Did you know George Karl is seventh all-time in career coaching wins? And he looks like John Lithgow.

The first game 7 of the NBA Playoffs is upon us as the Denver Nuggets have fought their way back from a 3-1 series deficit to push the Lakers to the brink, with the deciding game in Los Angeles tonight. In the past, the Nuggets have been easy to dislike, but many of their more objectionable characters (Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith) are gone. Since seeing the Lakers lose fills our hearts with joy, I have no problem fully supporting the Nuggets tonight.

In the other remaining Western Conference series, LA's Clippers have also blown a 3-1 series lead after dropping game 6 to the Grizzlies last night, 90-88. Game 7 will be back in Memphis Sunday, and a Grizzlies win would lead to a rematch of last season's first round Grizz upset of the Spurs.

Over in the Eastern Conference, the second round tips off tonight as the eighth seed Philadelphia 76ers, fresh off their surprising series win over the injury-riddled top seeded Bulls, meet the Boston Celtics in a matchup that was once one of the league's premier rivalries. No Larry Bird or Dr. J in this one, but the Celtics Old Three Big Three continues to deliver, and Celtics defense held the Hawks to 82 PPG in their first round series win.

Game times and more after the jump.

Tonight's games:

  • Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics, 5PM MST, TNT
  • Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers, 7:30PM MST, TNT

Links and Stuff

  • Clips Nation: Grizzlies 90, Clippers 88 - Heading Back To Memphis
  • Kevin Garnett is playing the "I'm being disrespected" card, objecting to charges that he's a dirty player. Since we all know Garnett for his Channing Frye junk punching ways, I'm unmoved by his protestations. Kevin Garnett, The Superstar The NBA Forgot
  • Chris "Birdman" Andersen is under investigation for involvement in child pornography. He has not been arrested or charged with a crime, and his lawyer says he's the victim of extortion. I really hope he's not guilty of anything here. As much as I like joking about his freakish appearance, I'd hate to think he's capable of this. Andersen is on leave from the team and won't play tonight.
  • Everybody's favorite mental health care advocate, Metta World Peace, will return from his suspension tonight.
  • Lakers first year head coach Mike Brown's job is on the line, opines former Laker great and current ESPN commentator Magic Johnson. Said Magic, "Mike Brown will not be coaching the Lakers if they lose this game. There would be so much pressure on Jim Buss and the Laker organization to get rid of him."
  • George Karl coached in Seattle during Soundgarden's prime. The legendary Seattle band is back with this song from "The Avengers" soundtrack. It's not quite vintage Soundgarden, but the chorus is great. "Like the Suns we will live to rise again." At least that's how I hear it.



By the time I reached the end of my 1500-word odyssey on Suns advanced statsĀ from Thursday, I still could not get over the impact Channing Frye has seemed to make on the offensive side of the ball...

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He's a hard worker and all-around good guy. But is he worth a big, new contract?

Here at Bright Side of the Sun we take the words TOTAL COVERAGE pretty dang seriously.

While our beloved Suns are off taking nice vacations, we are still slaving away, attempting to provide you all with first class Suns coverage.

So friends, without further adieu, we present you with the Phoenix Suns Season in Review, 2011-12.

Up for discussion today is Shannon Brown.

Last offseason, the Phoenix Suns looked for a shooting guard who would accept a one-year deal to compete for a starting job. The "one-year-deal" part limited the Suns' chances at real star power. The 2011-12 season was a "bridge" year - a year to tide the team and fans over until enough contracts expired to allow the Suns to start over. One-year deals were the only deals being offered.

The Suns set their sights lower, and positioned the opportunity as a perfect one for a player who wanted to step out of someone else's shadow and prove himself worthy of a bigger role in future seasons, and a bigger contract to go with it.

Enter Shannon Brown.

As Brown said to Paul Coro, beat writer for the Arizona Republic and azcentral.com: "I know one of the things about me they were saying this (past) summer, 'Aw, he can't play out of the (Lakers') triangle. The triangle made him. He can't play out of the triangle.'"

Brown wanted to prove he could do more than dunk in transition and carry Kobe Bryant's water bottle. He is young and freakishly athletic, but hadn't proven to the league's evaluators that he could do more than exhibit a little flash and dash for 10 minutes a game when Kobe rested.

Brown's first season as a Phoenix Sun had its peaks and valleys, but overall had to be categorized as a success for both Brown and the Suns. Shannon Brown is not a savior or a future all-star, but in 19 starts he did average nearly 16 points a game on 43% 3-point shooting. And in stark contrast to the rest of the Suns' roster, Brown created 41% of his points all on his own, without the benefit of an assist from Steve Nash.

We all remember Shannon Brown took a while to get comfortable in the Suns' system. Without the benefit of an offseason program or voluntary workouts with the guys or even a full training camp, Brown was plopped into a 20+ minutes/night shot-creating role next to a struggling point guard.

In the season's first half, his favorite play was the dribble-dance-fallaway-jumpshot in which he somehow managed to close the gap between him and the defender rather than expand it. He was simply trying too hard, and in his moments of confusion he fell back onto the game of his "big brother" Kobe Bryant.

Late in the first half of the season he lost his job to Michael Redd before getting it back by default thanks to Redd's inability to seize it.

But as the season progressed, so did Shannon Brown. After the all-star break, he dribble-danced less and drove to the basket more. He realized the value of catch-and-shoot. He became a smarter player, and stepped up his game even more when Grant Hill got injured.

Brown started the Suns' last 17 games during the toughest stretch of the season. He managed to score 16 points a game, and sunk 43% of his 3-point shot attempts while playing between Steve Nash and Jared Dudley. He did not contribute much in other areas though, with a 1:1 ratio of turnovers to assists, few rebounds and average defensive ability despite his athleticism.

"I came out and showed people that I can play the game of basketball," Brown said. "I'm just tying to continue to get better as a basketball player and I think I'm going to do that each summer."

Brown says he wants to return to Phoenix next season, but this time he wants a better contract. To give him that longer, richer contract though will require the Suns to project Brown even further than he showed last season.

Without projecting any more improvement, you're looking at a guy who can be a spot-starter that will contribute 16 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. He is a streaky shooter with average basketball IQ and average defense. He won't lose a game for you, but likely won't win one for you either. That's not a rich, multi-year contract player if you ask me.

For his part, Brown wants to be back in Phoenix even while hedging his bets because the Suns have likely not given him any kind of promises.

"I like it here," Brown said of Phoenix. "I like everything about it. I like the team. I like the facilities. I like the city. The fans. I like everything about it. I don't mind being here again. At the same time, I've got to keep that balance in my mind. It's a business. My plans might not fit other people's plans so I have to prepare for anything."

He is basically Plan C. Or D. Not a real starter or savior, but definitely a backup plan among second-tier guard options. He knows the Suns system, and has proven his ability to produce no matter who surrounds him.

But the Suns are no longer in the business of handing out long contracts like candy. They are going to be smart and conservative going forward.

Is Brown a better option than Eric Gordon? Heck no.

Is Brown better than OJ Mayo? No.

Is Brown better than, say, Alonzo Gee? Probably, maybe. Gee is taller, plays better defense and his teammates love him, but he can't score or shoot the 3-ball.

Is Brown better than Jamal Crawford? Yes, a thousand times yes. While Crawford tends to lose the faith of his teammates, coaches and front office personnel (I mean seriously, saying you "need" to be in Phoenix while standing among your current Portland teammates?!?!), Shannon Brown has been a model citizen.

I happen to know someone who knows someone who works with Suns players, and that person swears Brown is one of the nicest guys on the team.

It's all about expectations. It's not a bad thing to bring Shannon Brown back. It's only bad if you give him a lot of money and/or expect him to earn a regular starting role on a contender. But his two championship rings prove he can earn a regular backup role on a contender.


Steve Nash, master of Canadian politics, stands with B.C. Premier Christy Clark. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Steve Nash was officially introduced as the Saviour of Canadian Basketball. Canadian Jesus, Amare might call him. It's a win-win job for Nash. If there's any improvement at all in the Canadian team, Steve gets the credit. If there's no improvement, there's plenty of other things to blame. Go Steve!

According to this gushing article in SportsNet.ca, Nash's main mission will be fund raising so the players can be flown around in first class and afford socks and balls.

Nash the saviour of Canadian basketball? - sportsnet.ca
Basketball may have been invented by a Canadian, but as far as Canadians playing the game, it was perfected by Steve Nash.

[...]It's estimated the national team will need an additional $4-million to make qualifying for the 2016 Olympics a realistic goal and before Nash came on board Canada Basketball - with his help - was able to get commitments for as much as $2-million already.

If you live in Canada and Steve Nash calls and asks for a donation, would you say no?

Here's some photos of General Manager Nash. Note the Canadian Red pocket square.


Photo

(SB Nation Arizona) Are we surprised the Los Angeles Lakers can't get their act together and use their advantages to play like (potential) champs and take care of the Denver Nuggets? No. The Lakers have a long history of underestimating opponents and without the Zen Master pulling the strings and controlling the egos it's even less shocking they are facing the first Game 7 of the 2012 NBA Playoffs.

Thursday's schedule also saw former Arizona Wildcat Andre Iguodala sink key free throws to push the Philadelphia 76ers over the Chicago Bulls with a 79-78 win. They will face the Celtics who also advanced with yet another low-scoring Eastern Conference slug-fest. Boston beat the Atlanta Hawks 83-80. The gap between the quality of play in the East and the West is stark.

With just two series left in Round 1, Friday's schedule will have just one game.

Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers at 9:00 p.m. ET / 6:00 p.m. PT

The Grizzlies took advantage of a banged up Chris Paul (hip) to win at home and force a Game 6 on the road. Clearly, the Clips need to win this game and avoid going back to Memphis for a decisive Game 7. It will be interesting to see how both of these respond. At the same time, it doesn't matter much in the big picture since the Spurs are waiting to destroy whoever wins this series.

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