Have you ever watched a movie trailer and noticed the reviews that they include? Usually they’re flowery, non-specific and overly optimistic.
“Amazing” ~ Says some guy from a website you’ve never heard of.
That’s how the comments from every media day and training camp in the NBA come off as well. They feel prescriptive, sometimes rehearsed and pollyannic. And who can blame players and coaches for it? It’s the one time that everyone in the NBA is even. No records, no stats just 15+ guys trying to build something special and be the last team standing.
While you can’t hold it against a team, even the Phoenix Suns who finished with the worst record in the league last season, it does make it challenging to uncover what has real meaning and what will just make a slightly funny tweet three years from now when Freezing Cold Takes resurfaces it.
That’s why I’m here to help. I’ve been through the ringer — no, not the Bill Simmons site — more than a few times and have asked plenty of the questions that were responded to with a cliche answer. I know the BS from what’s worthy of the #BSoftheSuns. So, without further ado, here are three things that have stood out about the 2018-19 Suns so far.
Deandre Ayton Not Shaq or Dwight
This observation has nothing to do with on the court play, the way they look in a uniform, height, wingspan or anything else measurable. This simply has to do with a few answers the No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton gave on media day.
Since being selected by the Suns, the byproduct of #TheTimeline has been having some good natured fun on social media with the man who refers to himself as #TheProcess. It all came to a “head”, as much as manufactured Twitter beef can, during Philadelphia 76ers media day last week. That’s when All-Star center Joel Embiid said, when asked about Ayton, “Oh my god. He’s about to get his ass kicked this year.”
It came as no surprise that one of the first things the center out of Arizona was asked when he took the podium at media at Talking Stick Resort Arena was his reaction to the comment. Unlike many probably expected, he didn’t take the bait.
“I can’t really say anything,” said Ayton calmly. “I haven’t put the ball in the hoop (in an NBA game). The only thing I could is probably let my game talk and compete.”
It showed a maturity that not everyone expected from Ayton. As a guy known for his big, jovial and sometimes split personality, it would have been extremely easy for him, in the vein of Shaq and Dwight Howard, to fire back at Embiid. The war of words could have continued, made national headlines and overshadowed everything else at media day thanks to the 24-hour news cycle desire for the salacious. Instead his restraint showed there may be more to this young man than we initially expected that will go a long way to his success in year one.
That doesn’t mean that the Embiid-Ayton rivalry is dead, especially with the Suns announcing that the rookie’s bobblehead night will come during Embiid’s lone visit to Phoenix — but it is simply on hold until it can be decided on the court. Or until one of them decides to tweet or post something on Instagram.
The Ryan Anderson Revival is Worth Rooting For
“This is the beautiful thing for me,” Ryan Anderson said with a noticeable smile as he met the media on Monday. “I’m really happy to be here. We’re building a culture of winning, a future with this group. I’m happy to be a part of that. I just want to help in the best way I can.”
How refreshing is that quote? After numerous years and dozens of stories about how the Suns as a franchise had alienated players, one who was recently acquired can’t hide his joy about being in the Valley. I repeat. A Suns player can’t hide his joy about being in Phoenix.
While many people wrote Anderson off as a shell of his former self when the trade was made, his renewed enthusiasm and the belief that coach Igor Kokoskov has in him have me excited. If you listen to the Solar Panel or have read this column, you know I haven’t been accused of being an optimist over the last few years. My not so Suns-y disposition is a byproduct of years of losing and detoxing from having been paid to be positive about the organization. That said, I can’t help but find myself rooting for Anderson’s revival.
If you haven’t read Sports Illustrated’s piece, Love, Loss and Survival (https://www.si.com/vault/2014/11/17/106668410/love-loss-and-survival), stop what you’re doing — after this article of course — and go read it. It chronicles Anderson’s struggle after his girlfriend committed suicide, how basketball was his safe haven and how it was taken away by a gruesome injury. I don’t care what you think about his $21 million price tag or how he didn’t get on the court during last year’s playoff run in Houston. When you understand the guy who is Ryan Anderson and why being in Phoenix means something to him, you can’t help but root for him and hope he’s the answer at power forward for this team for the time being.
Count me in as a full fledged, dues paying, card carrying member of the Anderson fan club.
Nothing Can Stop Devin Booker. Not Opposing Defenses or Injury
Devin Booker working on left-handed dishes to the corners and on alley-oops after practice. pic.twitter.com/M280gniKLM— Evan Sidery (@esidery) September 25, 2018
Out six weeks due to hand surgery? Depends on what your definition of “out” is. For Devin Booker it means that you won’t waste training camp with a new coach. You’ll just get creative. Throughout the first few days of camp the fourth year guard has been seen working out in drills using his left hand. From behind the back passes, to floaters and lobs, the $158 million man isn’t letting the fact that he can’t use his dominant hand stop him.
It’s the kind of thing that shows why he’s the real deal and destined for bigger things in the game. Despite his youth, he’s setting the tone for his team making it clear there are no off days no matter what ails you.