As was pointed out in the comments of the game recap, I've been pretty hard on this team. The reality is, I don't expect them to make a lot of noise this year and am not the least bit surprised that they are struggling early. Many of us said before the season that success will be measured more in progress than in W's and there's definitely nuggets of progress buried in the poop if you're willing to dig a bit.
Before praising the good, the two most disappointing things five games in have been the inconsistent effort and the ridiculously poor bench play.
- There's really no excuse for this team not to play hard for 48 minutes. They didn't do it in the home games to start the year. They certainly didn't do it in Orlando although I didn't get that "not trying hard enough" feeling from the Miami or Charlotte games.
- The second unit led by Sebastian Telfair and Shannon Brown finished the season strong last year. It baffles me why they've reverted so far back. Brown is a talented individual -- all these guys are -- but you will never convince me that those shots he's taking are best for the team unless he...well, just never.
- And I have no clue where Bassy's game went, but I hope he finds it because I'm not ready for Kendall Marshall to take the court in meaningful minutes and fail. I'd much rather protect and develop him for a least a few more months before throwing him to the wolves to be mauled and abused.
On the plus side, Marcin Gortat seems to have adjusted his defensive approach from taking charges to blocking shots. He's now blocking many shots. He's leading the NBA with 21 blocks while the number two guys (Roy Hibbert) has 15.
I like it. He's also playing more consistently over the last few games and looks sharp.
In other words, he's playing to his strengths and up to his potential.
Michael Beasley had his best game as a Sun against rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I expect him to be inconsistent but totally agree with Gentry that he's this team's best hope both for later in the season and years to come. I'm willing to suffer through the bad games if he is willing to play consistently hard and continues to make progress. If the shots aren't falling, he needs to outwork his man on the glass and try hard on defense.
The rotations were much nicer in this game. The much-noted adjustment to put P.J. Tucker on B.J. Mullins in the fourth paid off big time. But even more fun was seeing fewer guys on the court in the first half and an abandonment of the hockey-line full sub rotations in the second and fourth quarters. We'll see if that was a matchup thing or if Gentry has changed his tune.
That was too many words from me. Here's what others are saying:
Despite having two of the most ridiculous goaltends I've ever seen, Byron Mullens has to be the player of the night for the Bobcats. He had a Kobe mindset tonight, even down to trying Bryant's jabstep move at one point. Mullens took no prisoners and apologized for nothing.
Gortat already entered the game as the NBA leader in blocks and now has 21 in five games. "I promised myself that I’ve got to be a better rim protector," Gortat said. "With my athleticism, ability to move laterally and to jump, I’ve got to block more shots. I quit kind of taking those charges. Hopefully, I get more blocks. That’s what we need."
The Suns’ defensive plan was very clear from the outset: 1) Don’t respect Charlotte’s outside shooting. 2) Pack the defense in inside the arc. On paper, this seems like a solid plan.
Some are taking great pleasure in the Suns being ahead of the Lakers in the standings and I'm certainly not going to look the gift horse that is the stuggles in L.A. in the mouth, but at the same time we all know they are going to turn it around. Enjoy it now or dread their improvement to come. That's entirely on your disposition and my amount of sleep and exercise.
2012 NBA standings: Suns tied for third in Pacific Division - SB Nation Arizona
The Los Angeles Lakers are shockingly in last place in the Pacific Division at 1-4 after falling to the Utah Jazz.