- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2006

The Suns and Mavericks are endeavoring to put the lie in the sacred notion that defense wins championships.

The 26 teams already sentenced to summer vacation are taking notes, and that includes those teams that take the air out of the ball and the joy out of the game.

Either the Suns or Mavericks are certain to advance to the NBA Finals, and the Suns in particular are not faintly interested in the most rudimentary elements of defense.

The Suns — what’s left of them anyway — willingly grant layups in exchange for 3-pointers. By their math, that puts them up 3-2.

Steve Nash orchestrated the late comeback of the Suns in Game 1, but not before Devin Harris roasted him in every conceivable manner.

Nash allowed Harris all kinds of liberties and neglected only to clap in appreciation each time Harris dribbled past him for a layup.

Nash seemingly bothers with the defensive end of the floor only to receive the inbound pass.

That is the mind-set of the Suns, which is encouraged by coach Mike D’Antoni out of necessity.

It is difficult to be overly concerned with defense if your team is composed of an itty-bitty point guard from Canada, an undersized forward with a mechanically flawed jump shot and a bunch of guys signed out of the University of 7-Eleven.

Defensively challenged though they are, the Suns are still in the hunt with their AAU-style basketball. The next time they play defense will be the first of the postseason.

The Suns are committed to their defensively inept manner, judging by their SOS to Tim Thomas, whose career died in Chicago because of his pathological disregard on defense.

Thomas has found his basketball nirvana, where the coach is liable to bench a player if he dares to block the path of an opponent along the baseline or puts a hand in the face of a shooter.

Axioms don’t die in the NBA until someone comes along to show the exception.

No high-scoring shooting guard ever could lead a team to an NBA championship until Michael Jordan demonstrated that it could be done on six occasions.

Now it is a soccer-playing point guard and a 7-foot playmaker attempting to defy conventional wisdom.

The Mavericks succumbed to the appeal of trading shots with the Suns in Game 1, which fits their core personality.

Reports of their renewed commitment on defense have been greatly exaggerated. They still prefer to outscore an opponent, no matter how often the helium-filled voice of coach Avery Johnson tries to correct the condition.

The basketball authority who is Charles Barkley extolled the defensive virtues of the Mavericks before Game 1, which was a reach beyond the obvious.

Barkley appreciates defense a whole lot more in his talking head days than he did in his playing days.

The no-defense strategy of both teams promises to be entertaining the rest of the way and a ready-made explanation for whichever team is vanquished.

That won’t explain the accidental winner and the date with either the experiment known as the Heat or the coagulating Pistons.

As bad as the Suns and Mavericks are on defense — and bad hardly begins to describe it — they are stuffed with resiliency.

The Suns already have been extended to seven games in their previous two playoff tests, and the Mavericks overcame an assortment of psychological demons and the 3-point punch to the solar plexus of Manu Ginobili in Game 7.

These teams are fun, entertaining and different, if not befuddling to the purists.

How can two teams so deficient be so good?

Or is the Suns-Mavericks series a reflection of the back-to-the-future designs of the NBA?

It should be noted that the Celtics and Lakers teams of the 1980s were built to outscore the opposition as well.

Not that those hallowed teams mocked defense in the stunning fashion of the Suns and Mavericks.


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