PHOENIX — You can’t blame the Suns for feeling a little stir crazy.
Eight days after clinching a spot in the Western Conference Finals, the Phoenix Suns are finally set to begin their next series Monday night against the Los Angeles Lakers after a week of practice, talking and talking some more.
“I’m very anxious,” said Suns guard Jason Richardson. “I’m tired of playing against my teammates, tired of beating each other up. It almost feels like preseason again where you go through that week where you’re just practicing hard, going at it. You’re waiting for that first exhibition game just to get away from your teammates and go get somebody else.”
It’s a good thing for both the Suns and the media members, who got a few days of ammo from Phil Jackson but otherwise are running out of different ways to ask about Robin Lopez’s back, Steve Nash’s eye and the importance of Phoenix’s three-point attack and spacing.
“It kind of feels like the Super Bowl week where you win the conference championship and now you’ve got to wait basically about six months before you play the Super Bowl,” said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. “It’s a long time to wait, it really is.”
But overall the week has done the Suns a lot of good if nothing else because it’s given Robin Lopez sufficient time to work his way back into the lineup. Although he didn’t officially confirm it, Gentry insinuated that Lopez would be announced with the starters when Game 1 begins.
“For us it was kind of a blessing in disguise because we had a week where Robin could work every day and try to get better cardio-wise and everything and just try to test his back and see how he will hold up,” Gentry said. “He’s playing pain-free, so that obviously was important for us.
“With Steve he took a couple of days rest and the eye still looks a lot worse than it really is. Grant took a day off and J-Rich was able to take a day off, and we had two really good practices and then we had a light practice today. We feel like we’re ready to play.”
Suns not fazed by Jackson
All you need to know about the difference between the Phoenix Suns and the Oklahoma Thunder can be seen through the differences in how their superstars handled Lakers head coach Phil Jackson’s tauntings.
Durant was affected, all but saying it hurt his feelings when the big bad Jackson talked bad of him.
Nash and Gentry just laughed it off with an equally funny diss Jackson’s way.
By doing so they let the insult roll right off their backs without affecting them, which is exactly how we were talk to handle bullies back in grade school.
I think this interaction shows that Nash and the Suns won’t be afraid of the Lakers and that Jackson’s intimidation techniques won’t do any good in this series.
Kerr: Suns can afford Amare
As a guest on The Dan Patrick show, Suns GM Steve Kerr was asked if the Suns can afford Amare Stoudemire:
“We can afford it. We’ve had one of the top five, six payrolls in the NBA for four years running. We’ll spend money, that’s not the question. We have to make sure we spend it the right way. Hopefully we can get something done with Amar’e. That’s the plan.”
With the Suns making this run to the conference finals, it’s seeming more and more likely that STAT will stay. If the Suns have the money, it’s “the plan” and Amare seemingly would like to remain in Phoenix, people in South Beach ought to be really disappointed the Heat didn’t make a better offer for Stoudemire at the deadline.
That’s not to say it’s a done deal of course, in fact it might not be better than 60/40 that he stays, but every day it’s looking more and more likely that the Suns will show Amare the money.
The right time?
Entering the playoffs, some thought the Lakers would be most vulnerable in the first round before they found their playoff legs, as they struggled down the stretch.
Perhaps that was true as the Lake Show dropped a pair to the Thunder in Round 1 but have reeled off six consecutive since.
“Looking back you could say should have gotten the Suns earlier than later, (too)” Grant Hill said in response to that query. “They’re a great team, they’re a great matchup. We have the ultimate respect for them, we know they’re playing great ball now, but you know what, that’s how it is. The further you get in the playoffs the tougher it gets, and we expect it to be a tough series.”
I still maintain it’s better to play Los Angeles now, because at least the Suns will have reached the conference finals no matter what happens from here on out. A team like the Thunder that potentially could have made a similar run, however, was knocked out in the first round just like the Bobcats were.