| Sports |

Blame D'Antoni: Sinking Phoenix Suns Take on New Orleans Hornets Tonight

The New York Knicks were eliminated from the playoffs last Saturday, less than 24 hours before the Phoenix Suns were in every way but mathematically terminated by the Dallas Mavericks. Anyone but a Mike D'Antoni/Planet Orange hardcore might see humor in that ironic turn.

Probably not Mike D'Antoni himself. He's a self-serious dude, and he doesn't like to lose, which is about the nicest thing we can say about him. Well, okay, and he dresses nice.

If D'Antoni's still coaching the Suns today, they're the two or three seed in the West, most likely the two. Sure, they'll get pistol-whipped by the Spurs or Lakers, but they're in the dance. The sports-radio yahoos are screaming about the lack of D, and demanding off-season changes. That making the playoffs isn't enough for the Phoenix Suns.

Here in the real world, both Mikey D and the Suns are out of the title hunt (forget the math; the Suns are toast). That's Mikey D's doing, and don't let any yahoo tell you otherwise. Suns owner Robert Sarver and general manager Steve Kerr are hardly blameless, and neither are the players themselves, but it was D'Antoni's little turf tantrum regarding Kerr's purported "interference" at the end of last season that sent Mike packing to Gotham and the Suns sliding into a giant sucking sinkhole of mediocrity.

116-140 to the Mavericks -- in the must-win game of the year? We'd say the Suns finally reached the bottom of the monstrous sucking pit, 'cept there are still five games to go, starting with tonight's against Chris Paul, David West, and the Hornets at New Orleans Arena.

Hang on, 'cause we're about to see the final purge of the D'Antoni Era.

Shaquille O'Neal's got exactly five games left in purple and orange. Dude's gone (and good riddance). If they can find anyone who'll give 'em a semi-square deal for Amar'e Stoudemire and his bum eye, so's Stat. After watching the devastation in Dallas on Sunday, we've finally come to the conclusion that Steve Nash's defensive liabilities outweigh his heroic offensive attributes. The Suns should offload the aging superstar while the offloading's good -- and don't be surprised if Mike D'Antoni's on the other end of the line when that deal goes down.

We'd laugh if it didn't hurt so much.

Tip is at 5 p.m. TV: Channel 45 (cable 9). Radio: KTAR-AM 620. Info: www.nba.com/suns.

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