I realize there's a bit of Suns overkill going on on this blog right now, but, it's tough to avoid them when they're the most compelling story in sports today. We're watching a team that, after losing to the Spurs in the first round in 2008, lost their coach and, in the process, seemed destined to lose their place near the top of the Western Conference. The "seven seconds or less" Suns were dead, Nash was over the hill and Amare was going to be out the door.
Two years later, Steve Nash is playing as well as he's ever played, Amare, despite going through two years of trade rumors, is playing like a man possessed, Coach Alvin Gentry has managed to coax strong play out of players such as Goran Dragic, Channing Frye and Jared Dudley, and most importantly, they're playing with more purpose, determination (and defense) than at any point in the Nash era. They have an unheralded roster, but they're slowly waking everyone up to the fact that they're quite possibly the most complete top-to-bottom team in the NBA right now.
And, as Bill Simmons noted in his column last week, none of it makes much since. Steve Kerr assembled this team almost by accident, and, even now, basketball logic says they shouldn't be dominating the Spurs like they are. For instance, during the first half of Game 3, I watched DeJuan Blair overpower the Suns inside. I watched a Suns team that was seemingly unable to get a rebound -- a team that logic would say needed Robin Lopez. Then Dragic came along with one of the most mind-blowing quarters of basketball I've ever seen and gave the Suns an improbable win.
On a deeper level, the Suns bring to the fore a debate that's always brewing below the surface in sports: the debate over the proper balance between on-paper talent and team chemistry. How much camaraderie can you sacrifice for talent without hurting the team's ability to win? On the flip side, how much talent should you sacrifice to ensure the players actually want to win for each other? Some teams (the mid-2000s Yankees and the current New York Jets) favor talent over chemistry. Others (the 2004 Red Sox, the 2005 and 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers, these Suns) side with the locker room over the stat sheet. Others, like the New England Patriots, lean toward chemistry but operate in a middle ground where their serious, business-like focus on winning defuses any potentially distracting egos.
But, back to the Suns. Logic says they can't beat the Lakers without Lopez. Even as I predicted them to make the Finals before the playoffs started, I noted that they needed their center healthy. Still, these Suns are in the habit of making the prognosticators look bad. So, maybe it's time to stop analyzing and enjoy a fascinating run by a group of players that celebrates the pure concept of "team" better than any team in the NBA right now. I wrote before the playoffs that every impartial fan should root for the undermanned Blazers. Well, now America's team has to be the Suns.