The Phoenix Suns (23-47) have been teetering with franchise history all season, but records that a team never wants to break like the least amount of points in a game, and most losses in a season. They are safe in terms of the worst mark ever (16-66), but if they drop the game tonight to the Brooklyn Nets (40-29) they will match the seventh worst mark in franchise history.
For the Nets, they are in a position that they would have never thought imaginable three months ago with an opportunity to win the Pacific Division.
Each team is playing for something different, but something that is equally important to each.
As the Nets climb the standings the Suns are descending the same standings into the high end of the lottery. They are two different teams with different trajectories, which does not bode very well for the fate of the Suns. What interim head coach Lindsey Hunter is looking for is effort and energy from his players, something a few of them are learning the hard way.
(Recent) History Lesson
The Suns were able to keep pace with the Nets in the first half last time out, in Brooklyn, and they were even up seven at the half. A barrage of two's in the paint and free-throws brought the Nets back and then allowed them to put the game away as a lid was firmly placed on the basket for the Suns offense in the second half.
Head-to-Head (past four seasons including Playoffs)
Suns: 106.3 PPG (4 wins)
Netss: 103.3 PPG (2 wins)
The Nets have won the last two games (104.5-to-91) taking control of this series, but over the past 10 years the Suns have dictated the pace and were the victors in this cross-country series. Before the last meeting the Suns had scored 100+ points in nine consecutive games with the exclamation point being a 161 point effort in double-overtime in 2006.
Joe Johnson vs. Suns: 17.5 PPG 5.1 RPG 4.4 APG 1.05 SPG 37.7 FG% (17 games)
Luis Scola vs. Nets: 15.3 PPG 7.2 RPG 2.5 APG 0.5 BPG 56.3 FG% (10 games)
In his career against the Suns Johnson shoots his second lowest percentage overall, but still puts up his normal stat-line. He gets after his old team when they square off. Scola does not do anything special against the Nets traditionally, in fact he shoots it low for his standards against the other New York team and will be an important factor tonight.
PG - Goran Dragic v. Deron Williams
SG - Wesley Johnson v. Joe Johnson
SF - P.J. Tucker v. Gerald Wallace
PF - Markieff Morris v. Reggie Evans
C - Luis Scola v. Brook Lopez
Over the past few months all Hunter and the Suns have been mentioning and talking about is energy and effort. That is something an individual can control without the help of a coach or his teammates. Some players are giving it and others are not. In this case Evans is pure energy and if Morris does not show up with energy then a role player like Evans could go off and beat the Suns himself, with energy.
Interesting Stat: 0-9
The Suns are 0-9 on Sunday, but score the third most points on this day of rest.
Meaningless Stat: Sweet Sixteen
During their days in college Shannon Brown, Marcus Morris, Kendall Marshall, Dudley, Markieff, and Johnson have all played in the Sweet 16. As the NCAA Tournament currently sits, Johnson (Syracuse), Brown (Michigan State), Marcus and Markieff (Kansas), Marshall (North Carolina), and Diante Garrett (Iowa State) all have something to cheer for still.
(Update: Sorry Diante)
There is that.
If I simply post a poll asking for knee-jerk reactions to this idea of the Phoenix Suns signing Andrew Bynum this summer, I am pretty sure the results will be the same as if I spent six hours researching and writing an impassioned article about it.
So I'm going to split the difference.
Bynum will be an unrestricted free agent this summer after being traded to Philadelphia last offseason in the Dwight Howard trade. He has not played a single game all year while recovering from knee issues, and just last week had season-ending surgery to clean up both knees.
Andrew Bynum is a huge man. Clean 7'0", 285 pounds and arms so long they might just touch his kneecaps without bending at the waist. He is a major presence defensively and on the glass, and his ability to catch-and-flush on offense without dropping the ball below his head is quite remarkable.
The stats don't tell the whole story on Bynum. He is a major force, a top-3 NBA player at his position and a likely All-Star in any season he's healthy.
Only once has Andrew Bynum made it through an entire NBA season without missing a game due to injury, and that was six years ago.
Last year was his second-most healthy season, playing 60 of 66 games and making the All-Star team in the West.
The big injury is this year, and it's made Philly a little frustrated.
Here is the problem. While every NBA team would love to offer Bynum a make-good contract that doesn't guarantee much money, the trick will be to outbid the next-closest team in a league full of owners that want to outbid each other.
Someone will likely offer Bynum a max guaranteed contract, which would start at $16.4 million and could be as long as 4 years with 4.5% raises.
The only team that could offer the 5th year is Philadelphia, but I am skeptical that they would offer a full-guaranteed contract for five seasons to Bynum. With the new CBA, that's less than Amare got three years ago.
But let's speculate for a bit here. Bynum will likely be un-insurable for his knee issues, same as Amare was. Let's guess that no team will offer the max.
Here's what a team CAN do to lower it's guarantees:
Here's what a team CANNOT do to lower it's guarantees:
In the end, all it takes is one max, guaranteed offer to trump all these shenanigans.
Should the Suns outbid their brethren to get their All-Star caliber player? Should the Suns be the team that offers the fully-guaranteed contract?
Weekly Average: 13 points, 10 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals in 35 minutes of play
At times, it appears Dragic is the only player that's still really trying to win games. There are other players who give a consistent effort, but none like Goran who still seems mentally and emotionally invested in this team and this season.
Weekly Average: 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 assist in 27 minutes of play
Weekly Average: 9 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist in 26 minutes of play
Weekly Average: 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal in 32 minutes of play
Weekly Average: 9 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 1 assist in 22.5 minutes of play
Jermaine O'Neal only played two games this week after injuring his calf against the Wizards, but he has been one of the few bright spots of this team when he's been on the court.
Weekly Average: 7 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal in 20 minutes of play
Weekly Average: 4 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block in 13 minutes of playHaddadi is what he is, a very big body in the post who can give you quality backup minutes with a few points and rebounds. There's nothing flashy about Hamed, but he's been a welcome addition to the team and is helping out when given the opportunity.
Weekly Average: 5 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds in 16 minutes of play
Marshall had his best game of the season when the Suns needed it most going 4/6 from the field and scoring 11 points vs. the Lakers, while managing to dish 5 assists and grab 5 rebounds as well. However, he was a non-factor against the Wizards and not great against the T-wolves, but I'm more inclined to chalk up his ups and downs to being a rookie rather than a lack of effort.
Weekly Average: 5 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal in 18 minutes of play
Markieff had a bad week. On one hand, his 9 points and 8 rebounds against the Lakers was a solid contribution that helped the Suns pull of the win, but his zero effort against the Wizards earned him a calling-out by head coach Lindsey Hunter on the post game press conference...not a good sign. Keef responded with an ok showing against the T-Wolves going 3/6 from the field for 7 points while grabbing 4 rebounds in 20 minutes, but it's not a good omen when the head coach is openly criticizing our second-year player for his effort and heart.
Weekly Average: 8 points, 4 rebounds in 16 minutes of play
Beasley was flat out awful over the first two games of the week, going 6/18 from the field and playing with no intensity whatsoever on defense. After Hunter benched him for the second half against the Wizards, Beasley responded with at least a decent offensive showing against Minnesota, scoring 11 points on 5/9 shooting. But still, his defense remained poor and it seems like he is just going through the motions out there like more than half of the other players.
So there you have it. Feel free to share your opinion in the comments below!