A Kinder, Gentler Machine Gun Hand
There seems to be a growing consensus that there's something wrong with the Suns. I don't think the change in perception has anything to do with their record – since, you know, it's the same as last year's at this point – or whether a win over San Antonio makes up for a loss to Minnesota. In fact, I don't think it has anything to do with how successful they've been, but something that Shoals has been fearing for a while now: their game has become infected by orthodoxy.
Some of the perceived dissatisfaction might be the result of jaded disciples of the Run and Gun who feel burned for putting their faith in them to bring legitimacy to the offense first, second, and third systems most of us crave. Worried that the Suns are inadvertently proving the cliche of "defense wins championships" a truism, there is reluctance to re-up the zeal for '08. A large chunk of the blame for the recent negative reaction is probably also owed to
The Suns' diminished status as the darlings of the NBA goes beyond just them failing to live up to the gold standard set by
Expecting a rebirth each season is awfully unreasonable, especially considering most teams go years without bothering to shift plotlines, but with some of the newness worn off we can start to make out some of the uglier truths that our initial awe had previously masked. Namely, at his most offensive, D'Antoni is as rigid and systemized as the worst of
Yes, well-executed fast breaks and alley oops will almost always be more entertaining than well-run pick-and-rolls, but exciting routines can still become routine. The parade of drive-and-kicks has become predictable and stale this year, with the countless corner 3's feeling eerily reminiscent of
Furthermore, the fact that
I know there is probably rarely any truth to be gleaned from "NBA Live Trax," but I still couldn't help but laugh at D'Antoni's pep talk during a recent halftime. With the Suns looking flat for much of the first half, Mike earnestly urged his troops to "get wild and crazy out there!" as though insanity were a quality you could instill and not something you innately either have or do not. I'm all for embracing identity, but it has to come naturally. The calculatedness of D'Antoni's "organized chaos," right down to the emblematic "7 seconds or less" mantra, ends up feeling far too similar to the "at least four passes before shooting" bullshit that makes most of us cringe.
Perhaps we've unfairly burdened them with the expectation to lead an upheaval that they never had any interest in, but right or wrong, that 04-05 season did give us hope that a free-flowing system could at least shake the walls of the establishment a little. The McCallums of the world did their part to build up the narrative of the Suns as the antidote to structure and control, a plotline I'm sure most will cling to long after reality ceases to reflect the "anything goes" perception that we've tagged them with. Regardless of whether or not they see themselves as a part of the struggle, they will make their mark on it in the end. They've essentially become the reverse of the "fight the system from within" mindset (probably best symbolized by