Better times on the horizon

Suns forward Amare Stoudemire shoots over Clippers forward Al Thornton during Tuesday's win. (AP/Matt York)

After this performance, it sounds like Amare will have more Suns home games to play. (AP/Matt York)

Suns fans, we have been beaten, battered, and torn down over the last two weeks. 

We do not deserve it.

And you know what?  It doesn’t matter.  The media can throw whatever it wants at us, but the bottom line is, this team is at least as good as it was last year.

Really? 

Yep. 

See, we have reason to be excited, reason to be optimistic about this team. 

It all started Sunday night when Steve Kerr made the drive to Terry Porter’s house to let him know that well, the team just really isn’t that into him.  And from that point on, this team, these players, this city, reclaimed its basketball team.

Sounds a bit harsh on Porter, I know.  And maybe it was unfair for any coach to come in, follow Mike D’Antoni and to live up to Kerr’s expectations of being a better defensive team than they had been, while being built to score.  I’ll give Porter that. 

But on the other hand, he had never won his players over, and that finally did him in.

But like Mark McGwire, I’m not here to talk about the past.  I’m here to talk about the future. 

And quite honestly, I’m brimming with confidence as I type this.  See, I had most of this drafted up in my mind earlier today, and then I went to Tuesday’s game against the Clippers. 

Within the first two minutes, I was almost moved to tears.  OK, not really, but the whole let’s-run-and-see-how-much-we-can-score-before-the-opposing-coach-finally-calls-timeout situation in the beginning of the game was just like the old days.  Ah, the old days.  It appears the identity that the success of this team was built on is back.

Of course we can’t get too excited over one game.  There were still some negatives, like the 22 turnovers against a 13-win team, and giving up 13 threes.  That hurts for sure. 

But what is promising is the 140-point beatdown the Suns laid, in which Nash played 25 minutes, Shaq played 21, Hill played 23, and Amar’e only played 20. 

Sound familiar?  It is, besides the turnovers. 

See, Gentry represents a remainder from the D’Antoni Era, an era that will go down in Suns history as probably the best ever.  Practice Monday consisted of three scrimmages, just like the old days.  He let Nash go, just like the old days.  Porter said he had let Nash go, but we saw things last night we haven’t seen since last year.

And the funny thing is, Shaq, the guy they got in that “failed” trade last year, still went for 15 and 8 in those abbreviated minutes while the Suns ran their socks off.  It’s clear that deal wasn’t to blame for the lackluster first half.

This game is promise.  So are the standings.  Currently, Phoenix sits 13.5 games behind the Lakers in the West, in ninth place, one game out of a playoff spot.  But the great thing is that they are three games out of the four-seed, and just 6.5 games behind the Nuggets for the second-best record in the conference.  I’m not suggesting the Suns will end up that high, but with an injury to the Nuggets or Spurs and a hot streak by the Suns, it is POSSIBLE.

But let’s look at PROBABLE.  I think it’s more than possible the Suns can end up in that four- or five-seed area with a good run.  And then when the playoffs roll around, who’s to say they can’t make noise?  If they do indeed climb the standings and end up in the middle of the pack, won’t the first half be largely forgotten?

Ah, and Amar’e.  What to do about our “headcase” power forward?  Well, Mr. Kerr wisely said he wants to see what this team can do.  At practice yesterday, Nash said the team feels like this was the change they’d be making, and the team would continue as it is right now. 

According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, other Western execs are feeling Amar’e is off the block.  Let me say something to you Steve Kerr.  THANK YOU.  Most NBA fans thought the Suns were nuts to deal Amar’e for cap space or youth based on his talent alone. 

Sure, he has his issues.  But you know what, if the Suns do plan on running like they did under Mike, Amar’e is the best power forward the Suns can have.  His lack of rebounding and defense is hidden in that system, and instead, we see outbursts like his 23 points Tuesday.

Fact of the matter is, this roster is loaded with talent.  Any team with a stud point guard, dominant big man (or men), decent shooters, and savvy veterans can contend in May and June. 

Matt Barnes is going to get the chance to play the way he was signed to play, and the rookies are showing that maybe, just maybe, they can contribute to an NBA basketball team. 

The Suns actually match up fairly well with the class of the West, the Lakers especially if Andrew Bynum isn’t right. 

The playoffs are all about matchups. 

And something tells me the Suns will indeed be matching up with someone in the early summer.

Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire

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