Despite excessive cheerleading from the Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Suns are not a lock to win the National Basketball Association championship.
They may not even come close. If Fat Lever didn't sustain an injury last Sunday night I wouldn't have bet on them to get out of the first round against Denver.
Lever is the former ASU star who could be the most underrated player in the entire NBA. He does more things for Denver than Kevin Johnson does for the Suns. Put Lever in a New York Knicks uniform and he would make the cover of Sports IIlustrated every winter. Clearly, he's a better back court player than Mark Jackson of the Knicks.
Lever's problem is that he's working in Denver, a media no man's land.
Think about Denver and you think about snow and ice. They don't even have a daily newspaper up there that anyone wants to read.
This is the town in which Lever has tried to make a name for himself. Lever led the Nuggets in assists, rebounds and steals. He's the thinking man's Magic Johnson.
He can score twenty points. He can pass the ball intelligently. He can steal it in the clutch. He can come up with the key rebound.
Fat Lever could be the best all-around player in the league. But he plays in Denver and so nobody knows about him. It will be interesting, a few years from now, to compare Lever's performance as an NBA player with that of Sean Elliott--also from Tucson.
I don't know why, but my hunch is that Elliott is going to be a fairly ordinary player in the pros. But there are two reasons why I think the Nuggets were capable of beating the Suns.
The second, of course, is Sweet Walter Davis. Despite his problems, Davis is still the most talented player who ever wore a Phoenix Suns uniform.
He played eleven years for the Suns. He was marvelous in every one of them. Last Friday night, he delivered a magnificent performance in the Coliseum. It was a strange thing to watch. The same Suns fans who hung on his every move for years sat in stunned silence every time Walter tossed another jumper through the hoop.
I wonder if anyone has had the same thought that I did while watching the Suns' playoff games. What's really wrong with the Coliseum as a place to play?
Answer: There are no enclosed boxes. It means that very important people like Karl Eller and Keith Turley must sit on hard benches in the front row where everyone can see them.