With each great season, comes a seemingly forgettable one. What do you remember about the 2001-2002 season? Shawn Marion winning player of the week once? Tom Gugliotta overcoming his hand-eye coordination deficiency to play basketball? More than likely you remember Raja Bell draining the three against the Clippers in ‘06. Or that pure gut feeling of adrenaline when Kevin Johnson came out from retirement in the stretch run of ‘00. And of course, anytime Steve Nash ever does anything.
The question for this season remains; Will we witness the Phoenix Suns find their rhythm and give us another season to remember? Or will we hear the story of how the Suns set quietly into the night? We’ve been here before, the year following a memorable season with question marks littering the roster. How do these Suns compare to the morning after effect teams of past? (Forgive my title, please)
Unfortunately, I’m very new to analyzing basketball stats so don’t expect an abundance of shiny graphs or anything like that.
What happened: Kevin Johnson is swallowed by Shaq in the preseason and misses 36 games. The starting PF and future hall of famer Charles Barkley, is hampered by lingering injuries and sits out over 20 games. Yet somehow this team showed unbelievable resiliency in its depth to compile the best record in the NBA, ultimately falling to the reigning champs in the Conference Semis.
I’m sure I’ll lose credibility here, but these are some of my earliest memories. I have no idea where I was, but I remember rooting for KJ as he dropped forty-six points in that game seven against the Rockets.
What happened: The strong depth dissipates just enough and five rookies are brought on the roster with Michael Finley being the biggest producer out of them. Barkley was his usual dominate self, but injuries to KJ and Danny Manning hurt the team which finished with a .500 record. Still good enough for seventh place,however the Spurs were quick to dispatch us in four games.
Unfortunately I don’t have much memory of this seemingly lost season. This appeared largely like a forgettable campaign judging by the stats and the replacement of Coach Westphal midseason.
On a side note, how good does it feel to have swept the Spurs last season?
Comparison to 2010 Suns: Just like the ‘95 Suns, this year we’re hot off a playoff run which ended in dramatic fashion. But unlike the ‘95 team, this one (hopefully) will display one of the strongest benches in the league. That seemed to be a shortfall of Westphals group. What that team did have was Barkley, a presence this team will certainly lack. A presence that team did miss was a lacked of a center, something which Lopez may finally cover. The one variable we cannot count for is the injury bug. Knock on wood.
What happened: Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd happened. Marion averaged a double-double while Kidd only gave assists to the tune of 9.8 a game. On top of that, the defense was huge that year, limiting opponents to 91.8 points per game. Early and late season surges powered the Suns to the sixth-seed where they met the Kings in the first round. While that series was disappointing, the future was bright with Kidd and Marion at the helm.
Looking back, that team seems like a hodgepodge of players. Though they were effective, Cliff Robinson even went for 50 points against Nuggets the year before.
What happened: The French Fry. I’m sure no refresher is required in this one. To his credit, Marbury performed well enough to garner himself a bobble head night, but the team just couldn’t come together. The few bright spots were the continual development of Shawn Marion and the new Arkansas kid, Joe Johnson. But beyond that, the biggest news that season was Thunder Dan rejoining the team, to which the fans rejoiced.
I remember being royally pissed when Jason Kidd was dealt, but I was late for soccer practice and didn’t have time to hear the story.. Also I remember walking in the stadium and seeing an old lady kiss the televised image of Dan Majerle. As for memories of basketball, meh! The Dbacks just dethroned the Yanks. Woo-hoo!
Comparison to 2010 Suns: Marbury played just below all-star level at point guard while shooting 42% from the field, you can be sure Nash will have higher marks. Big Jake was given an opportunity at center but only pulled in five rebounds per game. Lopez will should perform at a much higher level than that. Our offensive production will undoubtedly be higher than the 95.1 PPG the ‘01 team posted. However, I think we would all be absolutely thrilled with a defense that allowed only 95.8 PPG.
I would say we fans are… anxious to see how this 2010-2011 season plays out for our beloved Suns. Many have lowered their expectations, even our fearless leader number 13 has expressed doubt. Our fingers are inching closer to that panic button even before the first tip-off. And why shouldn’t they? An atrocious preseason, an all-star sized hole in the line-up and the never ending complaint of an aging roster. Yet, I’m excited to see Nash and company size up the competition. How many buzzer beaters will we see this year? How many overtimes will break our hearts? How many times must we listen to Scott Williams announce? Folks for better or worse, this is Phoenix Suns basketball