Steve Nash was able to accomplish plenty with the Mavs, but it wasn’t until he landed in Phoenix that his particular talents were in full effect. The Seven Seconds or Less system is as much Nash’s as it is Mike D’Antoni’s, and though Pringles is coaching in the Garden these days (where the grass isn’t quite greener), Alvin Gentry has made it his mission to return the Suns to their roots. Watching Phoenix this season has been a treat, and even though having a competitive Suns team isn’t great news for the Mavs in terms of the playoff race, it’s terrific that Dallas again has another foil. Beyond that, it’s simply brilliant that the most energizing and mesmerizing offensive system of recent history has found its rightful home. This is Phoenix Suns basketball in its purest form, which is not only a brilliant display on the hardwood, but the truest equivalent of life itself in the NBA:
Mike D’Antoni may not have been a prophet, but he was certainly a philosopher. The trademark of D’Antoni’s Suns was always their mortality, and I think that legacy has lived on through this current team. The Seven Seconds or Less squads wear (or wore) their vulnerabilities on their sleeve, but their mortality comes as much from leading a particularly vulnerable existence as it does from finding exuberance in it. These teams, in all of their fast-breaking splendor and glory, know how to live. They know how to play a bit, too, but the defining legacy of the Mike D’Antoni era in Phoenix (which lives on today) should be the Suns’ artful display of basketball as life.
Maybe the hustle and the bustle of the Suns doesn’t quite fit your living style, but who could possibly claim that the exaggerated in-game highs and lows of the Suns — the 20-point lead built and swallowed by a 5-25 run, the 3-point barrages followed by defensive letdowns — aren’t basketball’s most fitting equivalent of life on the outside? It’s not about the 9-5 grind, and it’s not necessarily about winning all the time; the Suns’ existence is predicated on winning more than you lose, embracing who you are, playing by your own rules, learning to live through the ups and downs, and remembering that the line between work and play doesn’t have to be crystal clear. They work hard, they score points, and they play basketball like it’s a game worth playing. They may not have the talent of the Lakers or the convention of the Spurs, but this is a team of hard workers and ball players with a plan. I don’t know if that plan means anything in the Western Conference playoff picture this season, and in the grand scheme of things I’m not sure it matters all that much. If there were ever a solid case to be made against the championship being the end-all of athletic conquests, it would have to be the Suns, who may have discovered along the way to 60-win seasons and the Conference Finals that the journey is perhaps the worthier part.
Follow the yellow brick road over to Hardwood Paroxysm to read my whole piece on the Suns vis a vis life.
Tip-off in Dallas at 7:30 CST.