Phoenix- The San Antonio Spurs (36-23) entered Saturday’s night game against the Phoenix Suns (31-29) on the final game of their 9-game annual Rodeo road trip, an extended road trip that...

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Phoenix- You know how the old saying goes, age is just number. Usually that is just a saying to turn a negative thought into something positive, such as if you are dating someone a few years...

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As part of an ongoing process to meld technology with the live basketball experience the Phoenix Suns are introducing iBeacon and mobile payment technology in their "Smart Arena."

In November of 2014 the Suns announced an extension of their partnership with Verizon and embarked on a journey to transform US Airways Center Talking Stick Resort Arena (this naming rights transfer just seems really awkward) into a "Technology Wonderland."

The vision of a new "Smart Arena" is materializing with the introduction of new iBeacon technology and mobile payment options. In addition to Verizon Wireless, Levy Restaurants is working with the Suns on improving quality and accessibility of the food and beverages at the arena.

The iBeacon technology will give Suns fans access to embellishments such as free seat upgrades, locker room tours, autographed merchandise and other game-night incentives. This seems even more high tech than the trusty t-shirt cannon. Maybe the denizens of the upper bowl will even be included.

Because we all know that rich guy in row seven needs another free t-shirt.

The iBeacon program is available to fans through the Suns mobile app.

The Suns have also incorporated Apple Pay and Google Wallet as methods of payment at all concession stands across the arena. That's a great plus for people, like me, that aren't in love with carrying cash.

Talking Stick Resort Arena originally opened in 1992, making it the 8th oldest arena in the NBA. The construction cost was $90 million. The league's newest arena is the Amway Center, home of the Orlando Magic. It was built in 2010 with a construction cost of $480 million.

Even using inflation adjusted numbers the difference would still be approximately $150 million (Talking Stick) to $520 million (Amway). That's a chasmic gap to bridge.

Suns President Jason Rowley acknowledged this in a statement.

"Today's fan experience is more technology-driven than ever before. And, while many new venues have been quick to adopt the latest technology, we are extremely proud to have identified a model that has kept US Airways Center - at 22 years old - on the cutting edge."

It is definitely a challenge to turn an arena built before the first smart phone (Can I get an amen for the IBM Simon) into a "Smart Arena", but the Suns feel they are up to the task. Eventually there will be a new arena conversation, but for now the Suns continue to be on the forefront of enhancing the live game experience for their fans just as they are on the forefront of using new analytics to improve the on court product.

A preview of tonight's Suns game against San Antonio with Eric Bledsoe coming into it on a roll.

      
 
 

Coming off the high of beating the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Phoenix Suns face the San Antonio Spurs with a lot on the line tonight.

The Suns are now only one game back of the 8th place Thunder after they lost in Portland last night. A win tonight would cut the lead to half a game, and would also allow the Suns to take a 2-1 lead in the season series against a Spurs team who at the end of the season might just have faded into striking distance of missing the playoffs.

Details

  • What: Phoenix Suns vs. San Antonio Spurs
  • Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona
  • When: 7:00 PM
  • TV: FoxSports Arizona
  • Radio: ArizonaSports 98.7 FM

The Spurs

They haven't gotten on their usual roll on the Rodeo Trip like in previous seasons, and just might be finally showing their age this season.

The Spurs' defense is still top notch (6th overall in the league) and Kawhi Leonard is still a star in the making. He has not been healthy much of the season, but when he's healthy he's one of the game's best (14.8 points, 7.2 rebounds).

Tim Duncan is still nearly putting up a double-double - 14.7 points, 9.7 rebounds - but old standbys Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have been less than stellar.

Check out more on the Spurs at our SB Nation brother site Pounding The Rock

The Suns

Just some quick notes here. You already saw my feature on Eric Bledsoe today I'm sure.

Alex Len has five straight double-digit rebounding games since the Suns resumed play last week after the trade deadline, playing 33+ minutes per game along the way. He's definitely looking like a star in the making.

New dual PG Brandon Knight has looked good for the Suns, putting up 16.8 points and 4.5 assists while learning the ropes. Coach Hornacek said he's already learned the plays enough to direct other players into their spots like a true point guard does. And, he's vocal enough on defense to eventually become a real asset on that end, not only against his own man but in terms of helping the rest of the defense succeed.

The Lineups

suns-spurs-lineups

Out on a limb

I am going to predict that Markieff Morris has a great game tonight. He's been up and down lately, but this is a game where he needs to show up by making those midrange jumpers against the bigger but less nimble Tiago Splitter.

I also think Brandon Knight could have a break out game. His shot-making on catch-and-shoot threes will be sorely needed tonight against a Spurs team that doesn't give up a ton of threes.

Prediction

The Spurs are on the second night of a back to back, and the last of their nine-game Rodeo trip.

Last year when this happened, they arrived at US Airways Center barely 90 minutes before tipoff and got blown out by the Suns by 25 points.

Let's hope that happens again this year.

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