Media snubs could motivate fearless Suns team

PHOENIX — If you get a sense that the national media largely favors the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, don’t expect that to faze the Phoenix Suns very much.

After all, it’s been like that all season with this team.

Countless times this year Steve Nash has basically said the Suns are “not bad for a team nobody expected to even make the playoffs.”

He’s also frequently described his club as a team that’s not as talented as some others teams but a squad that just plays really well together. He’s repeated the mantra so many times that you almost get the feeling he’s saying it for the benefit of younger teammates’ mental state because it’s obvious this Suns team is in fact very talented.

But for whatever reason the Suns have been better all season with a chip on their shoulder. They busted out of the gates with that 14-3 start after an offseason that saw the entire nation pick the Suns at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture. These 10 ESPN experts picked the Suns to finish between sixth and 10th, with only noted Suns lover Marc Stein picking them sixth and four of the 10 picking the Suns out of the playoffs.

I don’t mean to pick on the mothership because Sports Illustrated prognosticated the Suns to be eighth, and everybody else with a basketball opinion had them in the same range.

“That’s how it was at the start of the season,” Amare Stoudemire said. “The national people were saying that the Phoenix Suns wouldn’t make the playoffs, and now we’re in the Western Conference Finals, so sometimes they know what they’re talking about, sometimes they don’t.”

After the snub-filled hot start, the Suns started “reading their own press clippings,” as Grant Hill put it at the time, and suddenly they became the team so many thought they’d be during that 12-18 stretch of mediocrity during the middle of the year.

Since then the Suns, of course, have turned it around with a 36-9 dominant finish, but despite their torrid end to the year they still were the dogs against the No. 7 Spurs even with home-court advantage.

And now, to no one’s surprise, everybody and their mother is picking the Lakers in this one (well, except for noted stat gurus like John Hollinger — who picked the Suns to the Finals from the start of the playoffs — and Wayne Winston). In fact, Stein again and Chris Sheridan are joining Hollinger with a Suns pick among the ESPN experts — which is one more than the number of ESPN experts who joined Hollinger in the last round — but nationally the Suns are the definite dogs, and Alvin Gentry can see why.

“Well, let’s look at it realistically, why wouldn’t they?” Gentry asked. “They’ve had the best record in the West, they’re the defending world champs. If I was a media guy I would probably pick them, too.

“But the problem with that is you have to go out and play the games and you have to see what happens.”

But Jared Dudley doesn’t buy into the hype. Instead, he said, he just listens to Steve Nash, who gave a fiery speech in the Suns’ locker room after their Game 3 win against San Antonio about finishing the job in Game 4.

“Steve’s someone who says when you win don’t get too high, when you lose don’t get too low, stay even keel,” Dudley said.

Just as they used the “nobody believes in us” angle to jet out to their hot start, you know the Suns will be dusting it off for this series. They’re aware of the national perception, the fact that some people think the Suns are just minor inconvenience on the Lakers’ run to another title.

The “nobody believes in us” angle can be very powerful in sports. Look at the Butler Bulldogs just a couple months ago in the NCAA Tournament and certainly the 2008 Arizona Cardinals, the so-called “worst playoff team ever.”

But more importantly the Suns have a strong belief in themselves.

Take Dudley: “We know if we play our game, we should win.”

Richardson: “We’re not satisfied yet.”

And Stoudemire: “They’re definitely a solid team, but you can never have any fear. You always can respect them for what they’ve done and won championships, but when it’s time for battle you can’t have any fear.”

And Gentry as well: “The big thing for us is we have a ton of respect for the Lakers and everything they represent — they’re the past champions — but I think you’ve got to understand that we don’t have any fear of anybody. We don’t fear anyone. That’s the approach we have, respect yeah, but fear no. We don’t fear anyone.”

The Suns respect the Lakers, sure, but they don’t fear anybody, as Gentry so eloquently said. Not even Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson (as we saw this week) and Pau Gasol.

When you combine that “nobody believes in us” mindset with a complete and utter lack of fear of the opposition and blend it with a team that has been counted out since training camp, you’ve got the kind of mentality that could lead to a nation-shocking upset.

  • Dustball

    If the Suns need the media to motivate them in the WCF against Kobe and the defending world champions, they are in serious trouble. The Suns can't afford to play the "nobody believes in us but us" card because if they fail to take one of the first 2 games, and the Lakers win at least one convincingly the Suns just might remove the "but us" and join the consensus. Reading about how you can't win and then demonstrating it can crush a team's psyche. They'll need to ignore the papers and focus on themselves to have any chance of knocking off the champs.

  • bonecrusher

    Yo, Suns fan now posting for latetotheshowforlife… get ready for some pain LA fans. Not much more to say other than the Suns are quite simply a better TEAM – get it?

  • asani

    Well lakeshow can you actually sit here and tell us Amar'e didn't abuse Pal Gasol when he was with Memphis? I remember it well so he didn't lie about that. You obviously don't know anything about basketball if you think Amare needs a player like steve to be a factor. You compared him to Marion. Lol Marion isn't a primetime scorer and finisher so that is a dumb comparison. Bottomline Amare will have his way with Gasol if you guys decide to go one on one with him

  • Ken

    I guess Amar'e telling the truth makes him cocky. So be it.

  • Unnthor

    At Truehoops stat geek smackdown 5 of 7 experts are picking the Lakers (not counting the mom). Hollinger and Voulgaris are picking the Suns. Everyone knows who Hollinger is. Voulgaris has a massive database on the NBA and used that to bet on NBA games. In fact he made a living on picking the winner in NBA games. That's got to count for something even though he is losing in the Smackdown.

  • sunslinger

    Talk time is over. GO SUNS> it's our time now

  • Josh

    If they need the this to motivate them in the WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS they are screwed.

  • SunsGotRaped

    How'd the Suns do tonight?

  • lakeshow

    “We definitely can play down low,” Stoudemire said. “They just have two guys. So once you beat Gasol, you have your little brother right behind you. So that makes him a better player. I played against Gasol in Memphis (in the 2005 first round) and it was total domination but now he has a little brother with him so now he’s a little more confident now because he’s got someone to help him in the post.”
    - Amare is still cocky and he’s got nothing to show for it. Bynum – his little brother? lol. Bynum makes him a better player? jeez.
    I have never wanted the Suns to win anything because of this guy – sad because I love Steve Nash. Anyhow, he better stay with Nash in Phoenix – he will be a bust like Shawn Marion outside this system.

  • LakeShowForLife

    LOL I love how no Suns fans post on this blog. Too scared to come out of the woodworks, Suns fans? Dreading your inevitable embarrassment at the hands of the greatest franchise in NBA history?

    You are pathetic. Soon you, and your defenseless team (in more ways than one) will be exposed for the losers you are.

  • Martus

    Sorry LAKESHOWFORLIFE, we all dont have time to troll the other teams blog and talk trash. Grow up! All you laker fans crack me up, you talk all this trash about how great of a history you have and how great of a past you have. Fact is that what matters is the way teams are playing the last few months and the matchups at hand. Most intelligent suns fans realize that we are overmatched when Bynum and Gasol are in the game, but games are played for a reason. Its up to the Suns to find ways to exploit that and also ways to force Phil’s hand by taking Bynum out of the game. While Gasol is very skilled offensively and should be able to dominate inside, we all know he cannot Guard Amare 1 on 1 on the other end. This series will be about who can make the proper adjustments and impose their will on the other team. The fact that people think this series will be anything less than 6 games is crazy. This is not the Suns of D’Antoni, we will be ready for a fight and will bring it. And one last thing “lakeshowforlife”, please take your petty insults off this blog…”You are pathetic. Soon you, and your defenseless team (in more ways than one) will be exposed for the losers you are” Calling guys that are making millions more dollars than you and playing professional basketball losers and pathetic..grow up.

  • Daniel

    For all that talk about “If they need this to motivate them…” nonsense, wasn’t Kobe talking about some playoff exit when they were the 8 and we were the 1. I just can’t believe Kobe needs to hype himself up for the Conference finals, a champion like him? See how stupid that shit sounds

  • Joshua

    Anyone still think Suns in 6, lol?

    Lakers in 5 seems more likely.


    Haha, no suns fans on today LOL

  • Jbrando

    LakeShowForLife – stay in your hole and stop the insults – this from a Laker fan, yes a lifetime Laker fan. You’re an embarrassment to every basketball fan. Discuss, don’t insult. Back to your hole.

    Suns better find a way to win #3 or Lakers sweep.

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  • The Z. Man

    Sure did come close to pulling off that upset.

    Game 5 was up for grabs at the end. Too bad J-Rich is most likely to make a bone head play or just pretend to play "D" at the end of a game. Nash was so devestated by that loss that he sealed our fate by that public prediction which fired up Artest and the rest of the other team. Suns therefore would have probably gone to The Finals, if not for that unlucky game #5 loss.

    What guys pulled us out of the hole in game 5 and nearly did the same the last game? Frye, Barbosa, Louis, Dud & Gogi. Most Suns fans are prepared to lose most of them. MUST KEEP Frye, Louis & our Brazilian Blur.

    MUST start and also finish with LB. Let's go SUNS!!!!