Coach Gentry cheers on the Suns at every game. You should, too! (Photo by Max Simbron)
The Phoenix Suns are 11-3 and heading into a December full of must-watch games against top flight NBA teams. No Suns fan worth their salt is going to miss a match-up against the Lakers or Spurs or Mavericks. Those teams have been lifelong (or at least decade-long) nemeses to our beloved Suns and each of those games is like a basketball rite of passage.
But what about the rest of the League? Why should you watch the Suns beat up on the Timberwolves or Bobcats? And what about those random teams that never get any pub way out west like the Bucks or the Nets? Below is part one of list of things to look for and reasons to watch our Suns play every team in the NBA. Feel free to print it out and keep it on the fridge next to your official Phoenix Suns schedule or next to the remote so you can crib from it on gameday. Also included is each team's SBNation site if you'd like to learn more about them.
But mostly you should watch because it's the Suns!
Atlanta Hawks, Peach Tree Hoops: Another early season surprise, just like The Suns. The obvious angle here is former Sun, Joe Johnson, aka Daisy Buchanan aka The One That Got Away. While in past seasons, one could have argued that perhaps he was the only reason to watch the Hawks, this year Atlanta done went and put together a ball club. Josh Smith will put you on a poster after rebounding your miss that he nearly blocked on the other end and Jamal Crawford will go from 0-15 points in the blink of an eye. This is a fun team that, like the Suns, seems poised to make an unexpected run at an assumedly superior division rival (the Orlando Magic).
Boston Celtics, CelticsBlog: Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce. For me those are reasons enough to watch them. For Suns fans, KG represents an alternative dimension where the Suns won the trade lottery a few years back and miraculously transformed into a defensive championship-winning machine. Ray Allen was a Suns assassin with the Sonics seemingly ending every contest against the Suns with a 3 as time expired. And Paul Pierce is the The Truth. Probably a little underrated around these parts, Pierce is a ferocious competitor and maybe the 3rd most important Celtic in history behind Bill Russell and Larry Bird. However, time is catching up to the Big 3 and this may be the last chance to catch them before they retire/go their separate ways. Oh, and for added Suns angles, former Sun/Sun Devil Eddie House is always conscienceless good times firing 3s off the bench and Rajon Rondo causes some current fans to look at Goran Dragic coming off the bench and cut themselves since he was in fact a Phoenix draft pick that the Sarver and company sold on eBay back in the day.
Charlotte Bobcats, Rufus On Fire: True story: I nearly canceled League Pass after coming across a Bobcats/Nets game a couple weeks ago. It was eye murder. That said, there's some fun to be had here. First, you can boo/cheer Boris Diaw as you see fit. Watching him play waffle croissant frustrate another team is much more liberating without worrying about how his 9 milli a year is affecting the Suns' cap situation. Raja Bell is gone, but in his place is former Suns division rival Stephen Jackson who should up the excitement quotient in the Queen City. And if you though Mike D'Antoni had a thing against young players, you can practically see the Charlotte faithful's collective head getting ready to explode as rookie lottery pick Gerald Henderson continues to ride pine even in garbage time.
Continued after the jump...
Chicago Bulls, Blog-A-Bull: Joakim Noah will make you eat your words. Derrick Rose is going to be a very good point guard for a very long time. Vinnie Del Negro has one of the best tans I've ever seen. He's the NBA's answer to George Hamilton. If you want something of a Suns angle, John Salmons shunned the Suns leading them to eventually sign Marcus Banks to one of the worst contracts in Suns history AND Luol Deng was also a one time Suns draft pick. Alternately frustrating and fantastic, there's a lot to watch any time these Bulls take the floor.
Cleveland Cavaliers, Fear The Sword: Little known fact about these Cavs... just kidding. If ever an NBA team suffered from overexposure, it's this year's Cavs. Whether or not, Shaquille O'Neal puts Cleveland over the top or drags them under, LeBron James' presence makes Cleveland must-watch basketball every time he takes the court... at least for another few months.
Dallas Mavericks, Mavs Moneyball: Well, well, well, if it isn't a rejuvenated Shawn Marion back in the Western Conference! With Jason Kidd and Tim Thomas on the roster, that's 3 former Suns who could make life miserable for their ex-team. Then there's notable Suns killer and former Wildcat Jason Terry who gets all Bill the Butcher on the Suns every time they play. And of course, Dirk Nowitzki is a straight up animal. New to the mix this year is rookie Frenchman Rodrigue Beaubois, who might be the only 6'0" player in the NBA with a go-to alley oop play drawn up especially for him. So, yeah, watch these guys.
Denver Nuggets, Denver Stiffs: This is quite simply an electric basketball team. Defensively suspect perhaps, this Nuggets team is simply terrifying on the offensive end. Carmelo Anthony's most dangerous spot on the floor is, well, the floor. From the baseline to the top of the arc, he is making opponents lives miserable this season. Off the bench, rookie PG Ty Lawson is quickly making a name for himself as a capable and dangerous back-up to Chauncey Billups' unwaveringly steady hand. These cats are slick and worth watching any time they take the floor.
Detroit Pistons, Motown String Music: The most exciting development in the world of Dee-troit Basketball is Will Bynum's transmogrification into the explosive substance, Bynumite. And he's a former Wildcat, too! Also, the Suns whupped them handily so they're good for the occasional Alando Tucker sighting. And I <3 a healthy Rip Hamilton.
Golden State Warriors, Golden State of Mind: There's a lot to like here: Steph Curry, Anthony Randolph, Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrens and hey -- it's Raja Bell! I was a big Anthony Morrow fan at Summer League and after one game, even D-League call-up Chris Hunter is making some noise. The problem is with Don Nelson running the show mailing it in, you never know what version of this team you're going to get. As a Suns fan though, with 14 games worth of hindsight, try and figure out how that rumored Amare trade would have worked out this season (my 2 cents: not well).
Houston Rockets, The Dream Shake: No T-Mac? No Yao? No problem. Sort of. After a hot start, the Rockets have cooled off to the .500 level in their last 10 games. What they lack in star power, the team is attempting to compensate for in effort and ingenuity. While that combination may make for a middling season, it also makes for smart, hard-fought basketball games that the Suns will have to earn.
Indiana Pacers, Indy Cornrows: Because Danny Granger is the brightest star you've never heard of. While off to a bit of a rough start in 2009, Granger is capable of taking over games and should not be slept on. Also, Tyler Hansbrough will help you find your dog.
Los Angeles Clippers, Clips Nation: This is a team on the verge of... something. They've got a solid if unspectacular commingling of veteran and youth presence in the starting line-up and on the bench and it will only get better once Blake Griffin joins the mix. Boom Dizzle and Eric Gordon make for an above average (and occasionally dynamic) backcourt. Chris Kaman is playing as if he is actually from another planet this year. Marcus Camby is ol' reliable and Craig Smith and Sebastian Telfair are providing serviceable minutes off the bench. In short, these Clippers are ready to break out of the cellar and into the NBA middle class, but they won't because Mike Dunleavy is a terrible, terrible coach. So why should you watch? For the novelty of seeing a team whose locker room cancer is actually roaming the sidelines in a suit.
Los Angeles Lakers, Silver Screen and Roll: "Hate Leads to Suffering; Or, How I Learned to Stop Suffering and Appreciate the Los Angeles Lakers." I'm not sure when I stopped hating the Lake Show, but it's a relatively recent phenomenon. There's just too much good basketball happening when they're on the court. Kobe Bryant is the pre-eminent basketball technician in the league right now. Pau Gasol might be the most sophisticated power forward in the NBA. Andrew Bynum is morphing from man-child to man with each passing minute on the court. Lamar Odom is the Ghost of Earl Clark Future and Ron Artest has gone from dangerously crazy to lovably eccentric with a change in area code. Oh, and that guy on the sidelines has 12 rings (2 as a player... haters) to legitimize any complaints of "Fakerism." For weaknesses, Derek Fisher is showing his age and then some and that bench is the basketball equivalent of Russian Roulette (there's about a 1 in 6 chance they will cost the Lakers the game). But you know, watch for the hate. It feels good, doesn't it, young Skywalker?
Memphis Grizzlies, Straight Outta Vancouver: Because Allen Iverson is must-watch basketball! Watch these guys so that 2 years from now you can say you were there when... Rudy Gay announced his presence with authority, O.J. Mayo came into his own, Zach Randolph quietly resucitated his career, Marc Gasol began working his way out of Pau's shadow, Jamaal Tinsley was brought into stabilize (!) a team's roster, and Hasheem Thabeet began fading into obscurity. It's kinda like watching the X-Files before the X-Files was cool (and that also started in Canada!).
Miami Heat, Peninsula is Mightier: Because if you don't watch, Dwyane Wade will throw himself at you and you WILL be called for a foul. While it's easy to mock Wade's penchant for reckless drives and refs tendencies to bail him out, it's impossible to argue that he's not a hardwood hurricane when this team needs him to be. Without Wade, this team's win total is somewhere in the 30s, but with him, they're a dangerous playoff foe... which isn't to say there isn't some talent around him. Udonis Haslem defines "unsung hero" outside of Miami-Dade County. Jermaine O'Neal and Quentin "P90X" Richardson are both having mini-renaissances this season and youngsters Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley provide inconsistent if effective support to their leading man. But mostly, it's all about Wade being a force of nature that you can watch from the comfort of your home without worrying about losing your home in the process.
To be continued....