Who's Our Haddadi?
With Marcin Gortat out indefinitely and Jermaine O’Neal taking a leave of absence from the team due to his daughter’s heart surgery, the Suns seemed be without a big man (although some would argue, that’s been the franchise’s problem since its inception).
Don’t worry, just like kids do when they’re in a tough spot, the Suns turned to their Daddy. Make that they’re Dadi.
Hamed Haddadi, the 7-2 Iranian center who has been with the team for a little over two weeks, made an impact almost as big as his 265-pound frame in only his third game on the active roster. He scored six points, grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds, blocked three shots and got a steal in a 107-105 win over the Rockets.
His performance even led to postgame praise from his coach.
“I thought Haddadi was a great neutralizer for us; he was phenomenal in the middle,” said Interim Head Coach Lindsey Hunter.
It was the kind of game that makes the city of Phoenix fall in love with a player. It was hard-nosed, blue collar and all about hustle. And it was much prettier than it actually looked. It had everything fans love, including a sense of humor.
Late in the third quarter, after missing an 18-foot jump shot – if you can call it a jump shot when Haddadi’s heel barely got off the ground – the center looked towards the bench and Hunter. The look said everything as he mouthed something to the extent of “can I take that shot?” His coach told him “no” promptly causing a laugh from both men.
While talking to the media after the game, he said he can make the shot and will in the future if he gets the opportunity to shoot it. Although he might have his sights set on something bigger.
“Next time I make a jumper.,three-pointer,” Haddadi said jokingly as he made a hand motion as if he was shooting.”
Being left in the game after a miscue was a change of pace for Haddadi who, in the past, would have been pulled from a game for taking a shot like that.
“Before, after the first mistake, they would take me out,” Haddadi said about being a member of the Grizzlies. “Here, after my first mistake, they didn’t take me out.”
The move paid off as Haddadi played a big role defensively and on the boards in the fourth quarter. It also led to one of his teammates sarcastically putting the phrase “Gortat who?” on the whiteboard in the locker room.
While the performance won’t make anyone forget about the gaping hole left by the injury to the Polish Hammer, it did go a long way to answering the question “Who’s your Haddadi?”
He just might be the kind of guy that Phoenix fans gravitate to, while finding a role on a club in need of a center to close out the season. And that would be a great thing for Haddadi, who seemed to be nothing more than a throw in when he arrived in Phoenix.