Seven Seconds or Less : My Season on the Bench with the Runnin' and Gunnin' Phoenix Suns
In Seven Seconds or Less, Sports Illustrated's chief NBA writer, Jack McCallum, gets in the paint with the Phoenix Suns and takes a season-long look at the NBA's most exciting and controversial team.
A few weeks before the 2005-2006 NBA training camps began, Jack McCallum called the Phoenix Suns ace director of public relations to propose a story idea for Sports Illustrated. He would spend the preseason with the team as an "assistant coach" and then write a story about his experiences. He was quickly granted access, and while his role as "assistant coach" lasted only through the preseason, McCallum stayed on with the team throughout their amazing 2005-2006 season. McCallum was looking for real inside access and he certainly got it. He spent the season in the locker room and in the coaches' meetings, learning what makes this wildly popular, innovative, and international assemblage of talented players and brilliant coaches tick.
For years, NBA basketball was marked by a plodding, dull-as-dishwater style of play -- that was until coach Mike D'Antoni, point guard Steve Nash, and the high-flying Phoenix Suns set the league on fire with their old-school, run-and-gun approach to offense. Along the way they won back legions of disillusioned fans and demonstrated the virtues of team play to a league preoccupied with one-on-one theatrics.
In Seven Seconds or Less, McCallum describes his year trying to keep up with the fast-breaking Suns on and off the court. He takes readers inside the heads of Nash, the team's mercurial floor general; the maverick D'Antoni; and dozens of others who make up the close-knit Suns family. On the court, there's excitement as the Suns overcome a rash of injuries to once again battle for a conference title. Off the court, controversy rages as the team endures a major front-office change in midseason. Throughout it all, the team continues to bedevil opponents and challenge the status quo with their throwback style.
In the spirit of Buzz Bissinger's Three Nights in August and John Feinstein's A Season on the Brink, Seven Seconds or Less is an in-depth look at one of the greatest shows in sports.
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April 30, 2007
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Excerpt from Seven Seconds or Less by Jack McCallum
[The Second Season]
Phoenix, April 21 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"The Suns are built for the regular season. Every series is going to be tough for them because when you live by your offensive three-point shooting, then any off-night you could lose a game."
It is generally believed, though not always elucidated, that NBA teams cannot suddenly change their essence when the playoffs come around. You are, to a large extent, what you have been for the previous eight months. But coaches and players are expected to offer the requisite chestnuts -- We have a chance to turn this around. We're starting to peak right about now. It's time to make a fresh start -- and broadcasters have to declare the official beginning to the Second Season.
After studying the Phoenix Suns at close range all season, I offer this projection about them:
Odds of beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round: 2-1.
Odds of beating either the Los Angeles Clippers or the Denver Nuggets in the second round: 5-2.
Odds of winning the Western Conference, probably by beating either the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks, and making the Finals: 6-1.
Odds of winning the championship: 10-1.
Another thing that is generally believed -- and always elucidated -- is that fast-break teams like the Suns cannot go far in the playoffs. Tempo inevitably slows down, and that leaves transition teams playing an unfamiliar style. To the purveyors of that belief, which is a vast majority of NBA pundits, the fact that the Suns advanced all the way to the Western finals last season before losing to the San Antonio Spurs proves only that a fast-break team can't make it to the Finals. Had the Suns made the championship round and lost to the Detroit Pistons, the axiom would've presumably changed to: A fast-break team can't win it all.