Phoenix With no Amare Stoudemire coming to the rescue, the slumping Phoenix Suns know that their speed and scoring are the keys to survival in the postseason.
That might not be enough to succeed when the going gets rough, as it always does, in the playoffs. Across the NBA, the Suns are being written off as a title contender.
"And rightly so," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said after the team's workout on Thursday. "If you're making an educated guess, I'd write us off. I'd even be trying to get into seventh place (in the Western Conference) to play us right now.
"But I think people are going to be surprised, and you'd probably better be careful what you wish for."
After all, the Suns built a solid lead in the Pacific Division without Stoudemire through 66 games while awaiting the big forward's return. He tried to come back, but lasted just three contests.
Stoudemire underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday, putting to rest any thoughts the All-Star forward would be back for a run at the title this season.
That was no huge surprise, because the team had always known he might not return due to the seriousness of the surgery he had undergone on his left knee before the season began.
His other knee developed problems during rehabilitation, and that led to the second surgery.
Without Stoudemire, the Suns still had a strong presence inside on defense with the acquisition of Kurt Thomas. But Thomas went down in late February with a stress fracture in his right foot, and won't return until the second round of the playoffs at the earliest.
That has led to a breakdown in interior defense, a weakness never more apparent than in the team's listless 119-105 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
"We know the problem," D'Antoni said. "We've pinpointed it. Everybody knows it. Now we'll see how much heart and fortitude we can put into it. If we do that, we'll be fine."
The Suns have lost four of six and are 7-8 since their season-best 11-game winning streak.
D'Antoni called the performance against the Clippers the team's worst of the season, and All-Star forward Shawn Marion agreed.
"Like coach said, that was rock bottom last night," Marion said. "I think everybody was a little winded last night, whether they're saying it or not. I'm going to say it: I was tired."
Lewis suspended for reckless driving
New York - Seattle SuperSonics forward Rashard Lewis was suspended for one game without pay by the NBA on Thursday for reckless driving.
Lewis, who will miss the Sonics' game Friday night at Portland, pleaded guilty to reckless driving and was given a one-year suspended sentence Monday, five months after he failed sobriety and breath tests during a stop on Interstate 90.
Lewis initially pleaded not guilty to drunken driving. He reached the plea deal with prosecutors after a judge ruled the breath tests were not admissible.