It seems like yesterday that our peaking Phoenix Suns team marched into Energy Solutions Arena and dominated the Jazz in the last regular season game of last year to take the West's 3rd seed right out of their mittens. I wax nostalgic and shed a tear - "Don't cry for me Planet Orange" - because I'm just as positive about this year's team as I was about last year's team to start the season.
I hope to bring the bright side back to the Bright Side of the Sun. (F you Scott Howard, j/k, kbye)
BUT WHAM! The summer of LeBron is gone, the season is upon us and we are a game deep on track to win 70 plus games this year! I mean, if the Heat could start the season with a loss, we might as well lose the first and get that out of the way too right? (F you Jeff Van Gundy your voice is annoying, j/k...but really..)
In all seriousness - tonight's game #2 match-up against the Utah Jazz should be a blast to watch, there are some good parallels to decipher, some story-lines to watch, and there are two teams who just lost their season openers and are going to go at it Chuck-Norris-style and spinning-back-kick their way to their first victory of the season.
More amazingness after the break. Jump it fool!
While it might be snowing in Salt Lake City right now, I'm laying out in my backyard in my underwear catching some sun rays in 80 degree weather while I type this. BAM. Phoenix and SLC might be on the opposite ends of the climate spectrum, but as far as their NBA franchises go they've got some similarities this season.
The biggest and most obvious being: They both lost their All-Star power forwards this off-season. The suns parted with STAT and the Jazz reinstated prohibition and dumped the Booze. Just as it has been pretty obvious for our Suns team, the Jazz are also struggling to find "chemistry" and whatnot with their newly acquired players trying to fill the voids. We saw Steve try to force it in crunch time - no easy pick and rolls without STAT and last night the Jazz struggled to fill the offensive shoes and presence of Boozer as they were rick-rolled hard by Nuggets. [It was kind of sweet to watch considering the bitter taste the Nuggets left in my mouth this preseason - if they don't fall apart mentally again they could be a major force in the West this year]
Another interesting parallel: Both the Suns and the Jazz lost their season openers to vindictive teams that had been ousted in the first round of the Playoffs last year. The Suns lost to the emotional Blazers and their amazing fans who we sent home crying in round one - and the Jazz lost to the Thugs that they put out of their misery as well in the 1st round last year. Kind of funny if you ask me.
Now for some story-lines I'll be watching for -
These are the things I'll be looking forward to and paying attention to tonight. What are some of the things you'll be looking forward to, anything different?
On a side note - if you happened to run into Maximus the Commander of the Gorilla Groupies this morning on the Light Rail, let it be known you encountered the fabled Eutychus. I'm the Rilla on the left - and I've been working with the Suns this week in promoting the home opener against the team who will not be named. If you check out NBA.com and check the Suns videos - you might even catch me bustin' some moves in a video titled 'Suns Fans' posted a few days ago. I'm the Gorilla with the ORNG headband in the video. Keep your eyes peeled for my crazy mug this week - you never know where I'll show up.
If you're bored check out these links:
KTAR's Brian Gibberman's take on Tuesday's loss - Suns' Gentry breaks away from old habits
SLC DUNK - ahem.. congrats to our amazing BSotS readers - we easily doubled the number comments of our SLC bros in our respective opening night game threads... and this fool right here (me) wasn't even able to make it to the board! HA! Still we rise my friends.
Paul Coro's Blog - " It was a regretful opener. It got away from them in a hurry. They turned it over more than they assisted and lost on the road to a conference competitor. This was not just the Suns..."
Even though I suggested that I should shut up in this post, I'm going to do this thing one last time.
The difference between the team that ended the game Tuesday night in Portland and the team that ended the games last year was one player. I won't name him, and I'm not calling him out. He is what he is.
Two things I connected really got my panties in a bunch.
First, all the talk of "chemistry" and "assimilating" and "figuring things out" is bogus. The game was lost in the last 5 minutes, and the only difference was that one guy being on the floor. Don't tell me that it was a lack of cohesiveness or bus-ride-inspired Meat Hook Productions or JMZ channel reporting that caused the 18-1 run. When Steve Nash said he needs time to "figure things out" what he means is that he's got to go back to the lab and figure out how he can make another group of players play their best. Put diplomatically -- how to best use the talents and assets of his teammates. Put bluntly -- how to cover up the weaknesses of his teammates. He's played to the strengths and away from the weaknesses of his Suns teams every single year.
I'm sure the mad scientist will figure it out again. I don't know when, but "In Nash I Trust." Even so, I'm not sure how far his brilliance gets the Suns I can sort of relate. When I coach kids, I always measure my effectiveness as a teacher by how good my worst player is (not by how good my best player, with God-given talent, instincts and athleticism happens to be).
Second, on letting Amare Stoudemire go. I know that the concern were the last years of Amare's 5-year contract. I also know that Indiana fans wished that the Pacers' FO hadn't maxed out The Drain's contract, even though they got a couple of good years out of that long-term contract. Here's the difference -- the Suns were knocking on the door of a return trip to the Finals with the core returning, a formerly green bench becoming battle-tested, the smartest floor general in the game, a handful of tradeable commodities (how'd you like to see Hedo coming off the bench for Amare or Hill?) and a rabid hunger to return.
(Sidenote: I liken this to Anquan Boldin's departure. The fans gave the younger Bidwell a pass on this one based on recent success, but it was a mistake as far as team quality)
In Year 4 of Amare's contract ($20M), the Suns are also going to be paying Channing Frye, Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick a total of nearly $30M (I think Hedo's is a team option of $12M, half guaranteed, so that's not totally fair but it is close). Point being is that the dollars in Year 4 have a chance to be just as bad and the results have a potential to be just as damaging to the team. The difference is that in the first 2 to 3 years, the Suns can stay in the NBA elite with plausible dreams of reaching the Promised Land. Now, the next 2 to 3 years are going to be filled with enjoyable basketball moments without a plausible chance.