Previous week’s games
10/30/09 SUNS 123, Warriors 101
11/01/09 SUNS 120, Timberwolves 112
11/03/09 SUNS 104, Heat 96
11/04/09 Magic 122, SUNS 100
Next week’s games
11/06/09 SUNS @ Celtics — 5:30 p.m., my45
11/08/09 SUNS @ Wizards — 11 a.m., my45
11/09/09 SUNS @ Sixers — 5 p.m., my45
11/11/09 SUNS vs Hornets — 8:30 p.m., ESPN
It’s disappointing to be writing this after the way the Suns performed against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night, but all in all, as a Suns fan, I can’t complain about being 4-1 at this point in the season. There are a lot of positives to look at early in the season, and I’m going to touch base on three of them.
- Rebounding. Coming into the season, the biggest concern most Suns fans had was what the Suns were going to do on the boards. They were smashed on the boards in the preseason. It’s like they weren’t even trying out there. In the last four practices before the season started, coach Alvin Gentry really drilled into the guys about their lack of effort on the boards and it seems to have paid off, at least so far. Through the first five games of the season, Phoenix has out rebounded their opponents three times. Before the season started, I didn’t know if the Suns would out rebound the opposition three times throughout the entire season — they were that bad. In the two games the Suns have lost the battle on the boards, they’ve only lost by a combined seven rebounds. Seven rebounds?! Are you kidding me?! If the Suns can be within seven rebounds every game, I’d be ecstatic, let alone seven rebounds over two games. I believe if the Suns can keep it that close on the boards on a nightly basis, they’ll win far more than they’ll lose.
- The bench. The Suns have a reliable bench now. I don’t even remember the last time we had one of those. In years past, it’s been five starters and Leandro Barbosa for the most part. This year though, it’s different. We still have LB, who was playing solidly until an untimely wrist injury, but in addition to the Blur, we have Jared Dudley and Lou Amundson, who are all hustle. These two are a huge part of why our rebounding has been impressive thus far. Amundson and Dudley bring it every night. They do the little things that don’t show up in the box score, but every team needs. They play excellent defense and keep their players off the glass. But, the bench doesn’t end there, as Goran Dragic as been a huge surprise (although I’ve been supporting him since day one!). Dragic looks much more comfortable on the floor this year. He’s been playing under control and has confidence in his jumper. He’s putting up seven points with three assists against one turnover, while shooting over 50% from the floor and continuing to play impressive D. If Dragic can play like this all year, Steve Nash will have plenty of rest for the stretch run (and, hopefully, the playoffs).
- Channing Frye. This was a tough choice. I couldn’t decide between Nash, Grant Hill and Frye as the third most impressive player to jump out at me in this early season, but I decided to go with Frye since he’s been the biggest plus (Nash and Hill have been outstanding, but we’ve come to expect that from them, year in and year out). Frye, the former St. Mary’s High star, is having quite the homecoming. His offensive skill set and Gentry’s system have been the perfect fit for one another. His shooting touch has been simply unbelievable, as he made more three pointers in his first three games this season (13), than he’d ever made in an entire season before, and he’s on pace to knock down 246 super shots for the year. He’s also been much more than just a jump shooter this year, showing he can put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket — something new to his game. Plus, there’s the spacing he provides for Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire to do their thing. I know it’s early to make awards predictions, but I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t win the Most Improved Player award this year.
So, there you have it — the three things that have really stood out to me through the first week of the NBA season. If the Suns can continue to shine in those areas and show more improvements on defense, we’re in for a very exciting year. Now to just get through this pesky road trip…
This is not your ordinary blog. Normally, I would regale you with a delightful story of myself partaking in a signature drink or dish from a local place. Considering the location I crept into this week, I will just clarify that one should not expect a special of any kind from here. The Bikini Lounge is an outing that you survive, hopefully unscathed, to question why people hit this dive up.
It all starts off just like a scary movie. I stroll up to the building with the blacked-out windows and the door is wide open. It is just like a portal into a land of isolation, not telling of what lies behind it’s own darkness. To say the clientele was sparse this evening would be an understatement (granted, it was a Monday night). Aside from the cheery bartender (more on her in a second), there sat only one patron watching the World Series.
So, I plop myself down at the bar, which stinks of things my imagination is horrified to picture. Peering out from behind her lonely game of eight ball, the bartender growls her pleasantries. “What do you want?” Immediately, I feel like one of the boys from The Goonies. That is the reason this scenario seems so familiar. The ever-cheerful barkeep exudes the Fratelli mother in every way.
After realizing that I am still standing there, mouth agape, I collect myself and order the first thing that comes to mind: a pitcher of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Sure, you may scoff at the notion, but in this blogger’s humble opinion, Pabst is the best beer for your buck.
So, I start to acclimate myself to the surroundings. I realized that I am surrounded by creative minds, or at the very least, deranged sociopaths. The walls seem to leak black. There are hints of an attempt at a Hawaiian theme — sticks in pattern above the bar, tiki masks, a topless luau dancer painting, etc. Also parading in this locale are curious elements — handwritten “Cash Only” signs, a mid-’90s arcade bowling game, a scarecrow, a strangely new Internet jukebox and the smallest above-bar screens I have ever encountered.
Needless to say, this was an experience. I laid my cash on the dingy bar and crept back out. I can only imagine that at one time this might have been a nicer, cleaner bar. Well, maybe that is taking things a little too far.
The Bikini Lounge is located at 1502 W. Grand Ave. (602) 252.0472. It offers pitchers of PBR nightly.
I’m back. And married. Sorry for the lapse in genius. But, let’s be honest, that started a long time ago. I keep writing anyway. Which is the point of today’s post — writing.
November means a few things; namely that I get to sleep in an extra hour on Sundays before football starts (I’m abolishing daylight savings time when I become President). November also means that there are less than 60 days to nail down a New Year’s Resolution. I haven’t decided exactly what it is that I’ll be committing to for 12 months (read: 30 days), but I know that there are a couple things high on the list.
First, my wife Kim and I are contemplating participating in a 100 Mile Diet. With the Phoenix Public Market’s Urban Grocery and Wine Bar now a fully stocked five-day-a-week store, finding local produce and meat is easier than finding excuses not to contribute to a stronger Phoenix and more sustainable earth. If going local is high on your list of things to do in 2010, check out the Local First Arizona Fall Festival on Saturday, November 7.
Second on the list, and one that I could use some help with, is writing. Last week, I went to go see the movie New York, I Love You. It was a collection of short films with love stories and New York at the center of each plot — sort of an homage to Paris, Je T’aime. And, it got me thinking of movies, TV shows, novels and stage plays that treat their locale as a character itself. There’s CSI: New York and CSI: Miami. NCIS puts Los Angeles on display while NBC’s Trauma highlights San Francisco in a way that hasn’t been done since Mary-Kate and Ashley were in diapers. In a similar fashion, Jonathon Larson’s Rent brought New York’s East Village to life the same way Carrie Bradshaw talks about being in a relationship with Manhattan when she’s without a man (but, I don’t watch Sex in the City… promise).
And, don’t get me started on literature. Any good novel relies heavily on its location for fodder (and, for that matter, bad ones do, too — see: any Dan Brown book). Point is, a good place makes for a good story; and intuitively, I’m trusting that the reverse is true. Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg not only wrote drug-induced sentence fragments about self-realization, but each also wrote about the city he lived in — the city he loved.
We have an outstanding portfolio of visual and performing artists in the Phoenix area, but I think it’s time for a writing renaissance in the Valley. Or maybe it’s already happening. One thing for sure: I can promise no genius from my end, but my hope is that if we convince enough people to write about the city they live in (the city they love?), we can add one more piece to this evolving puzzle that is bringing Phoenix to the 21st century.
What do you say? You in?
If you see only one movie while drunk this year, may I recommend Zombieland, the almost unbearably bad horror-comedy starring Woody Harrelson. The only saving grace that allowed me to make it all the way to the end was the fact that I was pretty lit on sake and Hanny’s martinis. The movie is a modified road trip/buddy pic/zombie flick that somehow manages to integrate the worst of each of those genres into one bizarre mess.
As a road trip movie, Zombieland lacks any sense of place or location — Austin feels just like Beverly Hills. As a buddy pic, the film lacks any complex development of a closer (or even more distant) relationship between the lead characters over the course of the story. As a zombie flick, it has a lame zombie back story (modified mad cow) and some really blah-looking zombies.
The basic plot line is that the few remaining non-zombies on earth are each trying to get somewhere — one person (Jesse Eisenberg) to his family in Columbus, and another (Harrelson) trying to locate the world’s remaining Twinkies. Yes, Twinkies. On the way, they encounter a pair of hot chick non-zombies (Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin). Along their somewhat irrelevant and misguided path, they are chased by zombies, whom they elude and/or kill by a variety of boring methods, eventually arriving at a West Coast theme park where they have a final battle with the predators (in this film, the zombies aren’t undead, per se).
The one highlight of the film was the extended cameo by Bill Murray. When the cast of characters showed up at his house, Murray initially frightens them in a fully zombified rage — which he then reveals to be a ruse he uses to protect himself from real zombies. They romp around his house, which is basically a Ghostbusters museum.
As the alcohol wore off, I became painfully aware that the film I just spent an hour-and-a-half watching had less of a story than an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
My saving grace in being able to survive Zombieland was that my friends and I had just come from Hanny’s, where I was able to drink just enough to tolerate the cinematic train wreck. Hanny’s is exactly what a Downtown bar should be: cool and relaxed, yet sophisticated. It is definitely the place to go if you want to enjoy a classy drink in a supper club atmosphere.
I have yet to move past the drink menu, so that is just about all I can criticize. The caipirinha was pretty well balanced, although I could have done without the rock candy swizzle stick (I know that a sugar cane garnish may be tough to come by in Phoenix, so we don’t mind if you leave it out). They use Cachaça 51 which isn’t my favorite, but it is passable.
The sidecar was strong. Not in a good way. I enjoy sidecars because they incorporate a lot of different sweet flavors, but this just made me feel like a lush drinking a citrus-flavored martini.
Speaking of martinis, the gin martini was decent, although tiny (but a good buy for $5).
The staff is friendly and flirty — in fact, my friend slipped the waiter my phone number after we noticed him admiring my shoes. Yep, it was that kind of night.
Previous week’s games:
10/28/09 SUNS 109, Clippers 107
10/30/09 vs Golden State Warriors
11/01/09 vs Minnesota Timberwolves
11/03/09 @ Miami Heat
11/04/09 @ Orlando Magic
Why was Steve Nash signed to a contract extension this past summer? He’s clearly too old and has lost a step. In the Suns’ season opener in LA against the Clippers on Wednesday night, he only scored 15 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter to rally the Suns to a victory. Oh, and he did it on five-for-five shooting in the final period. Absolutely ridiculous. Let’s quickly ship him to Portland for Steve Blake and draft picks.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m being sarcastic. Nash was nothing short of brilliant in the closing quarter Wednesday night. The first three quarters were mediocre at best, but Nash and the boys stepped up when it counted to start the season off with a nice win in an exciting game.
A few notes from the season opener:
The Suns out-rebounded somebody! Sure, it was only by one, but it’s still a pretty big deal, considering this same team was horrible in the preseason and was matched up against a much bigger Clippers team and was playing without injured center Robin Lopez.
Perhaps the biggest surprise: The Suns are now sporting a bench that can play! The second unit for Phoenix showed great hustle and energy on the glass while playing tough D. They also managed to score 21 points, which was quite the feat with Leandro Barbosa inserted into the starting lineup to fill in for the suspended Jason Richardson.
The Suns must run more. They only had two fastbreak points, and that just won’t cut it. I’m sure this is something that will be remedied in the games to come, and it probably had something to do with the Clippers shooting a ridiculous 55% from the field.
On to the home opener.
Tomorrow (Friday, 10/30) the Suns have their home opener for the 2009-10 season as they host the Golden State Warriors. It should be a very entertaining, high-scoring game, so I hope to see a packed US Airways Center. For those of you attending the game, remember that METRO offers free light rail rides to anyone with a Suns ticket, which is how I’ll be traveling.
If you’re looking for a place to eat before tip-off, you can stop by Majerle’s, where I’ll be eating my pregame meal. If you’re not in the mood for a hamburger and French fries, there are plenty of other options open to you nearby, such as Matador, which serves Mexican food, or Cibo, a great pizzeria.
After the game, be sure to head on over to The Turf to participate in Night Rail (and hopefully celebrate a Suns victory!). Night Rail is sure to get you in touch with a lot of cool people that know exactly what’s going on and where to go for a good time while in Downtown Phoenix.
Other places to consider are Bar Smith, which is always hopping after a game lets out, or Hanny’s, if you’re looking to get drinks in a more intimate setting that still provides music courtesy of an in-house DJ.
Sidenote: Earlier this week the Suns announced a partnership with St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. As part of the three-year agreement, preseason and postseason physicals for the Suns and Mercury players will be performed by St. Joseph’s physicians. St. Joseph’s will also provide an array of medical and wellness services, including a referral process for primary care and specialty physicians.