March 2008 - Posts
Potential superstar center Greg Oden has reportedly been practicing in local gyms, much to the chagrin of his coaches and teammates. Someone from the gym posted details on the Internet - oops! Greg has insisted that he only did light running and some jump shooting, but come on... you have an entire city resting on your shoulders dude; don't F it up.
Portland coach Nate McMillan simply stated, "you can't do that stuff". There's not much more to add to it, but when you have that much money on the table and a kid with that much potential, you don't want him jeopardizing his health for a stupid pickup game.
Oden has been practicing with the Trailblazers on a pretty limited basis and is expected to be a starter next year. With Brandon Roy's recent injury, worrying about Greg Oden's health status is probably the last thing Portland management needs.
I'm usually one to see both sides of things and/or to find rational explanations for everything that happens in life. However, in watching the end of the Suns/Pistons game last night, I found myself yelling at the officials for their poor calls which benefited the Pistons everytime. Of course, the entire Suns team, coach D'Antoni and the announcers all felt the same way... the refs handed the game to Detroit. There is no question.
Despite Detroit's best attempts to hack-a-Shaq late in the game, the refs seemingly looked the other way. On more than one occasion, Shaq had the ball inside and was fouled (hard) and nothing was called. The best example was the instance where Shaq got the rebound and was going back up for a shot. Antonio McDyess slammed his arm across both of Shaq's arms & the ball continued upward (not a block, sorry); Pistons get the ball as it comes down and the Suns lose a valuable possession.
Another incident involved Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups on a drive to the basket. Steve Nash was clearly positioned outside the line to draw the charge, but again, the call went to the Pistons and Billups went to the line. The replays showed Nash at least 6"-12" outside the line and positioned in time.
The refs were not completely at fault, however, as the Suns made two poor plays down the stretch which helped Detroit win the game. Amare Stoudemire took a poor fadeaway shot from the left-key that was completely off-base. There was plenty of time on the clock; it was just a bad shot. The other problem was a 24-second clock violation, with Amare failing to shoot the ball and passing to Shaq for the layup which went up just after the buzzer sounded.
The game was strong throughout with many lead changes and playoff-style basketball. The loss ended the Suns winning streak at 7 and certainly doesn't help their chances of catching the Lakers in the Pacific Division; the Lakers beat Golden State in OT.
The Suns will face the Celtics and 76ers, and neither game is a gimme or guaranteed win. The 76ers came back from 18 down against the C's to move over .500 on the year and solidified themselves as a playoff team.
The jury is still out on the Suns' trade for Shaq, but the team is sure trying to show everyone that they're better sans trade. Phoenix won it's 7th straight game last night, this one against the Houston Rockets, who have struggled since reeling off 22 straight wins.
Amare Stoudemire played fabulous, finishing w/ 38 pts and 13 rbs in the win. What was more amazing, was Amare setting a franchise record by hitting 20 of 20 free throws in the game. STAT credits the improvements in shooting to his extra practice and shooting drills. It's pleasing to see a superstar continually working to improve on a weakness (see MJ & Kobe for examples).
Shaq also had a strong game for the Suns, although he probably played too many minutes (35) in the win. O'Neal finished w/ 23 pts and also pulled down 13 rebounds in the Suns 7th straight victory.
Phoenix is easily the hottest team in the league, but they have tough road trip coming up. With games against Boston and Detroit, the Suns will certainly be tested. We might have a better idea about how they might enter the playoffs (strong vs. weak) after the road trip.
With the recent 7 game winning streak, the Suns have crawled back up to the 3rd seed in the ultra-competitive Western Conference playoff race.
Guard Raja Bell missed the game due to a sprained ankle, which he suffered in the previous Suns game.
Phoenix shot 76% in the first half.
Grant Hill led the Suns w/ 10 assists, but only scored 2 pts.
Steve Nash played well, but only finished w/ 5 assists while committing 6 turnovers...when's the last time that happened?
I've been super busy lately, moving into a new house, cleaning an old apartment, and traveling to Vegas for the Nascar race a couple weeks ago. For regular readers, I apologize that I haven't been covering the team as much lately... and there's a lot going on for sure.
The Phoenix Suns have been making news lately; and it's not for their poor play this time. After a comeback victory over the hated Spurs, the Suns have reeled off two additional wins over the Grizzlies & Warriors, respectively. The team is still struggling to find it's identity, but does seem a little closer to getting there. The Suns were down double digits late in the game, but their defense & solid shooting allowed them to comeback & get the tough win. The game against the Grizzlies was a no-brainer... former Suns' coach Mark Ivaroni (now head coach of Memphis) has his hands full; the Grizzlies cannot run & score like the Suns.
Last night's game against the Warriors was another test for Phoenix and it looked like a tough battle almost until the end. Shaq was in foul trouble early, so he didn't play much, but he didn't really fit into the style of play anyway. Steve Nash had a strong 2nd half to propel the Suns to victory - Amare also had another solid game to help the Suns win.
The Suns are currently sitting 6th in the crowded Western Conference playoff standings, but they're within 1-2 games of everyone except the conference-leading Lakers so anything can happen. Putting a loss on both the Spurs and Warriors certainly helped to keep the Suns in the playoff race, but they'll have to keep it up throughout the rest of the season; there is no room for mistakes or "we had the win, but...".
The MVP race is pretty tight this year, although the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and the Cavs' Lebron James are the clear front-runners. Both are playing at a high level, but the Lakers' record amidst the toughest conference could enable him to receive his 1st MVP award. Arguments can also be made or Chris Paul, Kevin Garnett, Amare Stoudemire and Dwight Howard, but Kobe & Lebron are at a slightly higher level.
Several players who have been injured for awhile are starting to come back into the fray... the Wizards got Caron Butler back in the lineup last night & beat the Cavs, and Gilbert Arenas is practicing in preparation for a playoff run (doesn't help fantasy stats.. doh!)... the Lakers' aren't rushing Andrew Bynum, but he has begun testing his knee... #1 draft pick Greg Oden participated in his first Blazers practice this week.