Amid all the doom and gloom, we got a game today. After losing in the final seconds to New Orleans in the season opener, the Suns try to turn the tables in the Big Easy tonight.
I get that the Suns are a middling-to-bad team. I get that Steve Nash and Grant Hill, the team leaders, are struggling big-time to get their old bodies to move at NBA speed. But the panic around these here parts the last couple of days has been quite crazy. Oh, I'm not questioning the conclusion that the Suns are a bad team. I'm just a little surprised at... the surprise, from so many, that the Suns are showing it on the court. The Modern Nashian Age is effectively over. All we have left is the limp to the finish line.
And the limp continues in New Orleans tonight, against a team not afraid to slow it down and win ugly. Their coach - Monty Williams - doesn't care how the team looks, as long as they win at least as many games as they are supposed to win. The Hornets look so beatable every time they play the Suns, yet somehow have won 4 of 5 over the Suns since the beginning of last season.
Here's what I'm going to be watching tonight: Robin Lopez and Markieff Morris. Neither is a future all-star, nor will either player see the floor for more than 30 minutes. But both players are key to the Suns' future.
Update: No final word yet, but Eric Gordon - he of the game-winning shot on Monday - may not play Friday night due to a knee bruise. But don't let that raise your hopes. Without Gordon (and with Jack), the Hornets beat the Celtics by 19 on Wednesday night.
Robin Lopez, the 23-year old veteran, is a rare commodity - 7'2", active and talented. Sure, he's injury-prone and not a great rebounder. But if he keeps playing at this level, he will get DeAndre Jordan money next summer - $8-10 million a year - either from the Suns or from another team. He's not the shot-blocker or dunker that Jordan is, but he's got a better offensive game to make up for it. How the Suns capitalize on this suddenly-healthy asset is KEY to the next 12 months. Do they keep Lopez, and trade Gortat? Or vice-versa? Or keep both, thinking you can't ever have too many bigs?
Markieff Morris is the 21-year old more-talented-than-we-thought rookie who just may be starting-quality caliber on a playoff team. He rebounds, hustles and shoots with range. His pedigree includes strong post defense. Are we looking at the next Rasheed Wallace, the kind of guy who can help win a lot of games? Or is he "merely" a 15-year rotational big man that everyone wants on their roster. Either way, the Suns hit it big with the 14th pick.
Everyone else on the roster? Either disappointing, declining, "known quantities" or some combination of all three. The Suns must decide who stays long-term and who goes for younger assets with more risk yet higher ceiling.
I digress. Back to tonight's game.
We know who the Hornets are. They play slow, they play ugly, they barely know each other. Their best players are pretty good - Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Carl Landry, Chris Kaman and Eric Gordon. Plus, Jarrett Jack is back at PG. He is not a great PG, but he's better than Vasquez, who led the team to a win on Monday night. Jack had 21, 9 and 4 in the Hornets' second game upon his return from a one-game suspension.
But the Suns CAN beat this team. If Nash, Hill and Channing Frye play to their past levels, the Suns can beat the Hornets.
And if the Suns win this game, BSotS Nation will calm down a bit. But it won't change their future. The 2011-2012 season is self-contained in Suns history. The team will not resemble the talent of the past, and they will not represent the talent of the future. This is a bridge season.
At least there's only 4 months and 64 games left.
Check out the Hornets' blog: At The Hive