PHOENIX — From the moment Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus walked through the Al McCoy Media Center doors for their Phoenix Suns introductory press conference, they exuded the confidence characteristic of a trio that won 59 games a season ago.
They carried the swagger of a squad two years removed from a trip to the NBA Finals, and their words backed up their body language during their Phoenix Suns close-up.
“That’s all we’re here for is to win more games and I believe in winning a championship here,” Pietrus quietly said in his thick French accent.
“Our goal is to win a championship now, as soon as possible. I don’t look at the record right now. My goal is to win now.”
Added Carter: “We just want to continue to build and help this organization get to where we feel this organization can be and that’s win a championship.”
Talking championships is a bold move for players who haven’t even practiced yet, on a championship-less team that would miss out on the playoffs if the season ended now. But Carter, Gortat and Pietrus have been to the same promised land that Steve Nash, Grant Hill and the Suns have been working toward for seasons on end.
They know how to win games, and that winning mentality could be a perfect shot in the arm for a .500 Suns team struggling to stay in the playoff hunt.
“I think they come from a great environment, great soil if you will,” said Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby. “They are competing at the highest levels and that’s where we expect to be and that’s what our aspirations always are. You want people with that horizon and I think that’s only a plus.”
The 33-year-old Cater, who’s averaging a career-low 15.1 points per game, talked about bringing a sense of belief to the Suns — the same belief that allowed his New Jersey Nets to make the playoffs after a rough start to the 2004-05 season and the same belief that he says helped vault the Magic into a perennial playoff status.
“It’s not about the record it’s about believing. That’s one thing about our team and team’s I’ve played on in the past, we believed, and when we believed, things got better,” Carter said. “We come from a team where we believe that good things can happen for our team and we want to bring that to the table for this team.”
Each player carries a different situation into Phoenix: Gortat a 26-year-old center finally getting his shot to compete for a starting job, Carter a declining star scrambling to find his fountain of youth, and Pietrus a role player hoping to fit on a wing-heavy Suns team.
But despite their individual situations, the three shared a brother-like bond that could help restore the seemingly lost chemistry in Phoenix. The Suns were fueled by a similar bond last season, riding their brotherhood to a trip to the Western Conference Finals.
This trio showed a similar light-heartedness that should only up Phoenix’s morale, despite the popular belief that trades shake up chemistry. At one point Pietrus asked a reporter if she wanted him to “dougie” for her, when she wanted to know if his knee was healthy.
Carter wore the hat of the big brother, laughing at certain responses or nodding in agreement. Gortat was wide-eyed and smiley, experiencing his first press conference in four years as a pro. Together, the three were loose and showed a sense of togetherness as a product of their time at the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Suns need more than confidence and added chemistry to get to the championship levels the Suns newcomers are talking about. Babby even admitted “it remains to be seen” how this trade will play out on the court.
But Gortat, Carter and Pietrus said all of the right things and gave off body language of winners, which, when coupled with talent and chemistry, can go a long way.
“We want to be in the mix and that’s what it’s all about is winning, and winning by any means,” Carter said. “We’re trying to bring our defensive background and the mentaility that we’ve come from here and just add to the fuel that’s already here and hopefully sooner or later you’ll see us at the top.”