Author Jack McCallum chronicled the Suns 2005-06 season from the bench from training camp through the playoffs. A few thoughts I noted as I read:
1. D'Antoni & his staff are phenomenal managers of egos and instilled confidence in every player. For instance, when Tim Thomas arrived, D'Antoni tells him he'll never get mad at him for shooting but only if he doesn't shoot. Thomas felt like he was in heaven. In another instance, D'Antoni is lobbying a reporter to "make sure you mention Marion".
2. The Colangelo's and the front office put together pieces and a "lean roster" with solid competitors. They combined their stars with hungry role players with something to prove to teams that cast them away. These were good fits for the Suns such as Eddie House, Raja Bell, James Jones, and Boris Diaw. They were flexible enough to add Tim Thomas late. Everyone could shoot, handle, and play without the ball.
3. They developed their players. Early on, assistant Dan D'Antoni is assigned to take Leandro Barbosa under his wing and you see the development throughout the season.
4. Kwame Brown says they're not a fundamental team and that they just "run a bunch of screen-and-rolls and have such good shooters". The author astutely picks up that Brown doesn't equate movement and spontaneity to fundamental basketball. A sure sign of the times where the basketball game he grew up has evolved into "what can i do with the ball when I get it".
5. If the league norm is considered fundamental then the Suns were certainly different. They played the offensive game based on freedom of movement and decisions on the run as opposed to lining up across from the opponent and running choreographed sets within a 25 by 45 foot half court box. It seems to me that part of what made this work is that they understood the difference between bad, good, and better shots.
6. The suns minimized time as a critical element of the game. They created many more possessions with the idea that they could get more points per possession than their opponent. They were comfortable making decisions of bad-good-better at fast pace but being different they would sucker opponents into making those decisions without the same comfort level.
7. Lawrence Frank said it best: "Playing the suns is like being a passenger in a car going seventy-five miles an hour. When your driving, like they are, you feel comfortable. But when you're the passenger, you're uncomfortable. The trick is how to figure out how to be a driver. But they don't let you do that."
8. Coaches have become more and more controlling in every situation. I credit D'Antoni for having the self confidence in what he believes to play the game differently than what was considered acceptable at the time. He believes in his preparation. For instance, at times his teams will practice under an hour if everyone goes well and he feels good about it. Here's a guy that got fired after 1 year in Denver but comes back and does it his way.
9. The author has a great line when asked if D'Antoni is a genius: "Coaching is at one level the art of repeating almost the same thing over and over so it doesn't sound like the same thing."
10. Don't underestimate the amount of perspiration behind "genius". As the author notes, if u sat with Hemingway as he tried to get it right you would probably say "Damn, that guy rewrites a lot." As he notes, D'Antoni and staff rewrite a lot.
11. D'Antoni on why he plays fast: "most coaches believe defenses are more vulnerable late in the shot clock, that you can get them out of position with a lot of passing. I don't know why defenses wouldn't be more vulnerable before they get set. Thats why we play fast."
12. D'Antoni on turnovers: "people say that when you play fast you'll be a high turnover team. I think you'll be a low-turnover team because you don't throw as many passes."
13. D'Antoni on blowing leads: "people say 'you blew a big lead because you play fast.' Well, hell, did they say that before we got an eighteen-point lead? Playing fast is how we got the lead."
14. D'Antoni on players sitting and learning: "they told leandro barbosa he could learn by sitting behind Stephon Marbury. When I was playing, they told me I could learn by sitting behind Tiny Archibald. Well, guess what? I didn't learn shit, just like leandro didn't learn shit. He doesn't play anything like stephon, and I was about a hundred times slower than Tiny. So how was I going to learn anything?"
15. Alvin Gentry on D'Antoni and coaching: "What makes Mike so good is that he gets to the meat of what he wants very quickly, then trust his players and it took me a bit of time to accept that. NBA coaching 101 says: 'you gotta cover every single thing. And I found out from Mike that you don't".
17. D'Antoni believes coaches must know everything the opponent is going to do and devise a game plan but that the players don't need to know all that. He thinks players can't read and react with too much info.
18. Several times the staff makes the classic debate of whether to try to stop kobe or the other teams star with a team effort or play the opposing superstar straight up and not let anyone else get involved or beat you.
19. D'Antoni on what they do: "Push the ball, dive hard on pick-and-rolls. Keep spaced. Drive, kick, run the floor."
20. D'Antoni gives his half time speech in game 7 of round 1 series versus the Lakers. I think it shows the nature of the beast he fights with his system and represents what he believes. He says, "Every inch of the game, every possession, you have to fight. You can't be, 'I'm up fifteen, I can force a shot now.' 'I'm up fifteen, I can take a defensive possession off.' You can't be that way. You gotta be disciplined enough to go frame by frame by frame. Now, within that, there will be mistakes. But you know what? That's fine. Go to the next frame."
21. Nash on his athleticism: "I'm more elusive than quick, and people confuse the two," he says. "I'm really good on the move, which involves coordination, timing and balance. Once I get going, I can do a lot of things. But I'm painfully bad at explosiveness." Moving, changing gears, and court sense separate Nash. He gives it up on the run and gets it back on the run (via pass or dribble handoff). An interesting concept but think of the suns and usually if i player catches flat footed its going up for 3.
22. Nash makes a point that I whole-heartily agree with: "you hear about so-called tweaners, right, guys who aren't quite point guards and aren't quite shooting guards. what do they usually become? The answer is: mediocre shooting guards." He believes point guards are too an extent born not made.
Terms I liked from the book:
Game plan summary: "Pace. Space. Pass."
Steve Nash: "dribble probe" the defense
D'Antoni's coach in Italy wanted his teams to "sputare sangue" or spit blood