Updated: Jan. 24, 2007, 11:54 AM ET

No end in sight for Suns' streak

Taking a shot at a few questions in the wake of Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns taking a dominating 127-105 win Tuesday over the Washington Wizards, their 14th straight win . . .

What's the biggest challenge for the Suns now?

The one thing they have to do is beat San Antonio and Dallas. They're 0-2 against the Mavs, and they have 0-1 records against the Spurs and Lakers.

That's something they have to do before the playoffs begin. What we saw Tuesday was a demonstration of probably the game's best offense since the Showtime Lakers.

A worthy comparison. The Suns have four games left on this road trip. Will this streak die on the highway?

No. First, let's step back and think about it -- without that one miraculous shot by Gilbert Arenas, and that overtime loss to Dallas, we're looking at 31 wins in a row.

I don't see them losing in their coming road games against the Knicks, Bucks, Cavaliers (thought I heard "Sweet Georgia Brown" when the Cavs looked like the Washington Generals on a West road trip) or Timberwolves (coaching turmoil). And I don't see them losing their homecoming against the Spurs on Feb. 1.

I think the Suns will treat that one like a finals game, and I think that will be their 19th straight win.

You picked the Suns to win it all in the preseason. But given the West's power teams, doesn't Tuesday's foe, the Wizards, really have a better chance to reach the finals?

Nope. I still think the Miami Heat is the team that will emerge from the East. Once Shaq comes back, along with the play of Dwyane Wade, my call is still the Heat, especially given the way role players have revived. Chicago and Detroit are more viable candidates than the Wizards.

Why shouldn't Suns partisans worry about the last-place standing in offensive rebound rate?

There's just not a lot of misses to get. When I played, there was a stat for shooters called the 170 Club. You're in the club if you're above 40 in 3-point percentage, 50 in field goal shooting and 80 in free throw percentage -- the numbers add up to 170. Then I looked it up the other day and I saw that the entire Phoenix team combined is on the edge of the 170 club (49.8 FG, 39.9 3-Pointers, 81.5 FT). Amazing.

The defensive rebounding rate puts them 15th of 30 teams. Not too hideous, right?

People talk about their bad rebounding, but they're the only team that has two guys in the top 15 in rebounds with Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion.

Arenas got off to a slow start Tuesday against the Suns. He had said he already proved his point about getting ousted from Team USA by scoring 54 points the last time he played the Suns, coached by USA assistant Mike D'Antoni. He says the Blazers are next to feel his wrath with Team USA assistant Nate McMillan. D'Antoni jokes that he can't wait to see how Arenas plays against Duke.

Anyway . . . will his grudge-match mentality ever fade?

It works for him. He still feels he has not gotten the attention he deserves. That can fuel you and motivate you for a time. He's breaking through now, and when he gets the recognition he's due, then I think we'll see him moving toward a different type of motivation. Then it will be about proving his place in the history of the game, his legacy.

The motivational toolbox seems endless.

It is. Washington head coach Jimmy Lynam told me that you're auditioning for 30 teams every time you step on the court. That worked for me.

Charles Barkley said he used to play angry, but he had to stop relying on that motivational source because he felt himself losing control. What are the pitfalls of relying on emotion?

It's exhausting. And it carries over to your personal life. You have constant me-against-the-world thoughts. But I wouldn't say it seems like Gilbert is anywhere near that danger level.

Arenas seems very consistent in giving Nash credit as the leading MVP candidate.

I still think Arenas believes he's the MVP. He's in my top 3 for MVP with Dirk Nowitzki and Nash.

ESPN analyst Tim Legler finished the 1995-96 season well over the 170 percent club for Washington: 50.7 FG, 52.2 3-Pointers and 86.3 free throws.

• Dimes past: Jan. 13-14 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23


Dueling MVP Candidates
Melo and AI
AP Photo/Nick Wass
Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas (31 points) started 1-for-6 and the game was essentially over before he got going. Steve Nash meanwhile had 27 points and 14 assists.


Daily Dish: Flip's Ship

Pistons executive Joe Dumars talks about the strained relationship rumored between coach Flip Saunders and Rasheed Wallace.

Daily Dish: Doctoring Detroit



Welcome To The Grand Delusion

Somebody, anybody, please tell me what Dwane Casey did wrong.

Casey kept the Wolves in the top half of the league in Defensive Efficiency all season despite basically having only three big men in his rotation -- Kevin Garnett, the sporadically motivated Mark Blount and rookie Craig Smith, a second-round draft pick.

You can't critique Casey's late-game strategy either -- he more than held his own in close games, winning three straight overtime contests earlier this month.

But apparently losing four games in a row -- two of which can directly be pinned on Kevin Garnett's ejection against Detroit last Friday and subsequent one-game suspension -- was too much for Minnesota's brass to bear. No matter that the Wolves were 7-5 in January, or that they surprisingly held the West's No. 8 seed heading into Monday's games.

Apparently Minnesota management thinks this is still 2003-04 and they're gunning for the Western Conference title. This would be an absurd notion with almost any other franchise, but the Timberwolves are perhaps the league's most delusional franchise.

Read John Hollinger's full story Insider


Records At A Glance



Brilliant Suns Take 14th Straight

Phoenix shoots season-high 60.8 percent.


Howard vs. Howard
Howards
AP Photo/John Raoux
Mavs forward Josh Howard teams with DeSagana Diop to halt Magic forward Dwight Howard during Dallas' 111-94 win, its eighth straight win.




Extreme Behavior
Steve Nash

Tuesday's Best
Suns guard Steve Nash: Missed only two of his 13 shots, dropped 14 dimes and sent Agent Zero down to defeat, 127-105. In the first half, Nash was 7-for-7 from the field but did not loudly name portable cooking instruments.

Bobby Jackson

Tuesday's Worst
Hornets guard Bobby Jackson: Welcome back from the broken ribs. Now go out there and lose. Jackson's touch (1-for-7) needs a wee bit of work in the 102-96 loss to the Sixers.

Quote of the Day
"We knew that they remember Gilbert yelling 'Hibachi,' scoring 50 and Caron [Butler] yelling after the game. We knew that, so it's a surprise for us to come out and just not play well at all. "
-- Wizards forward Antawn Jamison, on the Suns avenging an earlier loss to Washington.

See how all 111 who played stacked up

-- Andrew Ayres



Oh, Doctor! The Official Story

In Tuesday's State of the Union Address, President Bush calls attention to his special guest in the audience, Dikembe Mutombo. But in referring to Mutombo, is the president being fully factual, or repeating a sports legend?

Bush says: "Dikembe Mutombo grew up in Africa, amid great poverty and disease. He came to Georgetown University on a scholarship to study medicine -- but coach John Thompson got a look at Dikembe and had a different idea. Dikembe became a star in the NBA, and a citizen of the United States. But he never forgot the land of his birth -- or the duty to share his blessings with others. He has built a brand new hospital in his hometown. A friend has said of this good hearted man: 'Mutombo believes that God has given him this opportunity to do great things.' And we are proud to call this son of the Congo our fellow American."

But ABC's Karen Travers, a former sports editor of the Georgetown student newspaper, 'The Hoya,' raises whether this famous Mutombo tale is perhaps a bit too tall.

See ABC's Political Radar blog



Ranking The Top 25 Coaching Replacements

The rankings are only a snapshot of the way things look in mid-January 2007. Coming into the season, no one had and Ron Rothstein at the top of the list. Things change quickly in the NBA coaching game.

All that said, the top spot goes to someone with a championship ring, lots of wins and plenty of experience, everyone's favorite coaching vagabond ...

1. Larry Brown
It seems inevitable that the former 76ers coach and top exec, freshly installed as Philadelphia's newest front office VP, eventually will take over Billy King's job as team president or Maurice Cheeks' job as head coach (or both).

When ESPN.com asked King earlier this month to refute the notion that Brown will be coaching the 76ers by this time next year, he stormed off without answering.

2. Rick Adelman
The 60-year-old said the toughest adjustment he's had to make in his first season out of the NBA since 1997-98 is living without a tight schedule. He said he would consider a front office position if one was offered.

"When you've been in the league as long as I was, it gets in your blood. Right now it's just a matter of seeing how things fall," said Adelman.

3. Marc Iavaroni
The Suns assistant is considered almost a sure thing to join the Toronto Raptors next year after Sam Mitchell finishes out the final year of his contract. The Raptors could hire him tomorrow if they wanted to, but under the terms of the agreement that brought former Phoenix GM Bryan Colangelo to Toronto, it would cost the Raptors $3 million -- a price tag that drops to $0 at the end of this season.

Read Chris Sheridan's full story Insider



Filling Yao's Shoes In Vegas

Here's my educated guess on what David Stern and D'Antoni will do in choosing Yao Ming 's All-Star replacement:

1. The Commish will pick Amare Stoudemire as Yao's replacement if the West coaches don't pick him as a reserve themselves. Stoudemire has been so good in his comeback from microfracture surgery that he has to be considered the second-best center in the conference . . . or at worst tied for second with Denver's Marcus Camby. Factor in Stoudemire's huge vote lead on the rest of the field -- more than 400,000 votes ahead of No. 3 Erick Dampier at last report -- and it makes even more sense. Stoudemire is deserving and a fan favorite.

2. Then D'Antoni will choose Dirk Nowitzki to start for the first time in his sixth All-Star appearance. With the Mavericks leading the league with a 35-8 record and Dirk playing MVP ball as Dallas' driving force, elevating him to the first five is the no-brainer move no matter who Stern selects to replace Yao.

Read Marc Stein's full blog Insider

 

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