The way Jared Dudley speaks has much in common with the way he plays. The words run into each other quickly and logically across a variety of topics. His style of play is equally fast and smart and versatile.
They were the first team in 19 years to repeat as NCAA men's basketball champions and the April 13, 1992 cover of Sports Illustrated summed up the state of Duke basketball at the time with a succinct headline:
Reinvention is a New Year's resolution for these Phoenix Suns. They are no longer, and never again can be, what they once were. Their problems have nothing to do with the ages of 36-year-old Steve Nash and 38-year-old Grant Hill. They, ironically, are exceptions to the decline.
To explain why Phoenix could be the best of all havens for Vince Carter, and why his arrival may yet turn into a gain for the Suns, understand first of all that coach Alvin Gentry wasn't exaggerating last month when he made the following case to me.
While the first lady and daughters Malia and Sasha were away for part of the weekend, President Barack Obama enjoyed what some have jokingly referred to as a bachelor's weekend with friends -- golfing, playing basketball and grilling out on the South Lawn.
PHOENIX -- In all probability, Kobe Bryant's collection of MVP trophies will remain at one. An award that requires otherworldly effort throughout an 82-game season is a young man's prize, one that the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo will fight for over the next decade. No, Bryant's 31-year old body won't allow him to sustain that kind of dominance. Nor should it. Bryant's body, ravaged by sprained ankles and broken fingers, is built for the playoffs, where the game's most cold-blooded closer remains utterly unmatched.
Where and when the Great Free Agent Summer Summit takes place no one is certain at the moment. Ambassador Dwyane Wade has called it, and, presumably, fellow diplomats LeBron James, Joe Johnson and Chris Bosh (the attendance of the Toronto Raptors forward would make this a truly international meeting) will be there, too. We can only hope that a photographer is present to capture the moment, as one was at Yalta, where Roosevelt, Stalin and a fur-hatted Churchill famously met to figure out what the post-World War II world should look like, much as the future geography of the NBA will be sussed out this summer.
PHOENIX -- They had the best seat in the house, Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire did. Cushioned, with a courtside view of one of the most important games in recent Suns history. Ordinarily, Nash and Stoudemire would be on the floor, running and gunning, trying to power Phoenix to a critical victory in the fourth quarter. But on Tuesday night, their place was on the bench, watching. Watching the Suns' second unit manhandle the Lakers starters on the way to a Western Conference finals series-tying 115-106 win.
SAN ANTONIO -- The Spurs prepared for a lot of things coming into this series. Goran Dragic dropping 23 points in the fourth quarter wasn't one of them. Behind a head-shaking performance from the 24-year old Dragic, the Suns blew past the Spurs 110-96 to seize a commanding 3-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
Behind 42 points from Jason Richardson, the Suns came into the Rose Garden on Thursday and quieted a horde of red-clad hipsters, jumping on the Blazers early and holding on to win 108-89 to take a 2-1 series lead and regain home-court advantage.
Steve Nash is the grandfather who dances every dance at the family wedding. He is the millionaire who keeps showing up to work because he loves what he does. At 35, he continues to play like -- and get the best of -- the youngest point guards in the world's finest league.
SAN DIEGO -- On April 15, Grant Hill scored 27 points and snagged 10 rebounds in the season-finale against Golden State, and no one outside of Phoenix really seemed to notice. The Suns won the game, but the playoffs were starting, and for the first time in five years they were not a part of it. Their season would be remembered mainly for the hiring and firing of Coach Terry Porter, the trade of Raja Bell and Boris Diaw, Amar'e Stoudemire's detached retina, Jason Richardson's reckless driving arrest, and all the background noise generated by Shaquille O'Neal.
You could assemble a veritable dream team from the pool of talented and otherwise accomplished players who have never won an NBA championship, including Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Allen Iverson, Patrick Ewing, Steve Nash, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, Elgin Baylor and Dominique Wilkins. Come to think of it, six of the 12 members of the real Dream Team, the 1992 men's U.S. Olympic squad that ranks as one of the great successes in basketball history, never managed a gold medal in their day jobs.
SI.com will analyze each of the NBA's 30 teams as regular-season tip-off approaches. For a complete list of team-by-team breakdowns, click here. The information in the "Go figure" category below is provided by Roland Beech of 82games.com.
Having made what many proclaimed the worst trade in NBA history, and what one pundit described to me as "the worst trade ever in any sport, worse than Lou-Brock-for-Ernie-Broglio" (in 1964, the Cardinals got the base-stealing leadoff legend, while the Cubs got a sore-armed, over-the-hill pitcher who won only seven more games before retiring in 1966), what do we say now about the deal that brought Shaquille O'Neal to the Suns?
As you might expect, there have been some changes on the Phoenix Suns since the hulking figure of Shaquille O'Neal first darkened the doorway of US Airways Center in early February, the key acquisition in a trade with the Miami Heat that many NBA observers still find nothing short of mind-boggling.
Throughout his 13-year career, Suns forward Grant Hill has been more Cessna than 747, preferring the comfort of lower altitudes on his flights. Sure, he has had his YouTube moments: a dunk on Alonzo Mourning here, a one-handed slam on 7-foot-7 Gheorghe Muresan there, both of which came when Hill was a fresh-faced member of the Detroit Pistons. But in recent years, as age has grounded him and surgeons have taken to treating his left ankle like a Thanksgiving turkey, Hill has turned the layup into an art form, mastering the right- and left-handed bounce off the backboard.
When it comes to grading the offseason, the Pacific Division is a nightmare. Kobe Bryant's trade demand and Don Nelson's contract squabble have put the status of the Lakers and Warriors in doubt. Meanwhile, the Clippers and Kings mostly stood pat in hopes their veteran-laden rosters could get them back to the playoffs without radical overhauls. Is that a good or a bad thing? Only the Suns are an easy read, as the reigning three-time division champs appear primed for another run at an NBA title.
No, the 1991 and '92 national champion Duke Blue Devils won't be angry if Florida joins them as the second team since John Wooden's UCLA dynasty to win back-to-back titles. Just so you know, those former Dukies don't gather every year when the defending champ goes down to drink a champagne toast -- as some alums of the undefeated '72 Miami Dolphins do whenever the last perfect NFL team loses each season. "We don't take it that seriously," says former Blue Devils forward Grant Hill. "We're pretty secure in our place in history, and feel like we're up there with those UCLA teams."
The coach. The teammate. The general manager. The opposing center. The p.r. guy. Unprompted, they all use the same phrase to describe Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic's rapidly ascending star. He is a "manchild."
I know. You're skipping the Slam Dunk contest because it'll never be as good as it once was ... because you've seen every dunk before ... because today's players are punks with too many tattoos. Well, I got news for you: This year promises to be the most exciting one of the last decade.
It nearly goes without saying that there is usually quite a fair amount of pressure weighing on the shoulders of your typical NBA coach, with little personal payoff besides an enviable bank account and a good bit of internal satisfaction derived from a winning turn.