I want to be a Phoenix Mercury fan, really I do.
In theory, I support the Phoenix Mercury every step of the way. I’m a Phoenix homer to begin with, and they play that scintillating up-and-down style that I loved so much during the D’Antoni Era.
But for whatever reason, I just haven’t been able to get into the Merc’s record-breaking season that is on the verge of extinction if they can’t beat the mighty LA Sparks tonight in Game 3 of the West Finals (the WNBA couldn’t even make the WCF a best-of-five?).
When the Mercury first came to town, I really tried to get into it. I remember the Jennifer Gillon-Michele Timms-Bridget Pettis team. My sister had a Timms jersey, and I remember excitedly celebrating every shot at the one game I’ve ever been to like 10 years ago or so. Since then, I’ve always had better things to do, all the while I still find time to watch practically every Suns and UA basketball game.
Last night I even felt like a disloyal basketball fan by walking right past US Airways Center and $2 WCF tickets and right over to Chase Field to watch two crappy baseball teams battle for last place in the NL West while the Merc unsuccessfully fought for a berth in the Finals, an event that would be almost a life-changing experience if this were Suns-Lakers with a chance to go to the NBA Finals.
The Mercury are everything I love about basketball. I give way to Mercury aficionado Phoenix Stan for these eye-popping stats (eye-popping as this was written before Phoenix’s Game 2 clunker):
The Phoenix Mercury are 3-1 and are averaging a blistering 100 points per game (on 46.5% shooting and 44.4% from three) through the first four games of the 2009 WNBA playoffs. Those numbers are up from the regular season where the Mercury set a WNBA record with 92.8 ppg (on 42.4% shooting 38.6% from three).
100 points per 40 minute game is simply an unbelievable scoring pace. It is even more amazing when you consider that it translates to 120 points per 48 minute NBA game. When was the last time an NBA team averaged 120 points per game in the playoffs? (seriously, when? I can’t find the answer)
From what I read (still haven’t watched anything but the final seconds of their first-round win over San Antonio), the Mercury are the Suns with long hair and a corporate sponsor on the front of their jerseys, only faster and with better shooters. I want to care, I want to like this team, but I just haven’t cared to this point.
Meanwhile half the Suns from Lou Amundson to Grant Hill have attended Merc games, and VotS podcast panelist Ben York makes me nervous he’s such a big Mercury fan (just check out his Twitter feed and his open letter to Phoenix fans).
This is Phoenix vs. San Antonio and Phoenix vs. LA playoff basketball, it is a smaller, fast shooting team against a big, rebounding, inside team. It’s David vs. Goliath, and it’s everything I love about basketball, although I didn’t love a big Laker fan friend of mine sarcastically congratulating me on Phoenix finally winning a basketball championship when the Merc won it all two years ago.
Still, a championship is a championship, and to some tiny degree the Merc are proving you can win a title in something like Seven Seconds or Less like the Suns of this decade tried so hard to do.
In that vein, I promise to attend a Mercury Finals game if they are good enough to beat LA.
You know, unless I find something better to do.
The one time I was going to pay close attention to women’s basketball was back in 2005, when I was slated to cover the 05-06 Arizona women’s basketball team.
Four years ago this day I got a call I’ll remember all my life. As I walked out of an early morning English class my sports editor called to tell me that arguably the best player in UA women’s basketball history, Shawntinice “Polkey” Polk, had passed away.
I immediately wondered why he would play such a sick joke on me. Polkey couldn’t be dead. Polkey was Arizona women’s basketball. She was the so-called face of the franchise, the one player everyone on campus recognized.
She really was a gregarious, freakishly big, 6-foot-5, 250-something-pounder in the Shaq mold, only unlike the Big Showoff she was all about others. For that her teammates loved her as much as she loved them, and really Arizona women’s basketball has never been the same since she collapsed in McKale Center because of a nasty blood clot that started in her leg and traveled up to her lung.
It was a devastating day for anybody who cared about UA women’s basketball in any way, a loss that set the program back years and created a personal void that many of her close friends on the team are still struggling to fill.
For more on Polkey, check out my column on her passing in the 2005-06 Arizona Daily Wildcat Basketball Guide and my former Daily Wildcat colleague Lance Madden’s fine feature on remembering Polkey four years later.
A top 10 team?
There’s been much talk among Suns writers about the “lack of respect” card, and that will likely be a main theme at Monday’s Media Day festivities, so I was fairly surprised to see the Suns right at No. 10 in Marc Stein’s initial NBA power rankings.
The Suns made the biggest jump from the end of last year of any top 10 team in Stein’s rankings, and they’re just ahead of No. 11 New Orleans and No. 12 Utah. If these rankings were to come to fruition, the Suns would earn the No. 6 seed in the West, which sounds about right.
Stein writes of the Suns:
Will not miss the playoffs again. Not with Alvin Gentry coaching from the start and not if the main protagonists stay healthy. That’s as far as we can go, though. Amare’s future is the real story of the Suns’ season.