PHOENIX — In 2005 there was Joe Johnson’s fractured face.
In 2007 there was’s blood-gushing nose and Robert Horry’s hip check that led to the suspensions of Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw.
In 2008 there was Tim Duncan draining his first three-pointer of the season to send a game the Suns once led by 16 into double overtime.
In the Nash Era, the Phoenix Suns are 0-3 against San Antonio and 6-1 against everybody else in postseason play. With the way weird extenuating circumstances always seem to envelope the San Antonio victories, that begs the question: Are the Suns cursed like the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs?
Just don’t expect Nash to carry on that conversation for too long.
“I don’t believe in curses,” Nash said. “I can’t say that I feel cursed. Have we had a few bad breaks? Yeah, but not cursed.”
It’s a good thing Nash feels that way because the belief in curses can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy that causes the so-called curse to repeat itself.
Every time something bad happened to the pre-title Red Sox, they seemed to think that the sky was about to fall. After watching two NL West teams I covered sweep talented Cubs squads in 2007 and 2008, they looked about the same way.
We won’t know for sure until the first bad break goes against the Suns in this series, but the team as a whole believes that this is a completely different series between completely different teams whose rosters have turned over despite the presence of the Phoenix stars Nash and Amare against the San Antonio stars Duncan, Parker and Ginobili.
Besides Nash and Amare, only Leandro Barbosa has been along for another Spurs series besides, who was limited by injury and missed the last two games of the previous San Antonio series.
“They’re a different team, and so are we,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “As I told our guys, we don’t talk about Bowen or Robert Horry, any of that stuff, because the bottom line is this is the first time we’re playing these guys in a playoff series. We’ve got plenty of guys who haven’t even been around those series, so why talk about them, why go back, why revisit them? I don’t see anything beneficial in any of them.”
Added, “Us players, we had nothing to do with it. I wasn’t here, Dudley wasn’t here. You can go down the list of guys who wasn’t here. That’s four guys out of 12, that’s not even part of who we are, what we’re about. The fans are going to remember it, of course, but this is something new. We’re a new team, we’ll establish something new.”
But even J-Rich has suffered some bad luck at the hands of San Antonio. Playing in just his fifth game as a Sun, Richardson botched a defensive assignment and allowed Roger Mason Jr. to hit an open three-pointer in the corner on Christmas Day 2008. Then this year, he was streaking down the court with about 40 seconds left about to tie the game on a breakaway dunk only to have the ball pop out, the type of weird miss that never happens to a two-time dunk champion.
So not even a player making his postseason debut in a Phoenix uniform is immune to the Curse of San Antonio, although unlike the Curse of the Bambino and the Billy Goat Curse there is no clue to the origin of said curse, if there is such a thing at all.
“I don’t feed into it,” Amare Stoudemire said. “I think it’s about which team’s better, and they’ve been the better team over the years. They’ve been more prepared, they’ve been smarter, so that’s why they’ve won. This year I think we’re a smart team, we’re better defensively, so it’s going to be a better matchup.”
Maybe it’s more about the fans. Suns fans loathe anything to do with San Antonio because of the way the Spurs have ruined the Nash Era, not to mention 2003, 1998 and 1996. Even if the players ignore the past, fans will be remembering every last disaster every time the slightest thing goes wrong on the Phoenix side.
Perhaps all that weird stuff means that the Suns are due like the Red Sox were in 2004 and the Cubs were in, well, uhhh, nevermind.
If you believe in karma and not curses then the Suns will get the lucky rolls, nobody will get suspended or injured,will make a triumphant return and the Suns will use an emotional series victory as a springboard to a Finals run.
San Antonio is the dragon the Suns could never slay, the reason Nash has not won any (or multiple) championships as a Phoenix Sun. Although a series victory would not make up for all that’s happened in the past, it would provide the Suns with one last sliver of satisfying revenge.
But to the man whom San Antonio has robbed the most, Nash, a man whose legacy may look completely different if not for all the postseason beatings over the years (and this includes when he was with Dallas), he delivered a stinging one-liner to the hearts of all the media members and fans sure to hype up the curse and revenge aspects of this series: “That’s what you guys do best is lack creativity and come up with old stuff.”
Here’s how Nash sees the series: “I think we really have two teams that I think a lot of people thought were in a transition year, so I think that’s kind of the story is how these two teams have found a way to come together at the right time to be here in the second round of the playoffs. That I think is what’s unique about this series is that we’re two teams with a lot of new pieces that were kind of in a transition period that have found great chemistry and strength and have set itself up for a really good series.”
Nash is right. The Suns and Spurs were thought to be in decline heading into last season, the centerpieces Nash and Duncan in particular. But with supporting casts rebuilt around their stars, both of these teams have steamrolled their way into the second round for one more showdown for old time’s sake.
It’s a neat story that both squads have kept the window open in a year some thought they were declining, but that’s not what any Suns fan will be thinking about as Game 1 tips off tonight.
They will be thinking about Joe Johnson’s face, Steve Nash’s nose, Robert Horry’s hip check, Bruce Bowen’s groin kicks and Tim Duncan’s banked three.
They will be thinking about all the despair the Spurs have caused Valley fans the last half decade and how many championships Phoenix could have won if it weren’t for that malevolent team donning black from San Antonio.
They will be thinking about all the reasons this year will be different — Phoenix’s improved depth that it never had and its newfound commitment to defense — as well as Amare’s always superb play against San Antonio and Steve Nash being Steve Nash.
With Nash not getting any younger and Amare possibly playing his last games in a Phoenix uniform, this could be the Nash Era’s last crack at Duncan’s Spurs.
So while it can’t make up for what happened in 2005, 2007 or 2008 and all the championship dreams the Spurs have shattered along the way, short of a championship there would be nothing sweeter for Suns fans than seeing their team reverse the curse and finally beat the Spurs.