Suns guard Mario Elie, one of our NBA.commentators for NBA Playoffs 2001, answered questions from fans at practice following the Suns' 86-83 Game 1 upset of the Kings. The Suns lead the series 1-0 in the Western Conference first round.
Who do you feel will have to step up for the Suns if you're going to go far in the playoffs?
I think Jake (Tsakalidis) and Tony (Delk). I think Jake and Tony are two key parts of our team. I think we need Tony to have a big Game 2. Even though he got away with having two points in Game 1, we still need him to score. Tony's a big part of this team. And I think we need a little bit more scoring from Jake. We were getting on him because he's always playing with that European finesse, laying it up (laughs). This is the NBA, brother. You've got to start dunking it. Getting mad and dunking it. We're tired of him laying it up and missing all those layups around the hole. So Scott (Skiles) had them running some drills today on dunking the ball. I mean, when you're around the basket and are 7-2, be like Shaquille O'Neal. Try to break somebody's arm when you're in there. That's post play. That's center play. You've got to go in there and go up strong. Hopefully he'll realize that. Even though he didn't score and we won, we still need him to put some points on the board for us.
How hard is it to play in Sacramento in front of the noisy Arco Arena crowd?
It's difficult, but you've just got to go play the game. You can't worry about that. I thought we did a great job of taking the crowd out of the game (in Game 1). They really didn't get a chance to go on one of those Sacramento 14-0 runs, or 10-0 runs. The game wasn't really separated by more than six or seven points. I thought that was key. The crowd couldn't really get into the game, because they really didn't have a big lead. They sort of got a little momentum going into halftime, they got a little loud, but I thought we did a great job in the third quarter, just boom, getting right back in the game immediately. I thought that was key. When you play in a hostile environment like that, you've got to try and take the crowd out of the game by getting a lead and playing well.
How do training sessions change once you are in the playoffs? Do you do more work or focus more on certain aspects of the game?
Nah, it's just a lot of film and going over stuff that they hurt us with. So it's not too much practice, trying to knock each other's heads off. It's just cleaning up some details, some things we can do better, defensive strategies and things like that.
What is Rodney Rogers' role for the Suns in this postseason?
Rodney is one of the most versatile players in the league when he brings his "A" game. He can play the three, four, five, he's got a box game, a medium-range game and he's got a three-point game. So that guy, when he's on top of his game, he's one of the best players in the league. He proved it last year by getting Sixth Man of the Year. When he busted us up in San Antonio, I thought he was the difference in that series. So he could be a big key this series. He and Cliff did a great job (in Game 1) making Chris Webber work on both ends of the floor. With those two guys working like that, we're hard to beat.
What chance do you think the Suns have of defeating the Kings three times in this series?
I think we have a great chance. I think any of the 16 teams have a great chance (of advancing in the playoffs). I don't think there's a clear-cut favorite to go out and dominate everybody. You know, everybody beats each other during the course of the year and it's the same in the playoffs. So I think we have as good a chance as anybody to win.
Do you think the Suns can win it all this year?
I think so. I think so. It just takes one game at a time. You know me, the only thing I'm thinking about is the first 12 minutes of Game 2. That's all we can control.
How do you like playing with Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion?
Everybody talks about Shaq and Kobe, Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker, but we've got a nice little one-two punch in Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd. Very exciting to watch. Two explosive players. And Shawn's had a terrific year. I hope people give him some votes for Most Improved Player of the Year, because he's one of the most improved. Even though I think Tracy McGrady should get it, Shawn should be one of the top three guys getting votes. And Jason Kidd is Jason Kidd -- just an amazing talent. I think he's the best point guard in the league. And this is a different Jason Kidd than everybody is used to seeing. He's a scoring Jason Kidd now, which has been helping our team, and was the difference in our turnaround in the second half of the season.