PORTLAND, Ore. - At long last, the Suns — their frantic, sometimes dramatic, run to the playoffs now accomplished — can relax a bit.
But for a few of them, this final road trip of the regular season might find them a bit wistful; they may be taking stock of their careers to date and the future, as they could be finished with the Suns and even the NBA.
Guard Randy Brown and forward Alton Ford now reside on the injured list, squeezed there because other players at their positions have been more productive.
Both of their contracts are expiring and, with the Suns over the projected luxury-tax threshold now and next season, they almost certainly will be gone. And, as for the upcoming playoffs, they'll be cheering in street clothes, barring last-minute injuries to other players.
Scott Williams has a bit of a different story. He's on the active roster and even starts on occasion. Because he is a center — a position where the Suns seem to be forever short-handed — he perhaps has a bit more of a chance to hang on for another season. But even here, his status is far from guaranteed.
Williams, 35, and Brown, 34, have much reason to be proud. They possess rather ordinary skills by NBA standards, yet — through diligence and the kind of smarts that are virtually required to last a long time in the league — have fashioned careers that most players would envy.
Each is the owner of three championship rings from their days with the Chicago Bulls. If someone is willing to pick up Brown, who played in 32 games this season, "I'm playing again for sure."
If his role with the Suns is at a dead end, "There are 28 other teams. I hope one of them needs veteran players.
"I think I've done everything the right way. I'm a leader. I'm a good person on and off the floor."
If his playing days are over, he'd like to hook on as a coach in the league.
"I've got a good feel for the NBA and its players," he said.
Williams has thought about coaching, too. But those whistle-tooting days can wait. He joined the Suns as a virtual player/coach, a guy who would mentor young players such as Amare Stoudemire and the two Jakes, Tsakalidis and Voskuhl.
He's done that, all right, but he probably didn't expect to play 850 minutes, much coming in the breach when Tsakalidis went down for two months with a back injury.
"I'm proud of the influence I've had with this team," he says.
Like Brown, like most every player, he'll play until someone drags him away.
"I'm having too much fun playing," he says. "I'm confident something will be worked out where I can keep playing.
"I hope it will be here. I fit in well with the guys on this team."
Ford at least has a future. The burly forward has spent two years with the Suns after coming out of college from Houston after his freshman year.
He got a bit of a chance to play at the end of last season, and banged bodies around with enough enthusiasm to merit a roster spot this season.
But the Suns' good fortune in landing Stoudemire was lousy luck for him; it eliminated any chance for him to play much.
Early in the season, "We had guys playing well, and we went on a winning streak," Ford pointed out. "We had a lineup that pretty much stuck."
Ford, like Williams and Brown, says he's enjoyed his time with the Suns. "I've learned a lot.”
Over the summer, "I'll go back to the drawing board and see what happens."
At 21, his best days probably are ahead of him. But they won't be with the Suns.
BONUS SHOT: Shawn Marion has been named NBA player of the week for the Western Conference. Tracy McGrady won the honor for the East.
Marion was the catalyst as the Suns went 4-0 last week with wins over Denver, Dallas, Golden State and San Antonio, with the last win clinching a playoff spot. The All-Star forward averaged 26.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.8 steals in the four games, while shooting .553 from the field, .474 from 3-point range and .813 at the free throw line. Marion came up with at least three steals in each of the four games during the week.