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Open Thread and Contest: Game 41

Regular Season Game 41
Suns (32-8) at Wizards (24-16)
Verizon Center
7 PM

Previous Results: Wizards 144, Suns 139.

Reminder: You can find the midseason thoughts thread here.

No time to preview, so I'm giving you my question and answer session with Bright Side of the Sun, the Phoenix Suns site for this network.  My answers can be found here (eventually).  

Bullets Forever: The Suns started 3-6, but are 29-2 since.  They've had a fifteen game winning streak and are currently in the midst of a 13 game run.  What's been the biggest difference since the start of the season?

Bright Side of the Sun: The Suns always start out slow because of the way they play the game.  Most teams have a go-to guy that gets the majority of the touches.  Most teams play by walking the ball up the court.  The Suns take about 9 games to get into shape for the rest of the season.  Last year, they went 4-5 and then started rolling.  This year it was 3-6.  But if you watch the games now, you'll see the Suns are in exceptional shape and don't tire like the other teams.

BF: Despite the great start, the Suns have yet to beat the Mavericks in a game this season.  How much does that concern you?  How will the Suns get by Dallas if they meet in a playoff series?

BSOTS: One one hand, it doesn't really concern me too much.  The Suns lost to the Mavericks during the 3-6 stretch when they were getting into the season.  The last game they lost was on a last-second shot by Dirk Nowitzki.  On the other hand, if the Suns don't beat the Mavs at least once during the season that is going to come into play during the playoffs.  The Mavs will have all the confidence and the Suns will be wondering whether they can ever beat them.  At this point, I try to put it out of my head until the next time the Suns and Mavs meet up.

BF: There was legitimate concern that the return of Amare Stoudamire would hurt team chemistry, and there was particular concern that it would upset the harmony at forward with Shawn Marion and Boris Diaw.  Why hasn't that happened to this point?

BSOTS: In some ways, it has happened.  If you look at Boris Diaw's numbers at the beginning of the season, he had very poor production.  The reason for this is because he and Amare like to play in the same spot on the court.  But Boris being Boris, he realized that getting Amare into the flow of things would be much better for the team.  So he changed his game a bit and things
are working nicely now.  As for Marion and Stoudemire, they both have big egos (as do most NBA players) yet they both know their best chance of winning a championship is to play together.  I think the key to all of this is Steve Nash being a leader and getting everyone involved.

BF: He's won the last two MVP's, but Steve Nash's numbers are at an all-time high, and guys like Bill Simmons have seen a difference in attitude.  What do you think is the biggest difference between the Nash of 04/05 and 05/06 and the Nash of this season?

BSOTS: A game or two before Bill Simmons' article, I mentioned to some people that Steve Nash looks angry when he plays this season.  Now I know I'm not the only one who noticed.  I think losing to the Mavs in the WCF's last year really took something out of Nash and he wants it back.  He wants it bad enough that he's going to fight for it.  That means keeping Amare and Shawn's egos in check, distributing the ball to get everyone their shots but also remembering that he is the leader of the team.  He puts the team on his shoulders when they need him to.  He shoots something like 70% in crunch time which is the best in the league.  In summary, he's ticked and he's determined to win a ring before the Mavs do. And he'll do anything he can possibly do to get it.

BF: Finally, this is not Suns related, but a few Bullets Forever members took exception to you dismissing Gilbert Arenas from any possible MVP consideration.  We didn't think he necessarily deserved it, but were surprised that you failed to give him any consideration whatsoever.  In a nutshell, explain your reasoning for not considering Agent Zero?

BSOTS: I figured there would be some people upset about it.  And I don't blame them.  If you're watching your guy every night and he's doing the things Gilbert is doing, it's hard to believe that someone wouldn't consider him for MVP.  But I think an MVP has to help his team win, not just get accolades for himself.  Look at the Wizards' record.  They're first in the East by a 1/2 game.  That's pretty good!  But considering the East is so weak this season, if he really was the MVP, I would expect his team to pull ahead of everyone else.  If his team was in the West, they would be fighting for 7th place.  Would you consider AI or Carmelo from Denver, T-Mac from Houston or Garnett from Minnesota as legitimate MVP candidates this year?  I wouldn't.  Their teams are only in 6th, 7th and 8th place respectively.  (By the way, I know I'm jinxing the Suns by saying all of this.  Now Agent Zero's going to come out and will his team to victory and I'm going to look like a fool...but you asked, so I'm taking a chance and answering!)  I would definitely be willing to change my mind about Arenas if the Wizards pull ahead of the rest of the Eastern Conference and have the same record as the top three in the West.  He is from Arizona, after all, and even though I went to ASU, I still feel an affinity for him since he went to school around here.

BF: Okay, okay, I'll end with a Suns question.  How much does the recent injury to Kurt Thomas concern you?

BSOTS: It doesn't really concern me at all at this point.  If he was going to get injured, at least it is with his upper body so he can still run and stay in shape.  It won't be game shape but it's much better than a stress fracture to his foot.  As long as he can come back a few weeks before the playoffs and get into game shape, I think the Suns will be alright.  In fact, it may be better to keep him healthier for the playoffs!

Your lines for tonight:

Suns at Wizards: Suns by 5.5.
Over/Under on Big 3: 69.9 points.

This is an open game thread, so anytime you need to catch your breath when watching this fast-paced game, go here.