Mike at his best.
(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

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Mike at his best. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

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One more pre-preview now just to chew on, then the REAL preview later on after the quotes are posted and digested. Just about when we start wringing our hands.

Oh what a game we got tonight!

Right now, boys and girls, let's talk about the coaches.

Mike D vs. Alvin Gentry.

From firsthand knowledge, I think we've got a good handle on these guys.

Mike D'Antoni

Mike's biggest PLUS as a coach is his singular philosophy. Given enough talent to make it work, he can get a team playing at a high level for a sustained amount of time. His system breeds success, for those lucky enough to be on the wagon.

I'm thinking of the Chorus Line ditty...

One singular sensation
Every little step they take
One thrilling combination
Every move that they make!

Jerry Sloan, Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson are examples of other coaches with a singular vision. Their teams always end up playing their way. They have an identity. Always.

Of course, it takes talent to make his system work. He had terrible results in his first stint in Denver, and in his first half-season coaching the Suns in 2003-04. Plus, he had terrible results for 2 years in NY, 2008-10.

Conversely, give him an All-Star and he can find success. Give him 2-3 all-stars, and you get wild success. Imagine if he had a whole team of all-stars. Maybe they'd win a gold medal or something...

But those teams have always come up short in the playoffs, for one reason or another. Sure, there were injuries and suspensions. And those missing players proved too tough to overcome, in some part because the strain was too great on the remaining players and/or deeper bench guys couldn't / didn't step up. But just think, if the rotation had been deeper, could the Suns have maybe weathered the storm of missing players a bit better?

A couple years ago, Dwight Howard was suspended for Game 6 of a playoff series. A very pivotal game and DPOY was out. What happened? Orlando inserted Marcin Gortat as starter, who pulled down 16 rebounds, and won the damn game.

Last year, Nash was hurting in the first round against Portland. He had 7 turnovers in the first quarter alone in Game 6. What happened? Dragic played a bigger role than usual, and led the team through the rough patch to help close out the series.

Another "con" on Mike's resume is his in-game coaching. The man is stubborn as a mule. We fans routinely lamented the fact that the Suns lost games to lesser teams in the playoffs because of gimmicks or strategies (hack-a-shaq, Bowen on Nash, etc). Mike D never changed his ways, regardless of the opponent and what they were doing on the court.


Alvin Gentry 

We all know Alvin is a great people-person and really can connect with his players. He knows how to make them accountable and keep them engaged. Its thanks to Alvin that 10-man rotation actually worked last year, and that they (the two units) worked so well together and rooted for each other. 

He also is a great in-game strategist and made a huge difference for the Suns in last year's playoffs. For once, the Suns got the better of the team in terms of strategy and coaching. Putting Grant Hill on Miller full-court in the first round basically killed any momentum the Blazers had from the game 1 win. Switching and isolating Dragic and LB on the San Antonio bigs in the second round. Playing girlie zone in the Conference Finals to tie the series after 2 early, ugly losses. All this was Alvin.

Alvin's cons, though, are that sometimes he tries too hard to play all the guys. And of course, he doesn't have the singular vision that D'Antonio, Popovich, Sloan and Jackson have.

Who's the better coach?

Who is the better coach?

  492 votes | Results

New York Knicks 121, Phoenix Suns 96 PHOENIX — For 516 games, Amare Stoudemire trotted onto the US Airways Center court and brought passion and electricity to the arena. Standing tall and...

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Amare Stoudemire leading the New York Knicks back to legitimacy after years of failure is one of the best stories of this NBA season, except to those of us in Phoenix still longing for the glory...

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PHOENIX - MARCH 26:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns drives the lane for a shot against the New York Knicks in an NBA Game played on March 26, 2010 at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

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8 months ago: PHOENIX - MARCH 26: Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns drives the lane for a shot against the New York Knicks in an NBA Game played on March 26, 2010 at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

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So many storylines, so little time.

In this post, I'm contemplating the Knicks starting lineup, and how Nash will attack it.

For the Knicks, 4 starters are certain. All-Star Amare Stoudemire, MIP candidate PG Felton, MIP candidate SF Wilson Chandler and ROY candidate SG Landry Fields. Each plays heavy minutes on a short rotation (surprise!). The only wildcard in the 5th starter, since Danilo Gallinari is sitting out a couple weeks with an injury.

Will the Knicks start Ronny Turiaf at C, with Stoudemire at PF? That seems the most likely lineup for Mike D, with Turiaf the only other guy in the regular rotation to have started a game this season (7 starts) . 

It's possible D'Antoni will entice Gentry to go small again by starting someone like SF Shawn Williams or PG Toney Douglas for the first time, but not likely barring a top-secret pregame pact. Plus, D'Antoni never gives away starting spots for free to those who haven't earned it.

Knowing the most likely 5th Knicks starter is Turiaf, the Suns will have to go with a tall front line to match (Gortat/Lopez, Gortat/Frye, Frye/Lopez). Which two of those three starts the game is not likely to matter much. they are only on the floor until Gentry and/or D'Antoni go into the "I can get smaller than you" mode.

How will Nash attack the Knicks starting lineup?

The best way is to go right after Amare Stoudemire. He will either give up points to stay in the game, or pick up fouls. Nash will easily put Amare into defensive situations he can't handle - on the move on the perimeter or in roll situations.

The Knicks are actually better than the Suns this season on defense (aren't they all?), but can they contain Steve Nash? Not likely, unless they can totally take away the pick-n-roll. Gortat and Lopez will get lots of early opportunities to roll to the basket as long as Turiaf and Stoudemire are standing back there.

Can Gortat induce some Amare fouls on rolls to the basket? Marcin will get a lot more space to roll against the Knicks than he did against the Lakers, that's for sure.

I'm not counting on Lopez to provide much fight, in terms of inducing fouls.

Or will we see a big dose of Warrick? If anyone on this current Suns squad can induce fouls on rolls to the basket, its Hakim Warrick. So don't be surprised if Hakim gets 1-2 dunks to Amare's 5 or 6 in return.

Discuss your thoughts.

Can Amare contain the Suns? Or will the Suns, on offense, attack Amare mercilessly?

PHOENIX — Over the course of his eight seasons in Phoenix, Amare Stoudemire was criticized for his lack of leadership and ability to be “The Man” when the lights got bright. STAT...

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