Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Suns 107, Nuggets 105

by John Marshall / Associated Press, from Foxsports.com
With that kind of effort, it's no wonder the Phoenix Suns are off to the best start in franchise history.

Stoudemire had 32 points and nine rebounds, and Richardson tipped in a putback attempt at the buzzer to help the Suns extend their winning streak to nine games with a 107-105 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.

"The game was like 'Hamlet.' It was a suspense-thriller and I killed them," Richardson said.

It's no surprise. Phoenix has been doing it all season.

One of the NBA's worst teams a year ago, the Suns have become one of the best this season with balanced scoring and a never-give-up attitude.

Richardson finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, Steve Nash added 15 points and 10 assists and Phoenix shot 53 percent for its second nine-game winning streak this season. The Suns have won 18 of 19 and eight straight on the road, one short of the team record.

And at 22-3, the Suns are off to the NBA's best start since Dallas had the same record with Nash at the point in 2002. Not bad for a team that didn't get its 22nd win until March 15 last year.

"Phoenix is 22-3 for a reason," Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "They are a very good team."

The Nuggets played without starters Carmelo Anthony and Marcus Camby, though it didn't appear to affect them offensively.

Andre Miller was aggressive from the start, finishing with 23 points and 11 assists, and Kenyon Martin bulled his way to 22 points and 11 rebounds. Nene did his part in place of Camby with 19 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, and Bryon Russell had 14 points for Denver, which shot 51 percent.

Where the Nuggets had trouble was on defense.

Without Camby there to erase shots, Denver gave the Suns plenty of free runs down the lane and allowed 56 points in the paint in losing for the fifth time in six games.

"The effort was good," Bzdelik said. "Short-handed, they battled the hottest team in the league and came up short. We just ran out of time, plain and simple."

The game was a shootout from the start, with little defense and plenty of scoring.

Phoenix went up 103-101 on Nash's left-handed runner with 49 seconds left, but Denver quickly answered with Martin's running hook to tie it. The Suns went back up with 22 seconds left when the Nuggets doubled Nash and left Stoudemire wide open for a two-handed dunk down the lane.

Denver tied it with Martin's hard drive, but couldn't keep the Suns off the boards on the other end. Nene blocked Richardson's first shot along the baseline, then Stoudemire was long on a two-handed tip. Richardson bounced back into the play between two Nuggets defenders and got his left hand on the ball, tipping it in just before the buzzer sounded.

"I knew it was good, because when I came back down, the light was still off," said Richardson, who was mobbed by teammates after the shot. "That's why I went so crazy."

Anthony missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle, then Camby was a last-minute scratch because of bronchitis.

Denver is at its best when it works the ball around for open shots, and the Nuggets had it going in the first half, using crisp passes for open jumpers and cuts down the lane. The Nuggets shot 12-of-20 in the first quarter and only cooled slightly in the second, shooting 50 percent in the first half to lead 54-53.

But Camby's absence was clearly noticeable on the other end.

Phoenix had no trouble getting to the rim without Denver's best defensive player in the paint, getting three of its first four baskets on open drives and scoring 30 of its first-half points in the lane to shoot 23-of-39.

"We took advantage of the situation that they were out," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni. "Lucky for us, bad for them." the post. "That is a travel. Even in the holiday season that's a travel," Outlaw said. ... Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle attended the game. ... Denver has allowed 100 points in seven of its past nine games and 56 points in the lane in five of six.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Can Suns Win 60 Games This Year?

By Mike Tulumello, East Valley Tribune, from NBA.com
Good NBA teams win 50 games, according to the league's age-old conventional wisdom.

Great teams win 60.

The Suns (14-3) have established they're awfully good, in particular by running up an 8-1 road record.

But can they be great? Can they win 60?

Since 1980, an average of 1.5 teams per season have won 60 games. They range from a high of four teams in 1997-98 to zero in 2000-01.

As a franchise, in 36 seasons, the Suns have accomplished this only once: They went 62-20 in 1992-93 as the prelude to their dramatic run to the NBA Finals.

A couple of present-day Suns approached this question as if giving a real answer would result in the club having to absorb some sort of hex or curse.

Said Shawn Marion, "I don't want to jump ahead like that and put expectations on us. "It's hard enough to win 50 games."

Said Quentin Richardson, "I don't want to put a number on it. But when we play our game, we can beat every team." Coach Mike D'Antoni seemed cautious about such a suggestion, saying, "That's a scary thought.

"We're definitely going to shoot for it . . . We have a legitimate chance to win every game we play.

"But 60 is a lot of games."

But Casey Jacobsen took a different tack, saying, "Why not?”

"We've shown we're a dangerous team that can score a lot of points and play solid defense at times. "What's impressive is how we've played on the road. Last year, we were absolutely miserable on the road. "That's the difference between really good teams and teams that win 45 games. Those extra 10 or 15 games on the road are the challenges."

Said Jacobsen, "To play with so much confidence that you expect to win that many games . . . There's nothing wrong with that."

Thinking along the same lines is Jake Voskuhl, who compared the Suns to the NFL's Indianapolis Colts.

"They may not be a perfect team, but not many teams can score 50 points." In the NBA, Voskuhl said, "Not every team can score 120 points (which the Suns have done three times) . . . but when you put four scorers around Steve Nash. . . ."

Nash termed 60 wins "a long shot," and said that, "no matter what it looks like now," somewhere along the way the Suns are bound to hit rough spots.

"We're a young team, a new group," he pointed out. To win 60, the Suns must continue to make hay out of a soft portion of their schedule this month.

Two exceptions are Wednesday, when the Suns visit the Los Angeles Lakers, and then on Dec. 28 at San Antonio.

The Suns and Spurs could own the league's best records by that point, which would give them a fair shot at winning 60.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Marion Named NBA Western Conference Player of the Week

from NBA.com

For the second week in a row, a Suns player was named NBA Western Conference Player of the Week as Shawn Marion took the honor for November 22-28 after leading the Suns to a perfect 3-0 week and extending the NBA's longest active winning streak to seven games.

Marion averaged 25.7 points, 14.3 rebounds and 1.67 blocks in home victories over Chicago, Milwaukee and New Orleans last week. "The Matrix" started the week with 21 points and a season-high 16 boards vs. Chicago on Nov. 22 and followed that up with a team-high 23 points and 12 rebounds vs. Milwaukee on Nov. 24. He capped the week with game highs of 33 points and 15 rebounds vs. the Hornets on Nov. 26. It was his most points scored in over two seasons (33 vs. Denver, 4/1/03).

This is the fourth career NBA Player of the Week award for Marion, who won the weekly honor on April 13, 2003, March 31, 2002 and Feb. 26, 2001.

Marion is averaging 20.3 points, a career-best 12.3 rebounds (3rd in the NBA), 2.00 blocks and 1.62 steals for the 11-2 Suns, who are off to their best start since 1980-81 (14-2). He ranks third in the league with 10 double-doubles and has nine in the last 10 games, including five straight. Marion has also grabbed 12 or more rebounds in nine of his last 10 games.

Last week Suns forward Amaré Stoudemire was named the NBA Western Conference Player of the Week for November 15-21.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Miller’s Late Shot Carries Kings

from NFL.com
Brad Miller hit a 20-foot jumper with 25 seconds remaining to give the Sacramento Kings their first road win of the season, a 113-111 triumph over the Phoenix Suns.

Sacramento held a 100-87 lead with eight minutes left before Steve Nash sparked a comeback by Phoenix. He sank consecutive baskets to bring the Suns within 110-109 with 44 seconds left.

Miller's bucket gave the Kings a 112-109 edge. After a pair of free throws by Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire, Doug Christie missed 1-of-2 from the foul line, giving Phoenix one last opportunity to win.

The Suns did not call their last timeout and raced upcourt, only to have Shawn Marion miss a leaner in the lane and Joe Johnson miss an open 13-footer.

"I had some good looks. It just wasn't going in," Marion said. "It just happens like that sometimes. They don't always go in."

Chris Webber had a season-high 28 points and 10 rebounds, Peja Stojakovic scored a season-high 23 points and Mike Bibby added 20 for the Kings, who had lost their first four road games.

"Its really big because we have about 12 days at home," Webber said "I think we have an unfair record, But everyone could say that. We opened three arenas - Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. So it's good for us to get a road win."

"They are a really tough team to guard," Kings coach Rick Adelman said "But we played so much better offensively tonight than we have been. They made their run like teams at home are going to make runs at you."

There were 19 lead changes before the Kings went on a 10-0 run to open a 94-82 lead with 10:41 remaining.

"The difference compared to our previous games was patience and energy for all 48 minutes," Stojakovic said. "We know we'd have to accomplish that against this team, running the floor, taking care of the transition defense."

Stoudemire and Nash scored 29 points apiece and Marion added 14 and 15 rebounds for the Suns, who have lost two in a row following a 4-0 start. Phoenix has lost 12 of its last 17 meetings with Sacramento.

"We made a lot of good decisions and plays down the stretch offensively to get back in the game," Nash said. "We lost to a good team. They made us pay offensively and we certainly didn't get many bounces, either."

Monday, November 01, 2004

Suns Scorch Kings in Pre-Season Finale

From ESPN.com, ESPN Ticker

SACRAMENTO, California (Ticker) -- Quentin Richardson and the Phoenix Suns put an exclamation point on an outstanding preseason.

Richardson had five 3-pointers and scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half to help Phoenix to a 124-96 victory over the Sacramento Kings in the preseason finale for both teams.

With the Suns trailing 26-25 late in the first quarter, Richardson hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions and scored 10 straight points during a 12-0 run, which was capped with a driving layup by Leandro Barbosa 1:09 into the second quarter.

Richardson, who was signed as a free agent in the offseason, has averaged 15.8 points during the preseason.

Phoenix already held a 41-32 lead when Amare Stoudemire's running hook shot 2:05 later started a 15-3 run. Stoudemire scored eight of his 19 points during the run and Casey Jacobsen hit a 3-pointer to end the outburst as the Suns outscored Sacramento 43-20 in the second quarter.

Joe Johnson had 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists and Shawn Marion added 18 points and nine boards for the Suns, who outrebounded Sacramento, 53-23.

Phoenix (7-1), which opens the regular season at home against Atlanta on Wednesday, was 30-of-43 from the floor in the first half and scored over 100 points for the seventh time in the preseason.

Predrag Stojakovic scored 21 points and Darius Songaila added 15 for Sacramento, which lost four of its final five preseason games and finished at 2-6.

Matt Barnes and Mike Bibby each scored 12 points for the Kings, who visit Dallas for the season opener on Tuesday


Monday, October 25, 2004

One-on-One with Yuta Tabuse

By Masayoshi Niwa, NBA.com/Japan

---- How have you been spending your days since when you arrived here in early September?
Tabuse : I was just working out with some of my teammates in the team practice facility in Phoenix.

---- Then the Rookie Transition Program in New York?
Tabuse : Yes, a month has past since then.

---- It was your birthday yesterday. Any special celebrations?
Tabuse : Not really, but during the team dinner, they got a cake and sang "Happy Birthday" for me (laughs).

---- Was that to surprise you?
Tabuse : No, I don't think so. I don't think they knew about my birthday, but Coach D'Antoni mentioned it during dinner.

---- Speaking of the coach, he is a cheerful guy?
Tabuse : He is really friendly, and I especially like the way he separates hard practices and fun times. I like those types of people, and actually, the whole team is like that.

---- He also likes the up-tempo style of basketball?
Tabuse : Yes, that's right. Otherwise, he would not pick up a player like me, and that makes me think that I want to contribute as much as I can.

---- Assuming that you know how things go now, do you think that you were able to enter camp smoother so far than last year?
Tabuse : Yes and I also feel that I was lucky, because, for example, I already know the set offenses since I have been playing on the Suns from the summer league. Now, it's like a review for me.

---- In a way, you are on the same starting line as last year. Is there something that you see now but could not see last year?
Tabuse : That would be...the idea of how I could make full use of my skills. Last year, my first priority was to make the team, and my mind might have been set solely on "competing against someone". This year, however, my mindset is not like that, and instead of just competing against someone, in some pats of the game I try to learn from the strengths of the other three point guards, and in another part I try to play against them with my strength of my game. That's not the approach of one against one, but the mentality of how I could function better in the team, and how I could make full use of my abilities... That's the difference.

---- Challenge, in a way, is a risk. Ichiro of the Seattle Mariners had said something like this about challenge, but how do you consider your challenge as?
Tabuse : I am far from where Ichiro-san stands. But as a Japanese athlete playing in the United States, we share the similar situations, and in that way the fact that I am in the similar situation as him is a big challenge for me...

---- ¡½So you think there are basically no differences in challenges, but people just have their own hurdles to overcome?
Tabuse : Right, but as for the Japanese baseball players succeeding in the Major League, they are here because the teams want them. On the other hand, I need to first show them my skills and have them recognize me, and that is a big difference. And comparing us is another issue. Well, this year they decided to keep me after watching me play in the summer league, and that's an honor as well as a source of confidence for me...Yeah, I will try and find a way to stay on this team.

---- Mentally and physically, are you playing now with intentions of pushing yourself to the limit?
Tabuse : No, not really. I am more relaxed because I have the experiences from last year. Of course, I am doing the things that I am capable of doing on the court everyday with full effort, but I am not that caught up. Yesterday, one of the things that Steve Nash told me was, I first need to get used to playing at this level. He told me that the most important thing for me right now is to adjust to this level of basketball. He also advised me to play without being afraid of making mistakes, and I totally agreed.

---- Are you the type of player who uses positive energy as a boost to your motivation? Or the opposite? For example, are you able to convert a negative remark into a positive energy?
Tabuse : Well, I'm the type who relies on the efforts and experiences, so I try not to expect too much from anything more than that, even though those "positives" might come into effect somewhere. I just think about doing what I have been doing, and that is to play hard.

---- So, experience is what is carrying you?
Tabuse : Well, yes. I focus more on the process, not the result or the outcome. I look to fulfill each day with improvement, not just satisfaction. This way, I don't think I will regret even if the results don't turn out to be the way I want them to be, because I know that what I had done is not wrong. The thing I hate the most is to regret, and so for me, it's not the results that counts.

---- Isn't that something that is hard to do without believing in yourself?
Tabuse : Yes, if I wanted to goof off, I could, and what I do is a problem of my own. But looking at the efforts of the starting players, they stay until the last minute to practice their shooting, and the fact that I too am working hard with those players helps me gain more confidence. I believe that it's the little efforts that count in games.

---- Is that a part of your message to the kids who play basketball?
Tabuse : Partly yes, but what I really want to say as my message is that playing basketball is not just about coming to the United States, and I don't want the kids to misunderstand that "if you come here, things will turn out fine somehow". Speaking from my experience, I had learned many important things through playing in Japan which I still treasure, and I feel proud of that. Some things can be learned as well as anywhere in Japan, for example, fundamentals of greeting people. It is the same with basketball. I think that the fundamentals of the game are the most important aspects that are taught in elementary to high school. As a matter of fact, I use those fundamentals to the fullest now, and those things are the aspects of the game that I would like to teach and pass along.

---- You are an active player now, but at the same time you are going to have to be the one to carry the future of Japanese basketball. When you think about this, do you have anything in mind that you would like to do in return to Japan for the support? For example, Nash saved a wandering junior basketball league in Vancouver by becoming its sponsor after the owning team, the Vancouver Grizzlies, moved to Memphis.
Tabuse : Well, that's if I get to that level... Right now, I don't really think about it since my goal is to stay on this team, but when I have some room to think about it in the future, I would like to teach and do things like that. One thing I always think about is to try to be the one who could give the kids dreams and hopes. As a child myself, I always went to watch game of players who I looked up to, and whenever they came to talk to me, I was more than happy. Now, I really hope that I could do and be the same to the kids. I would really love to do whatever I can to give hopes and courage to the young basketball dreamers in Japan, and hopefully that will help make basketball become a major sport in my home country.

---- That's exactly where the significance is. Right now, people in Japan are starting to direct attention to basketball through one individual, named Yuta Tabuse. This may result in expanding the base of basketball culture in Japan.
Tabuse : Yes, I also value these things too. Right now, I am the only one who is in this position (getting a shot at the NBA), and therefore I am the only one who is able to experience this whole thing. I truly wish for many others to be able have this precious experience, and in that way, I really want to contribute.

---- Was there a specific moment when the dream of wanting to be an NBA player turned into some kind of an impulse within you that made you actually aim for it, some form of confidence that you can do it, just like a glimmer of light in the darkness?
Tabuse : That would be the moment when I changed my thought after finishing the first season with Toyota (a team in the Japan Basketball League). From that moment on, I said to myself that I will not be allowed to turn back after starting my challenge, and I didn't want to turn back. Even though I had participated in the Hoop Summit and others after high school, making the NBA was still a dream, and I had a feeling somewhere in my mind that I could not make it. But after playing for Toyota for a year, I thought about it a lot, and that was the moment that decided that I really want to stick to the NBA, and I will not turn back.

---- Was there any feelings of fear?
Tabuse : No, not at all. I felt like I had nothing to lose. And that was why I was able to just look ahead and keep my head up. I had nothing to carry on my shoulders, and therefore I could stay very positive about it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

one day

One day in the near future, there will be a Phoenix Suns weblog here. I promise.