Suns News

Small Ball Is Rooted in Lineups of ’90s

Head Coach Mike D'Antoni's decision to go to a small-ball lineup has paid off in a big way for the Suns.
(Brian Bahr/Allsport)
Paul Coro
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 1, 2004

SALT LAKE CITY - Going to small ball was no training-camp whim for Suns coach Mike D'Antoni.

It is something he has been chewing on for more than a decade. In the early 1990s, D'Antoni recalls sitting on his couch in Milan, Italy, where he was a coach, to watch Suns games at 3 or 4 a.m.

"Not many other things would keep me up," D'Antoni said.

Those Suns teams with smaller lineups and an uptempo style were among the biggest influences in D'Antoni's decision to return to the United States after 20 years of playing and coaching in Italy, where he is a legend.

Anyone questioning Phoenix's fleet first five should recall the Suns' heyday, including the 1993 NBA Finals team. There were times Phoenix used a lineup of Charles Barkley, Dan Majerle, Cedric Ceballos, Danny Ainge and Kevin Johnson. Even with Mark West starting at center, it was not a tall lineup otherwise.


For more Phoenix Suns coverage, check out www.azcentral.com, Arizona's homepage.
"We're a hell of a lot bigger than that," D'Antoni said.

"Of course, those teams never won the title. But Michael Jordan is no longer a factor on the other side.

"It's very similar," said West, the Suns' assistant general manager. "They have better athletes. We had better shooters. We had one of the best players in the league. Charles won the MVP. They have one (Amar