Last year's record? 54-28, lost in the third round to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Projected record, as predicted three months ago in time to publish in Yahoo! Sports' NBA Preview Magazine? 52-30
Why I think that sounds about right?
Because I think there might be a stretch, when the Suns learn to work alongside each other and get their rotation down, that has Phoenix working with the best record in the NBA for a month or so. Maybe January.
Once Hakim Warrick joins the starting lineup and Josh Childress starts taking more minutes from Grant Hill(notes), this can still be a formidable team, especially with Jason Richardson(notes) in his prime and Steve Nash(notes) acting all Steve Nash-like.
Why I think I might be terribly, terribly wrong?
Because that's a lot of wins, and this is the appalling optimist in me coming out. Some of these teams I expected everything to go wrong with. With most, I balanced out the best and worst case scenarios. For the Suns? I expected things to click, even though I didn't agree with the decision (for Amar'e, and for Phoenix) that sent Stoudemire to the Knicks.
This squad still has issues defending, and rebounding, and the rotation has to get right. Has to. And sometimes coaches can go entire careers without learning how to play the players the right way.
Step up or step off
It's not that we don't appreciate the effort you're showing with the "Get Big Like You Want to Scare Away a Bear" defense, Hedo. I mean, it's clearly spooking Andrea Bargnani(notes), and anybody'll tell you: He's a brave little toaster. It's just that ... well ... actually, I'm lying. It is that we don't appreciate it. To be honest, we don't really appreciate much of anything that you have to offer at this point.
(With the obvious exception of opportunities for Tas Melas parody videos that spark a raging firestorm of clicks threatening to reduce the series of tubes that comprises the Internet into a nightmarish, Dali-inspired Habitrail of sagging, melted plastic. Thanks so much for those.)
You're still a gifted and willing passer, no doubt, but you're also a relatively unathletic 31-year-old who's not getting any younger or quicker in a league that's always getting both. You're a shotmaker who has 10 years in the league, but who's made more than 42 percent of his field goal attempts only twice. A 6-foot-10 forward who rebounds like a below-average-for-the-position swingman.
A "clutch" performer who shot 38.6 percent in "clutch" situations last year, 35.7 percent in 2008-09, and 40.2 percent (putting you just ahead of vaunted late game options like Daniel Gibson(notes), Udonis Haslem(notes) and Charlie Villanueva(notes)) in your peak year of 2007-08. A defender who ... well, you've got that bear thing going.
Boil it all down, and you're a playmaker who often doesn't seem all that interested in playing. After two years of decline and the who-gives-a-crap capper to your abysmal stint in Toronto last year, this is what we think of you, Hedo, when we think of you at all.
An optimist sees a fresh start with a Hall of Fame point guard in a non-toxic situation with an open offensive scheme (to say nothing of that dry heat) and thinks you might find the Fountain of Youth, or at least get closer to 17/5/5 than you got at any point last season. A pessimist sees the ball in Steve Nash's hands rather than yours, fails to see where else on the floor you really provide value right now, and wonders if Alvin Gentry decides to move Hakim Warrick's name up the depth chart by New Year's Day. Until you give us a reason to think otherwise, there's likely to be a lot of glass-half-empty thinkers out there.
Five things about the Suns that furrow Ol' Man Howard's brow
1. What, you trying to catch flies, Lopez? Close your mouth when you're just standing there, son. I can hear you breathing from over here. Making me sick.
2. Actually, come here, Robin. You got some dirt on your cheeks, chin and literally all over your neck. Let me get out my handkerchief and work up some saliva. What's that? Not dirt? You call that facial hair? You know what: Smuh. I'm smuhing at you so much right now, Robin. What? "SMH." Smuh. You think I don't know about tweeting? You think I don't know about smuh? Well, my son's friends tell me things, Mr. Eager Beaver Pants.
3. And don't think I don't hear you trying to throw some bass in your voice when you're talking to me, Lopez. You want to take a tone with me? You sure? All right, young fella. The left's the hospital. The right's the graveyard. Where you wanna go tonight, kid? Huh? You tell me.
4. I'm telling you for the last time, Robin, get rid of those high socks. Think you're Keith Van Horn(notes)? Hmm? Is that what it is? You want to be cool like your best friend, Mr. Cool, Keith Van Horn? That's a one-way ticket to getting stuffed by Kobe in the playoffs, kid. Think on it.
5. Then again, what am I wasting my time for? You don't care about nothing, dunking on your brother like that. This country's going to heck in a heckbasket, I swear it. Don't you backsass me; I know what I said.
Grant Hill was ... I mean, I don't even know: A three-minute, 45-second reminder
"But Dan, this has nothing to do with the Phoenix Suns!" Shhhh. Watching Grant Hill this way -- healthy, young, elemental, just as he was intended by God or Shiva or Odin or whichever deity you prefer -- is just plain good for your soul. Sit back, open up your heart and let the sunshine in.