During the long, and somewhat disturbing lockout – it might sound a bit demagogic but a labor dispute between billionaires in the middle of the worst economic recession of the last 60 years was indeed disturbing – I often asked myself if I really cared about the game. The question brought an uncertain answer.
The 2011-12 Suns season was not exactly one to remember and left me with a bitter taste: A team going nowhere, having its first losing season since 2003-04, led by my all-time favorite player possibly having played his last game in Phoenix.
Then came Christmas and it once again pulled a miracle. After spending the day eating and visiting friends and family I turned the TV on for Opening Day and once again fell in love with the game: suddenly, inexplicably, uncritically (as a great writer once said about a different sport)
Watching the Heat play the Mavs was “electrifying” and I was deeply impressed by Miami, the way they attacked the basket, played in the paint and the intensity they put on the floor was a lighting reminder of how much I love the game and how it was deeply missed. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait for the Suns opener tonight in Phoenix against New Orleans.
The Hornets, as everyone knows will play without Chris Paul, now performing in Southern California, and should be an “affordable” game for the Suns, especially at home. I feel for the Hornets, the way I did when Seattle lost the Sonics for I hope basketball could be saved in New Orleans, my favorite city in America.
But tonight it’s all about our Suns and the dawn of a new season.
What to expect from the Suns in this compact 66-game season?
A shorter season means less games, good news for the old-core of Nash and Hill, but also bad news as 66 games in four months will put them under pressure. Hill’s ankles and Nash’s back will require a day off here and there. This team, at least on paper, looks like a less talented but much deeper than the Suns have had in quite some times. It’ll be interesting to see if Coach Gentry could shape this group into a team.
What kind of team can we expect?
Our two best players are also the team’s oldest but the rest of the team is actually younger and more athletic than in the past. Does more athletic means better? Of course not.
To the group of Dudley, Childress, Warrick, Gortat and Frye the Suns added Sebastian Telfair, Shannon Brown and first rounder Markieff Morris. Almost everyone on the Suns roster, not named Hill or Nash, seems to be more or less the same type of player: An experienced NBA veteran (5-6 year veteran), a very athletic player, excellent at running up and down the court, a bit undersized for the position they’ll have to play, so-so rebounder, not so great on defense, not an offensive star either.
The Suns still lack a go-to scorer nor do they have a real superstar to play alongside Steve Nash. Once Nash is held in check by the opponents’ defense, who will the Suns turn to? Once the Suns need a defensive stop in clutch situations what will happen? I guess we’ll keep searching for defense, not seen in Phoenix since the days of Charles Barkley and Dan Majerle.
More than that I feel like the Suns don’t have a clear strategy for the future, but that’s for another day or when the trade deadline will eventually come in February.
Can the Suns deliver on a nightly basis and win the 40 games required to make it to the post season?
They look to me more like a 32-36 win team. The season will unravel very quickly, every day will bring either a game or some travel, I feel like one of the keys to the Suns season could be a winning streak early in the year. The Suns do have a favorable schedule to begin with; of the first 11 games 7 will be in Phoenix against teams the Suns could beat. It’ll be crucial to be in a good position before the mid January 9-day, 5-game road trip vs San Antonio, Boston, NYC, Chicago and Dallas.
Lots of stuff to think about, but for tonight I’m just glad Suns basketball is back…Only now I realize how much I missed.
Yours truly, Luca, the “Steve Fan”