NBA.com: Given a fresh start on your career this season, did you come into training camp determined to improve any specific part of your game?
AS: Defense is what I'm focusing on this year. Really, really focusing on that aspect. Weak side. Just trying to put ball pressure on. Create some havoc out there. I can honestly say I've improved this year so far.
NBA.com: Does the same go for the Suns? You guys aren't thought of as lockdown defenders, you know.
AS: As a unit, I think we're playing solid defense out there. We might not be the best defensive team in the league, but I think we're good enough to create the havoc that we need.
Then, right on cue, the Suns put forth perhaps -- by far? -- their worst defensive effort of the season -- to the Knicks no less. Next on the schedule? Why, the Cleveland Cavaliers, that's who. Followed by trips to LA, Dallas and Denver, with hosting duties for Orlando and San Antonio sprinkled in. I admittedly have been waiting for the Suns to fall back to the pack, unconvinced of their top-o'-the-conference-records standing. I think the wait may soon be over.
But back to the Knicks game; I caught a fair number of plays as I watched in a club last night, and, boy, it sure looked like the same old (new) Suns defense to me. The post-Matrix, post-Raja defense that is (their defense in the Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson days was largely and wholly underrated, people concentrating more on points per game than defensive efficiency).
But back to the Knicks game (I seem to have a penchant for tangents today); I saw far too many New Yorkers waltzing into the lane for layups and dunks; every time, it seemed, that I watched for a few moments, I got to see another ole'! effort from a Sun defender. Including some no-effort weak-side opportunities from Mr. Stat. Hey, I don't doubt his off-season re-commitment to defense -- though I won't touch upon the fact that it's his strong-side defense that needs just as much work -- but we didn't really see much of it last night. You'd expect even one hard foul.
Maybe they were looking ahead to the Cavs game. I know my boy that's a big Phoenix-fan is going to be equally surly about the game and glad he skipped buying tickets, sparing himself the travesty in person.
* Damn you Eddy Curry. I mean, I'm sure you're pretty cool as a person and all; ok, so maybe I should say "damn you Eddy Curry's injuries". But with you sitting out the matchup versus Dwight Howard, and essentially doing the same versus Andrew Bynum, how am I supposed to twist the knife further into the poster who years ago told me Curry is better than both? I mean, having them both on this year's All-Star team (slowly becoming a foregone conclusion) is a consolation prize not nearly as enjoyable as a head-to-head thrashing. Damn you, or your injuries, or something. Now that I got that out the way, I'm obligated by my humanity to say "get well soon". So, do.
* The without-Jameer Magic record currently stands at 6-1. The Knicks, Warriors, and Clippers are on the near horizon. I'm just saying.