Skip to content

National attention on the way for a Suns team that’s earned it in recent weeks

Mar 19, 2012, 8:55 AM EDT

nash-shannon-jared-roblin

Suns owner Robert Sarver made a rare appearance at Alvin Gentry’s pre-game media session before Sunday night’s game against the Rockets, which the head coach traditionally holds in a very relaxed atmosphere in his office.

Sarver was in good spirits and wanted to joke around a little, and with the way his team has played over the past month or so, his mood was completely understandable.

Curious to know the various media outlets that were there in attendance, Sarver walked the medium-sized room, looking at the credentials hanging around the necks of the assembled press, taking them in his hand and reading them aloud.

When he got to mine, since I was one of the few people in the room representing national coverage, Sarver decided to ask some questions. He was very good-natured while grilling me, and there were plenty of laughs while this was going on. But he wanted some answers.

“NBC. How come you don’t show us on anything,” he challenged.

I reminded him I’m here for just about every home game.

“I know. But nationally, nothing. It’s like we’re not in the league right now,” he exclaimed.

It’s coming, I told him. (And that’s true: It was the plan anyway if the Suns were able to beat the short-handed Rockets.)

“Does anything get covered?!”

Plenty gets covered, I told him.

“Where?”

I promised to send him the link — one which will be on its way directly after the Suns took care of business and beat the Rockets 99-86 to move above .500 for the first time all season, and within just a half-game of the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference standings.

Just a month ago, a climb back into the race for a spot in the postseason — especially this quickly — seemed like an impossibility. Back on Feb. 17, Phoenix was a dismal 12-19, had lost four straight and five out of six, and looked more like a team planning a trip to the draft lottery than one interested in making a run to the playoffs.

Since then, however, Phoenix has won 11 of 14, and finds itself relevant and realistically looking at a postseason chance for the first time since training camp. The only team with a better mark is the Chicago Bulls, who went 12-2 during that stretch, but who also have the best record in the league at 37-10.

You could see those stretches coming from that Chicago team. But this run from these Suns wasn’t anywhere close to being expected.

As the players and coaches have been asked to explain the sudden success in recent days, the immeasurable metric of chemistry is the one that comes up again and again.

“I really think the chemistry has just come together,” Gentry said. “And I don’t know how that happens, and I don’t know if anyone can really tell you how that happens. But I think our guys feel really good about themselves.”

One way it happens is that guys who find themselves out of the rotation — whether for one game or for a few weeks — stay ready.  They don’t cause problems in the locker room by griping about playing time that wasn’t earned, or opportunities that weren’t there to be given. They remain professional, and support their teammates who do get those chances on a consistent basis.

“I don’t know where I’ve had a team where it’s been this good,” Gentry said of his bench players not complaining about missed minutes. “Guys, I’m telling you, it’s really tough to sit over there and not play. And you can make it miserable on the coaching staff or on your teammates, and none of those guys do that here. None of those guys do that.

“I think the big thing for them is that they always feel like at some stage, they’ll get an opportunity again.”

Michael Redd, who’s had his fair share of DNP-CDs this season but broke out for 25 points in Sunday’s win over Houston, echoed Gentry’s sentiment, while offering a reason why.

“Because the agenda is winning,” he said. “Shannon Brown‘s won two championships, he knows what it takes to win. Grant (Hill) and Steve (Nash) have won. I’ve been in some winning situations. When you have guys who have experienced winning, it kind of permeates throughout the team. And the team kind of follows suit, and guys prepare themselves.

“We genuinely want to see each other succeed, and that’s big.”

The bench unit as a whole has been the key to the Suns recent surge. Early in the season, as Gentry struggled to find the right rotations, the second unit would allow large leads to disappear, and their ineptitude would force the starters to play long minutes, leaving them gassed in the fourth quarters of tight games.

Lately, the consistency has been there to the point where Gentry has found a competent 10-man rotation where the five guys he uses off the bench can each function for 17 minutes or so a night.

“Amazing,” Nash said of the way the bench has played. “Obviously it was a special one (last Thursday) in L.A., (when Phoenix beat the Clippers with Nash and Hill out) but since the All-Star break really, the bench has been really good, and it’s kind of turned our season around.”

Shannon Brown has provided perhaps the most consistent spark off the bench, and he told NBCSports.com that chemistry comes easily when everyone has a hand in the team’s overall success.

“Whenever you come together as a team and win, and win consistently, where everybody contributes, that’s the main goal,” he said. “You want everybody that’s playing to go out there and contribute in the way that they know how, and that’s what we’ve been doing.

“We feel good about ourselves, we’ve got a little win streak going, and we’re making a real conscious effort to try to make it to the playoffs.”

Playoffs were the goal in Phoenix before the season began, a mantra that was recited repeatedly by everyone from top to bottom throughout the organization. After the painfully-slow start the team got off to by going 7-9 in its first 16 home games, it’s once again a topic on the table thanks to this recent run of victories.

Nash was asked after Friday’s game if the results of this homestand were beyond his expectations.

“It’s getting there,” Nash said. “Maybe not even just the home stand, but the season, where we’re beginning to exceed what people thought of us.”

As the Suns continue to exceed expectations, the national media will catch up. Maybe not quite yet, though, considering Phoenix does play its next two games back-to-back on the road in Miami and Orlando. But if the way the Suns have played during this stretch continues, while the qualities of confidence, chemistry and “cohesion” (as Nash likes to say) that have finally started to show themselves on the court remain in plain sight, then Phoenix has a completely legitimate shot at making that coveted trip to the playoffs.

And that will net Mr. Sarver all of the national coverage he desires.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Dwight Howard to attend Team USA mini-camp after all

    Aug 1, 2015, 1:11 AM EDT

    Dwight Howard AP

    This is the right move, whether he decides to play in Rio or not.

  2. Watch Karl-Anthony Towns highlights from Summer League

    Jul 31, 2015, 11:08 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwu3mmzjztazntu1ogzhywnkzju2otmyzgnloty5otbl1 AP

    He looks like a guy who can live up to the No. 1 pick billing.

  3. Pelicans waive Toney Douglas, still await Norris Cole decision

    Jul 31, 2015, 10:26 PM EDT

    Utah Jazz v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    Norris Cole is still looking for a bigger payday.

  4. Pacers’ Jordan Hill arrested for reckless driving, clocked at 107 mph

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Hill told the police he was “in a hurry.” I guess so.

  5. Warriors trade Gerald Wallace to Philadelphia in exchange for Jason Thompson

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:01 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    Neither guy is going to make a difference on the court for these teams. This was just moving some money around.

  6. Trail Blazers guarantee Allen Crabbe’s contract for next season

    Jul 31, 2015, 5:46 PM EDT

    LV Celtics v Trailblazers Getty Images

    Crabbe looked good in Las Vegas at Summer League.

  7. Report: Hedo Turkoglu wants to play anther NBA season, Kings possiblity

    Jul 31, 2015, 4:59 PM EDT

    Washington Wizards v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    The Kings don’t really have the roster spot for him.

  8. Grizzlies’ D-League affiliate hires female assistant coach

    Jul 31, 2015, 4:11 PM EDT

    NBA.com NBA.com

    Iowa Energy add Nicki Gross to coaching staff

  9. Report: Joe Johnson “pumped” that Deron Williams bought out by Nets

    Jul 31, 2015, 12:52 PM EDT

    joe johnson nets sleeved alternates

    Johnson makes $24.9 million, but this is the last year of his contract.

  10. Report: Knicks to sign Thanasis Antetokounmpo

    Jul 31, 2015, 12:47 PM EDT

    20141220 Westchester Knicks at Maine Red Claws Getty Images

    New York drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo’s brother last year

  11. Report: 76ers second-rounder J.P. Tokoto won’t sign with Philadelphia

    Jul 31, 2015, 10:23 AM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Philadelphia 76ers Getty Images

    No. 58 pick will reportedly head overseas or to D-League

  12. Knicks waive Ricky Ledo

    Jul 31, 2015, 9:21 AM EDT

    Ricky Ledo AP

    Guard didn’t show much in short stint in New York

  13. NBA lands in Africa trying to put down roots, which is all about youth programs, infrastructure

    Jul 31, 2015, 8:35 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptu5nzjmmwjlotdhnzrhn2iwytixngrhnwi2yzqwyjzk AP

    “One thing to come out of this will be more camps, more clinics, more games, more youth competition, and from that you get into infrastructure, and building more courts.” —Masai Ujiri, Raptors GM and native Nigerian

  14. Mark Cuban says trading for Rajon Rondo was tough call, “came down to a coin flip”

    Jul 31, 2015, 7:59 AM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

    “And the coin flip was as much about, is there going to be anything else that we could do? Because we knew we had to do something.” —Mark Cuban on trading for Rajon Rondo.

  15. Pau Gasol on Fred Hoiberg: “I think we’ll play with a better flow offensively”

    Jul 30, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Pau Gasol Pau Gasol

    Hoiberg has a much stronger offensive reputation than Tom Thibodeau.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (2576)
  2. B. Haywood (1991)
  3. M. Miller (1840)
  4. I. Thomas (1830)
  5. L. James (1735)
  1. N. Young (1671)
  2. J. Smith (1608)
  3. S. Napier (1596)
  4. T. Thompson (1541)
  5. G. Robinson III (1466)