The men above have a combined age of 73, comfortably past pensionable in any nation on this earth, and well past the time when most sportsmen have become figureheads or locker room guys or whatever. Instead this Suns team is two nil up over the NBA’s answer to the Canterbury Crusaders (© Justin Warren), rendering all cheap jokes irrelevant. This Suns team, two years post-D’Antoni and at least three since they should have ceased to be relevant, are suddenly the most logical challenger to the Lakers repeating in the West.
I downloaded the game from bt.davka, only after being driven mental by my non-functional league pass subscription. Once again, do not buy that product. Stay on the illegal buzz. But anyway, something about the way the Suns play the game makes me think they might have the goods to stop the three bad old bears of the Lakers wreaking their havoc. Why? Well with the Suns pick-and-roll you can’t really double their one unstoppable inside force; Stoudemire’s both more versatile and more brutal than Boozer in this offense, while the Jazz are left neutered by the absence of Okur. That dude Koufos is more rooted than the Greek economy at this point; his ability to even catch a basketball, let alone put it in the hoop, is questionable.
But the Suns play the kind of endlessly giving basketball that Phil Jackson would not only approve of (disclosure: I’m 176 pages into Sacred Hoops right now), but also find difficult to defend with his personnel. Nash seems endlessly creative and terrifyingly unpredictable right now, with Hill metronomically reliable and J-Rich deeply invested in their success – witness his head-slapping routine after a missed lay-up when the game was already all but gone.
But it’s the patience and the three point shooting which elevates them so terrifically. Channing Frye (surely the poshest name in hoops) and J-Rich combined for eight of the Suns nine threes, but with Dudley and Nash out there and threatening the prospect of them slinging a bunch of points out in a minute is always there brooding in their play, and when it inevitably comes even savvy veterans like the Spurs find it tough not to go to pieces.
In the end they won through pretty handily, though the game was close most of the way. The coolest thing about it was the Los Suns jerseys, and the sense that underneath the playoff intensity this was sport-as-political-activism, a sentiment echoed by the 3,000 strong march through the city outside. For an owner to take a stand like that against a politically popular (at least within the state) law which just happens to demonise vast swatches of the populace is beyond commendable, and while it will have cost him some ignoble fans, part of me thinks that the higher calling it implies may yet see this team progress further in this tournament than they might otherwise have proved capable.
That still doesn’t mean they can beat the shrewdness of the Lakers, or the machine-like qualities of the best Eastern teams. But thanks to their wonderfully team-centric basketball and the small yet potent political gesturing, they’re the team in my heart from here till they fall.