There are going to be nights that won’t be so much fun for the Suns.
Nights when the opponent isn’t one of the 12 dwarfs from the Eastern Conference.
When the opposing center is either mobile or talented or both — rather than neither. When the point guard will have to do more than simply find the Atlanta Hawk not interested in playing defense on each possession and feed the wide-open cutter.
But when you remember that last year the Suns struggled against the Hawks of the world and often resembled the Hawks themselves, Wednesday’s 112-82 opening night stroll at America West Arena was more than a laugher. It was a sigh of relief.
The Suns christened a season dedicated to former coach and team executive Cotton Fitzsimmons and began with a game he would have loved to watch.
And even if the preseason had suddenly been extended one game, the announced sellout crowd of 18,422 will take it. A four-game road swing beginning Friday in Philadelphia will tell more.
"We have to play everyone at some point,’’ said guard Steve Nash, who was only asked for 24 minutes of work to begin his second tour in Phoenix. "You can’t take much from this. They’ll probably struggle a little.’’
New guy Quentin Richardson was less than impressive (0-for-6 from 3-point range) but it was lost in a barrage of a 64-point first half. New-old guy Nash (12 points, four assists) had a few early turnovers, but the Suns found another gear when Jake Voskuhl and Leandro Barbosa — starters much of last year, now energy players off the bench — entered the game. Suddenly, the scoreboard started to look like the Dow Jones after hearing President Bush had survived for a second term.
Suns up 10. Suns up 20. Suns up 30.
Midway through the second quarter, the only drama was when the Yuta Tabuse chant was going to start in the upper deck. The Suns’ Japanese import finally stripped off the sweats with 10 minutes left to play, and the Suns clinging to a 38-point lead, a comfortable cushion in any language.
"We’re a work in progress, that’s for sure, with all the youth we have,’’ said Nash, who at 30 is three years older than the next-oldest Sun (Voskuhl). "The last time I was here, everyone in this dressing room was 30 years old. Now I’m the old guy. But it’s exciting.’’
Amare Stoudemire (23 points in 30 minutes) looked right at home in the post, partially because there was no one home in the middle for Atlanta. Its best inside player might be 42-year-old Kevin Willis, who deserves a better retirement present than this.
When Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett come to town, the grand Amare experiment begins in earnest.
Phoenix sports fans are still searching for a winner. If Cardinals coach Dennis Green is going to the playoffs, his pals at ESPN must have gotten him a sideline pass. Arizona State has its bowling shirt on again but is 0-2 in games when it had the Valley’s undivided attention. The D-Backs would like to trade places with the Coyotes and have someone wake them when it’s 2006.
"Tonight was sold out and if we keep it up, keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep them coming,’’ said Stoudemire, who made sure he threw in a few windmill dunks to raise the game’s ‘Wow’ quotient. "We’ve got guys that can get a lot of points.’’
And with the limbo stick of expectation here as low as the water table, all the Suns have to do is what they used to be criticized for — win 45-50 games and slip into the second round of the playoffs — and the purple and orange will once again be golden in this town.