Utah Jazz 87, Phoenix Suns 80 PHOENIX — Veteran Luis Scola spent no time reveling in the Phoenix Suns’ win against Philadelphia that broke a six-game losing streak. He was glad the Suns...

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Goran Dragic was the Suns' biggest free agent acquisition this year, and expectations were high for the former Sun who returned to the Valley. Further complicating matters was the fact that he was replacing a franchise legend and the man he backed up for the first two-and-a-half years of his career in Steve Nash.

Before returning to Phoenix, Dragic took over the starting point guard gig in Houston and exploded in the final two months of the season, almost dragging a depleted Rockets roster into the playoffs. Dragic put up 18 points and 8.4 assists per game on excellent shooting percentages, and Suns fans believed that was the guy they were going to get in Phoenix.

Through 31 games this year, that hasn't been the case. Well, partly anyway.

Dragic is averaging 14.5 points, 6.5 assists in 32.4 minutes per game while shooting 45 percent from the field, 34.4 percent from downtown and 70.5 percent from the charity stripe. Per 36 that is 16.1 points and 7.2 assists, which isn't too shabby. In fact, according to NBA Geek, not only is Dragic playing above average for a point guard, his numbers per 48 are almost identical to what he did in Houston last year, and are actually better in a couple statistical categories (turnovers especially).

The problem is, Dragic is coming off of a pretty poor month, particularly by the standards he's established for himself above. Take a look at his November and December splits below.

November (16 Games) December (13 Games)
Points Per Game 15.6 12.5
Assists Per Game 6.6 6.3
Rebounds Per Game 2.9 2.7
Steals Per Game 1.9 1.0
Field Goal Attempts 11.3 10.8
Field Goal Percentage 48.1 41.1
3-Point Field Goal Attempts 4.4 3.3
3-Point Field Goal Percentage 39.4 28.9
Free Throw Attempts 3.9 3.8
Free Throw Percentage 74.6 66.0
Minutes Per Game 31.6 32.3

Dragic's numbers fell across the board despite him actually playing slightly more. He played sick for part of the month I believe and was maybe a little banged up, but that happens to everyone and as a starting point guard he has to be able to play through those games and still help his team win. He didn't do much of that last month. The Sun opened December having lost two games already, and expanded that losing streak to six by losing their first four games of the month. Dragic put it together and led the Suns on a four game winning streak, but then fell off again and the Suns closed 2012 on a six-game losing streak.

The Suns snapped that streak by beating the 76ers in their first game of the new year, and Dragic was terrific with 20 points on 7-13 shooting, six assists with only one turnover and four rebounds. Let's hope that's a sign of things to come this month.

In fact, in his preview for that game against Philadelphia, Kris Habbas dropped a couple nuggets regarding Dragic and his impact on the Suns' success.

That has been part of the theme this season with opposing team's point guards. From a defensive standpoint the team upgraded (at least athletically) at the point guard position with Goran Dragic, but he has struggled to control opposing point guards. On the season he is +2 in points, +9 in assists, +12 in steals, and -12 in turnovers. It has been a dead heat all season for Dragic, but the elite lead guards have been outplaying him consistently.

Ten games this year Dragic has outplayed his counterpart in terms of production and the team is 4-6 overall in those games. When he is not playing at a high level and winning the point guard battle the team has struggled. In games where he is simply playing to a draw the team is 5-5 and in games where he is being outplayed the team is 2-8 so far. Another barometer of the team and how they are playing this season. When Dragic stirs the drink, it goes down smooth.

The emphasis above is mine, and I couldn't agree with that point more.

Delving a bit deeper, Dragic is a completely different player in Phoenix's wins than he is in losses.

Wins (12) Losses (19)
Points Per Game 17.5 12.5
Assists Per Game 7.4 5.9
Rebounds Per Game 2.8 3.1
Steals Per Game 1.5 1.6
Field Goal Attempts 11.8 10.8
Field Goal Percentage 50.4 41.3
3-Point Field Goal Attempts 4.3 3.9
3-Point Field Goal Percentage 43.1 28.4
Free Throw Attempts 5.2 3.7
Free Throw Percentage 74.2 67.1
Minutes Per Game 33.6 31.6

That's a pretty big disparity I'd say.

The first thing that jumps out to me is his numbers in the Suns' wins. They look pretty darn close to the numbers he put up as a starter in Houston. Winning stat-lines include 15 points and 10 assists against Detroit, 26-4 against Cleveland, 21-7 against Denver and 21-11 against Charlotte. That's the guy the Suns need. When he shows up, they win more often than not.

In the losses column, the thing that sticks out to me is his shooting percentages. He simply couldn't hit a shot, and it brought down his entire game. When he can't hit a shot, he disappears. Dragic has had five games this season scoring less than 10 points with all five coming in December and four of the five coming in a loss.

Dragic needs to bust out of his December slump (perhaps he already has; we'll see against Utah). I don't really care how he does it, but it has to happen. The Dragon needs to breathe fire again, and for that to happen shots need to fall. Whether it's a matter of getting extra shots up in practice, taking better shots in games or getting to the rack and free throw line more often (four free throws per game for someone with his ability to drive just isn't enough), I don't know.

However, he's not going to shoot well in every game. He needs to be able to shake his struggles off and still help his team win. If he allows his missed shots to completely take him out of the game like he has at times this year, he's never going to be any more than an average player and okay starter.

Goran Dragic isn't a superstar, or even an All-Star at this point. But he's the only star the Suns have, and if Phoenix hopes to win games he is going to have to elevate his game and play with more consistency. At least until the front office can get him some more help.

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The Phoenix Suns started off the New Year with win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Exorcising demons is what a long season is all about and one of the most pronounced of the Phoenix Suns (11-21) demons is a heartbreaking loss to the Philadelphia 76ers (15-17). That loss helped to spark the beginning of the team's downward spiral into a seven game losing streak. You remember that?

Throughout a long season like this one there are a lot of demons to exorcise.

Early on the Grizzlies stole one from the Suns and the Jazz dominated them, both on the road. A little change of scenery and the Suns were actually able to pull of the win simplifying the game plan against the opposing star. In the losses Zach Randolph (38 points 22 rebounds) and Al Jefferson (27 points 14 rebounds) controlled the game, but in the return wins they combined for a meager 32 points and 21 rebounds. The relevance in that is when the 76ers stole their win on the east coast it was because of an absolutely dominant performance from their star -- Jrue Holiday.

Holiday took control on the perimeter, rather than the previous two in the paint, but was just as effective with his 33 points and 13 assists.

That has been part of the theme this season with opposing team's point guards. From a defensive standpoint the team upgraded (at least athletically) at the point guard position with Goran Dragic, but he has struggled to control opposing point guards. On the season he is +2 in points, +9 in assists, +12 in steals, and -12 in turnovers. It has been a dead heat all season for Dragic, but the elite lead guards have been outplaying him consistently.

Ten games this year Dragic has outplayed his counterpart in terms of production and the team is 4-6 overall in those games. When he is not playing at a high level and winning the point guard battle the team has struggled. In games where he is simply playing to a draw the team is 5-5 and in games where he is being outplayed the team is 2-8 so far. Another barometer of the team and how they are playing this season. When Dragic stirs the drink, it goes down smooth.

The General Measurements

Suns at home: 9-7

76ers on the road: 6-10

Suns rebounding per game: 39.8 (17th)

76ers rebounding per game: 41.7 (12th)

Road Woes

The team is 2-14 on the road this season, the third most dubious mark in the league behind Washington and Sacramento, both 1-13 right now. Defensively the Suns have been awful on the road giving up 106.6 PPG (-10.22 margin) as opposed to at home where they give up 96.25 PPG (+2.13 margin).

Rematches

After losing to a team this season the Suns have had a chance at redemption five times going 2-3 so far knocking off both Utah and Memphis as mentioned earlier. This game tonight against Philadelphia can get them to even in rematches after a loss.

Key Match-Up

Goran Dragic v. Jrue Holiday

Holiday systematically took the team apart in their last outing, carving up the Suns for 63 points total between scoring and distributing. Dragic needs that type of performance -- not statistically, but in a sense of a game where he owns the match-up against an equal at his position.

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Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. If you have Sunsitis, please dial 119 immediately.

Other Disclaimer: Please do not actually dial 119 as it is not a real number.

Other Other Disclaimer: Sunsitis is a real affliction, but will not cause actual death, only simulated death, mostly of our spirit and will to watch the Suns.

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Have you or any of your loved ones come down with a sudden case of the Beasles?

Do you have poor (immune) defense?

Is a lack of scoring keeping you or your partner awake at night?

Are Brown spots causing you shooting pains?

Do you get Scola Sweats in the middle of the night?

Are you (pj) tuckered out all the time?

Do you have to dragic yourself out of bed in the morning?

Are big bald men randomly screaming at you for no reason?

Have your loved ones turned away from you and stopped caring?

No, you don't have Wes Nile Virus, but you might just have Sunsitis!

Worry no more!

Dr. Feldman has painstakingly spent minutes researching and/or developing a bold new cure for this dreadful disease (and by minutes, I mean seconds).

For months now there have been talks of rumors [or rumors of talks] about potentially existing cures for this affliction. But before I almost tell you about the REAL cure [then sneakily continue to only refer to it while directing you to view our you tube video that then details the "possibility" of the cure while directing you to buy our book that only eludes to a "potential" cure - thus siphoning hours out of your life and $24.99 plus processing and handling {really? Aren't processing and handling the same thing? }], I would like to dispel those gossips [{(that was the word that Word chose from the thesaurus as a replacement word for "rumors" )}] J~@#%&≤≥¥?β©.

There have been a few quacks out there (quacks are fake doctors, as opposed to me, a real non-doctor] suggesting the Cousins cure will eradicate Sunsitis. They claim "potential" positive results with significant upside despite possible side effects. Yet according to s(nope)s.com these "potential" results and "significant" upside has never actually materialized and the side effects are many and dangerous. In fact, there have been reported accounts of practice amnesia, diarrhea of the mouth, restless fist syndrome, spontaneous coach combustion , premature ejectionation, Irritable Center Disease, Sleep "balling", Sudden Bowel Disruption combined with a God complex [AKA "Holy Shits"], short-term chronic disorder, locker room cancer, thoughts of murder-suicide [then remembering you don't want to kill yourself], and prison rape. Some of these quacks claim that with the right monitoring of the medicine, Cousins treatments "may" "potentially" yield huge "upside" even in the face of all the tragic side effects. Yet opponents of this cure point to evidence of inconsistent performance with no actual positive impact on one's (health) record.

Another possible cure was said to be found in eastern [coast] medicine. They claim it is a Fabmelous remedy, saying it blocks many of the issues while allowing you to rebound from the effects. Yet I have my doubts, considering it has never been tested by a real doctor or even anyone with an N.B.A. at the very least.

So, no cure has been found... UNTIL NOW!

Introducing Dr. Feldman's cure for Sunsitis:

1] Recognize the symptoms to catch this before it spreads:

The first symptom of Sunsitis is a bad perplexion - often caused by a will to have your cake and eat it too. An example of this symptom is where you say you want to rebuild your team and at the same time remain competitive, thus actually never making a significant enough change to do either. Franchises who suffer from perplexion tend to gradually fade into irrelevance and eventually die a slow death.

The only way to battle this feared symptom is to make the tough decision to eradicate the entire group of cells in order to ensure that those cells do not continue to spread throughout your franchise into perpetuity. Unfortunately this means that you will feel much worse before you can even begin to fully recover. That is why many doctors do not attempt to try this method as they simply do not want to risk their careers over something that may take a long time to produce positive results.

However, once you get perplexion, the road to Sunsitis has been paved and the only way to avoid catching it is to make a bold decision and do what it takes. That would be step 2.

2] Forget the Beta trials - it is time for an Alpha Trial

Beta trials are nice when you want to test something in the real world that you know might not work, especially when you can get people to sign up for them willingly. But after the beta test begins and you start seeing people drop like flies, you have to go back to the drawing board [or your attorney] and make a quick fix. Traditionally, beta trials tend to be failed experiments and we wonder why franchises continue to do what has been unsuccessfully done in the past.

The little known "Alpha" trial is the way to go. Forget assembling a group of role players one-by-one until all of your resources have been exhausted and you are mired in middling mediocrity. Instead, get your name put on the Alpha list as soon as possible and you may just be selected to participate in an Alpha Trial.

Yes, there are times when the wait could be prolonged and you will suffer in the meantime. However, Alphas tend to produce greater success when built around than doing so with Betas. Certainly you need to make sure the Alpha you go with is the right one, but focusing on finding or recruiting the right one allows you to begin the process of building around that Alpha.

Of course, acquiring an Alpha will cost you, but at this point you should realize that you are facing an uphill battle and anything you have right now is not worth keeping if you can't follow the right medical plan to avoid Sunsitis. This means you need to be willing to divest yourself of all worldly assets, start from scratch, and maybe even take a risk on an untested Alpha.

3] Beasectomy

The late Dr. Pat Riley [he is not dead, just that Hall of Famer's don't need to be on time], revealed a method to rid your franchise of the dreaded Beasles through his discovery that Beasles attach themselves to a host "body" but once they are passed along, do not continue to infect the body they left.

The only issue is that in order to pass Beasles to another, you have to find a willing participant to accept them, which is difficult. There is a black market where hosts will accept your Beasles for a price, but that price is hefty. It is my estimation that having the Beasles will make it impossible to avoid and rid yourself of Sunsitis and thus the heavy price must be paid in order to purge this disease.

4] The Brown Procedure

This is a lesser, outpatient procedure dealing with one of the ills that ail you, but certainly a removal of the Brown spot might make things feel a little better at times. Of course you have to be careful that you properly remove the Brown spot through either a quick trade for a second round pick from a contending team without a bench scorer, or you can simply let the Brown spot fall off in the early summer. You don't want to keep the Brown spot around too long as he eventually turns into the Beasles.

5] Drink lots of "Draft" formula

While you wait for that Alpha trial to begin, it is important to remember that you may never be selected. You cannot pin all your hopes on the Alpha trial. But don't fret, because even if an established Alpha does not select you, there is still hope.

Scientists in Oklahoma City have shown incredible results when drinking lots of draft formula. By stockpiling formula in a good "draft" year, these scientists produced incredible results on manufacturing their own Alpha. In fact, they were so successful that they produced three alphas. Of course, considering Alpha's cost, they had to put one up for adoption on the Alpha list, eventually benefitting a patient suffering in Houston.

There are some quacks out there that believe you can drink draft formula that another franchise just purchased a year or two ago, thinking that they didn't know what they had and simply didn't want it to sit on the shelf considering the street value of the stuff. Yet that might prove to be fools gold simply due to the fact that draft formula tends to have an expiration date and can go bad sitting there unused.

Some draft formula connoisseurs feel that the best year's to buy formula might be 2014, a year where the crop is yielding an abundance of inventory with an opulent and refined flavor. But if you are in desperate need of formula right now you should at least consider a selection in the 2013 year, which is yielding an assortment of complex and earthy lots with a hint of oakiness.

6] Quarantine and Clean

Once you have committed to your health plan, applied for an Alpha trial, rid yourself of the Beasles and Browns, and bought yourself some draft formula, it is time to clean house in order to ensure that you do not re-infect yourself down the road.

This means breaking out the hazmat suits and getting rid of all of the little bugs that might carry this disease. The most prominent culprits are the Babby's, Blanks and Gentry's. Now of course, Dr. Feldman never advocates violence or death, and loves all animals, so re-location is the order of the day. Simply tell these bugs that they need to locate another domicile to work their magic.

Once these bugs are let go, find some replacement bugs [bugs can be beneficial to the ecosystem] to run the joint.

So in summary, Dr. Feldman's prescription is to:

  • Suck it up and finally rebuild by any means necessary [meaning everyone on this team is dispensable]
  • Find a way to rid yourself of Michael Beasley and his contract by any means.
  • Let Shannon Brown walk or try to extract something from another team at the deadline.
  • Start recruiting top level Alpha players that will be coming on the market , even if nobody thinks they would come here. Make a hard push and sell this city and the franchise to these guys and make it known that we will treat them like gold. It shouldn't be that hard to sell Phoenix to NBA players.
  • Be willing to move everyone on the team and start acquiring draft picks, especially 2014 picks. Having multiple picks in this and next year's drafts will pay HUGE dividends in 3-4 years. We are going to suck bad no matter what we do before then anyway.
Poll
Which affliction do you suffer from most?

  79 votes | Results

Sun_poster

As we are all aware, the Sun generates energy through a process called the proton-proton chain reaction, where hydrogen is converted to helium by way of nuclear fusion. Larger stars use a process called the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen (CNO) cycle, but the goal of this process is also to convert hydrogen to helium. As a living being, I tend to think that nuclear fusion kicks ass. After all, we owe our lives to it. The nearly interminable nature of these reactions make the Sun a nifty long term (~10 billion years), live-providing energy source (if we could just figure out a way to make it work for us better than those crappy solar panels).

I could go into a tedious harangue on the intricacies of this subject matter, but I'm pretty sure most of you have already stopped reading, so I won't. This is supposed to be about basketball. I'll try to finish my analogy before I lose the rest of you. The Sun consists primarily of hydrogen (~73.5%), followed by helium (~25%) and several other lesser elements in very small percentages (~1.5%, though still massive amounts in the grand scheme of things considering the sun accounts for nearly 99.9% of the total mass in our Solar System). The Sun needs a huge contribution from one source, a lesser (though still vital) contribution from another source and small contributions from a number of other sources.

See where I'm going with this? The Sun is the Suns. The Suns are at the center of the collective fanbase's Solar System. Our Suns have no hydrogen. What happens to stars without hydrogen? They die.

Our Suns need a star, which is ironic since the Sun is a star; a star that needs a star. Maybe we could set up an interstellar dating service? So where are we going to find our hydrogen, do we really have any helium or are the Suns completely made up of lesser elements?

Analogy complete. Or not. You didn't think I'd abandon my theme yet, did you?

Star searching. How do franchise's mine stars? They draft them.

Lebron James - signed extension with team that drafted him, left in free agency after seven years

Kevin Durant - signed extension with team that drafted him, still with first team

Dwight Howard - signed extension with team that drafted him, was traded after eight years

Kobe Bryant - playing on fourth contract with Lakers who acquired him via trade after draft, has only played games for one team

Chris Paul - signed extension with team that drafted him, was traded after six years

Kevin Love - playing on extension with Timberwolves who acquired him on draft day trade, has only played games for one team

Blake Griffin - signed extension with team that drafted him, still with first team

Andrew Bynum - signed extension with team that drafted him, was traded after seven years

Tony Parker - signed two extensions with team that drafted him, still with first team

Russell Westbrook - signed extension with team that drafted him, still with first team

Carmelo Anthony - signed extension with team that drafted him, was traded after 7+ years

Dirk Nowitzki - playing on fourth contract with Mavericks who acquired him on draft day trade, has only played games for one team

Tyson Chandler - signed extension with team that drafted him, was traded after five years

Dwyane Wade - signed two extensions with team that drafted him, still with first team

Rajon Rondo - playing on extension with Celtics who acquired him on draft day trade, has only played games for one team

Out of the 15 players who were on All-NBA teams last season, nine of them are still with their first team, five were traded and one (Lebron) left via free agency. Of the six not playing for their original team, every single one signed an extension with that team. The average tenure on their first team of the six players that left is nearly seven years. A team that drafts a star basically gets them for a minimum of seven years if not much longer.

Of the six players not on their first team, three are in LA, two are in New York and one is in Miami. Not looking too good for Phoenix to go that route...

The main reasons that star players leave: a franchise's inability to surround them with enough talent to win, market size and teaming up with other star players. Not looking too good for Phoenix again.

This seems like overwhelming evidence that the Suns need to draft their hydrogen.

But what about helium you say?

Helium is a little bit easier to come by. Helium can generally be gathered by way of free agency, trades or the draft. Do the Suns really have a #2, though? The potential candidates are Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat.

Goran Dragic - Dragic is currently 52nd in the league (13th among point guards) in scoring (14.5) and 12th in the league in assists (6.5). Dragic has basically been a middle of the pack point guard this season. This is Goran's fifth season and he is 26 years old. Dragic's PER36 numbers this year are almost identical to his numbers last season. During his 28 games as a starter last season he averaged 18 points and 8 assists, but that brief stint is the only time he has played to those standards. Helium value: possible #2 at some point, but not proven enough and much more of a #3 right now.

Marcin Gortat - Gortat is currently 91st in the league (15th among centers) in scoring (11.3) and 18th in rebounding (8.6). Gortat is mired in one of his worst seasons. He is below his career averages in scoring and rebounding PER36. His declining rebounding numbers are somewhat discomfiting. Gortat turns 29 next month, so while a return to his previous level is entirely possible it is unlikely that he will improve on those numbers. Gortat appears to be an average starting center at his worst and a top 10 center at his best. Considering the paucity of quality centers in the league, the 10th best center might not even be one of the top 60 players in the league. No way I see Gortat as more than a three.

There is nobody else on this roster that would be in the conversation as the third best player on a top 10 team. The closest would be the 32 year old Scola, who currently can't be traded, and the best suited as an excellent sixth man Dudley.

No hydrogen or helium on the Suns, just lesser elements.

Right now our star kinda sucks. The current strategy of building our Suns hasn't been working well. The Suns need a solid core (players) and nuclear fusion (wins) to generate that 1,000,000 K temperature on its corona (fan fervor) and the sunlight that fuels all of our lives (NBA championships). It's time to ditch the dead star concept and employ a renascent approach. Possibly implement a different strategy altogether. One that works.

The simple game plan, albeit tremendously more difficult to execute, is draft a #1, find a legitimate #2 through a variety of avenues and fill in the team with role players (as we seem to be adept at currently). We've already accomplished the easiest part. All that's left are the more difficult tasks. Speaking of tasks, are the Suns up to this one? Is that a ray of sunshine on the horizon? Or not.

We will find out in the near future. Due to the Suns current (mis)fortunes and the cautious/prudent fiscal policy the team has adopted, the Suns might have a top five lottery pick (#1) and cap space to land a gem in free agency (#2). The team is still in a position to capitalize on a trade (#2) or draft a solid player with a lower first round pick (#2-3). So maybe the Sun(s) hasn't set yet.

That is all.

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