Quentin Richardson knew he'd play another game in Phoenix eventually. He just never thought Mike D'Antoni would be his coach. "I didn't think I had a shot in the dark of playing for Coach D again - unless somehow I was traded back to Phoenix," Richardson said. "I thought he'd be here 10 years. I mean, look at all he did. It speaks for itself. Everything comes to an end, but that's stunning,"
It was stunning for Richardson when he was traded to the Knicks for Kurt Thomas in the summer of 2005 after a 62-win season with the Suns. He missed the first three return trips due to injuries and family issues before managing four points in 25 minutes Monday. Joe Johnson also left that summer, and Richardson said the members of that team still talk about what might have been.
"It's definitely crazy that we only got one shot at it," he said. "If Joe stays healthy the one year we're together, we give San Antonio all they want. You look at teams like Detroit and New Jersey - they stuck with the main guys for another year or two and they go to the Finals. I'll always wonder how far we could have gone.
"When they messed up the contract with Joe, I think that was the point where things really unraveled. Then they tried to make him the scapegoat when he came back, and that just wasn't right. Anyone who knows what really happened knows that was wrong."
STILL BACKIN' SHAQ
D'Antoni isn't surprised to see Shaquille O'Neal having big games. He pushed hard for the trade and still thinks last year's team could have made a strong playoff run if it hadn't drawn San Antonio right out of the box. O'Neal had 23 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in 35 minutes, nailing 11 of 18 free throws in the 111-103 Suns win.
"The last 20 games with Shaq (to end the regular season), we were 15-5 and averaged 112 points a game," D'Antoni said. "We were a very good team. We blew the San Antonio series. I don't know if we would have gone to the finals or the conference finals or whatever, but we blew that series and that's on us. I still think it's was the right move and when I was there, Shaq did everything in his power to make it work."
THE GOTHAM REAPER
Two days after his team was beaten at home by the Knicks, Sacramento coach Reggie Theus was fired on Monday. Of the six coaches who have been fired this season, Theus is the second to be canned immediately after losing to New York (it also happened to Washington's Eddie Jordan), while P.J. Carlesimo got the ax in Oklahoma City eight days after losing to the Knicks.
"I'm starting to take this personally," D'Antoni said. "Just because the Knicks beat somebody, they've got to fire the coach? We're not that bad."
When informed of the cause-and-effect relationship, Phoenix coach Terry Porter joked, "I'd appreciate it if you'd keep that to yourself."
GIMME AN 'O'
After averaging 97.3 points a game during their four-game losing streak, the Suns have averaged 113 points a game during their recent 4-1 run - scoring 60 or more points three times in the first half. The only loss came in Los Angeles to the Lakers with only nine healthy bodies.
"I really think we've turned the corner (offensively) the last four games," Porter said. "We're attacking inside, maintaining the tempo. We're playing the way we envisioned at the very start, and adding (Jason Richardson) will only help us in that regard."
The Suns are now 6-2 when O'Neal has at least two nights off before a game. ...
Phoenix has now beaten the Knicks five straight times, tying the longest streak in the 41-year history of the series. With the Suns winning nine of the last 10 meetings, the all-time series is now tied 54-54.