The Phoenix Suns are 4-2 in the young season, with their only losses being on the road to San Antonio and Oklahoma City without their best player, Goran Dragic, in the lineup.
After the Spurs beat the Suns in the final minute in true Spursian fashion, color Tony Parker impressed. "A lot of people they really don't believe in Phoenix. I think they're pretty good," he said after the game.
The Suns have the league's 5th-ranked defense in terms of points-per-possession and 12th ranked offense. This from a team universally predicted to finish in the cellar of the West.
"Everybody's counting us out," P.J. Tucker said after Friday's win over Denver. "Everybody."
Before that game, Denver coach Brian Shaw was worried. One of his keys to the game was to take the Phoenix Suns seriously. He explained that sometimes NBA players don't get as keyed up for a team without a marquee player, but that he hoped his team wouldn't fall into that trap.
Denver came out flat, losing the first half by 17 and the fourth quarter by 14 under the snowball called the Phoenix Suns.
"We want people to keep taking us lightly," shooting guard Gerald Green said after the game when told of Shaw's comments. "Go ahead and take us lightly."
To be clear, Shaw wasn't dissing the Suns. On the contrary, he was simply stating his concern that players sometimes pick and choose the games they get most excited for. To no one's surprise, the Phoenix Suns are not yet a team that scares its opponents.
"I think that we can even click even more," Green said of the potential to get better. "It's kind of scary to think what our potential is and I don't think everybody realizes what we really can do. I think that game by game we surprise each other."
P.J. Tucker is one of only four players who went through last season's debacle, so it's instructive to get his take on all of this excitement. Kris and I asked him to compare this season's spirit or "vibe" with last season at this time.
"We had the same high hopes last year," he said with a chuckle. "We thought we were a good team last year and we were going to win. Even the first 20 games when we were losing a little bit, we were still thinking we were going to turn it on. It's still the same, I think."
The Suns started the season 7-8 before losing a ton of games by Christmas and eventually losing their coach in January. Tucker warns that the season is too early to call, but he really likes what he sees from the team.
"There's a lot of focus," he said. "Everybody's coming in, playing hard, playing like it's their last game. I love the group, how we're playing together. Everybody sharing the ball, right there together."
Last week, after the Suns opener, point guard Goran Dragic had the same warning not to get too excited this early.
Coach Hornacek, on the other hand, isn't jaded from last season. He's impressed with the team's resilience and brought up a new buzz word that must make the President of Basketball Operations smile.
"Typically, the young guys get panicked and it gets even worse," Hornacek said of their recovery from getting blitzed in the third quarter on Friday. "But our guys are not doing that and that's a great sign. They stay with it, they stay composed even though we have a young team.
"That's a great sign for the future," he continued. "To see these guys already have it. Usually, it takes a few years where they grab their composure and poise - that's one of Lon Babby's "Five Ps" is poise. If we can continue to do that it makes is easier on us coaches."
The season is still young, but this team just feels a lot more focused and together than at any time a year ago. Win or lose, they have each other's backs.