The whole world over, there are two distinctly different kinds of people.
Those who enjoy seeing the sun rise in the morning, with the promise of a new day. And those who love to watch the sun set, glorious beyond belief, but going down nonetheless – the end of another chapter in the Book of Life.
In Phoenix, Arizona, the sun comes up and goes down no matter what anyone does. Seemingly, so does the city’s NBA franchise, year after year, much in the fashion of its namesake.
Count Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers as those who enjoy watching the Suns set, hoping tonight’s Game 4 sets the stage for a final Sun-set, ironically where some of the most beautiful ones in the world occur.
They even have a street already named – Sunset Boulevard.
However, the Phoenix Suns have different plans. It’s all about rising.
Beginning the day gloriously with the promise of renewal and an energy that will help them stall the Lakers’ plans. Another day. Another chance. Another life.
If you are counting your blessings, then you must list Amar’e Stoudemire among them.
After lackluster efforts in Games 1 and 2, Stoudemire tore through the Lakers’ vaunted bigs, getting ‘Lucky’ Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum in quick foul trouble en route to a career high-tying 42 points and 11 rebounds in the Suns’ first win of the series.
Odom might be inclined to say Stoudemire was ‘lucky,’ if he stooped to playing such word games.
However, what everyone has seemingly been reluctant to talk about was how in the hours before the second game of the series, Stoudemire had to physically witness the arrest of his mother.
With all respect to Amar’e, Carrie, and the entire Stoudemire family, though it was something that was another replay of his life experience, it is still his mother. It is still troubling.
Which may explain his near-disappearance in Game 2 after a solid Game 1.
Also missing in the first two games was the aggressive courage of one Steve Nash.
Nash, historically brutalized in some physical manner every playoffs, had just taken an elbow to the eye in the Suns-Spurs series, requiring him to net six stitches to go along with 20 points and nine assists as he came back to complete the sweep of their decade-long nemesis.
Game 3 boasted the old Nash, seemingly far less hesitant to venture among the Lakers’ redwoods, and even re-adjusting a broken nose on the next two pushes down the court after colliding with Derek Fisher’s dome.
“We couldn’t afford to go down 3-0 so we came out with a chip on our shoulders and played well,” Stoudemire told TNT‘s Craig Sager.
We have heard it all before. This path, these post-game quotes – they are all-too-familiar to die-hard Suns fans. So we naturally have to ask, are we being set up for another Sun-set?
Those who long to see the underdog rise up — like a phoenix from the ashes, no less — have to hope for a repeat of Game 3 in tonight’s match-up.
However, anyone who remembers May of 2007, where Kobe Bryant sat in the post-game press conference in Phoenix, all but tearing up when asked the question, “What now?” … and his tepid, choked-up response of “I don’t know,” followed by reflective thought.
A pensive thought process that took Bryant through a summer of frustration, public finger-pointing, Bryant’s calling out of team ownership and management, his trade demands, and ultimately a re-settling and a championship push that succeeded last season and continues to march forth to this very day.
Certainly, Bryant remembers how these very Suns humiliated him in 2006 and 2007.
In retrospect, those Suns were the impetus in the development of what Bryant has become as a result of those humbling exits – the best leader in the National Basketball Association.
However, the Suns need to remember it, too … as if it were yesterday.
Not a lot has changed, personnel-wise. The same core of Nash, Stoudemire and Grant Hill are intact.
Steve Kerr’s “Shaquisition” has come, failed, and gone; but Leandro Barbosa is still around, and though not as effective as ’06 and ’07, it’s a place he has been before and personally needs to elevate himself to again if the Suns hope to have a chance of reversing their fortunes.
“We can never lose our confidence,” Stoudemire said to reporters after the win. “We can never think we can’t win. We played so great this season. We’ve done a phenomenal job this year so far, so we know how good we can be. It’s just a matter of us bringing that focus and playing great on both ends.”
Jason Richardson needs to have a huge game tonight.
Channing Frye needs to earn his paycheck … and the checks from Games 1, 2, and 3.
Robin Lopez’s coming out party needs to remain in full swing.
And Jared Dudley needs to continue to play lockdown defense and chase the ball down like a Carolina Blue Tick Hound as he has all series.
Otherwise, the Suns have fallen victim to the oldest malady in the NBA – just being satisfied with beating your former nemesis.
Not to take away from the sweep, but beating the Spurs – with no Michael Finley, with no Robert Horry intensity – is really not much more than winning the basketball tournament at the Shady Acres Retirement Home.
The Suns are not far behind the Spurs in age-before-beauty courtesies.
Moreover, the Lakers are not the gentlemen they appear to be. They are not even the gentlemen the Phoenix Suns have a reputation of being.
They are hungry. And that is what the Suns need to be.
Hungry. Tough. Dedicated … and as confident as those ‘06 and ‘07 teams that sent the Lakers home … for good, not just for Game Five and the ensuing purple and gold confetti.
Not just to watch another beautiful, glorious Sun-set in the land where dreams can die as quickly as they can come true.
Somewhere in Phoenix this morning, just over the Superstition Mountains, the sun is rising. It’s time for a Phoenix to rise with it. To head to Hollywood and make their elusive dreams a reality.
It’s gut check time in the Valley of the Suns.