Suns Succeeding in Olympic Qualifying (Las Vegas)
Two Phoenix Suns players are helping their respective national teams reach the 2008 Olympics, but it would appear that one of them is on the fast track, while the other is starting to struggle.
Amare Stoudemire (USA)
The Suns' Amare Stoudemire is helping Team USA advance to the finals in the Las Vegas qualifying tournament for the 2008 Olympics. While not a starter, Amare is putting in solid minutes at Center and Power Forward for the US squad.
I've been trying to watch the games and Amare has been trying to display the skills he's been working on during the summer (mostly his 3-pt shot - yes, 3-pt shot). He's been overly aggressive on defense and at times has allowed his man to beat him to the basket for an easy score. Fortunately, the USA team is so strong, these mistakes really don't matter and don't show up in the box scores (all W's so far). When he rejoins the Suns in October, I only hope that he has a better handle on his defense and doesn't allow his man to score so easily. Orlando Magic stud Dwight Howard has been getting the starts for Team USA, so that should tell you something about Amare's production. No knock on Amare, but Howard's rebounding and defense are better than STAT's at this time; Amare's offense is head & shoulders above Howard (however).
Leandro Barbosa (Brazil)
In what's really a surprise around NBA circles, Suns' 6th man Leandro Barbosa has emerged as the star of the Las Vegas Olympic qualifying. Barbosa has led the tournament in scoring and was playing extremely well until he ran into the buzz-saw that is the USA squad. Leandro struggled to score w/ the USA's best defensive players hounding him all game. In his follow-up game, they lost as well, but they did win Tuesday night's game against Mexico. In their latest game against the other (qualifying) favorite, Argentina, Brazil lost in overtime.
We can only assume that Leandro Barbosa will return to Suns camp in great shape and an even better player than when last year's playoff debacle ended. Things are looking great for Barbosa and the Suns.
Other Suns News
Raja Bell was suppose to play for the Virgin Islands, but his recent knee surgery kept him out of the tournament. Phoenix guard Steve Nash was called upon by team Canada, but he declined to play. There's no doubt that Nash feels this is the Suns' year to win the NBA championship and they'll need all of his energy to get there.