How will Suns adjust?

May, 15, 2007
So how will the Suns respond strategywise to the suspensions of Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw?

They'll go small.

Er …

They'll go even smaller than usual.

They will inevitably try to replicate the success they had last season while Stoudemire was recovering from microfracture knee surgery by trying to speed up the game, with Steve Nash and Leandro Barbosa at the forefront of those plans.

The problem?

Diaw had a huge rule in the success of the Suns' small-ball team last season. Some of his minutes have already been claimed in this series by Kurt Thomas, who is by far Phoenix's best post defender against Tim Duncan, but Thomas is not the playmaker/offensive mismatch Diaw can be.

Suns coach Mike D'Antoni will likely start James Jones or Barbosa in Stoudemire's place, with an outside shot that little-used Jalen Rose or Pat Burke plays some emergency minutes in the frontcourt. It'll be the first game Stoudemire has missed this season in his comeback.

The Spurs will be counting on Duncan, Francisco Elson and Fabricio Oberto to avoid foul trouble over the next two games while Robert Horry serves his suspension.

"There's no real strategy I can talk about to replace our most dominant player and one of our best post players," Nash told on Tuesday night. "Obviously it's a big blow. We're just going to have to fight as hard as we can."

The Suns' solace is that they have recent experience playing -- and winning -- a crucial playoff game after losing a key player to suspension.

Bell was forced to sit out Game 6 of Phoenix's first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers last season after an infamous Game 5 takedown of Kobe Bryant. Trailing the series 3-2, Phoenix won that Game 6 in L.A. without its primary Bryant defender and ultimately closed out the Lakers in seven.

Marc Stein | email

ESPN Senior Writer
• Senior NBA writer for
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics


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