The top ten moments of the Seven Seconds or Less era rolls on with no. 6, where we pay tribute to the weirdest bench unit in basketball history.
We here at Bright Side of the Sun will be kicking off our summertime Throwback Thursday series a bit early as we pay homage to the great Seven Seconds or Less era of the Phoenix Suns in light of the recent retirement of legendary maestro Steve Nash. Join us every Thursday as we count down the top ten moments of high-octane glory from Nash's return to the desert in 2004 to their final playoff run in 2010.
And yes, the Shaquille O'Neal chapter will properly omitted.
Check out the previous installments here:
Ok, I'm tweaking the criteria a bit for this one. The glory of the 2009/10 Bench Mob doesn't subscribe itself to a single moment of 7SOL fame, but I couldn't exclude them from this list in good faith.
There were a few points of constant criticism during the heyday of 7SOL. They didn't play defense, they didn't rebound, it wasn't "playoff basketball", so on so forth. One demon that was exercised during the 2009/10 season was that the previous iterations of 7SOL had very little depth on the roster -- and it was absolutely valid. Seriously, we're talking about the likes of Jumaine Jones, Marcus Banks, Jake Voskuhl and Jalen Rose here.
There were a few bright spots -- Leandro Barbosa, Boris Diaw and Eddie House, stand up -- but praying to the basketball gods that the starters on those teams could avoid injury was common practice for Suns fans.
All that changed with Alvin Gentry's team. The motley crew of NBA sophomore Goran Dragic, scrappy Jared Dudley, ponytail-sporting Lou Amundson, sweet-shooting Channing Frye and the old familiar Barbosa weren't just good enough to hold a lead, but blow games open. What made it even cooler was that Gentry utilized his bench like a hockey coach, situating the minutes so that entire second unit would be on the floor together to start the second and fourth quarters in every game.
They weren't the most talented group of basketball players by any measure, but they were effective and they were weird as hell. The height of their brilliance had to have been game 4 of the Western Conference FInals versus the Lakers, when the Suns tied the series at 2-2 on the strength of that crazy bench unit, culminating in Dragic's filthy spin-move/layup that compelled Robin Lopez to crabwalk his way into the illustrious lore of historically awesome bench celebrations.
To ensure that proper justice is delivered to this wonderfully weird collection of reserves, let's take them on one at a time.
AKA: The Dragon
What made him awesome: Dragic was only a season removed from being infamously denoted by professional clown Chad Ford as "the worst player in the NBA". The Dragon shed his "Goran Tragic" label by becoming the best backup Steve Nash ever had in Phoenix, providing a steady hand at the point and lightspeed quickness on his drives, as well as hitting 39.4% of his threes.
The Dragon had arrived.
Best Moment: Well, that's obvious. Right? It'll be covered later in the 7SOL countdown.
What's he up to now? Diligently reviewing his exclusive list of teams he'll consider signing with in free agency.
AKA: The Blur
What made him awesome: The Bench Mob season came as Barbosa's trademark speed had begun to diminish slightly and therefore his minutes per game were the lowest since his sophomore season in the NBA. Nevertheless, the former Sixth Man of the Year could still get it done and formed a dual slash-or-shoot threat with Dragic in the backcourt.
Best Moment: 14 points in that aforementioned game 4.
(Excellent work by whomever did that video, BTW)
What's he up to now? Oh, nothin' much. Just getting steady reserve minutes on what might be the single best NBA team since Jordan's Bulls in Golden State.
What made him awesome: At a glance, Dudley was the antithesis of an NBA wing. Had a body like Seth Rogen, couldn't jump over the Yellow Pages, waddled like a duck, etc. What he could do, however, was fight for possessions and wreak devastation from the 3-point line (45.8%).
Best Moment: THROWIN' DOWN THE HAMMER
What's he up to now? Dudley shook off a disappointing season with the Clippers and rebounded as a key member of the resurgence in Milwaukee.
AKA: Lightning Lou
What made him awesome: He had almost no natural basketball talent but came up with a ton of sneaky dunks and hard-fought putbacks. He had a ponytail. He compelled Suns crowds to chant, "LOOUUUUUUUU". He once pranked Shaquille O'Neal by filling his ride up to brim with popcorn.
He was Lou Amundson.
What's not to like?
Best Moment: He once threw down a 60-foot alley-oop. Backwards. That do anything for ya?
What's he up to now? Lou eventually wound up with the Knicks in 2015, his tenth NBA team. This might normally be a dubious accomplishment, but for a player with as little to work with as Lou Amundson, he should be applauded.
AKA: Buffet of Goodness
What made him awesome: Channing was a stretch big before stretch bigs were cool. The big man resurrected and redefined his career in Phoenix, dropping 172 3-bombs at a 43.9%. In his entire career combined up to that point, he only hit 20.
Best Moment: Frye was an assassin during the fabled sweep of the Spurs in the Western Semifinals, drilling 12-22 from deep as the Suns finally had enough firepower to not only defeat their tormenters, but destroy them.
What's he up to now? Stretch bigs are all the rage these days, so Frye found himself a multi-year contract in Disneyworld, signing a 5-year deal with the Magic that the Suns weren't willing or prepared to match. Wonder if it's any coincidence that Elfrid Payton was one of the best rookies in 2014/15, given Frye's penchant for point-guard whispering.
The term 'Bench Mob' has been bastardized by a few other teams in recent history, most notably the 2010/11 Chicago Bulls, and while the Suns probably weren't the first team to popularize it, I doubt any other team exemplified it as much as the collection of misfits detailed here.
The 2009/10 team stands out for many reasons, perhaps none greater than the joy of watching this hockey lineup go to work.
The joy, the fight, the grit and the beauty were truly glorious. For this, they live on in Phoenix Suns lore.