You Gotta Love The Suns

RIM REVIEW

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If you've ever been a basketball fan, even halfheartedly, you gotta love the Suns. At the very least, you've got to respect them. They are playing basketball like it should be played.

Basketball was meant to be a fluid, graceful sport. It involves five people playing together, uniformly.

Unfortunately, in the last decade, high-flying dunkers, overpaid, bigger-than-life superstars and an overall attitude of selfishness have consumed the sport. Players want more money, airtime and endorsements. Players want more credit for themselves. Where did the team aspect of basketball disappear?

Luckily, for true basketball fans, like myself, who were disgusted with the direction the NBA was heading, the Phoenix Suns re-emerged as a top-tier team. Team being the key word.

I believe the team-first attitude that the Suns have displayed most notably the last three seasons can be directly attributed to Sun's former CEO and Chairman Jerry Colangelo.

Colangelo demonstrated a level of integrity throughout his participation in sports, especially with the Suns beginning in 1968, that is unmatched.

Colangelo has never been interested in players with the me-first attitude, instead he has focused on players who are also quality people. How often do you hear of a Suns player behaving poorly on or off the court?

And in the rare event that a player has publicly compromised the class of the team they have paid a huge price. Consider the examples of Cliff Robinson and Jason Kidd. Robinson was arrested on DUI and possession charges in 2001. He was gone within four months. The Jason Kidd-alleged spousal abuse debacle in 2001 also ended Kidd's tenure with the Suns even though he is one of the best point guards in the last 25 years.

Now I don't know for certain the reason why those two were traded, but my gut instinct tells me that management doesn't give many second chances, great player or not.

Being able to put integrity before "Ws" and conjuring a team full of players deserving respect isn't in the interest of many sports executives.

The Suns have a team that should be respected and they play basketball the way it should be played.

Look at the main guys -- Nash, Stoudemire, Marion, Diaw, Barbosa, Bell and James. Not one hotshot in the group (save for Stoudemire and Marion's remarkable dunking ability). Not one guy that whines. Not one guy that badmouths his teammates. They play together, play hard and have fun. This group is equally (if not more) competitive and talented as any other group in the league, but they know how to play with class.

And they also know how to win.

The Suns have the second-best record in the overly talented Western Conference. Barring two unlucky breaks in games against Gilbert Arenas (and his team, the Wizards) and the Mavericks, the Suns could be on a 33-game winning streak right now. A thirty-three game winning streak. The loss to the Wizards came in an overtime game and the differential in the Mavericks game was two points.

I think the Suns have served as a catalyst for the revival of team basketball that the NBA is heading toward. And I think the NBA desperately needed them to refresh their faltering, convoluted image.

The rising importance and success of the master of team basketball, Steve Nash, is perhaps evidence that team play is far more effective than individual accomplishment, and that the NBA realized it needed to revert back to when the sport was cleaner, crisper and classier. Hitching a ride on Nash's coattails isn't a bad place for the NBA to be.

Nash is having another season worthy of an MVP award. He has career highs in assists-per game, field goal percentage, three-point shooting percentage and points-per game this season. And if he wins another MVP award he'd be among the most preeminent of all time -- Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Larry Bird -- as only the fourth player ever to win three in a row. Even Michael Jordan didn't win three in a row.

How can you not root for a team so worthy of praise? A team that abandoned the hip-hop style of attitude and play and decided they'd execute good old-fashioned basketball.

A team led by a skinny white guy from Canada who isn't impressed with individual accolades. He has no record deal, no arms covered in tattoos, no need for blasting other teams, just a respect of, and knack for, playing quality basketball. You gotta love that. And you gotta love the Suns.

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