by Lang Whitaker

I’m back!

That’s the way I feel right now. For the last 6 weeks my cable service at home has been dismal, and that’s a kind assessment. Problem has been that I’ve been gone a lot, too, so I haven’t been able to sacrifice a day to sit around and wait for the cable guy. But it finally worked out today and I’m now the proud owner of internet access and digital cable. But there is an outstanding billing issue yet to be resolved. I’m not backing down, Time Warner!

So that’s why I’m here, back at the keyboard, and I’m pumped tonight, excited enough to sit down and keep running game notes for tonight’s Phoenix/Utah battle. Nash vs. Deron! Amare vs. Boozer! A star at the center of our solar system vs. a largely improvised American musical form!

Let’s go…

• Just want to get this out of the way: “Ninja Warrior” on G4 network is one of my new favorite TV shows. Who needs TV writers!

• I still love that the Jazz arena is sponsored by EnergySolutions, which sounds like some hippie company that leads the way in environmental research. But what do they really do? Dispose of hazardous waste. Insert Knicks joke here.

• TNT opens with a shot of a snowbank with the words “JAZZ VS SUNS ON TNT” sort of carved into the snow. The weird thing is that the words are all in yellow.

• Aw, what the hell?! No Steve Nash, Shawn Marion or Grant Hill? Great game I picked to watch.

• On the first play of the game, the Suns run the shot clock down to 5 and then Boris Diaw drives through the Jazz and flips in a little French pastry layup. Hey Boris! Good to see you again!

• And then 30 seconds later, Okur pump-fakes Diaw off his feet and easily draws a foul on him. I guess that part of Boris is back, too.

• Doug Collins’ Keys to the game are:
Transition Game
3-Point Shooting
Frontline (pts in paint/rebs)
Bench
Yep, that about covers it, Doug. Next time just go with Offense and Defense.

• Crap! My favorite white guy in the NBA, Matt Harpring, is out tonight, too. Ever notice that he looks just like the kid on a can of Campbell’s soup?

• Boy, Boozer is just deadly from between 15 and 18 feet, isn’t he? He’s like a completely mid-range Charles Barkley.

• True story: A couple of years ago I came back from lunch one day and Carlos Boozer was hanging out in our advertising guys’ office. Never saw him again.

• Ronnie Brewer is dope, but he’s not as much fun as he was at Arkansas without the headband. That’s a good rule for life, that headbands always add fun to any situation. Write that down, someone.

• Alright, its 16-16 after Amare just demolished a basket on a follow-up dunk. And then Okur nailed a three. 6:40 to go in the first. Lots of threes from Phoenix, balanced scoring from Utah.

• Okur always looks like he’s trying to suppress a burp.

• I also should talk about Deron Williams, who’s had a couple of nice drives and one bucket where he got fouled, it wasn’t called, but he still tossed in a layup from behind his head. I love his game, but every time I see him I think he’s out of shape.

• Wow, just saw an NBA Cares commercial starring Steve Nash. He did the voice over, had some lines in the end and everything. Wonder how much Bill Sanders had to twist his arm to make that happen?

• Doug Collins almost made it through the first quarter without mentioning his son or his son being a coach at Duke. Almost.

• OK, we need to address Brian Skinner. I’ve been meaning to talk about this, because it’s really bothering me. Brian Skinner has no business having facial hair like this. Brian Skinner is supposed to be a solid veteran guy, a player who comes early and leaves late, who tutors the younger guys, who helps his coach get his message across. At least in my mind, that’s what Brian Skinner is all about. And what Brian Skinner is not supposed to be about is having ridiculous facial hair. Specifically, having a horrendous goatee. My man is rocking a long goatee that is bleached orange on the end. He looks as if he fell face-first into an orange cotton candy spinner. Where are your team leaders, Phoenix? Shawn Marion, here’s your chance to show some leadership. Nash, Piatkowski, Hill, you guys are real vets, you take care of it. Hey Kerr, what kind of an operation are you running out there in Phoenix?

• Kyle Korver is in. Was anyone else surprised that out of the 400-plus NBA players available, the Jazz went out and got Kyle Korver?

• Kirilenko is sitting behind the Jazz bench wearing a dark suit, his hair slicked back, sitting demurely. He looks exactly like Draco Malfoy. And for some reason I bet Kirilenko has read all the Harry Potter books.

• 31-21 Utah, 2:45 to go in the first. Okur nearly dunked on Stoudemire. Korver’s hit two jumpers. Collins says he’s a great “team” guy. That means he’s white.

• Speaking of EnergySolutions Arena, check out some of the rejected names here, which are awesome. My favorite is The JazzMat.

• Jason Hart comes off the same set of picks that Korver did a few minutes ago, curls around the final pick and receives the ball on the free throw line extended, squares for an open jumper, goes up beautifully and…nearly shatters the backboard with a resounding brick. Barbosa gets the rebound, runs down and drills a three.

• First quarter ends, Utah leading 35-28. David Aldridge interviews Mike D’Antoni, who has a strange way of talking, almost like when Alec Baldwin was playing the role of Tracy Jordan’s father.

And if you haven’t watched that clip, it is probably the funniest two minutes of TV last year. Here, watch it again.

• The Suns go zone, trying to keep the Jazz from doing all their interior picks and cuts. The Jazz seem surprised and don’t know what to do Paul Millsap tries to dribble right through Boris Diaw, who takes the charge as he tries not to spill the warm crepe he’s holding.

• Stoudamire can’t draw a foul on Okur to save his life, and it looks like he’s getting frustrated.

• Forget Ashton Kutcher, Kyle Korver looks disturbingly like Hillary Swank. Maybe he is Hillary Swank. And think about how Jerry Sloan would’ve interacted with Brandon Teena.

• Sam said he can’t wait to get out and see that new movie starring Katie Holmes, Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah.

• They’re playing Souljah Boy in Salt Lake City. Wonder if they needed permits for that.

• Marcus Banks has played major minutes tonight, and the first thing he’s done that I can report to you was picking up a carrying violation.

• If you’re Utah, the one place you don’t want Boozer to catch the ball is right under the basket.

• The Suns close it to 39-34 with about 6 minutes left, and the zone does seem to be slowing the Jazz. In the huddle, Jerry Sloan can be heard screaming, “Zone? I invented the damn zone!”

• Brady Quinn is a dork.

• Wow, CJ Miles just pounded one right in Amare’s grill. As my man Shannon Booher will probably write tomorrow in Line of The Night, eat your breakfast, Amare!

• OK, so Amare didn’t like that. Next play down he gets loose and crushes a dunk, then kind of swings a little on the rim. Sorry, Amare. You don’t have to have any breakfast if you don’t want any.

• Utah’s still ahead, 52-46, with 2 minutes to go in the half.

• The Jazz go to Okur in the post and he spins right around Amare, who I think was checking out chicks in the stands.

• Boozer picks up two cheap fouls with 1 minute to go. Sloan smartly yanks him.

• The Suns go inside to Skinner, who’s isolated against Okur. Skinner backs in and fires a hook shot all the way over the rim. That was pretty impressive actually.

• 58-48 at the half. A wide-eyed Ronnie Brewer gets the halftime interview. Amare (14) and Captain Barbosa (16) have 40 of the 48.

• Ernie, Charles and Kenny! Kenny says the only reason to play zone is to change tempo or because you’re a bad defensive team. Bob Knight just silently raised a Pabst in tribute.

• Barkley hits on something I wanted to write about, that the Suns don’t play enough players. As a former “locker room guy” on my high school team, I empathize with the Suns bench players. It wouldn’t kill D’Antoni to get those guys some minutes here and there. And it wouldn’t kill Steve Nash and Marion and Hill and Amare to get a break every once in a while.

• Hey, Chuck Norris is doing car commercials now? I hope he gives a cut of that cash to the kid who came up with that Chuck Norris list.

• How ’bout them Pistons?

• Charles Barkley lists “Doug Christie’s Wife” as one of his top five favorite Sacramento Kings of all-time. Be careful, Chuck.

• I like how Doug Collins has ditched the bleached white hair and nobody talks about it. Barkley should be all over him. Collins points out several times that Utah had an 18-point advantage on points in the paint. Got it.

• Utah opens the third with Okur drilling a turnaround three-pointer. Marcus Banks gets one back.

• Phoenix goes back to the zone and gets a steal, and Raja Bell tries to create contact with Ronnie Brewer, but no call is made. Raja can be heard saying, “What the f*ck?” through one of the mics. The NBA, where random profanities happen.

• Utah’s gotten sloppy, but nobody on Phoenix can score either. I thought Kevin Harlan started a sentence by saying, “Utah done started the season 13-5,” but it turns out he said, “Utah, Doug, started the season 13-5.” Whew. Can’t shake that Alec Baldwin clip.

• Boy, when you slow Phoenix down, with this ragtag line-up, they look like a summer league team. In their halfcourt offense they either shoot a contested three or let Amare go on-one-two. Then they retreat to their 1-2-2 zone.

• Utah’s up a dozen. In a pre-taped interview, Steve Nash says the Suns are having fun, but “it’s relative, though.” I think he might secretly be Bethlehem Shoals.

• Kevin Harlan just gave an extended shout-out to J.A. Adande during the game. That was weird.

• Boozer loops in another 16-footer to put Utah up 71-56.

• TNT teases a think on NBA.com where Amare Stoudemire takes the TNT cameras behind the scenes at his Phoenix restaurant. This game sucks, so I’m going to check it out on NBA.com. I go to NBA.com, find the link right on the front, click on it and open a window, and then it takes forever to load and I end up giving up. Sometimes I wish the internet worked.

• This game is just convincing me further that these Suns are not a championship level team. This is one of those games where you’re missing your big dogs, and your bench has to produce to even give you a chance, but these guys are terrible. And I don’t know if Nash, Marion and Grant Hill are enough to overshadow the obvious lack of depth. I don’t think they are.

• It’s 86-60 after three. What happens when your team can’t play defense and then all of a sudden you can’t score either? This game is what happens.

• I’m running about a 15-minute delay on my DVR right now. So, for the betterment of all of us, I’m going to skip ahead and catch up. Maybe the Suns will have gone on a magical run to make it a closer game! Let’s see…nope. 97-69, with 6:58 to go in the game.

• DJ Strawberry is in the game for Phoenix. That would be a cool jersey to own. He nails a jumper to make it 97-71 as we go to a commercial. I reach for the remote and remember I can’t fast-forward any further. At this point I’d like one of those remotes that would let me warp time about 20 minutes into the future.

• Actually, I’ll let you guys in to the process here and take a break to go write the beginning of this article. See, I opened my laptop at tip-off and just started going, so I never really got to write an intro. I’m doing that now. But you will have already read it. Still, I have to do it or you can’t read it in the future.

• Done.

• 102-79, and Collins The Lesser has checked in! Oh how the Collins have fallen.

• Piatkowski drains a three. To cut it to 20. 1:40 to go. And then someone calls a timeout. Seriously. Watching a tape of this game is going on my bucket list.

• We’re back. Harlan mentions Collins The Greater, though not in so many words.

• Final! 108-86. I’ll be back tomorrow with NBA Friday. Now talk it out…