Mar 19, 2012, 8:55 AM EST
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.
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.
Dec 7, 2013, 9:30 AM EST
The Knicks rolled the Magic 121-83 on Friday to earn a much-needed second straight victory, but Orlando rookie Victor Oladipo came up with at least one play that was worthy of the highlight reel. As Carmelo Anthony drives the lane for what looks to be a certain slam, Oladipo rises up and rejects him at…
Dec 7, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
Kobe Bryant‘s return — and the Lakers’ decision to announce it with a video on Facebook of Kobe’s jersey — is the focus of the latest edition of NBC’s ProBasketballTalk Podcast with myself and Eyton Shander of NBC Sports Radio. We talk about what this means for the Lakers, both in the short-term this season…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:47 PM EST
Russell Westbrook wasn’t the only one showcasing his range under pressure on Friday. Paul Millsap of the Hawks heaved a shot from well beyond half court to beat the first quarter buzzer against the Cavaliers, and it found nothing but the bottom of the net. We’d like to tell you that this particular heave mattered…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:31 PM EST
Anytime a player on either team hits a shot from a distance that borders on the absurd, the announcers on the telecast seemingly can’t wait to break out the local references in describing just how far away the attempt actually was. In this case, we had Russell Westbrook hitting a shot from near halfcourt to…
Dec 6, 2013, 9:23 PM EST
Ray Allen couldn’t do it. Neither could Reggie Miller or Stephen Curry or any of the other three-point marksman you can name. Kyle Korver has now made a three in 90 consecutive games, breaking the record Dana Barros set in 1996. He did it midway through the first quarter from above the break on the…
Dec 6, 2013, 6:52 PM EST
Otto Porter, the No. 3 pick of the Washington Wizards and the guy seen as their small forward of the future, could make his NBA debut Friday night. Porter, who strained his hip flexor in September and missed all of training camp and the start of the season, is active for the Wizards Friday night…
Dec 6, 2013, 6:04 PM EST
Kobe Bryant decided to stay home from Sacramento, but he will be in the Lakers lineup Sunday night against Toronto. Steve Nash went with the Lakers up to Sacramento after a week of limited practices but nobody has any idea when we will see him. Or even if we ever will. Nash spoke with reporters…
Dec 6, 2013, 5:23 PM EST
Kobe Bryant’s jersey has faced snow, rain and wind. Yet, it’s endured. That’s the lesson I took from the above video, which Kobe posted to Facebook today. Oh, and that Kobe will return Sunday against the Raptors. I guess he’s been through a lot, too. Sunday will mark just 240 days since he tore his…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:59 PM EST
Kevin Love will not suit up Saturday night when the Timberwolves host the Miami Heat for the one time this season. Love’s grandmother has passed away and he is not with the team right now. Timberwolves assistant coach Terry Porter said Friday Love will not play Saturday, tweets the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Timberwolves…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:22 PM EST
UPDATE 5:37 pm: Kobe Bryant will make his return on Sunday night — he made the announcement in a Facebook video. Apparently he owns some FB stock. 3:22 pm: The Lakers are in Sacramento tonight. Kobe Bryant will be at his home in Newport Beach, trying to get his daughters to turn off the “Muppets…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:02 PM EST
Dana Barros, a little point guard out of Massachusetts who got to play for the Celtics as part of a 14-year NBA career, and while there he set a record: Eighty-nine consecutive games with a made three. If Kyle Korver knocks down a three Friday night when the Hawks host the Cleveland Cavaliers Korver will…
Dec 6, 2013, 2:19 PM EST
I would say the fact Houston has put Omer Asik on the trade block is the worst kept secret in the NBA, except it’s not a secret. Everybody knows it. The only questions are when he gets moved and where he lands. Talks have not progressed all that quickly because while other teams come in…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:54 PM EST
“They hate me, they hate me. I don’t know why, but it is what it is. I already know I’ve got the target on my back, but I’ll play through it; I don’t care. I really don’t. It doesn’t bother me none. If I get a call, I get a call. If I don’t, I…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:45 PM EST
The USA Today has a fantastic feature speaking to Rajon Rondo’s high school coach, Steve Smith (not the player Steve Smith, different guy). It’s well done, you can learn about Rondo as a young player. Then came this interesting tidbit when Smith was asked if he thought Rondo could bounce all the way back from…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:00 PM EST
Apparently Glen Davis was a big child. Very big. Big Baby just returned to the lineup for the first time since last January, when he broke a bone in his foot that took two surgeries to repair properly. He’s looked pretty good since coming back — he had 33 points in the game against Philadelphia…
Dec 6, 2013, 12:39 PM EST
Dwyane Wade is going to be taking a lot of games off this season as the Heat try to rest his knees for the playoffs. It started in the second game of the season and it will continue as he has been out 5 of the Heat’s 19 games (he missed the Bulls game Thursday…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:38 AM EST
Brook Lopez’s second season in the NBA the Nets went an ugly 12-70 (with him as their best player). This wasn’t a team trying to tank for the draft — the Nets got the third pick thanks to the lottery and chose Derrick Favors, who was moved in the Deron Williams deal — this was…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:12 AM EST
When the Knicks got Andrea Bargnani the sales pitch from the pro-Bargnani side was he could do things Steve Novak couldn’t — play some defense in the post and put the ball on the floor and blow by guys. Whether those skills are really worth $23 million over two years is now a moot question,…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:50 AM EST
LeBron James doesn’t like wearing his new shoes. I mean literally his shoes — the LeBron 11 by Nike. Usually if you have a signature shoe you wear it, and in LeBron’s case when he slips on the shoe it’s a lot of free promotion considering the spotlight on him. LeBron outsells any current player…
Dec 6, 2013, 8:44 AM EST
As Holly MacKenzie and plenty of other women will tell you, proposing to your girlfriend at a sporting event is your idea of a cool proposal, not hers. But if your girlfriend is a “Luvabulls” dancer in Chicago (that’s what they are called, it’s not my name) you can get away with it if you borrow…
- PBT Podcast for Dec. 7: Kobe’s back and for the Lakers that means…. 0
- Kobe Bryant returning Sunday against Raptors 16
- Report: Rockets stepping up efforts to move Omer Asik 10
- Rumor: Carmelo Anthony recruiting Rajon Rondo to come to New York in 2015 17
- Report: Heat shopping Joel Anthony, seeking depth behind Wade 23
- LeBron says Wade is “getting that Kobe deal” in next contract. Should he? (64)
- Michael Beasley finding a role, groove in Miami (43)
- The Extra Pass: Our awards at the quarter pole, plus Monday recaps (42)
- Dwight Howard frustrated with Rockets’ effort in recent losses (40)
- Kobe Bryant dunks, looks good in Lakers practice; Friday return possible (38)