With the D-Backs in freefall, the Cardinals in the basement, and the Coyotes involved in a lockout nobody cares about, the smart money is on the new and improved Phoenix Suns to reclaim their status as the big dogs of the Valley's sports landscape. Just months removed from a tumultuous 29-win season, the Suns have reloaded by adding Steve Nash and Quentin Richardson to a lineup that already includes Olympians Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion and rising star Joe Johnson. The end result should be a rarity in today's NBA: a high-flying team that can actually put the ball in the basket. The 2004-05 season begins in earnest as the Suns tip off against perennial punching bags the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, November 3, at America West Arena, 201 East Jefferson. Game time is 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the AWA box office, or by calling 1-800-4NBA-TIX. -- Craig Wallach
Ironmen flex their stuff at the SOMA Triathlon
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Sometimes it takes the exploits of others to show us just how uninspiring are our own existences. As proof we offer world-class triathletes, many of whom will be on hand to humble us with their exploits at the SOMA Half Ironman Triathlon, Sunday, October 31, at Tempe Beach Park, Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe. Starting time is 6:30 a.m. Three-time Ironman Australia Champion Chris "Macca" McCormack and 13-time Ironman Champion Heather Fuhr lead the field on a daylong excursion featuring a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and 13.1-mile run. Call 480-226-4729. -- Craig Wallach
Sports, doggie style
If the only trick your mutt has mastered is the "poop-on-the-rug-and-run" move, check out the Good Dog USDAA Agility Trials at McQueen Park on Saturday, October 30, and Sunday, October 31, for some real canine talent. The trials lead into the United States Dog Agility Association's national competition, which takes place at WestWorld in Scottsdale November 11 through 14. According to Good Dog, "agility" is a sporting event in which one dog works with its human counterpart to navigate a 180-yard course that's speckled with obstacles. Each run is timed or scored so that the fastest time or highest score advances. This weekend's trial includes games such as "Gamblers, Snookers and Jumpers" (much too cute -- and confusing -- to explain here). It's too late to register your bitch for this battle, but check out the animated terriers and speedy Shar-Peis anyway. Maybe your pooch can learn a few pointers. The free event starts at 8 a.m. at 510 North Horne in Gilbert. Check out gooddog.org. --Ashlea Deahl