Spurs, he never averaged more than 4.8 points per game. But he became a superstar playing overseas for Olimpia Milano, leading the longstanding Italian franchise to five LBA championships, two European Cup titles and two International Cups in 13 seasons. He was voted the league’s all-time point guard when his playing career ended in 1990. He was, and is, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. But that wasn’t his strength.
On offense and defense, Shawn Marion had to square up against the game’s best power forwards such as Kevin Garnett. (David Sherman / NBAE via Getty Images)

He also was the franchise’s all-time leader in steals, and earned the nickname “Arsenio Lupin,” the Italian translation of Arsène Lupin, the fictional French “gentleman thief” featured in multiple novels by the author Maurice Leblanc. D’Antoni became beloved by Milano fans for his frenetic disruptions.

“My whole thing was defense,” D’Antoni says now. “I was an awful offensive player. I knew how to run an offense, and I could pass. But I couldn’t finish. One of the reasons I went to Italy was because I couldn’t shoot the ball.”

But D’Antoni went the opposite way with the Suns.

During their white-hot start, the Suns cracked multiple 50-win teams that season — Seattle, Houston and Dallas. They went 12-2 in November, 13-2 in December. And they shot 3s like few contending teams had ever done. Nash was a master of the pass-ahead from beyond half court. For years, players who shot it from deep early in the shot clock were admonished by coaches. In Phoenix, coaches got on guys who didn’t.

“If you remember back then, that’s when Peyton Manning was going crazy in the NFL,” Richardson said. “Peyton Manning would throw that thing on the 1-yard line instead of running it. We would be like, ‘We’re about to let it fly like Peyton Manning.’ That was, like, our little term. We shot the hell out of 3s. I had games where I attempted 17, 19 3s, back-to-back. That was how we played. First shot you get, you shoot.”

On Jan. 11, 2005, Phoenix smoked O’Neal and the visiting Heat in Phoenix, 122-107, and improved to 31-4, having already exceeded the previous season’s win total.

“I remember going into Bryan’s office,” D’Antoni said. “I think we just hit 31-4, whatever. Just early in the morning, walking into his office, and I’m looking at him, and he’s looking at me, and we just started laughing. … We’re 31-4 and legitimately blowing people out, and at halftime, the coaches are going, ‘Let’s just don’t mess this up.’ I remember having a meeting with Quentin, Joe, the starting five in Utah, I think. I said, ‘Guys, I don’t know totally why this is working so well. We’ve just got to do everything we can in our power to keep this going.'”

Winning often breeds camaraderie among teammates, but the Suns were closer that season than most.

“Every week, we were together — at Trix’s house, playing cards or dominoes, at Joe’s house, playing cards,” Richardson said. “I’m talking about, momma in town, cooking. Trix’s momma in town cooking. Then we’re at my house, we’re barbecuing. Everybody comes through. It’s like seven people, or (Leandro) Barbosa, Jim Jackson, Jake Voskuhl. This was like, you don’t see that that often, with this many guys getting together where it’s not mandated by the team.

“We would go on the road. We would go out to dinner, go out to the clubs. We hit New York City, most of us are Black. We’re going to the hip-hop joint. Steve Nash rolling to the hip-hop joint with us, cooling. That created a bond and a togetherness, where we were able to rock with each other the way we were.”

D’Antoni was voted Coach of the Year. Nash won his first of two consecutive league MVPs; he, Stoudemire and Marion were All-Stars. Nash was First Team All-NBA, with Stoudemire making Second Team and Marion Third Team.

“I should have been Defensive Player of the Year that year,” Marion says (it went to Detroit’s Ben Wallace). “I went from the wing player to guarding a post player the whole year, and did it very well. For me to get no recognition for that, it was really disheartening.”

Richardson concurred.

“On our team, Trix was the MVP,” Richardson said. “Trix did everything. He was the only person that I’d seen at that time give Dirk Nowitzki hell like that, all by himself, and allowed us to guard our own man and not have to come double him. And, he was 6-7. And, he went in and averaged a double-double, and was unbelievable rebounding, and we didn’t lose anything with him at the four. He was able to switch on any fucking body and lock up.”

The Suns swept Memphis in the first round, then got sweet revenge for their point guard by upending Dallas in six games in the conference semifinals. Nash was ridiculous in the last five games of the series, averaging 32.2 points (0n 68-of-121 shooting from the floor — 56.2 percent), 11.8 assists and 6.6 rebounds. He scored a career playoff-high 48 points in Game 4, and he was a rebound shy of a triple-double — 39 points, 12 assists and nine boards — in the series clincher.

But the series win came at a big cost. Johnson suffered an orbital fracture above his left eye in Game 2 and didn’t return to the floor until Game 3 of the conference finals with San Antonio. D’Antoni’s rotation, already short, couldn’t overcome the loss of Johnson, who’d started every game that season, averaging 17 points and five boards.

Well, that and Duncan, whose Spurs beat Phoenix in five games.

“It really hurt when Joe Johnson went down in the Dallas series,” D’Antoni said. “Not having him, one, we were playing with an eight-man rotation, which in the playoffs is good. Then, we went down to almost a seven-man. That was tough. Without having Joe, I had to put Steve on Tony Parker, and that wore his ass out. Normally, he would be on Bruce Bowen, standing in the corner. And having Joe, standing 6-8, strong, meeting Tony Parker at the rim.

“Besides Joe being great, being a 48 percent 3-point shooter and averaging (17) points, that really limited what we could do. And, then, you gotta give San Antonio credit. It might not have worked anyway. They were really frigging good.”

Though the Suns never broke through and made an NBA Finals, their legacy is evident in, well, almost every game you watch today. The Warriors were Suns West, with SSOL alums like Steve Kerr and Alvin Gentry on Golden State’s bench, and their let-it-fly philosophy was in the Dubs’ DNA. When you see Trae Young or Darius Garland throwing pocket passes or lobs off side pick-and-rolls to Clint Capela and Jarrett Allen, they’re channeling Nash and Stoudemire. When Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan take turns posting up and splashing 3s, they’re paying tribute to Richardson and Johnson. Every Miles Bridges rim run has its precursor in Marion.

And every coach owes D’Antoni for making that style of play not only possible, but also desirable.

“I think the biggest satisfaction was we really thought that we unlocked the best our team could be,” D’Antoni says. “We were picked to come in eighth place that year in the West. It just shows that, with players, obviously, if you have a little bit lesser talent and you’re going against the big guys … if you guys are rating the teams, you kind of rate them on talent. If you just trot out the same, traditional way that they play, you’re going to get beat. Over 82 games, you’ve got no chance. So there are different paths to winning, different ways to unlock players’ talents.”

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SunsRIt
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Re: Suns News: Week 10 (12/20 - 12/26)

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No game day thread?

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