Boris has played relatively well in the preseason and these eight games. He's not back up to his 2005-2006 form nor does he play well enought to warranty $9M a year, but he's playing very well.
Barbosa is playing a semblance of defense. Last year, LB guarding Mayo down the stretch would've been disastrous. This year, he was serviceable.
Bell doesn't get minutes if he's not producing, and then when he gets back out there with a chip on his shoulder he returns to production.
This was not just last night. These are pretty legit trends from the preseason and into the early season. Perhaps the Antoni love-fest was detracting from team play.
Barbosa especially -- talk about a sponge. He's always had the athletic ability to be a good defender and he's got that endearing work-ethic thing. He's not exactly what I'd call a self-starter, though. So, when Dan D'Antoni told him to "go to the hole" he did that and he did that pretty well. A little direction and a push seems to be all he needs. I'm not saying he's a good -- or even an average -- defender. I'm just saying he's no longer deplorable. He's made some decent plays and seems to be listening to the coaching schemes. I like the trend.
There definitely seems to be more focus this year -- on both ends. On offense, the Suns are getting the "tough" hoops which they weren't really getting in the past. It's kind of like the Suns have a running game now (to use a football analogy). Last night, EJ said Amare was like a big offensive lineman that eventually wears out his foe on the defensive line. I think I'm seeing that with this team.