I am admittedly, the biggest Boston Celtic fan alive and have been for the last three decades. I know that may not be saying much since they haven’t won anything of significance since June of 1986, almost two decades ago exactly. And even though I will forever, as a basketball fan, live and die with my Celtics, I must also say that I have become increasingly enamored with the Phoenix Suns the past two seasons.
I guess my infatuation with the Suns began shortly after point guard Steve Nash arrived in the desert and combined with creative head coach, Mike D’ Antoni, to bring back the most exciting brand of basketball the league has seen since Larry Bird and Magic Johnson exited the league at the end of their respective legendary careers.
Not even the Michael Jordan dominated 90s, which featured every team in the league running one play – the pick-and-roll – into the ground, rivaled the all-around team play and offensive movement that teams displayed in the decades prior to the 90s.
However, the Suns, led by Nash, the league’s reigning two-time MVP, have brought back, not only exciting – but surprisingly effective – basketball, to the suddenly resuscitated NBA, which is now featuring the “team play” style that once existed and is now making an astonishing resurgence throughout the league.
Exciting brand of basketball or not, I decided to pen this column after watching the Suns bow out gracefully to the Dallas Mavericks in the western conference finals after six hard-fought games – and arriving at the conclusion that Phoenix should be an absolute terror – and once again – one of the best teams in the league once the 2006-07 season gets under way this coming October.
I know it’s way too early to speculate on what may or may not occur next season – especially since this season hasn’t even concluded – and, while I am certainly not making any predictions whatsoever at this point, I will go on record right now and say that the Suns, with the return of young phenom, Amare Stoudemire and veteran frontcourt player, Kurt Thomas, along with a vastly improved Boris Diaw, Tim Thomas and Leandro Barbosa, not to mention whatever new additions the team will add this offseason, should have the Suns and their fans, salivating for the 06-07 season to get under way.
The Suns went as far this season as any team I can remember that had absolutely no inside presence whatsoever. To be honest about it, I find the Suns accomplishments this season to be downright amazing – especially when you consider the fact that the Phoenix lost Stoudemire before the season ever began and incorporated at least four new “regular rotation” players into an offensive system that D’Antoni has proven that can be extremely flexible and facilitating to each players’ respective strengths.
Of course, it helps to have Nash, who is undeniably the best facilitator in the league right now. Playing alongside the diminutive maestro has done wonders for several players who, up until his arrival, were downright mediocre.
At any rate, I believe the Suns will be vastly improved next season – not to mention -a lot wiser and more experienced because of their experiences the past two seasons. If D’ Antoni can reincorporate Stoudemire (and that should be really hard) and Thomas and maybe acquire another frontcourt player – preferably a legitimate center – and instill a little bit more of a defensive mindset, then the Suns should be a legitimate championship contender once again next season – if not the odds-on-favorite to win it all.
Although they didn’t attain their stated goal of winning an NBA title this season, Phoenix’ players have every right to be as excited about next season as any team in the league. I know I am – and I fully expect the Suns to be sizzling next season.