Suns are scorching! (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
It is completely understandable that national media took longer to warm up to the Suns' recent hot streak than the locals did. The Suns, riding a home-heavy schedule for the past month, have won 11 of 14 games and now sit only a half-game out of a playoff spot in the West.
Perfect time for some national love, right? Just as the Suns are rising up the standings, and just before a long road swing that might curb everyone's enthusiasm before April even hits.
Let's enjoy it while we can!
First, the "kick off" story on how the Suns have earned some attention:
National Attention On The Way - ProBasketballTalk.nbcsports.com - Brett Polakoff
Sarver was in good spirits and wanted to joke around a little, and with the way his team has played over the past month or so, his mood was completely understandable.
Just a month ago, a climb back into the race for a spot in the postseason — especially this quickly — seemed like an impossibility. Back on Feb. 17, Phoenix was a dismal 12-19, had lost four straight and five out of six, and looked more like a team planning a trip to the draft lottery than one interested in making a run to the playoffs.
(continue reading for great recount of a moment with the Suns' ellubient owner)
And then there was this from a noted national writer predicting the Suns' imminent demise for going on 5 years now:
Don't Count Out The Suns Just Yet - ESPN/Per Diem - John Hollinger
Lately, the cavalry has come riding in, and you can see it in the results; over their past 15 games the Suns averaged 107.3 points per 100 possessions, which ranked third in the league in that span. (The defense, in contrast, is 13th.)
Gentry got the Suns scorching hot (sorry) in the spring of 2009 and again in 2010, and Phoenix doesn't even need to get that hot to make the postseason. A 12-9 finish should all but cement a playoff spot, and even 11-10 may get 'er done based on my projected 34-win cut line for the eighth spot.
Plenty of work remains to be done given the daunting schedule ahead, but let's take a moment to step back and appreciate that we're even here. The mere fact we're talking about the Suns right now is fairly miraculous given how bad they looked a month ago. Rising from the ashes, indeed.
Let's bask in the glow while we can get it. National writers are taking notice!
And another one...
Suns Turning the Corner on Making NBA Playoffs - USA Today - Michael Falgoust
The Suns have gone from giving up 107.5 points per game in 2008-09 (27th in the NBA) to 105.3 in 2009-10 (26th) to 105.9 last season (29th). This season, they are allowing 97.2 (19th entering Monday).
"It's hard to change a culture that's so used to not playing defense, especially implementing new schemes in a shortened season. We're starting to get it slowly but surely," says Hill, who has defended point guard Chris Paul to 7-foot, long-range shooter Dirk Nowitzki to brute-strong Blake Griffin in the post.
"Alvin put in some new concepts this year. He has made a concerted effort making (defense) a priority. With things like that it takes time. ... Usually you have a chance to work on that in the month of October, training camp, preseason and all of that.
"We were kind of thrown into the fire" because of the lockout, Hill says. "I think we're getting it. It's getting better. It's one of the reasons we're playing well as of late."