Our boys over at Hardwood Paroxysm finally got around to noticing what we here the in desert have been saying all year.
And to that we say - Welcome to the party my friends!
We understand that not everyone watches each and every Suns game; Tivo remote held at the ready to rewind and slo-mo your way through 82 games. Its only natural when you are trying to cover the entire league that one might miss the nuances and subtleties of each team's evolution.
So yes, the Suns offense has changed. And my friends let me be clear. This was the plan all along. This isn't about The Big Triangle pitching his tent in the low block. This goes back much further.
Flash back with me now. Its 2007. An early summer day in Phoenix (which means its only 105 degrees). The Suns' brain trust is meeting by the pool somewhere in Scottsdale. They have a few cold drinks. The misters are misting. And there's a white board on a stand as the coaches, Sarver, a few random kids, and some girls in the pool try and look on while also avoiding random bits of Vinnie Del Negro's chest hair floating by.
Coach Mike lists his top 3 things to not get beat in the playoff's for the 4th straight season:
- Play Better Defense - this is only on the board first so that the laughing doesn't disrupt the rest of the conversation and the girls in the pool can go back to dodging black and gray curly hairs
- Get a big guy to play center - this being months before the Shaq option, I am not sure how this got on the list because everyone there knows that Mike wouldn't play a big guy if he had one. At least until he had THE ONE
- Dump Kurt Thomas' salary and avoid the luxury tax - Sarver is present. Enough said.
- Make the team less dependent on Steve Nash so that teams like the Spurs can't take him out of his game and totally shut down the Suns or Don Nelson can't work Steve to death by posting up whomever he is trying to hide on defense and so Steve Nash doesn't kill himself carrying the team for 82 games and then for all 4 qtrs of every playoff game - this one took both sides of the white board. But it was important. Really, really important.
and yes, that's four things he listed. He didn't really think dumping KT would help win in the playoff's so that doesn't count...
Here's what I said at the mid-season point:
Nash playing off the ball. The Suns often run the offense through Diaw or Hill with Nash on the floor playing off the ball. I think this is designed to counter what the Spurs did in limiting Nash with Bowen. If teams put their best defender (usually a tall SG or SF) on Nash he can just camp outside and space the floor while Grant or Boris (often covered by a smaller guard) runs the pick and roll with Amare or otherwise creates a good look. And if the D collapses you now have the MVP wide open for a three point shot. Witness the recent Bucks and Cavs games.
Add in Grant Hill and his mid-range and slashing game and this is a Suns team that is a nightmare to defend.
They were and they still are.
And of course, the Suns' winning it all this year comes down to defense. They still have to improve their rotations and help D enough to get the key stops they were finally getting before The Trade.
And while I am on this epic rant and in full-on "I told you so" mode, I have a bone to pick with this comment as well:
Exhibit A. In the second quarter of the recent Houston game Amare scored 18 points. Of those, he had 5 possessions in isolation. 3 times he scored and twice he was fouled and hit his throws. That's 10 of his 18 points that he created by himself.
Exhibit B. In last night's Piston's game in the final closing clutch minutes, Amare had the ball. And not off the usual pick and roll. Amare in isolation near the free throw line.
Now this is something new since Shaq's arrival and is a big step in the evolution of Amare Stoudemire and how the team uses him. He always had it in him. He has showed occasions of this ability. But now the team is leaning on him more and he's producing.
So watch out now. Amare is coming to finish at a rim near you. And you can't stop him.