Some things are about more than basketball. Some things are deeper and show the humanity of people, humbling us to our most basic core.
This is one of those moments as the Phoenix Suns took time out of their day yesterday to welcome in a kid from halfway across the country and, for a day, treated him like one of their own.
As young Jonah Zahm walked in the land of giants that is the NBA for a day, he was the one with the most heart and courage. It takes a special kind of courage to battle Von Willebrand'd Disease everyday at his age than it does to take a full speed charge from LeBron James or have the ball in your hands in a tie game down the stretch.
In the end those are factors of a game.
On the surface he is like any other shy young 12 year old boy out of his element on an NBA practice court. He didn't blend in with the trees all over the court, however humbled them as he shot (and made) jumpers with them, leading huddles, and interacting with them.
"He has a nice little jumper," said Interim Head Coach Lindsey Hunter. "I talked about him playing."
Jonah had a simple description for all of this, "They are so much taller than me."
He came all the way from Illinois to become a Sun for a day, but build memories for life with these real life giants.
The Make-a-Wish foundation made this happen for Jonah as they have for many kids in the past. All the Phoenix Suns had to do was welcome in Jonah, as they did with open arms. From signing a contract, getting a jersey in the same press conference room that rookies and newcomers are welcomed in, to practicing with the team, today was about memories.
"We were just sharing some Mid-West stories," said Hunter about his time with Jonah.
"He is from Illinois and I lived there the past 20 some odd years. It is always great to share, especially being in the industry we are in. When you can share with a kid like that it means the world to them. I told him I never met a pro athlete when I was a kid so for him to come here and live out one of his dreams was awesome."
That it was as Lance Blanks began the day giving Jonah his jersey.
He was given his own locker next to Goran Dragic who conveniently had a free space available for him with his double-locker. After that he went to the court where he met the team. When practice was over Michael Beasley took the practice ball and made the executive decision that Jonah deserved an authentic NBA ball, not a generic autograph ball. The team signed it and presented it to Jonah at the end.
"My dad likes them and so I just caught on, now they are my favorite team," said Jonah about his love for the team. "Channing Frye is my favorite, but he is hurt though. I like everybody, but him especially."
A jersey, a contract, a locker, and practice made Jonah a Sun for a day. Getting paid would have made that more official, right Jonah, "that would be nice."?
What gravitated Jonah to the Suns, despite being in Illinois, was his dad, a longtime fan. He picked up while watching his dad watch the team and grew a connection to the team, Channing Frye in particular.
Frye is Jonah's favorite player on the Suns, in the league, and ever. His final surprise was an afternoon out wit his favorite player for some lunch and a conversation.
He is excited to get home and share this experience with his friends, family, and a select few. "My grandpa and my grandma at home. And my youth pastor," stated Jonah on who back home he wants to share this with. "Me and him are friends. I will talk to him about it. We are buying souvenirs for people too."
Jonah finished his day off at the game, which was not the ending the team would have hoped for, but the edge had to be taken off with the presence of their Sun for a Day, Jonah Zahm.
The Phoenix Suns, as evidenced once again on Sunday night when they failed to score 70 points, are seriously lacking in talent. As Dave pointed out recently, they do have assets to make trades and so we fully expect these trade rumors to continue unabated right up until the trade deadline at 3:00 pm ET on February 21.
Here's a new one from Paul Coro at the Arizona Republic that links the Suns to the Utah Jazz.
Reports of deadline deals swirl about Phoenix Suns
The Suns also have shown interest in a bigger splash for Utah’s Al Jefferson or Gordon Hayward. Dudley could be a part of either of those deals with center Marcin Gortat likely needed to make one work for Jefferson, a 28-year-old power forward who makes $14 million and is averaging 17.4 points and 9.5 rebounds. Hayward, a 22-year-old swingman, is averaging 13.5 points in a reserve role.
But then here's a conflicting report from ex-ESPN Insider, Ric Bucher:
Ric Bucher's post on San Antonio Spurs | Latest updates on Sulia
Latest word on Utah Jazz and who they'll keep vs. deal between Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap: Jefferson is the like -liest to stay right now, according to several opposing team executives. Consensus is the Jazz can't afford to keep both with Gordon Hayward soon to be eligible for an extension and the belief that Hayward is in the team's long-term plans
However things play out, it does seem like the Jazz will need to make some moves. Jefferson has already been linked to the Spurs but perhaps it will be Millsap who gets gone from the Beehive State. We should never forget that the Jazz are super deep in the front court with Jefferson, Millsap and young lottery talent in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
As for the bigs, I've never been a huge Al Jefferson fan. He's quite talented on the offensive end and he does rebound, but defensively, he's not very mobile. He's basically a lesser version of Zach Randolph in that he lacks Z-bo's range and face-up game.
Millsap is a very nice player, but I don't see him being a great fit on the Suns. He's an upgrade at the PF but not an UPGRADE. Hayward I love, but I doubt the Jazz let him go. He seems to be a great fit in Utah. You know.
Ready. Set. Discuss.
Goran Dragic is quite frustrated. His team has lost by a combined 59 points in the last two games and nearly set a record for fewest points in a single game for the franchise last night (68 points in 1981 was a team low).
He has never been on a losing team in the NBA before, and certainly has never been the sole go-to guy for this many games in a row. Dragic is more of a score-first point guard who's at his best when attacking the defense than a pure playmaker on the perimeter.
But he is the best offensive option that the Suns have. And he is having a very good season, despite the chaos and outsized expectations on him. Dragic is one of only EIGHT players in the entire NBA this season to produce at least 14 points, 6.3 assists, 1 steal and 2.8 rebounds per game. Among those eight, Dragic plays the fewest minutes per game (32.3), attempts the fewest field goals and commits the second-fewest turnovers.
Sure there are better specialists at every one of those categories. But only Jrue Holiday, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, Jameer Nelson and Chris Paul approximate or exceed Goran Dragic's total production per game. That's it.
In short, Goran Dragic plays hard and is one of the best all-around guards in the NBA.
But he is not an all-star guard, and he is getting very frustrated at having to be that guy in order for the team to win any games. He almost always keeps a positive spin on his comments. Almost always. Last night was the biggest exception yet.
"We didn't know what we were doing defensively, offensively," he said in his opening statement at the post game press conference. "Everybody was, I don't know, on All-Star break. I don't know. It was just a tough game."
Asked about scoring only 9 points in the last 7 quarters against OKC after putting up 16 in the first quarter on Friday night, Dragic could not hold back.
"The pick and roll is not there. I just try to break the defense but there's always two guys on me. The big guy is standing in front and the point guard is coming behind. The only thing I can do in that position is pass the ball. I am not going to force anything if I don't have a clear shot."
Of course, breaking the defense down is as incumbent on Dragic as it is on anyone else. He is the guy with the ball, and it's clear he is passing off too early in the shot clock at times. Steve Nash would pound the ball until the play developed, where Dragic is more impatient. He wants movement and action.
Yet it's also clear that his teammates are no longer on the same page, if they ever were this season. There is very little movement amongst the other four players when Dragic starts the play at the top of the key. Even when he picks up the dribble -- which he shouldn't -- they often have to be cajoled to come help him (except for Beasley, who is always more than willing to take the ball).
With as much effort as Dragic puts into defending the opposing team's point guard, he cannot carry the team offensively as well. And as the game goes on, the offensive execution gets sloppier and sloppier.
And that's where Dragic's frustration mounts. Asked if he still felt that not all guys were trying at any given time, Dragic replied that he still feels the same.
"We have a team that some nights they bring it, they play hard," he said after the second straight blowout. "And then we get lost for 3-4 games."
Dragic did not mention any particular names, but he clearly was talking about a few players on the team. His comments were sweeping.
"I was talking to Lindsey. All the players are saying we got 30 games left. Everybody is saying "next year we are going to make the playoffs". If we shut down now then we cannot improve ourselves and try to be better next season. We cannot just click and come back next season and start playing better. We have to start now."
Asked about Dragic's comments, center Marcin Gortat paused for a full five seconds (the first time I have ever seen that) as he gazed across the locker room at his point guard. Then he smiled and refused to comment. "I'm not going to answer that," he said.
But Gortat did spend some time talking about the matter.
"I don't think we fight and compete the way the coaches want us to compete," he said. "I have been on winning teams and [Shannon Brown] knows what it takes to win two championships. I think we see things different than some other guys. Something's gotta change. You gotta come ready to play. If you really care, you've got to bring your best."
Gortat does believe the team is heading the right way, though. "Our practice change and the culture is slowly, slowly changing. We have a little bit more discipline. I would say we are going in a better direction definitely. Its just not going to change in a week or two or a month. Sometimes it takes years."
Dragic cares about this season and making progress. He is not going to give up no matter what happens.
"It's frustrating, but I'm not the guy that's just going to surrender," he said. "Where I come from, my family went through a lot. We have war. My father was always teaching me no matter how bad the situation you have to stay positive, you have to battle until the end. Even if the percentage is really low.
"And I am still going to fight until the end of the season. That's the only thing I can do. Right now I'm just asking everybody do the same thing. Players, coaching staff, try to get ourselves in better position."
Now before you go off on Dragic for being a bad team player, remember that he is always putting out his best effort and has never before been a guy to throw teammates under the bus.He has always been a model citizen on the Suns and the Rockets.
But when you're the captain of a "sinking ship" and your team is not putting out the same effort every night, it can get really frustrating.
Still, Dragic is wrong to throw teammates under the bus at any time. Steve Nash never does tha... oh wait, never mind. He threw Dwight Howard under the bus just last week.
I digress. Dragic should not let his frustrations out to the media. It cannot help the locker room when your best player is blaming others for failures.