In order for us to understand our present and to make better decisions in the future, we have to be honest with ourselves and accept the mistakes we have made in the past. The new season is almost here and its only fitting that we start our Preview Series looking back at the last year of the D'Antoni Era and his run n gun.
NBA Season 2007-2008
The Season started and we still could not get over what had taken place in the playoffs. All we could read, talk and think about was the fact that The Suns were screwed by David Stern. The wound had not healed at all and we were bitter fans, hungry for revenge.
Now, imagine for just a few minutes that you were part of what happened. No. Not as a fan. As a player...You train your ass off all year long, you go to practices, you watch tapes of your opponents for hours, you spend most of your time with your team and not with your family. Yes, you are a millionaire, you are famous and maybe you have a super model girlfriend waiting for you at home, but after growing up you realize that money is not a concern anymore and that your main goal is to be part of a selective group of winners, you want to see how it feels like to be a champion, to be on top. You are close to reaching the goal, almost there and then...you are screwed.
If we multiply what we felt as fans times ten, maybe we can get an idea of how The Suns players felt after the above mentioned event.
There are two different ways of reacting after the major disappointment of not reaching a personal goal: You keep trying and you want it even more because you were so close or you give up and don't give a damn anymore.
After watching some games, I realized that the Suns were not the same. They were inconsistent, they didn't seem to be enjoying the game like they used to, they just didn't seem to care anymore. The defense was inexistent (more than usual), no one wanted to rebound the ball (again, more than usual) and they seemed to be playing just because they had to.
We saw them lose against lousy teams and humiliated against not so lousy teams. But they managed to stay in the race and even though they were first in the west, there was a strange feeling that if they didn't start playing better, they were not going to make it. It was like having a playoff hangover, they wanted to Fast Forward the regular season just to get there.
After losing against Dallas (blowing a 20+ point lead), Dirk Nowitzki was asked how did The Mavericks managed to come back in the game and he said:
"Well, we always felt comfortable. Even when we were down by 20 points. You know that Phoenix is going to let you back in the game. So we were patient and waited for our time to rally back"
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I had never heard a basketball player say that his team was comfortable playing with a 20 point deficit. I felt even more disgusted with the Suns performance after I heard these remarks, and its not like they were running n gunning...Shaq was already on the team. Which leads me to:
Matrix out - The Diesel in
I remember the day when I found out this rumor was not a joke. I was speechless. The first thought that went thru my head was that it was stupid. The Suns had finally given up on their style of play. And although I knew something drastic had to be done to jumpstart this team, I never could have imagined that The answer to the Suns problems was a 40 million dollar big mouth-washed up player.
A lot has been said about this trade, but the truth is that we still don't know if its going to work or not. We can't judge the results of the Shaq trade yet, it would not be objective and fair to do so.
D'Antoni and his crew had very little time to adjust the defense and offense, and doing it in the middle of a playoff race didn't make it any easier. But during the regular season many skeptics turned into believers once Shaq started to play better, dive into the stands for loose balls, block shots, get rebounds. He controlled our Nemesis Tim Duncan and we won the season series against the Spurs. Amare was playing great as a PF and oh boy that was fun to watch.
The Media experts were no longer doubting the Suns chances to make the playoffs, They were jumping on the Shaq Bandwagon. We were ready for the Spurs. D'Antoni was a the best coach ever. Steve Kerr was not a moron, but indeed a genius. Or so we thought...
The End of an Era
Run n Gun was fun and there are tons of articles and great posts about it. Even a book.
This style of play changed the way basketball is played right now, lets not diminish its greatness just because the Suns couldn't get a hold the Larry O'brien Trophy.
Back in 2004, run n gun was something new, exciting and unpredictable. Like a kid who is called up from Triple A to pitch in the majors. You know nothing about him and that's why you have trouble seeing his pitches. But after a while you get scouting reports and the kid (even if he is really good) is not as unpredictable as he was before. Every time you face him you learn something new, you get to see more pitches and eventually you will get to hit him if he doesn't make adjustments of his own.
D'Antoni's system was studied, dissected and deciphered and he didn't make adjustments. That's how stubborn he was. How long did he think it was going to take for the league to catch up?
Back in May I wrote this post about coach D. And I have to admit that, while writing it, I was feeling kind of down that he was leaving (although I was pointing out his mistakes as a coach).
Eventually his stubbornness is what caused his system to collapse and become predictable. And although run n gun was six feet under the ground by the time we lost to the Spurs this year, his stubbornness and reluctance to make adjustments and changes played a big part in last season's failure.
Time for a change
The Suns players needed to change their -the world is against us- mentality, but that's difficult to do when your coach is feeling the same way. As a player from any level, you look up to your coach and you expect him to be strong and encourage you to move on. Mike was not able to provide that anymore. He really had to go.
So after all these years of great basketball, exciting plays, bad decisions, close games and heartbreaks; I think we can welcome a change...we can welcome something new. After years of being predictable we are unpredictable again... if we as fans don't know what to expect, imagine the players and coaches from other teams...
So, fellow Suns' Fans from the BSotS Family: Basketball Season is right around the corner!!!
Fasten your seatbelts and let us welcome the change, let us welcome "the new". After all...it was something "New" that made us winners again.
editor's note: Panama Sun is a regular contributor to Bright Side of the Sun. He's a former point guard on the Panamanian National Team and has played the game at its highest international levels. Despite being a Yankee's fan, we are fortunate to have his perspective on our blog.