To steal a quote from some friends I know:
When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before. -- Jacob August Riis
The triumph on this scale, the second round sweep of a 4-time NBA Champion by a team that did not even make the playoffs last year is a thing that cannot happen merely by a few tweaks on the Suns roster nor by the off-games of a few Spurs players. As Wil said, it was a sea change. And it was very long in the making.
The range of causes and the subsequent unfolding of consequences of this San Antonio catastrophe, as are those of the Bay of Pigs or any other monumental disaster, are multiple. Some I will review in this post. It will be years before the analysis and the dust settles on the conflagration of events that surround this sweep.
And it is only the first day after the Great Ambush of the Alamo Dome.
The Triumph of Sisyphus
The gods of mythology punished Sisyphus for his hubris. Sisyphus was tasked to roll a huge rock up a steep hill. Before Sisyphus could reach the top of the hill, the rock would always roll back down, forcing him to begin again. That rock is sometimes thought of as the Sun which rises everyday before falling below the horizon, only to rise again.
A Sisyphean task is an arduous, painful and impossible one.
For the Suns, beating the Spurs these past five years has been a Sisyphean task. The Suns hubris was fully incapsulated by the heresy spewn forth by idiot savant and false prophet Mike D'Antoni, the beautiful and seductive logic of 7SOL. Antoni was allergic to the three D's of postseason success - Defense, Depth and Draft Picks.
Yes, I believed the basketball antichrist right up the very end. Right up until he stopped believing in himself and bolted from a shattered team in 2008. He lied to us when he said defense was not possible with this kind of uncanny offensive power. The current team is not only more defensively capable, it is the third greatest offense in NBA history.
Fortunately, your Sisyphean Suns have kept at it, rolling up that damn Sun up every game. We learned from the Spurs. We have cast off the whiners like Marion and Bell. We saved and developed our draft picks. With Jarron Collins filling in for Robin Lopez, our team is playing 11 deep.
At this moment, you are looking at a team that has reachieved the post-season success of the legendary 2004-05 Suns.
Before the season, Seth summarized the outlook two ways:
1. You can choose to see a team trying to recapture the glory years by returning to its running roots but doing so without key players (Marion, Diaw and Bell); with an older core (Nash and Hill); and with whatever Amare may or may not be able to give on a micro-fractured knee and an eye that almost fell apart.
To put it yet another (even more cynical) way, if the Suns aren't moving forward towards a championship and they aren't rebuilding for the long run then they are basically treading water in a desperate and blatant attempt to sell tickets while delaying the inevitable collapse.
2. You can see a team that is hitting the reset button after making the Big Mistake and promising to return to Phoenix Suns basketball which was exciting and won a lot of games. A team with great chemistry and a promise of consistency (no trades) and a team who will release its Canadian hummingbird from the plastic bag and run like the wind. A Suns team that is getting better defensively and is deeper then at any point since Charles Barkley weighed less than Eddy Curry.
At the start of the season, I was firmly in category 1. I believed in managements moves, but felt that the Suns were in a rebuilding rather than reloading phase. Props to watdogg10 for promoting the reset view of the season.
Have you ever been playing a video game with a friend and just as you’re about to win…3…2…1…"RESET!" Don’t you hate that? Somebody can’t admit their faults so they just pretend they never happened? Before you answer, think about your Suns for a minute. D’Antoni and Nash team up to form one of the greatest companionships known to professional basketball but before its ever allowed to reach its full potential D’Antoni is in NY and we’re left with Nash and a 300 pound wall that Nash has no idea what to do with. The experiment ultimately fails and Steve Kerr does what? He hits his magic reset button.
The beauty of pessimism is that I'm so glad to be wrong.
Never been more proud to be a Suns fan, and that includes 1993.
Thank you Steve Nash for having balls of steel.
Thank you Jared Dudley and Lou Amundson for irritating the piss out of the opposition.
Thank you Amare for maintaining your wits in the face of constant double and triple teams.
Thank you Goran Dragic for making it so we don’t shit ourselves when Nash leaves the game anymore.
Thank you Steve Kerr and Alvin Gentry for molding this team into the awesome awesomeness that it is.
Thank you Amare, for learning to pass, assist and defend. Thank you for not letting trade talk burn you up inside and make you hate our city. Thank you, Alvin Gentry, for having the right relationship with the team. Thank you for calling out the stars, for befriending Amare, for giving confidence to the bench, for having the guts to play them in critical situations, for taking the best of the D'Antoni offense and coming up with a defensive solution.
Alvin Gentry should be considered a defensive genius for what he's done with this team's personnel.
Dear Mr. Kerr,
I apologize for doubting you and your vision for our team the past few years. I have loved this franchise since 1988 and I was afraid you single-handedly was destroying one of my pastime obsessions. The team you have assembled is mentally tougher and conditioned to do great things. I’ m not saying they will win it all, but all I ever wanted from my team is that they play hard, are competative, and are fun to watch and this team is that and more. I’ve been unable to hang out with my buds from BSOTS because I’m so into the games…that’s awesome. Oh…I’m also apologizing for hating on the JRich and Dudley trade, the drafting of Dragic and Lopez, the resignings of Nash and Hill, and blaming you for Black Bear attacks.
Ron Howard Aka Ron_dasun
It's now time for all Suns to quit wishing for Bryan Colangelo. Say goodbye to that rose-tinted memory, as I have said many times, we have a better GM. Check that poll on the post. 100 vs. 44 or 54% of readers thought Bryan Colangelo was the better GM compared to Steve Kerr (23%). Even with the Shaq trade, that gamble was better than Colangelo's Jermaine trade (see my post comparing the trades here). Is there anyone now who Bryan Colangelo is a better GM than Steve Kerr???
Do Not Go Gently Into that Good Night
The speed and ease with which the Suns dispatched the Spurs this year is almost disconcerting. Suns fans have been waiting years, all this time for this climatic and cathartic moment, and yet the victory was so thorough, so complete and so brief that it is as if we faced mere impostors, a cheap imitation of the the 4-time NBA champions.
It was most like all the hype and emotion leading up to a heavyweight prizefight between rival champions, and to have the massive event end in the first 102 seconds of the first round. Domination, hell yes. Satisfying, as a fan, not really.
In rolling over, it's as if the Spurs have attempted to deny victory by committing seppuku. It was like the whole Spurs team flopped before there was even contact. Let me at least hit you first before you flop! Or perhaps its more like I want that Grinchly joy of having stolen Christmas. The Suns have stolen Christmas in San Antonio, but the Spurs did nothing to stop them.
This is what it was like.
This series was like the scene in Office Space where the guys take the printer out to the middle of nowhere and beat the shit out of it. Like the Spurs, the printer doesn't fight back. It just takes a beating. For whatever messed up psychological reason, I don't feel nearly as good about beating up this lame duck team as I should. The Spurs pounded the Mavs! They should have been awesome! Or at least looked awesomer in this series.
Sisyphus escapes hell by finally rolling the impossible stone up the impossible hill. The Spurs just shrugged. Yes, the Suns move closer to a title. Yes, the interwebs a buzz with shocking victory. But all we have are the ebbing glow of that victory.
Sure there were great moments in the series, but not many of them and not the truly great moments cliff-hanger one-shot do-or-die all-on-the-line moments that have been cleverly engineered by NBA rules and marketed by NBA handlers.
As glad as I am that the Suns beat this team so badly, I wish the Spurs had not gone so gently into that good night. This series does not do justice to the suffering and angst the Phoenix Suns organization, the fans and the city have endured at the smug hips, elbows and knees of the San Antonio Spurs. As momentous as the occasion is, this is not a series that you will show your grandchildren and say, "Here is when the Suns, after five years with Steve Nash at the helm, finally overcame the 4-time NBA Champions, the Spurs."
This series is all a great NBA hoax. A cosmic joke. These are not the Spurs. That these are projected holograms from video shot 10 months ago is more believable than this team being those players who crushed us two years ago.
The Revenge of Bruce or the Curse of Bowen
The worst insult I can level at the modern Spurs is that they can't win without playing dirty - they can't win without Bruce Bowen.
Prove me wrong.
"The Revenge of Bruce" would be a single playoff snafu. A "Curse of Bowen" on the other hand could last decades. Which will it be for the Spurs?
Like Alan Greenspan before him, the luster of Pop's moves are wearing off. After so many great moves, having the tandem of Barbosa and Dragic killing him in Game 3, as MikeyPhxFan notes, must have been annoying.
Just as the Suns picked up their cues from the Spurs, the Spurs made the most glaring error in the trade of RJ for Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto. They traded three valuable (and dirty) role players for a flashy offensive star. It was more offense at the cost of defense and a quality bench. They thought they could teach Matt Bonner to hit threes and play dirty. Wrong. They thought they could replace dirty Kurt Thomas with Antonio McDyess. Kurt Thomas could have frustrated the hell out of Amare. McDyess played well enough, but meekly. Call it the McDyessian Fade.
I was really happy NBA Champion Antonio McDyess was on this Spurs team. It's twice that I've regretted him on the Suns team, mainly because both times he was so eager to leave.
Why is this important? Because after all of these years, the Suns didn’t beat us playing their game. They did it by becoming a little better version of us. And in the midst of my anger, frustration, and anxiety about this Playoff series, I take a little solace in the fact that we killed the 7 Seconds or Less Era. We beat the Suns in 4 straight series when everyone thought they had the best team and the best system. When the entire world was waiting for a revolution, the Spurs held steady and kept Pounding the Rock. And in order for Phoenix to advance, they had to become tough, defensive minded, and put solid role players around their stars. They had to become what the Spurs have been. They had to become what is right about basketball and right about sports. Look at the teams that have tried to emulate the Spurs. Boston, Portland, Cleveland, OKC, Phoenix....just to name a few. That tells you something about the respect our team gets and deserves. You win games and championships by doing things the right way. The Spurs way.
Sure, the Suns developed a bench. The Suns learned to play on both halves of the court. But the Suns didn't win the Spurs way. You thought the Spurs way was about getting the best #1 draft pick each decade. You thought the Spurs way was finding unknown international players with late round draft picks. But none of that explains the 4-0 sweep the Spurs suffered this week. You think the Spurs didn't win by being dirty? Henry Abbott thinks they made a conscious and commendable career out of playing dirty.
The Spurs Way is really about Bruce Bowen.
The Spurs way is really about Robert Horry.
The Spurs way is really about dirty.
No, the Suns didn't win the Spurs way. We didn't have Bruce Bowen on our team. We won and we didn't play dirty.
Before Today, the Suns sweeping the Spurs was Impossible
Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it.
Impossible is not a fact. Its an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. Its a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary.
Impossible is nothing.
So Says Muhammed Ali.
Alvin Gentry likened the possibility of a Spurs comeback from 0-3 to something that statistically has never happened, but well within the technical feasibility of mankind, probably not even as challenging as landing on the moon.
Within the shorter horizon of the modern Steve Nash-led Suns, sweeping the Spurs as constituted with their big three was also something beyond the imagination of any sane NBA observer - coaches, players, pundits and fans. It was so impossible, it wasn't even discussed except in jest.
Statistical history has been broken.
It's the end of the world as we know it. How do you feel?
Bonus GIF Movie: Goran Dragic in Clash of the Titans.
(this got buried in another post, so I'm putting it here =D)