Nash, guarded by the tenacious Bell, dribbles down the clock and gets a screen from Thomas on the right side. Bell fights through and leaps at Nash as he takes an off-balance jumper. No good. "What! No foul?" I hear myself scream when I transcribe the tape later. I don't even remember yelling it, nor was it anything but a terrific defensive play by Bell. Typical coach. The scrimmage ends in a tie.
Afterward the Phoenix staff is reasonably happy. As we screen a tape of the scrimmage in Mike's suite, I am astounded by the almost total recall the coaches have of every play. As one sequence unfolds, Iavaroni says, "This is a basket-cut layup right here. Jimmy [ Jackson] doesn't get over." That's exactly what happens.
Everyone agrees that Bell (24 points, four threes, flypaper defense) was the star of the evening, a gutty and confident team player who has fit in perfectly. "So, Mike, who do you like better," says Iavaroni, " Quentin Richardson or Raja Bell?" It's a rhetorical question. The coaches appreciated the three-pointers and the swagger that Richardson provided last year, but they are enamored with Bell's versatility. Alas, that's not the issue.
"What we have to do," says Mike, "is get Raja up to Joe Johnson numbers."
BUT I KNOW THE INBOUNDS PLAYS AND ...
It's 9 a.m. in the Westin lobby. Weber has his Diet Coke. The D'Antonis work their crosswords. Gentry reads the paper. Iavaroni peruses his defensive statistics. Camp breaks today, and the Suns will return to Phoenix. I'm saying my goodbyes. Everyone slaps me on the back as they leave. Dan gives me a quick hug.
I drive to a nearby Starbucks, wearing the last of my clean shirts with the Suns logo.
"Um, are you with the Suns?" a young lady asks me.
"Well, sort of, yes," I say. It's just too complicated to explain.