The really hardcore NBA fans have flipped ahead in their hoop calendars and circled Dec. 29, 2012, as appointment viewing.
Well, assuming doomsday — as interpreted through study of the Mayan calendar — doesn’t co-opt the season (and the entire planet) 17 days earlier, the Suns will be in Minneapolis to take on Derrick Williams, Alexy Shved and the Timberwolves. It will be the first trip back to the Twin Cities as members of the Suns for ex-T-Wolves forward Michael Beasley and — if a reported trade occurs — swingman Wesley Johnson.
But if that cosmic intersection doesn’t inspire goosebumps (Alexy Shved?), the Suns’ schedule has a few dates with even more potential for drama.
For example, the Suns get their first look at the Los Angeles Lakers and old pal Steve Nash on Nov. 16 in L.A. The season will be a couple of weeks old by then, and Nash should have Kobe Bryant at least thinking about moving around on the weak side during screen-roll for the laser pass that will inevitably occur when Suns defenders collapse toward their former hero.
The real biggie, however, occurs in Phoenix on Jan. 30, when Nash will return to the scene of his two MVP awards as an enemy for the first time. It’ll be interesting to see if Nash’s No. 10 Lakers jersey is worn by more ticket holders than the No. 13 Suns jersey or Kobe’s No. 8 Lakers top. There may be far more Lakers fans than usual at US. Airways Center, as several hoops fans from SoCal have moved here to be closer to Nash’s family.
Two more big dates involving L.A. and a beloved former Suns player: Dec. 18 and Dec. 23. The first of those respective evenings will be held at Staples Center in Los Angeles, where Grant Hill and the Clippers are scheduled to take on the new-look (more roster changes than the Kardashian Christmas card list) team from Phoenix. Grant and the Clips return the favor by visiting Arizona five days later.
The Suns and their fans also are looking forward to visits from several noteworthy Eastern Conference teams that — thanks to the lockout — were kept out of town last season.
LeBron James and the defending-champion Heat will visit US Airways Center on Nov. 17. At that point, Suns coach Alvin Gentry should be only three or four weeks away from figuring out his top three options for a solid starting lineup and effective bench.
Amar’e Stoudemire, Jason Kidd and the Knicks will be here the day after Christmas. Use one of your gift cards to score a ticket just to watch Amar’e attempting to stay out of Carmelo Anthony’s way.
We haven’t forgotten the Bulls (Nov. 14) and Celtics (Feb. 22), whose new additions include Kirk Hinrich (cough) and old buddy Jason Terry, respectively.
How about the Suns’ regional rivals? We have that covered.
With Goran “Spur Killer” Dragic running the show, Phoenix will be in San Antonio on Jan. 26. With Luis Scola at power forward for the Suns and Team Argentina crony Manu Ginobili on the floor for the Spurs, this could be referred to as Flopapalooza.
Former Rockets Dragic and Scola will return to Houston on March 13, just four days after they go at it against their former team in Phoenix.
If you’re planning to drag signage into US Airways Center that would help recruit potential free-agent James Harden, the former Arizona State star and the Thunder will be in town Jan. 14.
And if you’re planning to get a televised look at the one who got away, the Suns will take on Eric Gordon and the Hornets in New Orleans on Feb. 6. Assuming the aforementioned deal that would bring Johnson to Phoenix is consummated, you may also notice a really tall Hornets player with a wild hairdo and a really skinny power forward who doesn’t guard anyone.
By the way, the Grizzlies will be in Phoenix on Dec. 12 … weather and locusts permitting.