Phoenix Suns: The Little Team That (Almost) Did

A band of brothers indeed

How could I possibly sum things up better than Steve Nash, sitting at the table, placed on top of a low rise podium tucked into a corner storeroom area beneath the US Airways Center seats that was converted for the purpose of hosting Western Conference Finals press conferences.

Steve brought his twin 4 year old girls with him to the table and exposed them to the cameras for the first time that I can recall, perhaps so they could comfort him and he would gain some measure of strength from their unconditional love in such a moment. That's pure speculation on my part, but I have four kids of my own ranging from almost 4 to 18 so yeah, I get the impulse to hold your young children on your lap and gain solace from them in that kind of situation.

It speaks to what we've learned about Steve Nash; he feeds off his relationships with those close to him: His team and his family, and frankly there is very little difference between the two.

If you want to define the Steve Nash era and especially this 2009/10 version, it wouldn't be solely on the up-tempo, high scoring, great shooting, team basketball. Those factors exist on other teams and are replicable with the right group of talented players. What made this team special and what allowed this team to overcome its challenges and reach far beyond anyone's expectations was the bond they shared and how that translated to the basketball court.

"I mean, it's phenomenal to come to work every day with the group of guys we had, everyone fighting for the same thing, you know, proving when you commit to one another and to what we're trying to do, you know, you really can -- all the cliches really are true. You can maybe be greater than the sum of your parts."

Grant Hill, Jared Dudley, Alvin Gentry, Amare Stoudemire -- at some point all of these Phoenix Suns have said basically the same thing. This team got to where it did because of the special connection they developed with each other.

That's why a guy like Channing Frye can go 1 for 20 to start the series and never lose the confidence of his team. And his team was rewarded in Game 6 with an incredible defensive performance, a team high 13 rebounds and 5 for 7 shooting. Frye probably had the best all-around game of his career when you consider that Pau Gasol only had 9 points and 7 rebounds and the Lakers as a team only had 26 total points in the paint. His energy and effort were not just a testament to him as a player, but to this Suns team that stood by him when he was struggling.

It was an amazing roller coaster of a season that started guns blazing, slumped for two full months right up to the brink of trading away the star player, only to see Alvin Gentry manage to convert his team from an offense-first unit to one that truly committed to getting better on the defensive end of the floor. And did.

In the Lakers, the Suns simply ran up against a great team with incredibly talented players. As much as we might want to knock them for their lower jaw-jutting arrogance and their completely un-Suns like approach to winning behind the individual brilliance of one man, they got it done.

It was their other guys who stepped up and performed on the road and hit shot after shot. Maybe Ron Artest needs to feel disrespected to play this well and Derek Fisher certainly proved that, at least against Steve Nash, he's still got plenty to contribute. Maybe the fear of disappointing Kobe and Phil really is enough to lift a team to victory but ultimately, at the end of the day, you have to take Alvin Gentry's advice and just laugh if the Mamba is going to hit all of those contested shots.

He certainly had the Suns players' respect. Talking to Jared Dudley in locker room, I asked if the mood of the team was more disappointed as opposed to devastated from the loss, which is what I sensed.

Jared answered, "You can't be devastated. That's a championship caliber team with arguably the best player on the planet hitting tough shots..."

At this point, Amare Stoudemire -- fresh out of the shower and wrapped only in a towel -- interjected from the next locker over saying that Kobe was without question the best player on the planet -- over LeBron.

Amare could only shake his head in amazement and perhaps in that moment realized the gap that exists between himself, and those who are considered his NBA betters. One can only hope, because how Amare views himself will in large part dictate the next chapter in the Where Will Amare Go saga.

Earlier in the discussion before Amare arrived, Jared said something telling about Kobe that perhaps applies to Amare in a roundabout way, "I think for him (Kobe) personally, it's God-given. You can't tell someone to be more aggressive. You can, but if they don't have it in them, they're not going to. Kobe lives for those moments and he stepped up and knocked down tough shots."

When the Suns needed him most in the first half and third quarter, Amare didn't step up. To be fair, in the first half he was playing zone and often out of position to rebound and the Suns team defense did do a great job limiting the Lakers paint points. But in the 2nd quarter when the Suns were struggling to generate any offense, Amare scored only 2 points in 7:17 minutes of play and in the 3rd quarter he went 2 for 8 and had 6 points.

It wasn't until the Suns were down 15 and Goran Dragic baited Sasha Vujacic into a stupid flagrant foul that ignited the crowd and fired up the Suns; it wasn't until that point that Amare really got engaged emotionally in the game. And even then, it was Dragic's aggression that created those initial opportunities for Amare. He finished with 12 of the Suns' 29 4th quarter points and went 6 for 6 from the line.

What the Suns needed to win this game was that kind of aggression from Amare in the 2nd quarter. If he had been able to attack and put the Lakers front line into serious early foul trouble, this game would likely have ended without the LA team receiving the Western Conference Championship trophy right in the middle of the Suns own practice court.

Instead, all talk immediately turns to Amare's future and its symbiotic connection to the next five-plus years of the Phoenix Suns franchise. Nash and Hill made it clear that they want Amare back. Stoudemire would only say that he will continue to explore all his options and make the best decision he can for he and his family. His family: a definition which may or may not include his teammates.

As has been the case for the past two years, we will certainly be treated to, participate in, and facilitate and instigate countless hours of discussion and gallons of spilled digital ink on what Amare's future holds. Should the Suns pay him whatever it takes to keep him? Where does his "true value" lie? What might the Suns get back in a sign-and-trade if he does opt out and can't agree to terms with the Suns?

All those questions can remain ignored for at least one more day.

Now we simply honor this Phoenix Suns team and their incredible, undeniable will to succeed as a group and to play hard for each other.

It's been an incredible run and for me personally an honor and a learning experience to be around these guys on a regular basis. It is not always the case that professional athletes have more to contribute beyond their competitive talents, but I can unequivocally say that this Phoenix Suns team is comprised of good and decent people. We can be thankful they lived here as our neighbors and be proud of the way they represented our community by wearing the Phoenix Suns uniforms.

For this online community of fellow Suns fans, it has been my privilege to try and act as a bridge of sorts between your fanship and the team you love. I am proud of the work our team has done and without question it would not have been possible without your patronage and participation on this web site.

We've learned a lot this season and I hope we've gotten better at what we do. We value your feedback and will certainly be looking for new and better ways to cover the Phoenix Suns next year.

Thank you, all and good night

(see ya in the morning!)

 

Post game audio:

I didn't cover the Goran/Sasha Slovenian civil disturbance since I figure those details are going to be played out in lots of other places. If you want to hear from Goran directly on the matter, you can listen below. As you might have expected, he handled the entire thing like the pro that he is while Sasha right now is feeling the wrath of Kobe and Phil for a stupid move that could have cost his team the game.

Dragic post game 052910

Nash post game 052910

Gentry post game 052910

Dudley post game 052910

Hill post game 052910

Oh, and I also didn't address the Gentry decision to only play Nash 30 minutes and to leave him on the bench until the 3:26 mark. We will see if we can get Gentry to respond to that tomorrow at the team's final media availability of the season.

Personally, I have a hard time second-guessing since Goran was playing so well and the Suns did win the fourth quarter 29-20. In other words, the Dragic-led Suns performed better than the Nash-led Suns, so why be so quick to put Nash back in?

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