A Sultan Shall Cleave Them
Let me make an iron-clad confession: after last night, the Suns might again be the molten core of my Association planet. You might think it's because Amare's well on his way, and that would be part of. But primarily, it's because I love seeing last season's irrevocable wuss-machine gutted before my very eyes. And that the team rising out of its forehead is one for the transparent ages only makes it more sublime.
I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that the '04-05 Suns might have been my favorite operation ever. Rarely has there been needed any great ennumeration of what made that bunch so radicidal, and don't think that Nash's H&M virtuosity could ever get exlcuded from that equation. Last year's team, however, left me totally cold. I appreciated the emergance of Diaw on a purely conceptual level, but I'd ony watch them when I had to; Marion suddenly transformed into a slim, calculating man-goat, and the offense as a whole seemed heaven-bent on a kind of nerdy excess, like a guy in a lab coat bringing Jayne Mansfield back to life to serve as his waitress. When Boris starting dunking in the playoffs, and I finally got to see my dwagag Leandro emerge as a force, they meant a little more. Still, though, there was Tim Thomas, fresh off his long furlough and pimping this system like he'd never failed in his life. And of course, the team's unofficial postseason mascot was none other than a Sloan protegee known for the healthy dose of moralism he brought to town.
Cue '06-07. A possibly broken Amare gets all up in everyone's sphere by, you know, being one of the greatest players of his generation trying to reclaim his crown. Raja publicly bitches. Diaw shows up fat, ugly, and lopsided. Nash's new haircut exemplifies the further adjournment of style. Kurt Thomas is ready. All in all, the Suns looked to be plummeting towards a new kind of sadness, one splitting the difference between a war crimes buerecrat and every other running team that somehow managed to get dull in the interest of contention.
Then, as if out of nowhere, a light arrives. A light much-maligned over these last few years, but one whose mix of ability, clout, and symbolism cannot be underestimaed. The team struggles, Diaw proves ineffective, Raja falls ill, and suddely last year's formula isn't looking so plush anymore. Some blame the onset of Amare, whose woes (he now has a "Nobody Knows" to accompany the "Lord Knows!") might threaten to torpedo the careful rotation calibrations. Really though, it's that the arrival of one man just bolds the writing on the wall. Last year's Suns were soft, generally vanilla, and without meaning. Amare is the catalyst to return them to their former spiritual roost, but he needs a guide. Luckily, the Suns went out and signed the man who will help him recpature his team.
Say what you will about Jalen, but the man has swagger and a peculiar kind of divine wisdom. If the Suns are going to be reclaimed in the name of style and raw energy, it's nothing less than a political coup. And while Amare may be the charismatic leader, he needs an old head, a strategist who has been through the rapids of politicize basketball, to guide his campaign. The time is ripe for the takeover, and last night was the first decisive chapter. With the Suns in flux, Jalen stepped in and contributed. Played well, but was also a decisive presence, the way that somehow Tim Thomas was on the '06 edition. Right away, Amare responds with his least illusory success of the season. Marion's Weis-ing Dirk. And Barbosa's poly-rhythmic aggression rises to new heights, as he suddenly looks like the most deadly backcourt scorer Nash, Amare and Marion have ever had to work with.
I will watch the Suns non-stop this year. In part because Barbosa and a relatively healthy Amare are among the two most joyous performers we have in this league. But I'm also eager to see the evisceration of the team that tried to efface the real point of the running Suns. This wasn't just supposed to be a team that scored a lot—it was a cathartic exercise in basketball expression, the unlikely belief that playing loose and wild was not incompatible with NBA success. I hated seeing that undone, even dismissed, by last year's cool, Euro-ish precision, and hope to once again be able to look to Phoenix for prayer and reassurance.
"The stage is set, now its time to grind!"-Jalen Rose