It’s been a long time since I put forth any words for you fine people to read and criticize. There have been things I wanted to say, but I couldn’t expand the ideas into anything substantial enough to read. I thought about just putting them out there as random thoughts, but ultimately decided against it. But today, I end my long hiatus and I do it with a bang. I didn’t offer any predictions about who would win postseason awards or who would beat whom in the Playoffs. To make up for it, I’ll speak the unspeakable. Or type the untypable, if you’re being really technical about it.
The Phoenix Suns are going to win the NBA title this year. There, I said it. Got something to say about it? Do you disagree? If you use your brain, you probably do.
The things needed to win a championship are usually defense, depth and luck. A bounce of the ball this way or that way, a defense that borders on maniacal, a bench that produces when it matters most; you usually have to have at least two of those things to be crowned World Champions. The Suns probably have none. Possibly luck, but likely not. So why am I so certain that they’ll be the last team standing?
I don’t know. Call it a hunch.
The team plays some unorthodox basketball. Running and gunning, wheeling and dealing, slashing and dashing, shooting and shooting and shooting some more. It’s entertaining, to say the least. People like to see scores in the 115-point range, especially at this time of year. Steve Nash, who most feel stole the MVP trophy while it was in a bag on a train car, Ocean’s Twelve-style, pushes the ball up the floor, doesn’t stop at the free throw line as all young point guards are taught, leaves his feet when he decides to pass, and more often than not finds the open man. This open man is often Shawn Marion, Boris Diaw, Raja Bell, Tim Thomas (!), or an assortment of other players that you may not have heard of. These open men usually find a way to put the ball in the basket or they pass to someone else who does so. Then they run to the other end of the floor so that they can take the ball out of the opposing team’s basket or perhaps catch the ball as it bounces off the rim. Then they repeat the same process at breakneck speed, with a six-second possession not being out of the ordinary. Not in many, many years has such a strategy worked in the Playoffs, certainly not to the tune of a championship. This is why it’s going to work.
Teams know that the road to the finals goes through the post. Look at the last few champions. The Spurs have Tim Duncan. The Lakers had Shaq. The Bulls posted up Jordan and Pippen quite often. The Rockets had Olajuwon. Even the most recent Pistons had a Defensive Player of the Year patrolling the paint, even if he couldn’t throw it in the ocean. The Suns start Diaw at center and Marion at the four. Both are probably best suited to playing the small forward position. Thomas is the tallest player getting consistent playing time and we know how much of a joke that is. I haven’t seen the team run a post up play in months, not with Amaré Stoudemire on the bench in his younger brother’s suits. The lack of big men results in rebounding disadvantages and an abundance of jump shots. No matter. They’ll still be spraying champagne on each other in late June.
How? Simple: Tempo. Teams aren’t used to running suicides in the middle of a game. Guards can do it, but their decision-making suffers and they get sucked into playing the way the Suns want to play. Bigs can’t run like that and check someone on the perimeter; it’s just not natural for them. To beat the Suns you have to impose your will on them or beat them at their own game. The latter is impossible to do in a seven-game series. The former is much easier said than done and hasn’t really worked for anyone consistently.
Let’s look at the remaining teams in the hunt. Dallas will probably be suckered into playing like the Suns and trying to outscore them. They’ve adopted a defensive philosophy this year, but old habits die hard. If you wave a bottle of Grey Goose in front of an alcoholic’s face for 48 minutes, you have a pretty good chance of getting them to take a swig or two. The Heat don’t have the necessary offensive firepower to keep up. Along with that, Shaq would be largely useless against them. The games would be played up-tempo and on the perimeter, not his strong points. The Pistons stand the best chance with their strong rebounding and defense, but I don’t have any confidence in their bench. And if you run like the Suns make you run, you are going to need productivity from your subs.
So there you have it. The Phoenix Suns, those of no defense and even less conscience when hoisting shots from anywhere on the court, will be holding the Larry O’Brien trophy aloft, admonishing those who didn’t believe that they were capable of winning the way they win when it matters most. I would say that we could just skip the games and present them with their hardware now, but I’m in no hurry to have baseball as the only sporting event available for viewing every day.
And I could be wrong, but I doubt that I am. We can make a bet on it. If I’m wrong, I’ll take another extended vacation. If I’m right, all of you have to petition the HoopsVibe powers that be for a 50% raise on my behalf. Fair enough? Are you willing enough to continue doubting Nash and the Suns to take that bet?
Yeah, that’s exactly how they like it.
– Chris Sells