And so it begins...Finally.
Did you read that? Western-Conference-Finals. No one, not one of our expert BSOTS staff predicted this, and while I don't know this for a fact, I truly doubt anyone from ESPN or TNT, NBA TV or even Charles Barkley's mutt, Yoo-Hoo (who at 10:55 AZ time has not yet been barbecued for breakfast), chose the Suns to get even remotely this far at the outset of the season.
Of course, this is why the game is played, and this is why you and I are Phoenix Suns fans and have remained so for however many years it has been. Me? I popped out of my mother's womb with a Walter Davis signed Suns onesie. My father filled in the rest for me: those years at the Madhouse on McDowell, the shot heard around the world in 1976. I was awake and understood all about the coke scandal in the 80s, and I cried when Michael Jordan (or should I say John Paxson) pooped all over my dream for a Suns title in 1993. I was like 19 or something. A cool, flannel-wearing college kid crying is a pretty pathetic sight.
Many story lines in this series...Indeed:
- Phil Jackson, the pseudo-Buddhist, has started his cheap mind games already, alleging this and that and mistakenly trying to get into Steve Nash's head. It didn't work with Steve; he is the real Jedi Master in this series. We'll see if Mr. Stern and the rest of the dark side (the zebras) will take notice.
(Word on the street is Nash was last called for palming in a pickup soccer game in 1991. I know, that's a hand ball...) Regardless, I expect to see one or two of those calls in L.A. simply because Phil will be whining like a pre-pubescent female about it.
- Next, we heard the story about Bynum's knee regressing. The story may be true, but that's not important. This writer demands MRI results or X-rays or something valid before he believe this guy isn't near full strength. I'm sure Gentry and Co. are taking all of this with a grain of salt, and if it is indeed the case, we'll know fairly quickly: GO RIGHT AT THE BIG MAN and SEE how healthy he is. Just one recommendation.
- There's been talk about Kobe's health (knee drainage things) and then we've got Kobe talking about revenge and what not which is, as we all know, preposterous, but again the talk doesn't matter at all if you ignore it. Kobe is Kobe and does Kobe things, so what he says means little; how he performs is another story.
- On the Phoenix Suns end, we have what reports describe as a very edgy Robin Lopez returning to the starting lineup. How effective he will be after missing several weeks is a question mark. Nevertheless, he's a welcomed big body for the Suns to utilize as they attempt to stop the Pau/Bynum/Kobe/Odom train. Said Jared Dudley on Lopez's oftentimes psycho mental make up:
"Still there," Dudley said with eyes widened. "It's still there. That's good, though. You want your bigs to have a temper. I don't mind him fouling and messing someone up. That's a part of the game. You want your bigs like that.
- As far as we all know, Steve Nash received some well earned rest and apparently will not be pulling out his One-Eyed Willie patch for the game, although it wouldn't matter. In fact I'd suggest we blind fold him for the next outdoor preseason game at Indian Wells. Think revenue, people! Everyone would wan to see that.
- Will Channing Frye be the X-Factor as some predict? I hate the term X-Factor, but let's say that if he's hitting from outside, the Lakers will have to bring some big body out of the paint on him. And that's a good thing for Los Suns.
But really, this series boils down for us fans and our beloved squad as the US AGAINST THE WORLD SERIES. Not the same as the You and I Against the World when you thought you were going to marry your 16 year old sweetheart while your family was telling you that it was a poor choice to get married so young and your friends were giggling because they all knew that she was cheating on you with half the JV football squad. This is the kind of chip-on-our-shoulder playing-with-wreckless-abandone-nothing-to-lose-Us Against the World.
Now down to sharper brass tacks. I'm viewing tonight's game as a statement game. Prove to the Lakers and the NBA world the Suns belong in the WC Finals like we all know they do.
Some questions to ponder:
- How well will Lopez integrate himself into the Suns flow? Obviously he wouldn't be in there if Gentry and Co. didn't feel he could help out. Reports this weekend had Robin starting, now it's "more than likely" he starts. Nice gamesmanship. Why allow the opponent to plan in advance if you don't have to.
- Can JRich continue his torrid offensive postseason? Can he slow/stop Kobe from going Kobe? If nothing else can Rich at least come up with a zinger to hurt Kobe's feelings?
- Will Amare bring the bully ball to Pau? Can Pau handle the REAL AMARE bully ball?
- How are Phil and Co. planning to stop Steve Nash? Pepper spray his good eye? Nah, you don't stop Steve Nash, forget it.
- Alvin Gentry. My vote for underrated coach of the year (I know there is no award for that, but there sure as hell should be). He made adjustments in the first two playoff series that buried their opponents. He kept his troops aggressive and calm in the PTL series, and urged them to stomp to death the last life within the Spurs for a resounding sweep on the road. All the talk is about Jackson and his rings and mind games, but Gentry is no pushover. What's he got in store for the Lakers?
Just food for thought. No doubt there will be other story lines as the series progresses. No doubt I've missed a few. But it's time for the real thing tonight. The waiting has grown tiresome.
Remember, this Phoenix Suns team is even keeled (excluding Robin of course). Stealing one tonight would be phenomenal, but by playing well and proving to Kobe, Phil, Jack (Nicholson) and the rest of the NBA that Phoenix isn't intimidated about playing the reigning champions is victory enough. Taking one of these two in LA works for me. But then again 0-2 doesn't eliminate the Suns. There is no panic with Alvin Gentry and his crew. Which reminds me of an analogous quote I've been spouting to my friends and family about our veteran laden Phoenix Suns and their play throughout this season. Perhaps it's the appropriate moment to break it out (thanks to Bobby D., Joe P., and Martin S.):
"No matter how big a guy might be, Nicky would take him on. You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a bat. You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And if you beat him with a gun, you better kill him, because he'll keep comin' back and back until one of you is dead."
*More to come from PHX Seth who is in the city of angels for these first 2 games.