The Phoenix Suns take the court tonight against the Miami Heat with two of their three new players. Vince Carter won't play tonight (knee), but his fellow Orlando Magic transfers will. Both Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat are excited to get out on the floor with their new team.
Gortat even found a pair of appropriately-colored orange and purple shoes in the Suns closet left over from some guy named Amare Stoudemire. It might be a stretch to say that the "Polish Hammer" will fill Amare's shoes on the court, but he literally will be wearing Amare's shoes on his feet.
Suns Coach Alvin Gentry considers tonight's much-hyped matchup with the Heat "just another game" ... albeit another game against a very good opponent. He is anxious to see how his team looks and especially if they have improved defensively, which is still the key to the Suns' season.
"We just have to get better defensively. I think that's the big key for us. I think our offense has been fine ... as I said to the guys, we've got to take 100 possessions and get four percent better. If we can get four percent better then I think we can have a very interesting year," Gentry said.
With Carter not available, Gentry said he would continue to mix and match his rotation and experiment with who he plays at the shooting guard position. Alvin didn't specifically say, but we can assume that Jared Dudley will get the start. He scored a career-high 27 points in his last start.
For the Miami Heat, this is just another game for them. Mike Miller is working his way back into the lineup and they are still figuring out how to use Erick Dampier. A big challenge for them, based on all the questions from the national media, will be to avoid overlooking the Suns in favor of their Christmas Day battle with the Lakers.
"We have great respect for the Suns, come on. This is a very dangerous team that made a change, but they play great here at home with a lot of energy. They score a lot of points ... they can make your defense look bad if you're not sharp," Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said at shootaround.
The Heat may be without Dwyane Wade for tonight's game. Wade banged his knee in the fourth quarter of their last game, a loss to Dallas, and didn't participate in shootaround. He said he's going to take a nap and see how it feels when he wakes up, but he wants to play.
This game tips off at 8:30 p.m. local time (10:30 p.m. ET) and will be broadcast nationally on TNT. Former Suns GM Steve Kerr will be the color analyst. You can follow along with other Suns fans at the Bright Side of the Sun live game thread.