The late, brilliant author F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote there are no second acts in American lives. Despite having a Canadian point guard and two bench players from Brazil and Slovenia, the Phoenix Suns are currently pushing as hard as possible to make Fitzgerald's famous aphorism a false prophesy.
With a new coach (Alvin Gentry) and a new stable of trigger happy, deadly accurate long ball snipers who know their role and fill it splendidly (Channing Frye, Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley) the Suns are back to where they once were.
Before Shaquille O'Neal and his hurricane ego came in and switched up the standing philosophy, before Mike D'Antoni got sick of his new boss' incessant neck breathing and punched a one way ticket to Broadway and before the insufferable Terry Porter era, the Suns were the talk of their sport. A group of castoffs who willingly bought into the ".07 seconds or less" offensive ideology and met unparalleled success.
From 2004 to 2007, Phoenix finished first in the Pacific Division while leading the entire league in points per game. Every year it was the same story. Dominant regular season followed by a heartbreaking playoff loss. Basketball analysts far and wide proclaimed the all offense, no defense way of life a great way to put fans in the seats and win a lot of regular season basketball games. But as the saying goes, defense wins championships.
In those three years, the Suns finished 30th, 27th and 23rd in opponent points per game. Phoenix didn't play defense and thus could never get over that hump.
After a dark, two year period that bottomed out with no playoff appearance last season, it looked like the curtain was finally closing on Phoenix's relevance.
With things looking like they were headed towards a dreaded rebuilding phase, Phoenix instead chose to shock the basketball world.
As of Nov. 24, the Suns are tied with two other teams for the league's best record at 11-3 and are scoring more points per game than anybody else (110.4). On the flip, they're also second to last in steals and 25th in opponent points per game (105.5). They're second in field goal percentage, second in three-point percentage and third in assists.
All of the offensive numbers are undoubtedly due to the elaborate, flashy scheme, but the man in the clouds, the puppeteer and irreplaceable piece, is Steve Nash.
An early MVP favorite yet again, he's the only player in the league averaging double digits in assists and his two 20 assist games through the first eight games is utterly ridiculous. Nash is their unquestioned leader and what he says goes. The organization's pulse thumps each time the ball travels from his fingertips to the hardwood.
The two-time MVP is a model leader. Someone who can relate to almost all of his teammates and psychologically dissect their needs as well as their weaknesses. He knows that Phoenix is not as talented or deep as Boston or L.A. but that doesn't mean he can't will his troops to a triumphant victory cigar against the best of the best. He's psychologically understanding of his team's mindset and the only way they can get to their mountain top.
"This is the type of team that's got to be humble and be an underdog throughout the whole season," Nash said. "The minute we say we're a certain caliber of team, there's a danger there. We just got to keep being humble and treating this like a project that's going to take the whole season."
Not to play devil's advocate or anything, but let it be said that Phoenix is right where they were to begin the 2004-05 season, holding a flame under the NBA's collective cushion. Running up and down the court, firing threes and making 100 points look like a lay-up. Unfortunately this doesn't make them a championship contender. No matter how successful they are during the first 82 games, it's a moot point until they can at the very least make a finals appearance.
During their footnote of prevalence, Phoenix was the biggest tease in sports. Bigger than Playboy putting Jessica Alba on their March 2006 cover with no inclusion of an actual photo shoot.
Maybe this is the year the system prevails and maybe the Suns finally shoot their ring fingers into a most coveted jewel. But history says it's not going to happen and as the saying goes, their first act is running on fumes.
Fitzgerald's sure of it.