Seattle likes to cause havoc with its aggressive trapping defense, but in Phoenix the Sonics faced a club that likes chaos even more than they do. Suns coach Danny Ainge turned Phoenix's lack of low-post players into a strength, putting three and often four guards on the floor at the same time. The Suns' offense looked like an anthill after it had been kicked, with small players scurrying all over the court, and if their style seemed more suited to the playgrounds than the playoffs, so be it. Phoenix forced Seattle's 6'10" forwards, Kemp and Schrempf, to chase the 6'4" Chapman and 6'6" Wesley Person on the perimeter, and the taller twosome looked like exasperated parents trying to round up their children. The Suns also put the ball in the hands of their pair of point guards, Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd, and watched them break down the Sonics defense time after time. It wasn't until Game 5 that Seattle finally slowed down Chapman—with the help of Otis the Witch Doctor, a fan who placed the hex on Rex before the game—and held him to 16 mostly meaningless points.
The scrappy Suns' performance was even more impressive in light of their 13 straight losses to open the regular season. (Ainge replaced Cotton Fitzsimmons after Phoenix started 0-8.) Phoenix was so bad in November that even Ainge's son Tanner couldn't resist joking about them.
"Knock, knock," Tanner said to his father one day.
"Who's there?" said Danny.
The Suns became a force when they acquired Kidd from the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 26 and teamed him with Johnson. The two were so impressive together—Johnson averaged 23.1 points at shooting guard alongside Kidd—that it seems a shame that after 10 seasons Johnson, 31, appears intent on retiring. (He planned to meet with president and chief executive officer Jerry Colangelo this week to discuss his future.) After Game 5, in which he was a subpar 8 for 27 from the field and 1 for 5 from beyond the arc, Johnson said, "This is it. If God changes my heart, I'll change my mind, but I don't see that happening. God gave me 10 great years. I have no regrets, only highlights."
The highlight of this series, though, was furnished by the unheralded Chapman, whose running, over-the-shoulder three-pointer in Game 4 will go down in Suns' lore with another Phoenix miracle shot, Gar Heard's heave against the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the 1976 Finals. Chapman's playoff performance wasn't enough to save the Suns, but it may do wonders for his bank account. After the Miami Heat renounced their rights to him last summer, he signed a one-year contract with Phoenix for the league's minimum salary, $247,500. He should be able to command substantially more on the open market this off-season, but probably not from the Suns, who unless they clear salary-cap room can offer him only a 20% raise, to $297,000, for 1997-98. "I'd like to be back with the Suns," Chapman, a nine-year veteran, said after Game 5, "but they have to consider all their options, and so do I."
The Sonics will probably see Chapman and the other Phoenix guards in their dreams for some time to come. For Seattle, after chasing the small Suns around for five games, the prospect of facing Houston big men Barkley, center Hakeem (the Dream) Olajuwon and forward-center Kevin Willis actually seemed enticing. "I'm looking forward to banging with some big guys," said Kemp after Game 5. "The Suns, they're so little that when you touch 'em, a lot of times they just fall over. You kind of have to watch where you step."