NBA Trivia: Phoenix Suns

By Lorenzo Tanos

The 2012-13 season was not the best of seasons for the Phoenix Suns, who had to deal with the disappointing play of Michael Beasley and MarcinGortat, not to mention an overall lack of star power. Still, the Suns have seen worse, with the usual expansion team struggles and even a few drug scandals in the mid-'80s.  Here's a look at the Suns' 45-year history so far as we move on to the last few teams in our weekly NBA Trivia installments.

1. How many future Hall of Famers were selected by the Phoenix Suns in the 1968 Expansion Draft?

One. Only a handful of quality players were available to the Suns in the '68 Expansion Draft, including future All-Star Dick Van Arsdale, as well as future Hall of Famer Gail Goodrich.  At that point in his career, Goodrich was mainly an instant offense guy off the bench for the Lakers, but his selection by the Suns led to two 20 ppg-plus seasons, good enough to build his stock as an NBA player.  Goodrich returned to the Lakers in 1970-71, and promptly got a starting job, peaking the year later with a 25.9 ppg clip.

2. Who was the Suns' first-ever general manager and head coach, and which team did they work for before moving to Phoenix?

Prior to joining the Suns, general manager Jerry Colangelo and head coach Johnny "Red" Kerr were both with the Chicago Bulls, with Kerr being the Bulls' inaugural coach and Colangelo acting as a player scout.  Colangelo was only 28 years old when he accepted the job as Suns GM.  Jerry Colangelo's son Bryan would also become a Suns executive, serving as the team's GM for 11 years and conducting some very productive drafts.

3. Which Phoenix Suns center was tragically killed in a Northwest Airlines plane crash in 1987?

Nick Vanos was a little-used backup center for the Suns when he and his fiancee boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 255 on August 16, 1987.  The two were among 154 individuals killed in the plane crash that also ended the life of two motorists. 

4. True or False - the Suns took part in the highest-scoring postseason game in NBA history.

True.  Game 4 of the 1992 Western Conference Semifinals saw the Portland Trailblazers defeating the Phoenix Suns 153-151. This double-overtime classic took place nearly 21 years ago to this date, on May 11, 1992, and the Suns were led by Kevin Johnson's 35 points.  Tom Chambers and Dan Majerle came off the bench to score 29 and 21 respectively, while Johnson's backcourt partner, Jeff Hornacek, had 23 points.

5. And speaking of overtime games, how many OTs did the Suns and the Chicago Bulls play in Game 3 of the 1993 NBA Finals?

Three.  This was another high-scoring encounter, but this time the Suns were victorious, defeating the Bulls 129-121 in Chicago.  Seven players scored in double figures for the Suns, with Majerle leading the way with 28 points and Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley adding 25 and 24.

6. What was the name of Jason Kidd and Penny Hardaway's "dream backcourt" when the latter player was traded to the Suns for the 1999-00 NBA season?

Cheesy as it sounds, the JKidd-Penny backcourt was dubbed Backcourt 2000.  But said backcourt didn't quite live up to expectations, with both players, especially Hardaway, missing several games due to injuries.  Kidd played in 67 games and averaged 14.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 10.1 apg, while Hardaway was in 60 games, posting averages of 16.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 5.3 apg.

7. Which man immediately preceded Mike D'Antoni as Suns' head coach, and how did he fare in his time with the Suns?

Former Suns reserve point guard Frank Johnson had mixed results in his one and a half year with the Suns, which was actually an 11-20 run to close out the 2001-02 season, 44-38 for one complete season in 2002-03, and 8-13 in 2003-04 before D'Antoni took over.

8. How many Suns have won Most Improved Player honors in the NBA, and what year did they win?

Kevin Johnson was the Suns' first Most Improved Player winner in team history when he won the award in 1988-89, his second season in the league.  It was Johnson's emergence as a star point guard that was mainly responsible for the Suns' transformation from mediocrity to perennial playoff contention.  17 years later, Boris Diaw won the award for the Suns, as the 2005-06 season saw him emerge as a versatile player capable of contributing at all five positions and stuffing stat sheets, while holding his own in the defensive end.

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