Thursday, January 3, 2008

Opposing View: 1/3 at Phoenix

All season long, Sonics Beat will be consulting an expert on the opposing team as part our gameday preview. Tonight, Brad G. Faye represents the team at in discussing their division-leading squad. Arizona Republic beat writer Paul Coro blogs on the Suns, including an entry on Kurt Thomas' return to Phoenix. Also see the Bright Side of the Sun blog.

How is Grant Hill fitting in with the Suns?
As expected, Grant Hill is fitting in great both on and off the court. I don’t think either has come as much of a surprise as everybody knows the kind of player he can be when healthy. The one element of his game which has been a pleasant surprise, though, has been his defense. I remember earlier on in his career watching all those great highlights above the rim, but never knew he was as good a defender as he is. That ability has come in handy on a few occasions, particularly in that win at San Antonio.

Has the play of the other major newcomer, Brian Skinner, in replacing Kurt Thomas been a pleasant surprise?
We knew heading into the season that Kurt Thomas isn’t a player or a person you can replace. But for a guy added to the roster as recently as training camp, Brian Skinner has been fantastic. A lot of people thought he would just fill in as a big body for Mike D'Antoni, but like Hill, he is a lot better defender than people give him credit for. Skinner’s laidback personality fits in perfectly with this ballclub and he’s a key reason why we’re among the top teams in the league when it comes to blocked shots.

After back-to-back playoff series and two Lakers wins this year, is it fair to call the Lakers and Suns a rivalry?
If anything, these past two seasons have simply reminded everybody what a great rivalry the Suns and Lakers have. The history between these ballclubs dates back to the days of Wilt Chamberlain, Connie Hawkins and Paul Westphal. From then all the way up to today, each has been playing for something every time they step onto the court regardless of what their record may have been.

As you celebrate the franchise's 40th Anniversary, where does beating the Sonics in the 1993 Western Conference Finals rank in the top memories in team history?
In an ideal world I’d be talking about how beating the Bulls was more memorable, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. When the NBA underwent its divisional restructure a few seasons back, I remember being bothered by the fact we would no longer be playing in the Pacific with the Sonics. The two teams have shared a lot of great memories, not only from those 1993 Western Conference Finals, but also in 1976 when we eliminated the Sonics en route to the NBA Finals.

(Editor's note: Worth remembering that the Sonics beat the Suns in the 1979 Western Conference Finals on their way to the NBA championship.)

What don't we know about the Suns but should?
This again will serve as proof to how much history the Suns and Sonics share, but our franchise’s first-ever game actually took place against Seattle. Not to rub it in or anything, but the final result was a 116-107 Suns victory.