COACH: Terry Porter | 2007-08: 55-27
Phoenix Suns

The Suns' success will revolve around Stoudemire.
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images
What do you get when you add the optimism of a new defensive-minded head coach, the clout of three league MVP trophies and the doubt of having three starters with a combined age of 94 years old?

A Phoenix Suns team that nobody knows what to make of them, thatís what.

The :07 Seconds or Less days are over now that Mike DíAntoni is in New York, Shawn Marion is in Miami and Steve Nashís status as the best point guard in the league is trapped back in the year 2007.

A fundamental difference in team philosophy between General Manager Steve Kerr and DíAntoni lead to Terry Porter taking over in Phoenix, bringing with him a brand of defensive-minded basketball and accountability.

"I will be hands-on when it comes to the defense," Porter said at his introductory press conference. "When you talk about defense, there's got to be a desire there, and there's got to be a lot of repetition."

Suns fans should also expect a greater emphasis on getting Amare Stoudemire the ball more often and becoming the focal point of everything Phoenix does on offense. Stoudemire enters his seventh season in the league and his third since rising from the ashes following microfracture surgery on his left knee in 2005 and arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in 2006.

Offensively, Stoudemire is without a doubt the big man in the league. He pours in 25 points a night, hovers around 60 percent from the field, 80 percent from the line and has a midrange jump shot that is as pure as any guardís in the league outside of Rip Hamilton.

What Stoudemire doesnít have is a reputation for being an effective defender, despite his 6-10, 250-pound frame and wealth of athletic prowess. Too many times he makes the wrong gamble on defense and too few times does he come down with the key rebound that his team needs.

Phoenix received the unenviable draw of San Antonio in the first round in last yearís playoffs, the third straight year where they tangled with the black and silver in the postseason. After matching the Spurs blow for blow in a Game 1 for the ages, the Suns had nothing left for the rest of the series and bowed out in five games.

Outside of a new head coach, the cast is virtually the same for 2008-09, save the additions of Matt Barnes who thrived in Golden Stateís run-and-gun system and first round pick Robin Lopez who was known for his defensive ways while at Stanford, but showed some signs of offensive life during the Las Vegas Summer League.

People remember that Phoenix slipped to the No. 6 seed in the West but are quick to forget that the Suns had 55 wins. Meanwhile, the Lakers were the No. 1 seed with 57 wins. If Nash and Co. had notched two more Ws to become the team that got to eject Denver from the playoffs instead of allowing L.A. the opportunity to get the sweep, we'd all be looking at this team much differently.

Sure, it's revisionist history, but that's allowed when you're talking about a team that features a historic pairing of arguably the top center and the top point guard of their era.

You can't discount the experience, professionalism and ability of the supporting cast, either. Raja Bell is a warrior and one of the best knock-down three-point shooters in the league. Leandro Barbosa is quicker than 99 percent of his peers. Boris Diaw can play any position from point guard to center. And Grant Hill seems to fit the bill to become the type of consummate pro like a Ray Borque or a Reggie White or a Michael Finley who is destined to one day be named a champion.

Porter just has to make what's old new again.

-- Dave McMenamin

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O'Neal
Does the Big Diesel have anything left in the tank?

Let's try to answer that with what we know. It's year No. 17 of Shaq's remarkable career; he remains one of the largest human beings on the planet at 7-1, 325 pounds and credits the Phoenix training staff for making his body feel as good as it has in years; he's still good for 15 points on 60 percent shooting, 10 rebounds, a couple of assists and a couple of blocks just by taking the floor; he wants a fifth ring and a motivated Shaquille is a force to be reckoned with.

If O'Neal can play more than 30 minutes per game by staying out of foul trouble and staying in shape, Phoenix's defense should ratchet up several notches by Shaq's mere presence in the lane. Plus, an active Shaq should make Amare that much more punishing.

He's certainly not on "E" yet.

-- Dave McMenamin

THE STAT
67 The number of rebounds Shaquille O'Neal needs to reach 12,000 for his career.
There is still some talent but the beauty of the team in the past was its ability to maximize that talent on the offensive end.
With a change in philosophy this team will fail to make the playoffs for the first time in years.
Steve Nash is on the downside of his career and Amare Stoudemire will not benefit from a slower, more controlled style of play.
Grant Hill is a shadow of his former self, and Shaq no longer seems to have the interest to keep himself in good enough shape to be able to stand up to the rigors of the night-in, night-out toll the NBA schedule takes on players.
Diaw and Bell will also see a decline in their numbers with the change to a slower style and will have to rely much more on Nash getting into the heart of defense to get their shots.
Defensively Shaq still looms large and Amare can block shots but the teams that can shoot from the outside and those that can put Shaq in the pick and roll will win more games against this team than not.
-- NBA Scout
Amare Stoudemire posted consecutive solid years after the washout 2005 season, leading all centers in scoring with 25.2 points per game in 2007-08. Once Shaquille OíNeal arrived in the Valley of the Sun, Stoudemire was freed of certain defensive burdens and averaged 28.5 points over the final three months of the season.

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Record: 47-35, 8th in Western Conference
Playoffs: Lost in First Round to Lakers, 4-3
Scoring Leader: A. Stoudemire, 21.8 PPG
Rebounding Leader: A. Stoudemire 9.1 RPG
Assist Leader: S. Nash, 9.0 APG

Simulated Season Details
PLAYER/2007-08 STATS PPG RPG APG
PG Steve Nash 16.9 3.5 11.1
SG Raja Bell 11.9 3.7 2.2
SF Grant Hill 13.1 5.0 2.9
PF Amare Stoudemire 25.2 9.1 1.5
C Shaquille O'Neal 13.6 9.1 1.5

G Leandro Barbosa 15.6 2.8 2.6
F Matt Barnes 6.7 4.4 1.9
F-C Boris Diaw 8.8 4.6 3.9
C-F Robin Lopez -- -- --
F Alando Tucker 3.7 1.3 0.0
F Louis Amundson Free agent
F Matt Barnes Free agent
G Goran Dragic Draft
C-F Robin Lopez Draft
G Sean Singletary Trade
G Gordan Giricek Free agent
F-C Brian Skinner Free agent
G D.J. Strawberry Trade
PPG Amare Stoudemire 25.2
APG Steve Nash 11.1
SPG Grant Hill 0.9
Points Scored 110.07 (3rd)
Points Allowed 105.02 (25th)
Field-Goal Percentage .500 (1st)
Opponents' FG% .456 (13th)
Rebounding Diff. -2.39 (25th)
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