Wishing Steve all the best in his retirement, remembering his time in Phoenix, and previewing the big game tonight between the Suns and Blazers.

I’ll keep today’s opening monologue brief. A lot of characters have been dedicated to Steve Nash, the greatest Phoenix Sun of all time and there is nothing I could say to honor his memory much further. I became a basketball fan about a year before Steve Nash came to Phoenix. I was in fifth grade and I will always remember the day I decided to start watching Phoenix Suns basketball. I wanted to tell you about it.

I was sitting at home on a weekday night early in Nash’s first season in Phoenix, 2004-2005. My dad, who is also my best friend, worked out of town Monday thru Friday night so we used to talk on the phone almost every single day. That night, whatever the date was in fall of 2004, he called me and asked if I was watching the game. The words he said will always resonate with me and will always be the absolute best way to describe Steve Nash’s tenure in Phoenix; "Alex… you’ve gotta see this." I saw it, and I never stopped.

Thank you so much, Steve. You were the best. I was lucky to see it.

Suns versus Trail Blazers tonight, let’s get into it with the outsiders!

What Vegas Thinks: Get Used to This (Portland -2.5, O/U 205)

If the Phoenix Suns are going to make the 2015 NBA Playoffs then this song is going to play a huge role in their success. Outside of the Thunder game on Sunday and the Jazz game next week at home this line is about as close as the Suns are going to get to favorites.  This schedule is brutal, and every win is going to be extremely difficult, so get used to playing the underdog!

By the way, in case you have been kept up late at night wondering what the value of Lamarcus Aldridge is to the Portland Trail Blazers the answer is about eight points according to Vegas. Earlier in 2015 LMA sat out against the Suns in Phoenix and the Suns were favored by five points. It’s no surprise the Trail Blazers are favored seeming as Portland has had the better season and has the two best players in a game that only allows ten players on the court at a time, but the Blazers have not looked the same since Wes Matthews left. The Trail Blazers are 4-6 since the loss of Matthews, and a win on Wednesday night over the Jazz was their first win in six attempts. Things don’t look good, and this game could actually be the Suns second easiest game between now and the end of the season. Read that sentence again.  Now look at the schedule. Tell me you disagree that a Batum-less Trail Blazers at home while they are against the ropes is harder than any of the other eleven games remaining other than the still extremely terrifying Jazz game next week.

Vegas Predicts: Portland 104 Phoenix 101

Bonus: I predict the Suns win 101-97. Close game wire to wire with PJ making a huge play to seal this one. I invite any and all readers to come back and mock/praise me post game for this prediction.

What the National Media Thinks: Suns got profiled!

Grantland did its second profile of the Phoenix Suns and for the second time it was awesome and horrible and inspiring and depressing. Zach Lowe is a writer famous for data and hardcore X’s and O’s, but the Suns column he wrote earlier in the week was actually largely narrative based. Here were my take aways from the column, sorted into the positives and negatives so that you can take the liberty to be as biased as you want. Skip the negatives if you feel it necessary! We’re not here to judge.

Positives:

- Lowe confirms that two future draft picks from Miami for a free agent demanding a trade is a pretty decent haul, and even compares it to the Lakers trade.

- A quote from McDonough about the Lakers pick and the Knight gamble where McDonough basically grabs the area below his belt and says "We’ll take Knight."

- The Suns went for Knight because he has the ability to be elite, which is rare in the market.

- Most of what the Suns do wrong defensively can be attributed to youth, such as lazy gambles or not getting back on defense. Newton’s fourth law states the Suns roster should get older as time goes on.

- Lowe ends his profile the same way most Suns fans end their season: Trust in McDonough.

Negatives:

- Pretty much every GM thinks we got crappy value for what we gave up.

Nobody understands how Dragic, Thomas, Ennis, Plumlee, and that Lakers pick turned into Brandon Knight, Danny Granger, Marcus Thornton, Marcus Thornton’s bald spot, and four unknown value draft picks.

- The Suns defensive woes largely revolve around them not getting back on defense to save their lives and not playing smart basketball. Sure, they should get smarter with time, but the same could have been said about JaMarcus Russell.

- Plain and simple: the Suns STILL don’t have an All-Star in the near future.

Do yourself a favor and read the article. The Suns are just one step away from the next step! Wait….

What Do the Portland Fans Think: Sean Sullivan!

Sean Sullivan did an interview with SB Nation brother The Blazers Edge and their writer Chris Lucia. Nothing I can put in this section could match the shine. Enjoy it!

LET’S GO SUNS!

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Here's what Chris Lucia of Blazersedge.com had to say about the Suns vs. Trail Blazers match-up tonight, and much more!

Although we at Bright Side of the Sun have a great staff of writers and a very insightful community to help guide us through the season,  every once in a while, it's nice to get an outside perspective as well.

Prior to the game tonight, Chris Lucia of Blazersedge.com and I participated in a question and answer session about tonight's match-up between the Phoenix Suns and the Portland Trail Blazers.

Here is what Chris had to say about tonight's game, and much more.

Sean: The Suns are struggling just to make the playoffs this year in the ultra competitive Western Conference. The Blazers currently hold the 4th spot in a very tight race. What is your take on how much the team values the importance of seeding vs. ensuring players are healthy for a sustained post-season run?

Chris: As of this writing, any combination of six Blazers wins and Oklahoma City losses would seal the Northwest Division title for Portland, and that's with 12 games remaining. It would take a sizable collapse on the part of the Blazers and a titanic effort from the Thunder in order for OKC to take the division crown. This guarantees Portland no worse than the fourth seed, which they are essentially locked into, as catching Houston for the No. 3 slot seems pretty ambitious at this point considering the health concerns of the team.

It's difficult to predict whether or not coach Terry Stotts and the rest of the Blazers' braintrust would shut down any of the players for the remaining games once that fourth seed is locked up -- which could realistically happen with more than five games remaining. I think LaMarcus AldridgeNicolas Batum and Chris Kaman would all benefit from some games off, but so far, it seems like they're fairly hesitant to do so unless it's deemed pretty necessary.

I wouldn't be surprised to see them all get a game or two off once the seeding is locked in and the pressure is off, then have them back for the last couple games at OKC and Dallas in limited minutes. Then again, Stotts could just ease up on their court-time down the stretch. It's pretty hard to say, all things considered.

Sean: Speaking of health, Aldridge came back against the Jazz and had some crucial plays at the end to help squeak out the win. What is the status on Batum and Kaman returning, and how much better do you think they make your team, and how do they change the dynamic?

Chris: Aldridge came back on Wednesday in Utah and played 36 minutes, scoring 19 points on 19 shots. I think it's safe to say he'll be back tonight. Batum was technically available against the Jazz but never made it into the game, but I'd say it's likely he'll suit up and start tonight. I have no clue about Kaman, as he's seemed a little vague on his injury status throughout the season.

Aldridge is the key to this team -- without him, I might favor the Suns by double-digits tonight. Everything he does opens up the offense for his teammates; his bread-and-butter shot from the midrange warps opposing defenses that are generally designed to allow those long two-pointers and even encourage them, which can't be done with a guy like Aldridge or he'll score 40+. Stick him in single-coverage with a weaker or smaller defender and he's liable to go off. He's also one of the best low-post players in the league, is great at drawing fouls and shoots free throws at a great rate.

Teams often double Aldridge, which allows him to find an open teammate around the perimeter, often initiating some exquisite ball movement when things are really clicking. Arron AfflaloDamian Lillard, Nicolas Batum, Steve BlakeDorell WrightAllen Crabbe, CJ McCollum...all these guys get open threes on account of Aldridge's effectiveness. Batum contributes a bit more as a facilitator and rebounder, scoring in a complementary role but also able to get streaky from deep and he can help push the tempo when needed. His length really benefits the defense a lot, but the team can absorb the loss of him or Kaman far, far easier than the loss of Aldridge.

Sean: There are some Suns' fans (ok, many) who would love to see LaMarcus Aldridge in a Phoenix jersey to start next season. How confident are you that Portland will be able, and will want to keep LMA as an unrestricted free agent this summer while paying him the big bucks it will take to do so?

Chris: There are 29 other teams in the NBA that would like to have Aldridge on their team next season I would assume, given the opportunity and financial freedom to do so.

The Blazers offered Aldridge his longest possible extension last summer -- in the five-year, $80 million range, I believe -- in a customary fashion, knowing full well he'd turn it down to get the maximum this offseason of five years and $100 million+. At the time and since, Aldridge has stated that he hopes to remain a Blazer for life and would like to one day be considered the greatest player in franchise history. Those aren't generally words from a guy who plans on skipping town any time soon (cue the LeBron James/Heat comparisons. *sigh*).

The organization hasn't wavered from its commitment to Aldridge in light of his recent thumb injury, which will require surgery this summer and would ostensibly keep him out of basketball-related activities for several weeks or even months. I'd say the Blazers and their fans have the utmost confidence right now that Aldridge re-signs long-term in Portland this summer.

Sean: The Suns have been a problematic matchup for Portland over the past couple of seasons, even when the Blazers are considered the better overall team. Phoenix has similar matchup nightmares with supposed lesser teams like the Kings who they just can't seem to beat. What is it about the Suns' style of play, and personnel, that presents such a challenge for Portland?

Chris: In the past I can tell you that quick, penetrating guards that can push the ball, shoot from outside and score at the rim with any consistency give Portland the most trouble, so I'd point to Dragic and Thomas being the main reasons the last several meetings. Bledsoe also fits that mold a bit and has the potential to really disrupt Lillard with his defense.

I'm concerned about Phoenix' ability to shoot jumpshots, as the Blazers' defense pushes shooters in that direction. The Morris brothers, Tucker and a few other guys can capitalize on the shot opportunities Portland usually allows.

Sean: The Blazers and Suns will play twice more before the end of the season, switching locations, and starting here in Phoenix on Friday night before heading over to Portland that Monday. What are your predictions for each of those games, and why?

Chris: Friday night, I say Blazers in a close game. I think Portland wants to wrap up the Northwest Division ASAP in order to start limiting guys' minutes a bit and start looking forward to the playoffs and potential matchups. That said, the Suns always give them problems and it's in Phoenix. It won't be nearly as easy as last time, I'd predict.

On Monday, the Blazers have to win for Blazer's Edge Night! In all seriousness, though, if Phoenix pulls off the win Friday, they'll still be in the thick of things out West and anything could happen Monday. They're a young, motivated team that got so close to tasting the playoffs last season that they might just play out of their mind the last dozen or so games of the season. No easy wins for either team this weekend, that's for sure.

Thanks again to Chris Lucia for taking the time to give us his take on things, and a valuable outside perspective on tonight's match-up. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisLucia_BE and Be sure to visit our friends over in the Pacific Northwest at Blazersedge for all of your Trail Blazers info. Those guys do great work!

You can also view Chris's questions to me, and my responses about the Suns in his article posted here.

Alex Len loves the Trail Blazers.

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Phantasy Phix

With playoff hopes on the line your Suns get Portland on Friday night.  It's the third of four games and the Suns and Blazers split the first two. Sunday it's Oklahoma City. It's the final of four matchups between these two. Phoenix has dropped two of three against the Thunder with the last two games going into overtime. C'mon playoffs!

Who loves the Trail Blazers?

Alex Len. Or does he? The sample size is small, but Len is efficient against Portland. In 37 minutes of court time, Len has hit 6 of 8 shots to go with 9 rebounds. Len has logged fewer minutes against the Trail Blazers than any other Western Conference team, and has only faced the New York Knicks less.

Who hates the Trail Blazers?

Eric Bledsoe. For his career Bledsoe has hit just 4 of 23 shots from behind the arc. His 17% shooting percentage is his worst against any Western Conference opponent.

Who loves the Thunder?

Markieff Morris. Two of Markieff's top seven scoring games of this season have come against the Thunder. On December 31st, he poured in 25 against OKC, on February 26th he scored 29 and pulled down 11 rebounds.

Who hates the Thunder?

Brandon Knight. Keep in mind that Knight is unlikely to play against Oklahoma City. If he does play also keep in mind that his last effort against OKC was 3 of 13 from the field. 23% from the field is his third worst shooting performance this season when attempting more than a dozen shots.

Who loves the Suns?

Robin Lopez. Lopez has played in eight games against the Suns in his career and averages 10.4 points per game, his highest against any Western Conference opponent. His 8.9 rebounds are his highest against any team in the league.

Enes Kanter. Kanter has logged bigger numbers since a trade to OKC. In November with Utah he scored 3 points against Phoenix, and in February while still with the Jazz, he scored 6. Following a trade to the Thunder he scored 18 points on 6 of 11 shooting against the Suns in late February.

Who hates the Suns?

LaMarcus Aldridge. For his career, Aldridge averages fewer points and fewer rebounds against Phoenix than any other team in the Association.

Russell Westbrook. Is it fair to say that Russ hates the Suns if he logged a triple-double last time out? Those are becoming fairly common for that guy anyway. The truth is, he doesn't shoot particularly well against Phoenix. Across three games he's shot worse than 35% from the field and connected on just 3 of 16 shots from behind the arc.

Last Call

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Most Valuable Player. The most important of the awards, yet also controversial. Some years, it seems obvious. Other years (like this one) there are several top candidates. In these years, everyone...

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