Suns Throwback: Alvan Adams, Part Two

With the present Suns’ players enjoying their offseason, Suns.com decided the summer time is a great chance to catch up with former players for a weekly #SunsThrowback edition of Phoenix basketball history. How does it work? Basically we get their memories going just enough to do what they do best: tell us their most memorable stories from their playing days.

This week marks the second half of a two-part series with Alvan Adams, who played for Phoenix from 1975 through 1988. In Part Two, he focuses on the 1975-76 season and the Suns' run to the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.

On when and how the Suns gained momentum toward their eventual Finals run in ’76…

“It was late in the season. We got Garfield [Heard in a trade], it was a third of the way into the season. Then we had a bad stretch there, not because he was there, but whatever it was we had a couple road trips [that didn’t go well].

Dick Van [Arsdale] got hurt later in the year. Dick getting hurt gave Ricky Sobers, the other first-round draft choice rookie, valuable minutes later in the season. Somewhere late in the season, we had a good last 10 or 12 games. I think we went 8-2 or 9-2 or something like that.

On upsetting the No. 1 seed and defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in the 1976 Western Conference Finals…

They have a really good player in Rick Barry. Probably first-team NBA that year. They’ve got a great rookie point guard. They’ve got Clifford Ray, one of the reasons I went to Oklahoma University. Jamaal Wilkes, Will Smith…

[Ray was a] totally different type of center. They didn’t need him to score. He was a big center, get a rebound and take a hard foul. There were two very contrasting styles playing against each other. He set picks, he fouled hard, he got lots of rebounds. I ran the floor…

I know that’s one of Jerry Colangelo’s favorite memories. Whenever you’re going somewhere with him, he’ll go ‘my favorite play that I remember about Alvan, it was late in Game 7, and Alvan mad ea steal and a breakaway dunk with a minute to go, I knew we’d won it.’

We came back here and there was an incredible welcoming. Millions or something, I don’t know. It was Terminal 2. It was packed...it was a big deal. This was the only team in town. We’re going to the Finals in a major sport?

On the Suns-Celtics recent history, specifically involved the previous year’s trade of Charlie Scott for Paul Westphal…

I know it was valuable having Paul on our team. He knew those guys. He told us how sneaky those players were. There was one little Havlicek fake, what we call a flop today, when I was driving down the lane. Paul goes over to the ref and he goes ‘come on, I used to be able to do that too when I played for the Celtics. Either let everybody do it, don’t just let the Celtics do it.’ He gave us a lot of insight to those guys.

I’m glad they traded Charlie. He had my number, 33. I was glad to have Paul as a teammate, my favorite teammate ever, and I was glad to have number 33.

On the Celtics’ reputation and style of play…

They were Red Auerback’s team. They must have gone to sneaky class before the season started. They knew they were the Celtics. I believed that. Paul led me to believe that, that they’re going to get away with stuff. You just get used to it, whatever that’s worth, three or four or five or six points a game. He would roll their eyes when they’d get the call…

They had a lot of headaches on that team. Havlicek and Jo Jo and Cowens. I say headaches, in my sense we had lots of things to worry about and address and attack.

On the Game 3 fight between Phoenix’s Ricky Sobers and Boston’s Kevin Stacom...

[Sobers] was one of our toughest players…Ricky was pugnacious. He was not going to take anything. I think he got into a tussle with somebody in each round. Tommy Burleson, Ricky Barry and Kevin Stacom…

No one got ejected back then. You could beat up anybody.

On the triple-overtime Game 5...

The great thing about that game – other than the fact it was three overtimes – it was a great shot after great shot. It wasn’t like he missed two free throws and now it’s going to another overtime. It wasn’t an airball…

It was Havlicek or Westphal or Garfield. Somebody on their team after five people had fouled out combined, came in and hit some big free throws in the third overtime and that was the difference. It was kind of like the game in Chicago with us [in 1993]. I think there were a lot of big shots in that triple-overtime game, too…

I fouled out late in regulation, right toward the very end, so I had a good seat for the three overtimes.

On eventually losing the Finals 4-2…

I remember feeling bad for the veterans. There were some guys who’d been in the league 10 years.

[Dick] Van [Arsdale], Keith [Erickson], Pat Riley. I felt bad because I’m thinking ‘these guys aren’t going to be playing much longer. I’m going to be playing at least four more years. I’ve got another chance to get back. These guys might not have another chance.’

On his next-closest shot at a championship

The one that hurts the most is when we lost to Kansas City [in 1981]. That was the year we had the best record (57-25) and we got a bye in the first round, the only time in my 13-year career we had nine days off. You’re not used to it, first of all.

The previous two years, if I’m correct, we beat the Kansas City Kings in the playoffs. We were definitely better than them over the last three years. We were definitely better than them that year. It was a classic case of overlooking. ‘Okay, once we beat Kansas City…’

On his most prominent memory/impression from the 1975-76 season…

How close we were. How close our team was. If I’m not mistaken, I think it was the most “married” team I ever played on. I want to say seven of the guys were married and we did a lot of things together. We’d meet at Duck and Decanter, the one on Camelback, after practice. The wives would meet us there. We’d go to brunch at the Camelback Inn, a number of us. We played softball a couple of times.