Pardon the cheesy quip at the beginning (wait, I might actually be turning into a sports writer!), but this new Phoenix Suns team impresses me more and more every day. It's not that the Shaq trade has been a success (it has) or that we have resucitated the career of Gordon Giricek (who hustles now) and that the team is actually 9 deep. It's not that Amare has exploded or that Diaw is playing better.
No, the main thing that has changed about this team is its attitude. The previous incarnation of the Suns would not have gotten tough on the Spurs the other night and locked down on defense. No, they would have just kept running and trying to out-offense them, which usually cannot be done. In fact, such a tactical mindset could be seen as a hardwood manifestation of its personality. They just kept running away from their problems, refusing to meet them head-on. But now, especially with the Big Shaqtus's bravado, this team is tough.
The two main examples (both funny and fierce) to follow: Shaq making sure to let the world know that he is still "the baddest 36 year old on the planet" and this response from Amare, after another cheap shot from Bruce Bowen near the end of the game:
Asked if he would be Bowen’s friend on the MySpace Web site, Stoudemire responded negatively at first, then changed his mind. “I probably would,” he said. “But just to get his address. Then I might go visit him at his home.”
I know this comment in jest (maybe) and subtle, but the Suns of last year would have just turned the other cheek, or worse, complained about how Bowen is dirty and done their whole "woe is me" schtick. But now, the Suns ain't taking this crap from nobody. Period. It's not the jersey popping or screaming that proves your might. Sometimes, it just takes a big time butt whooping and an ambivalent quip about potential bodily harm to let your enemies know that you plan to come at them. And the Spurs can react any way they want, but deep down they know they can't handle the Suns anymore. The same might be said about the rest of the West? We will see. Cause the Playoffs are right around the corner, baby. No Holds Barred!