About 9 a.m. Friday, with the Suns’ charter plane still sitting in Sacramento and Denver International Airport closed to inbound traffic until at least 4 p.m. it appeared the Suns would have to postpone a basketball game for the second time in three days.
Team president Rick Welts already had an agreement with the cordial Phoenix Coyotes to move tonight’s RoadRunners game to an afternoon matinee at Jobing.com Arena, so the Suns and Washington Wizards could play tonight at US Airways Center. But some quick thinking and a sluggish 3½-hour bus ride to Colorado Springs later, the Suns got to the arena more than two hours before Friday’s game
“Busing to Colorado Springs became the only option for us,” Welts said. “We had to be in the air by 5 p.m. (Friday) headed to Phoenix or we would have gone to Plan B. A one-hour bus ride became three hours, but we still got up with a little time to spare.”
The Kings arrived in Colorado Springs on the plane the Suns took out – leaving them the long drive back to Denver that featured bumper-to-bumper traffic in both directions.
The Suns took one day’s worth of clothes to Denver for what was supposed to be quick trip. Coach Mike D’Antoni wore the suit he took to Denver – and carried around for four days – Friday against the Wizards.
“It worked out OK,” he said. “We’re on a winning streak, so we’re not changing our underwear right now anyway.”
When reminded of the irony of being stranded in Denver – where he was fired by the Nuggets before joining the Suns – D’Antoni quipped, “First they are kicking me out, and now I couldn’t get out myself.”
The Suns got out of their hotel just once in three-plus days, for a one-hour workout at the Pepsi Center Thursday. Phoenix shared the court with members of the Denver Nuggets and played three-on-three, half-court games – with the winners staying on.
As the players left the arena, they were ambushed with snowballs by teammates Steve Nash and Raja Bell, who had the best of it before Bell took a retaliatory shot to the leg by assistant coach Dan D’Antoni from 20 yards away.
“How dumb does a guy from the Virgin Islands have to be to get into a snowball fight with a guy from West Virginia?” D’Antoni said.
But the Suns made it through – playing a lot of cards (Kurt Thomas was reportedly the big winner) and watching a lot of television.
“I had no idea there was so much garbage on television until I had to watch it for three straight days,” Suns radio play-by-play man Al McCoy said. “I still can’t believe that we left without playing the game against Denver, but we didn’t have much say.”
Bell said there were a lot of teams he’s played on that would have had more trouble enduring what the Suns handled pretty easily.
“We have a lot of good guys,” Bell said. “When you can hang out with your guys and have fun, it saves you from staying in the room staring at the four walls. But if anyone needs directions around (the Westin) hotel in Denver, I’m your man. I know every inch of that place, every secret passage.”
A day in the life of the Suns
12:39 p.m. – Team bus leaves Westin Hotel in Denver, bound for
3:39 p.m. – Bus arrives at Colorado Springs Municipal Airport
3:45 p.m. – Team boards the charter plane
4:23 p.m. – Plane takes off, bound for Phoenix
5:49 p.m. – Plane lands at Sky Harbor International Airport
6:15 p.m. – Bus arrives at US Airways Center
8:30 p.m. – Suns and Washington Wizards tip-off.
11:16 p.m. - Suns lose overtime game, 144-139, to Wizards