Let’s get one thing straight about the Suns’ 40th anniversary “Retro Night” against their first-ever opponent, the Seattle Supersonics.
“There will be no short-shorts,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said of tonight’s game. “Some things are meant to be left in the past.”
That will come as a huge relief to his players, many of whom gasped in horror Sunday in Sacramento while watching the Lakers, decked in retro shorts, experience a nasty draft during the first half of their loss to Boston.
“I’ll pass. My legs aren’t ready for that,” Amaré Stoudemire said, smiling.
Only Eric Piatkowski was disappointed to hear he won’t have the old-time trunks hanging in his locker tonight — either because, at 37, he remembers wearing them, or he knows he has a good chance of spending the night in his warm-ups.
In fact, the Suns will stick with their current duds.
No sunburst on the shorts, no stripes on the sweats. But the dance team and the Gorilla will take a fashion risk — along with fans who are encouraged to drag out their elevator shoes and bell-bottom slacks and paste on the mutton chops.
Forty years ago this month (Jan. 22, 1968) the NBA awarded Arizona its first pro franchise.
On Oct. 18, before a crowd of 7,112 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum (including part-owners Henry Mancini, Andy Williams and a full symphony orchestra dressed in tuxedos at midcourt), the Suns beat Seattle 116-107 behind 27 points from Gail Goodrich and 21 from Dick Van Arsdale — the Suns’ top two picks in the expansion draft.
Some 27 playoff appearances, three MVPs, two NBA Finals, one rainout and zero championships later, the Suns will mark their start with several members of the original 1968-69 team in attendance.
Music and video from that era will fill timeouts, while the 40th anniversary Suns team — selected by fan Internet vote — will be unveiled.
Those at home will enjoy a retro-television broadcast (no rabbit ears necessary) featuring black-and-white segments, old-time graphics and several former play-by-play and color analysts making a return visit.
WHEN A TEAM TURNS 40: IMAGINE THE ROSTER
With no salary cap to manage, we have 15 roster spots for the 40th anniversary Phoenix Suns team. If all of these guys had played at the same time, this franchise wouldn’t be in search of its first title.
Small forward, Walter Davis: With apologies to Connie Hawkins, Davis is the starter. He is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer (15,666 points), went to six All-Star games and was the best shooter ever to wear a Phoenix uniform.
Power forward, Charles Barkley: He was here just four years, but no player had a bigger impact on the franchise from a world exposure standpoint. He was Phoenix’s first MVP and got the team as close to a championship as it has ever been.
Center, Alvan Adams: The fact that there isn’t even another viable candidate speaks to the franchise’s biggest deficiency. But “The Oklahoma Kid” was a great passer and held his own against the giants over 13 seasons and nearly 1,000 games (988) as a Sun.
Shooting guard, Dick Van Arsdale: You think Raja Bell plays with an edge? You should have seen “The Flying Dutchman” with his leaping leaner on one end and in-your-face defense on the other. The Original Sun scored the franchise’s first point and more than 12,000 more before retiring after three All-Star games.
Point guard, Steve Nash: By far the deepest and most difficult choice. Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd will have to sit and watch the man with back-to-back MVP awards and a Hall of Fame-caliber resumé. By the time he is done, Nash will rank among the top 10 all time in the NBA in assists (as does Kidd).
Forward, Tom Chambers: No other Sun ever averaged 27 points in a season. Chambers’ arrival as the NBA’s first unrestricted free agent in 1988 ended the Suns’ darkest days and ushered in an era of sunshine.
Forward, Connie Hawkins: We didn’t see the best of the Hawk, but he went to four All-Star games, averaged 20.5 points and gave the early Suns a style and identity that put Phoenix on the NBA map.
Forward, Shawn Marion: The Matrix will take his place in the Ring of Honor with ease. Now in his ninth season, his numbers and popularity rival anyone who has worn the uniform. This team needs rebounding, and no one goes and gets it the way he does.
Forward, Dan Majerle: He beats out Eddie Johnson and Larry Nance for the last forward spot because he can shoot like E.J., jam like Nance and add defense and toughness. The Suns’ all-time 3-point leader has a work ethic you want on your bench.
Center, Amaré Stoudemire: He doesn’t like the position, but even the 40th anniversary team needs him in the post. One of three Suns to win Rookie of the Year honors, Stoudemire’s 2004-05 campaign (26 ppg) stands as one of the best individual seasons in team history.
Center, Neal Walk: He was never Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (darned coin!), but if you had a center who averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds for a season and led the team in assists one year, you’d take it. His career tailed off quickly (about the same time he became a vegetarian).
Guard, Dennis Johnson: D.J. won titles in Boston and added Hall of Fame credentials with an All-NBA season (1980-81) and two All-Star appearances as a Sun. He was first-team All-Defense in each of his three seasons. Giving him up for Rick Robey still hurts.
Guard, Kevin Johnson: Nash starts, but KJ’s body of Suns work is more complete. He’s 10th on the all-time list (until Nash passes him) with 6,711 assists, had more assists in a game than any Sun (25) and along with Chambers, ushered in the glory days with an unstoppable two-man game.
Guard, Jason Kidd: More than 100 triple-doubles, a sure-fire Hall of Famer and one of the greatest point guards in the history of the game. But the Suns weren’t as good when Kidd ran the show as the KJ and Nash eras, and his ugly departure doesn’t add points.
Guard, Paul Westphal: No Sun has a more successful resumé. Westphal led the Suns to the NBA Finals as a player (1976) and a coach (1993) and was a three-time All-NBA first-teamer.
Coach, Cotton Fitzsimmons: John MacLeod has more seasons and wins, Westphal has a conference title and Mike D’Antoni has the winning percentage. But through four decades, good and bad, the Suns are Cotton’s club.
Sonics at Suns
When: 8:30 p.m. today
Where: US Airways Center
Radio: KTAR (620 AM)
TV: KUTP (Channel 45), TNT
Records: Sonics 9-22; Suns 22-9
Series history: The Suns lead the overall series 112-85, which includes a 116-107 win in their first game ever on Nov. 28, 1968. Phoenix has won eight of the last 12 meetings, including a 106-99 win in Seattle in the opening game of this season.
Scouting report: Suns – Having played the fewest home games in the league (12), Phoenix kicks off a four-game homestand and begins a run of 17 at home over the next 22 games. A win tonight would give the Suns their 200th win (200-78) under Mike D’Antoni since the start of the 2004-05 season. Only Dallas (205-82) and San Antonio (201-74) are better over the same span. Amaré Stoudemire is averaging 29.7 points, 14.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots over the last three games and has scored at least 15 points in 19 straight games.
Sonics – One of only five teams which have failed to win 10 games so far this season, the Sonics were without Kevin Durant (sprained left index finger) and Chris Wilcox (sprained left knee) in Monday’s 98-90 home loss to Philadelphia. Both players were limited in practice on Wednesday and are questionable for tonight. Guard Luke Ridnour (quadriceps) and center Robert Swift (knee contusion) are close to returning. The Sonics lead the league in rebounding (45 per game) and have held three of their last four opponents under 40 percent shooting.