Amar'e who? (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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The last time the Phoenix Suns took on the New York Knicks, it wasn't a pretty sight. The Suns had dropped six of their last seven games, the Knicks were one of the hottest teams in the league, and the Suns were still adjusting to the new additions of Gortat, Pietrus and Carter. The Suns were trying to look past the focus on Stoudemire's return and instead focus on righting their ship. I can't say whether they block the Amar'e talk out, but they definitely did not right the ship.

Let's just list some of the things that went wrong, shall we? The Suns were outscored in every quarter. Amar'e went into typical Amar'e beast mode and went for 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Raymond Felton dropped a triple double on us. The Knicks hit 17 of 33 3-pointers, matching a season high and tying their second most in franchise history.

This was when the Suns were in a freefall. Today's Suns, while still unsure of their true identity, have won two straight and are finding at least a semblance of traction on the slippery slope to irrelevance. Can they keep it up as they embark on their current 5-game road trip, or will they return to their losing ways?

The Suns are winners of two straight games, and while they were against the New Jersey Nets and Brandon Roy-less Blazers, wins are still wins. And aside from that, they have meant so much more than just another couple wins. This team is desperate, and to pull out come from behind victories in both situations shows that the Suns have enough grit and determination to not lay down and accept defeat. There is no doubt that Grant Hill's return was vital to the spirit of this team. Hell, even Vince Carter seems to be playing with more of a fire than he normally shows. Things are somewhat clicking on Planet Orange, and while it may not be the prettiest sight, it's a step in the right direction.


I'm only going to throw out a possible starting lineup for the sake of throwing it out there, but it may very well change on game day (see last game).

PG: Steve Nash/Raymond Felton

SG: Vince Carter/Landry Fields

SF: Grant Hill/Wilson Chandler

PF: Channing Frye/Amar'e Stoudemire

C: Robin Lopez/Ronny Turiaf

For all the small ball lineup madness that happened last game, I expect the two teams to revert to a more standard starting lineup. For one, Channing Frye has been hitting shots lately and adds a rebounding and defensive element to the starting lineup. (Yes, I never thought I'd use the words "rebounding" and "defensive" as words to describe Channing Frye) Secondly, the Knicks had their way with the Suns in the first quarter when the Suns started Nash, Carter, Hill, Pietrus and Childress. Don't expect Gentry to tread down that road again anytime soon.

The matchup I'm most interested in is Nash against Felton. As noted above, the last time Felton came to town, he netted a triple double, notching 23 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds and hitting 5-of-10 from 3-point range. That absolutely cannot happen again if the Suns want to have a puncher's chance at a victory. Nash could perhaps be hidden on Fields, having Carter take on Felton, but Fields is one of this year's most surprising rookies, averaging 10.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.

Playing To Win

The Suns, in their two game win streak, have played to win. Were you one of the doubters in the Nets game, when we fell down by 15 in the 3rd quarter? I know I was. And then, before my own eyes, I witnessed the Phoenix Suns happen. Jared Dudley hit a 4-point play. He snared an offensive rebound and got the hoop and the harm. Goran Dragic got a few timely steals. Steve Nash and Vince Carter played hard and rallied the troops. It was truly a sight to see.

Then came the Blazers game. The Portland Trail Blazers are a team the Suns historically have had problems with, especially in the past few years. They play slow, they rebound, and they emphasize defense. They are, for lack of a better term, the anti-Suns. But the boys in purple and orange stuck it out and gutted out a win. This is the Phoenix Suns team we want to see. This is the team that can make the playoffs.

If we don't see this team tomorrow morning, though, we're doomed for another loss. The Knicks are a very good basketball team. Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton, in my mind, are winning the race for Most Improved Player. Amar'e is at or near the top of the MVP voting. If Blake Griffin didn't exist, I think Landry Fields would be my choice for Rookie of the Year. They are a young team, hungry to win...and if our old bones don't come out and compete for a full 48 minutes like we have been doing, we'll get run out of town.

The thing about this Knicks team is that it seems like it's too reliant on its star (or near star) players (Stoudemire, Felton, Gallinari/Chandler). But, if you'll recall the game in Phoenix, it was Bill Walker coming off the bench to score 8 points and grab 9 rebounds. Or Shawne Williams, also coming off the bench, to score 15 points on 4 3-pointers, grab 7 boards, dish out 2 assists, steal 3 balls and block 2 shots. The two players combined had a +31 on the game. For a point of reference, Grant Hill by himself posted a -31.

Keys to the Game

  • Play some defense! If the Suns are filling passing lanes, contesting the rim, and trying to eliminate dribble drives, they'll have a shot at winning. If not, it'll be tough to pull out a win.
  • Don't get beat by 3-pointers. The Knicks have a balanced attack on the perimeter, but aside from Amar'e, they don't have a ton of inside scoring. If we can take away their threes, we might take away a win.
  • Play a team game. There's no doubt that the Suns are at their best when everyone is involved. If there gets to be an extended stretch of too many Vince Carter iso's, too much Nash dribbling, or too many Jared Dudley pull up jumpers, we're in trouble.

All in all, I'm expecting a good game. It's an early one, but hopefully the Suns will reward those of us who will be watching feeds or commenting away in the game thread during work hours. Go Suns!

You know him now as the coach of the Sacramento Kings, but few men in Phoenix Suns history have had as much impact on the franchise as Paul Westphal. The Suns have made the NBA Finals twice: the 1975-76 Western Conference champion squad featured Westphal as their leading scorer, and Westphal was head coach of the 1992-93 Finals team that pushed Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls to 6 games. 

Follow the jump for more on this Suns legend's role in some of the most memorable moments in team history.

Westphal_player_medium via

Westphal the player and the 1976 Finals

"The Little Team That Could" 1975-76 Suns were only 42-40 during the regular season, but knocked off the Seattle SuperSonics and then upset the defending world champion, Rick Barry's Golden State Warriors, to win the Western Conference. This earned the Suns a Finals berth against the mighty Boston Celtics, led by legends John Havlicek and Dave Cowens. Westphal led this Suns team in scoring (20.5 PPG on 49% FGs) and steals (2.6 per game), and was second in assists (5.4 per game).

Westphal's production continued through the playoffs, culminating with his performance in game 5 of the Finals, a triple overtime epic known by many as "the greatest game ever played." Heavy underdogs, the Suns had battled the Celtics to a 2 games to 2 tie. In game 5, the Suns trailed nearly the whole way, battling back time and time again before the Celtics finally prevailed 128-126. While the game is best known for this incredible shot by Garfield Heard, 
  NBA's 60 Greatest Playoff Moments: #6 (via theehibachi)

Westphal contributed 25 points and several heady plays that kept the Suns in the contest. The Suns lost the game, and the following game 6 as the Celtics won their eighth world championship, but this series is remembered as one of the most entertaining in NBA Finals history.

Westphal the coach and the 1992-93 Suns

The Suns had something of a rebirth in 1992. America West Arena, "The Purple Palace", replaced Veterans Memorial Coliseum as the team's home arena, superstar Charles Barkley was brought to the team in a blockbuster trade, and Danny Ainge was signed as a free agent. Promoted from assistant coach to replace the "retiring" (he would later come back) head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons was Paul Westphal.

This was a talented Suns team, possibly the most talented in team history with Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Danny Ainge, Tom Chambers, Cedric Ceballos, Richard Dumas and Oliver Miller. You might not know about Richard Dumas, but he was an elite athlete who eventually lost his career due to a drug problem. And, don't laugh at my inclusion of Oliver Miller. He was in the best shape of his life then, and the man could play. Despite his weight issues, he carved out a 9 year NBA career due to his raw talent.

Never known as an exceptional strategist or tactician as a head coach, Westphal instead proved himself as a manager of egos, which was exactly what this star-studded team needed. They won 62 games in the regular season, a franchise record that still stands, then went on to battle Jordan's Bulls in the 1993 NBA finals, eliminating the Lakers, Spurs and SuperSonics along the way. Down 0-2 in the first round best of 5 series to the 8th seed Lakers, Westphal made this famous statement: "We're gonna win the series."

  1993 NBA Playoffs: Phoenix Suns vs Los Angeles Lakers (via ginoongkamote)

The Suns delivered on Westphal's bold prediction, beating the hated Lakers on the way to a Finals run that electrified the city through the spring of 1993. There was no shame at all in finally losing to Jordan's Bulls in 6 games.

No other Suns figure has this sort of connection with the two most successful teams in franchise history. The next time the Suns play Sacramento, where Westphal currently coaches, raise of glass of your favorite beverage for the man who gave Suns fans so many memorable moments.

The New York Knicks have gone from long-time lottery players to a playoff team and the Phoenix Suns have gone from long-time playoff team to the brink of the lottery after star forward Amare...

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The Suns don't play again until Monday, so here are some links to keep you in the NBA spirit. Oh and yeah I went out of my way to post a missed dunk video. Aren't we all a bit tired of watching Blake finish the dunks?

  • Pietrus Upbeat Despite Falling out of Rotation: Coro AZ Republic
  • "I don't believe in personal success," Pietrus said. "I believe in team success. I think if you're not playing, you still come in and work hard for your team and good things are going to happen. Two years ago, nobody believed the Magic would go to the NBA Finals, and we did because we kept working hard every day. I'm a nine-year vet, so I know how to take it."

    "Our goal should be to win at least four," forward Jared Dudley said. "I know, for us, every win is big, but our mentality is to go and steal one in New York, and then Cleveland's struggling, Wizards are struggling, Philly's struggling, Detroit's struggling. This could be a good road trip for us and turn our season around."

    Donald Sterling unloads when asked for his opinion Clippers owner blasts commissioner for not taking a harder line against the players' union.

    Frankly, neither side can really win the P.R. game -- the NBA is seeing record ratings, teams spent incredible sums last summer and players are doing what players do: making and spending cash.

    "You've got to look around the league. Who's really doing better than him out there? I'm sure there are guys out there close to him, but he deserves it. You look at our record. You look at how he plays each game and how he's taking over games. I really think he's up there with the MVP talk."

    Rose didn't want LeBron taking the ball out of his hands, nor respect out of the room. Eventually, Rose reached out, but only out of a sense of duty. Rose didn't want James, nor did Rose particularly want Wade to make a Chicago homecoming. During early July, Rose shut himself in the gym and worked on his game. The soap opera bored him. "If they wanted to come here, they would've come here," Rose told Yahoo! Sports Saturday night.


    PHOENIX — All the talk of rock bottom and blowing this thing up is missing one key fact. After Friday’s 115-111 victory over Portland, the Suns trail the Blazers by a mere one game in the...

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