It took several years of banging their heads against the wall — or letting Robert Horry do it for them — but the Suns have finally figured it out. If you can’t beat the Spurs, join them.
The Suns may never be able to stop Tim Duncan in the middle or hold people to 92 points a game. But they have figured out a way to steal San Antonio’s other modus operandi — lowering expectations with sluggish early play while still winning enough games to stay with the up-and-comers who capture all the media attention.
The Spurs can point to injuries this year (Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili have all missed time), but their 21-9 record is very much par for their well-traveled championship course.
And their annual nine-game road trip, necessary while the rodeo takes over San Antonio, still beckons at the end of the month with stops in Utah, Phoenix, Boston and Cleveland.
So when fans and media scream that the 23-9 Suns are getting old, slowing down and their window to a championship is closing, folks in the Alamo City get jealous — because that’s their shtick. Even Dallas has realized that those 67-win seasons don’t work as they sit a game behind the Spurs, sputtering, but lurking.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Now, we have to see if the Suns have picked up on another Spurs trick — peaking at the right time.
They’ve certainly left plenty of room for improvement.
WEEK IN REVIEW
He’s more than just a rabbit’s foot, (he’s leading the NBA in 3-point percentage). But after helping the Suns to 15- and 17-game winning streaks last season, James Jones was in the middle of Portland’s surprising 13-game run. The Suns are giddy with Grant Hill’s addition and production, but the loss of Jones might hurt more than Kurt Thomas.
5-on-2 doesn’t work
In a scene right out of “Hoosiers,” Arizona’s women dressed only six players Thursday at Oregon State (four players sat due to injuries or academics) and four Cats fouled out in a 94-88 double-overtime loss. The Cats built a lead in OT with four players before two more players fouled out — leaving only Beatrice Bofia and Sarah Hays for the final minute.
The country is reeling toward recession, oil is at $100 a barrel and a war nobody wants continues for no reason — but Congress has enough spare time to summon Roger Clemens and trainer/chemists Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski to have them repeat what they said in the Mitchell Report? No wonder nothing ever, ever gets done on Capitol Hill.
• Knicks forward Zach Randolph was suspended one game for throwing his headband at a referee this week. But when you think about it, is being forced to miss a Knicks game really a punishment?
• ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that 40-year-old free agent Luis Gonzalez is taking batting practice at ASU and waiting for the phone to ring after an ill-fated season with the Dodgers. Given his defensive deficiencies, a DH/fourth outfielder job in the American League seems to work. How about going home to Tampa Bay?
• Feel free to get excited. ASU is 2-0 in the Pac-10 for the first time in 20 years and only the third time since joining the conference after Saturday’s beat-down of Oregon State.
Wednesday’s home game with Arizona is a huge one, both in the standings and the local recruiting wars.
Jerryd Bayless is expected back, but the Sun Devils have a good chance to hold serve if they repeat this weekend’s efforts.
Devil fans who have been in hiding since the Holiday Bowl might want to show up for this one.
THE HIGH FIVE
Baseball’s latest Hall of Fame inductions will be announced Tuesday. In order, here are five players who deserve a pass to Cooperstown:
FIVE Bert Blyleven. He won 287 games despite playing for a lot of bad teams and retired in third place on the all-time list (passed since by Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens). How he’s missed out 10 times is beyond me.
FOUR Goose Gossage. In an age where it took three innings, not three batters, to earn a save, Gossage was the most dominant of his time. In 1975, he threw 140 innings — more than double what today’s closers are asked to do — won 10 games and saved 26 more.
THREE Jim Rice. Kind of like a Gale Sayers — he wasn’t great for long, but his years were awesome. Know the last player in the American League to collect 400 total bases in a season? Nobody. In fact, only Todd Helton, Larry Walker (both Coors Field-aided) and Sammy Sosa (who-knows-what-aided) have done it since.
TWO Jack Morris. He had more wins than any other pitcher in the 1980s, and was the best pitcher on championship teams in Detroit and Minnesota. People say his 3.90 ERA isn’t good enough. But he pitched against the designated hitter for his entire career. Would you take a 3.90 ERA from your ace in the AL?
ONE Gil Hodges. His name fell off the ballot last year, and Cooperstown is missing out. Write-ins are impossible (ask Pete Rose), but letting his name fade without mention is a sin.