The Suns scored 16.2 more points per game last season than in 2003-04, the largest jump in the shot clock era. The old mark was 15.3, by the Philadelphia Warriors in 1959-60.
Record: 62-20 (1st in West) Points scored: 110.4 (1st in NBA) Points allowed: 103.3 (30th) Coach: Mike D'Antoni (third season with the Suns)
A star is hurt, but the dynamic offense isn't slowing down for anyone
Kurt Thomas doesn't rush into things. He didn't play basketball until he was a junior at Hillcrest High in Dallas. "I was a bookworm," he said. "My parents made sure of that." Not highly recruited, he sneaked up on the hoops world in 1994-95, when, as a senior at TCU, he became the third player to lead the nation in scoring and rebounding. He then developed into a prized power forward during his seven years with the Knicks, recognized for his rugged, consistent and, well, unhurried presence.
As a newcomer to high-octane Phoenix, however, Thomas is going to have to start rushing things a little bit. Perhaps not his shot in the half-court offense, which he gets off deliberately and with near-perfect mechanics, but certainly the way he runs the floor. While the 6'9", 230-pound Thomas had been penciled into the starting lineup at center even before Amaré Stoudemire underwent the arthroscopic left knee surgery that will sideline him until at least February, the absence of the league's fleetest frontcourtman puts more pressure on every Sun to lace up his track shoes and fill the lanes.
Coach Mike D'Antoni is not expecting Thomas to suddenly take a pass from MVP point guard Steve Nash on the dead run and throw down a tomahawk dunk, something that the 23-year-old Stoudemire did about 300 times last season. But for Phoenix to continue to dictate tempo with its lethal fast break, Thomas will have to find a new gear somewhere in his 33-year-old body. "I admit it's been a change," says Thomas, "but I'll adjust. I always have." This, though, is one adjustment he'll have to make on the fly. -- Jack McCallum