The Steve Nash-led turnaround of the Suns “is great for the league,” commissioner David Stern said Monday before presenting the Most Valuable Player award to Nash.
The Suns’ racehorse style is a “good . . . contrast” to the rest of the league, said Stern, who pointed out the playoffs haven't slowed to the pace many had predicted.
Stern joked he was staying to watch Monday's game because, “I want to see if Dallas and Phoenix play a nice slow game.”
But he was careful not to put down other teams’ approaches, saying, “I think it's great to have a variety of styles.”
On other matters:
- Stern declined to criticize the selection process for the past men's Olympic team (which was headed up by NBA figures), saying the problem wasn’t the team's composition “but the time they spend together.”
“In a world where basketball is getting better . . . they were going against teams that had been together for a very long time.”
- The commissioner hopes for progress in the ongoing labor talks, a subject he's said he's optimistic about. Meetings will continue in the next week and that, “If we don't have something positive to report, I'm going to downgrade my ‘optimistic’ to ‘hopeful.’ ” f=BentonModernOne-Roman s=10 • o Stern also declared the Jeff Van Gundy affair "closed."
The Rockets coach was fined $100,000 for hinting of a conspiracy led by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to call fouls tightly on Houston's Yao Ming.
TWO TO WATCH
Everyone knows the Mavericks’ stars, but Suns coach Mike D'Antoni says two players who could be keys to the series are center Erick Dampier and sixth man Jerry Stackhouse.
Stackhouse excels on isolations and could explode for 30 points, he said.
"We have to watch him," D'Antoni said.
The 6-foot-11 Dampier could punish the Suns on the boards.
Then again, Amaré Stoudemire could hit mid-range jumpers and drive around the slower center, D'Antoni pointed out.
"Then he'll get in foul trouble, and they'll take him out and go small." These matchups "could tip the balance one way or another," the Suns coach said.
In Game 1, Dampier got into nearly immediate foul trouble and wasn't a factor and the Mavs' small lineup couldn't keep pace.
Stackhouse finished with 14 points.
Suns managing partner Robert Sarver has taken part in some wild stunts this year — everything from dunking basketballs off trampolines to using his body as a giant bowling ball.
But even Sarver had to take a pass at the latest idea the Suns’ game-night staff cooked up for Monday's matchup with Dallas — and flamboyant owner Mark Cuban.
“They wanted Cuban and I to get into one of those big blow-up Sumo wrestling outfits before the first game and meet up at center court. I said . . . ah, no. At this point, I think the team deserves all of the attention.''
Backup center Steven Hunter broke open a six-pack of McDonald's chicken McNuggets 90 minutes before Monday's game.
“Protein,” Hunter said.
“Hey, I've done it all season,” Hunter said. “I eat at home then have a little snack.”
Before the game, the Suns announced a 10-year partnership agreement with Casino Arizona — including naming the new northwest entrance to America West Arena “The Casino Arizona Pavilion.''
Sarver said it's the eighth major sponsor to either come aboard or enhance its agreements with the Suns this season — the best single sponsorship year in franchise history.