PHOENIX – If any team can understand to some extent what the Suns are going through it’s tonight’s opponent, the Detroit Pistons.
Both teams have enjoyed a successful run that has put them at the top of their conference the last four years, but the Suns never got a title out of it and the Pistons have been title-less since 2003-04 despite reaching the East finals each of the past four seasons.
Both teams have made a major trade in the past year – Shaq to the Suns, Allen Iverson to the Pistons – that has led to issues integrating them into the team’s system, Amare and Nash with Shaq and the Pistons with their three starting guards for two starting spots.
Detroit and Phoenix also each hired a coach from the Pistons’ assistant staff from last year, but both Terry Porter and Michael Curry have struggled at times coaching a veteran core that isn’t getting any younger.
Neither squad enters this one particularly hot, either, with Phoenix suffering through a 7-8 January and Detroit slumping to 6-9 in the first month of 2009. Both teams began the day with 27-21 marks.
“I think there are some similarities, a team that’s had some success, a team that probably had higher expectations, with a new coach, new personnel, so they’re trying to sort of find themselves, so hopefully we can take advantage of that,” Suns forward Grant Hill said.
The game will also take on a bit of added importance for Hill, who said he has never won in Motown since leaving the city he became a star in after the 1999-2000 season due to his injuries and the rise of the Pistons.
The Suns should expect an appreciably slower pace than they played at the last two games against Golden State facing a Detroit squad that plays the second slowest pace in the NBA.
This contest will be an important start to a trip that can break the Suns, with tough ones in Philly and Cleveland to follow before the All-Star break.
“It’s going to be a pretty tough trip that we’ve got to focus and get ready for,” Amare said. “If we have a solid trip I think that would be great momentum going into the second half of the season.”
That is, if Amare makes it that far in a Suns uniform.