PROJECTEDSTARTING FIVE with 2006-07 statistics
KEY BENCHPLAYERS: G Leandro Barbosa, F Grant Hill*, F-C Brian Skinner*, G Marcus Banks,F Alando Tucker (R)
*New acquisition (R) Rookie
Record: 61-21(2nd in West) Points scored: 110.2 (1st in NBA) Points allowed: 102.9 (23rd)Coach: Mike D'Antoni (fifth season with Suns)
There was a senseof excitement surrounding the Suns in training camp because of a new addition(Grant Hill) and the eternal promise of a championship season (as there hadbeen the last two years). But there was also an unspoken apprehension, alingering let's-not-talk-about-the-elephant-in-the-room feeling.
That would be aresult of the late-September trade demand of All-Star forward Shawn Marion, 29,who in his ninth season is the longest-tenured Sun. But let's not forget thatin asking to get out of the Valley of the Sun, the Matrix was responding to theteam's efforts to unload him: It was Marion who vetoed a summer trade to theCeltics by saying that he would not sign an extension with Boston. That said. .. .
"It's all inthe past," says coach Mike D'Antoni. "Shawn's been great."
"Just time toplay ball," says Marion, adding little else about it.
There is simplyno predicting how this subplot will play out. Whether or not Marion is able toplay through his stated dissatisfaction will probably come down to on-courtissues; specifically, the time he spends at power forward. D'Antoni believesthat Marion is most effective when he plays significant minutes at thatposition, where he is quicker and more athletic than most of his foes. Marionbelieves that he is most effective at small forward, where he is not constantlygoing against bigger and stronger opponents. With Hill on the floor at oneforward, though, Marion will still be going against the big guys--which willeither motivate him or add to his feelings of being overlooked andunderappreciated.
One other factor:This is a contract year for Marion, who has a player option for next season.Which means that the Suns are running out of time to prove themselves achampionship team and Marion is running out of time to prove himself achampionship-caliber player.
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Suns
Can the Suns wina championship without being an excellent defensive team? I love their style ofplay, but it's not built for the playoffs. And that's not a judgment call--Ihaven't seen anybody win a title the way they're trying to win it. . . . SteveNash will turn 34 by the All-Star break, and they've got to find a way to limithis minutes. Any game in which they're up by a lot or down by a lot, they'vegot to shut him down. . . . The most interesting thing about the addition ofGrant Hill is how he will fit into that offense. Usually they put four guys onthe perimeter and one big guy inside; now they're going to have two guys insidethe arc. . . . If Amaré Stoudemire is ever going to be an MVP candidate, hewill have to become a help defender like Tim Duncan is for San Antonio.Stoudemire has the size and athleticism to be active defensively and to helpcover the entire court, but it's obvious that he doesn't understand the game aswell as Duncan does.
The Suns made aleague-leading 785 three-pointers last season, the third most in leaguehistory.
The only teamswith more? The '04-05 Suns, who hit 796, and the '05-06 Suns, who set therecord with 837.
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH
GOOD TO GO Marion insists that he has put his trade demand behind him.