BEST PRO SPORTS TEAM - 2006
The Phoenix Suns, of course
Now, how could we give this coveted award to anybody but the Phoenix Suns, who made it to the NBA conference finals twice in the past two years? Hell, there's no other team that's come close to doing that since the Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series in 2001, and now they suck (okay, not as bad as they did last year, but still . . . ). Hope springs eternal for the Cardinals, with lots of glitzy acquisitions, but they are owned by the Bidwills and coached by Dennis "the Excusemeister" Green. We predict a .500 season. As for the Coyotes, well, who watches hockey in the desert, for Wayne Gretzky's sake?! So back to the Suns: They've got the reigning MVP of the league over the past two years in Steve Nash, one of the two or three best point guards in the history of the game; the resilient Shawn "The Matrix" Marion, who scores and rebounds like a madman; and Amar? Stoudemire, who we hope will return to his old form this year after two knee surgeries (before he went out, the best sports minds in the land predicted he'd be a future MVP). Then there's Raja Bell, our favorite "dirty" player who's a crack defensive specialist who can put it in the hole; flying Frenchman Boris Diaw, who played three positions, dished out assists second to Nash on the Suns and was voted the most-improved player in the league in 2005-06 after warming the bench the year before for the lowly Atlanta Hawks; and Argentinean Leandro Barbosa, arguably the fastest guy in the NBA who led the league for much of last season in three-point accuracy. But the real reason the Suns won the most games in the NBA two seasons ago, and were able to make it to the conference finals last year with Stoudemire and fellow big man Kurt Thomas injured for most of the season, was Coach Mike D'Antoni, now serving as assistant coach and offensive guru of Team USA. We're saying, Stoudemire and The Matrix were around pre-D'Antoni, and the Suns were a doormat team. It took his charming yet firm West Virginia ways, plus a fast-paced savvy honed as a championship playmaker and coach in Italy, to make the Suns a real contender. Okay, so Steve Nash helped a little, but Steve says it's all because of "Coach," and we believe him. D'Antoni's saying this could be the Suns' championship year, and ? though we've heard it all before ? we believe that, too!