The mid-2000’s Phoenix Suns teams were media darlings at the time and are now remembered with fond nostalgia. They played a style that is commonplace these days but at the time, just a decade ago, was revolutionary. Sports Illustrated writer, Jack McCallum, wrote a book about this Suns team titled, :07 Second or Less: My Season on the Bench with the Runnin’ and Gunnin’ Phoenix Suns.
The offseason of 2004 brought Steve Nash to Phoenix, which is just the point guard head coach Mike D’Antoni needed for his up-tempo offense. The 2004-05 season saw the Suns reach the conference finals where they lost to the eventual champions, the San Antonio Spurs. McCallum was granted access to follow the team very closely the following season, 2005-06.
I’m sure when Phoenix decided to grant McCallum the access they did, they probably did not imagine their season would be as dramatic as it ended up being. Losing Stoudemire early on forced the Suns to play small almost the entire season. That doesn’t seem odd now with Golden State having just won a title playing small but at that point most teams still played very methodically with two bigs. Shawn Marion was moved to power forward and the space immediately opened up.
Boris Diaw had been acquired from the Atlanta Hawks and his versatility unlocked all kinds of possibilities for this team. Diaw comes across very well in the book. He is portrayed as a lovable teammate and the quintessential Frenchman. One of my favorite lines in the book was when Diaw talks about how he doesn’t date American women, but instead he “has them”. Leandro Barbosa had a breakout season and also came across as a fantastic human being.
Steve Nash is obviously a central character in this story as he won his second straight MVP award in 2006. After reading :07 Seconds or Less I vaulted Steve Nash to the top of my list of players I would have loved to play with. His attitude and spirit seem infectious to his team and obviously his play was outstanding during that campaign. Nash finished the year with averages of 18.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and a league-leading 10.5 assists per game. He also led the NBA in true shooting percentage and assist percentage.
The book is separated into chapters that take up chunks of the season or a particular playoff series. Once the book gets to the playoffs the roller coaster the Suns went on is really exciting to relive. Obviously, I knew the outcomes of the series’ as I was reading those chapters but McCallum does a terrific job of building anticipation and adding to the natural drama that was their wild playoff run. Remember, Phoenix came back after being down 3-1 against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. They then beat the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round in seven games to get to the conference finals for the second straight season. The Dallas Mavericks knocked off the undermanned Suns in six games but the ride was thrilling.
The access McCallum was granted inside of the organization is unprecedented in modern pro sports. I do some coaching myself so I found the notes on the coaches meetings absolutely fascinating. The entire coaching staff came across as extremely likeable.
This book came out more than nine years ago but with the way the game has changed, thanks in large part to this team’s influence, it is as relevant as ever.