Amare was a diva – there’s no questioning that.
Amare’s exit from Arizona to the Big Apple created a firestorm of excitement last year that has soared expectations. Madison Square Garden has been rejuvenated, and likewise, thousands of “anti-Amare” feelings flooded Facebook posts from Phoenix at the same time.
It’s given life back to New York City basketball, the likes of which it hasn’t seen a since Patrick Ewing and their 50 – 32 season in 2000. Since then, Spike Lee and those who adorn blue-and-orange jerseys have had years of frustration to say the least.
The 2010 – 2011 season has been rough at times, and even close wins against teams like the New Jersey Nets (17 – 43) February 28th 104 – 103 has generated mixed emotions. Nash and team drove just a few hundred miles northeast to Boston the following night to revisit their once center in Shaquille O’Neal, but ended their stream , falling 115 – 103, and remaining double digit games behind division leader San Antonio Spurs.. The Celtics, and similar west coast rivals Los Angeles Lakers, posses nearly all the intangibles the Suns don’t — an experienced and ferocious center, a dangerously passionate audience and slew of post-season victory banners. But it’s never worried the Suns before.
Grant Hill’s recent 34-point game and Chaning Frye’s two recent buzzer beaters have sparked youth into an older team and given them life. It’s given needed momentum to a team that, historically, struggles in post-season play and breaks down in the minutes that matter.
Although they’ve had runs this season and gelled well together in spite of Nash’s pick-n-roll partner, extended survival in the playoffs will most likely evade them for 2011. They may enter the first round and struggle, but they will most likely realize that Nash’s signature offense requires mind-reading ability — one that took Amare years to perfect.
In times of sudden-death contests against post season legends Lakers and Spurs, good players like Hill and Frye must exhibit statistical greatness.
Current West Coast rivals, Los Angeles Lakers, aren’t at their championship caliber performance, but that’s nothing new. For a team pelted with scrutiny of inconsistency, the 2010 NBA Champs may not be in first in the West, but they know the science behind winning championships. As much there is an expectation of winning the Southern California, there’s also an expectation of meeting the Suns in Phoenix.
Even if they make it past the first round, they’ll meet Kobe come mid-April, as they infamously have for what seems like a million times in the past decade. Lakers vs. Suns and Nash vs. Kobe has long been a staple in NBA post-season play, and for Phoenix fans, it will hopefully continue this April.
My question is — was it really Nash vs. Kobe or was it Nash/Amare vs. Kobe? We’ll see in six weeks.