Time: 6 p.m. MST TV: FSA The Phoenix Suns find themselves in unfamiliar territory as they head to the Big Easy. For the first time in 2013-14, they’re coming off a loss. Sunday’s 103-96 defeat at the...

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When things go the unexpected route in professional wrestling it is designated as a "swerve" in which they made you look right, and all the while were moon-walking to the left. That feels appropriate to what the Phoenix Suns (2-1) have done to start the season.

Most projections, rightfully so, had the Suns as a bottom five team with no real shot at winning anything other than a lottery.

The reality of the team is likely somewhere between their undefeated start and the projection to finish near the bottom. Anyway you slice it the team has kicked their critics through the proverbial Barber Shop Window, shed the perception of them, and have proven to be show-stoppers in terms of excitement. Who would have known?

Twenty-Third Topic: What does a 2-1 start feel like?

1. Breaking the Ice: The team has been saying all along that they are not trying to lose games on purpose. It seems that their first two opponents are not playing along with the theory that the Suns are supposed to be one of the worst teams in the NBA; thoughts?

Jim Coughenour: We are still in the inchoate stages of this season. Maybe some teams tend to somnambulate through the preseason and underestimate these upstart squads who have everything to prove after being insulted and discounted leading up to the season. These less talented squads come in with voracious appetites. They are hungrier than some of the teams that are ultimately better than them. Maybe. We've all heard of the dead coach bounce. Maybe this is the dead season bounce. Like I referenced in my Pelicans game preview, the Bobcats were 7-5 last season before ending up 21-61. Maybe.

Jacob Padilla: I've been pleasantly surprised by the way the team has played early on. They have taken several strides forward from last season, and Jeff Hornacek has done a terrific job so far. This team is better than I thought. However, it's still a shallow team and I'm not convinced Miles Plumlee is a double-double machine. If this team is without either Eric Bledsoe or Goran Dragic, they are going to have a difficult time trying to win.

Dave King: GMs set up a team to win, tank or ride the fence. Players and coaches, on the other hand, try to win. All the time. It's way too early to take these indications as indicative of how the rest of the season plays out, but you can see what a difference attitude, spirit and trust makes with the performance of a team. Last year's team was more talented than 25-57 but the front office eroded the team's spirit. This year's team is arguably less talented than last year, but may do better this season because they believe in the same cause.

Kris Habbas: If Miles Plumlee played to his reputation (13 points 22 rebounds 3 blocks in 14 games, 55 total minutes) rather than the super-version of that (31 points 33 rebounds 7 blocks in 3 games, 99 total minutes) then maybe this would be a different conversation. Eric Bledsoe and the rest of the team have statistically and stylistically played to my expectation. That is the big difference.

Sreekar Jasthi: Did Jim just use the word "somnambulate?" I'm just going to use this opportunity to help our poor readers out - somnambulate: to walk or perform another act while asleep or in a sleep-like condition.

Sean Sullivan: It's still early, and I wouldn't get your hopes up too high that this Suns team will continue their winning ways. That said, I believed all along that this team would be better than people were giving them credit for. I still think they'll be "bad", in the sense that they will lose more games than they win and end up with a lottery pick, but I don't see them losing on purpose or being completely non-competitive either.

2. Is this Eric Bledsoe's team?

JP: Not exclusively, no. Both he and Goran Dragic have stepped up at different times and had big games and clutch moments for the team. They are the captain and they are the best players, This team will only go as far as DeagonBlade takes them.

DK: I think it's a lot more Bledsoe's team than most of us thought. Dragic may still be the better player, but Bledsoe is the better long-term talent. I don't see Bledsoe getting traded or let go with the way he's playing. He plays both ends of the court very well and while he has some holes he's got a lot of skills that few players in the NBA can match.

KH: Short answer yes, long answer, ask me after the trade deadline. This is his team as long as he is on it and so far this season he has done a great job of transforming into an alpha. Bledsoe can be an alpha for max money on a different team or for market value here, so again, ask me this after the trade deadline.

SJ: I still want to say that it's only half-Bledsoe's team. Yes, he's done a great job through three games of establishing his grip on this team but I still think Dragic will deserve a lot of the control. There is a reason Hornacek appointed both of them as co-captains. Everything starts and ends with DragonBlade.

SS: I think they (coaching staff and front office) wants it to be, but I don't see it yet. When I heard they made both Dragic and Bledsoe co-captains, to me that seemed a bit forced. Now I haven't been out to practices so maybe I'm wrong, maybe Bledsoe is a leader on the court when the cameras aren't on him. But from what I've seen, this is still Dragic's team. He is the heart and sole of the Suns, and the face of the franchise, at least for now. Although he's taken games over in the fourth, and already hit a huge game-winning shot, Bledsoe still feels like a hired gun at the moment, while Dragic seems to be fully invested in this franchise. That may change over time, but that's the way I see it now.

JC: As of right now Eric Bledsoe seems to have claimed that role. I tend to think he's playing a little bit over his heels right now (small sample size disclaimer), but one could also point out that he could easily improve by working on things such as incessant over-dribbling and poor (at times) shot selection. I'm still not sure who the real EB is... To be difficult, though, I think this is really Hornacek's team. I think he has more staying power than any of the veterans on the team right now. They are all more of assets, while I think there's some stability in terms of him as the head coach.

3. Who has been the most impressive player for you so far? There are a few candidates to say the least...

DK: I'll say Plumlee. As Ford puts it, Plumlee has only had FIVE double-doubles in 5+ years since high school, yet two of those were in the last seven calendar days. Maybe it's just been a product of minutes - he's also never played this many minutes. I can't remember the last time someone consistently became a much better player in the NBA than in college, but it's quite possible we have that in Plumlee. He score from the post with either hand and actively deter shots while rebounding the ball on the other. But best of all, to me, his body angle is always leaning toward the basket. He has a good nose for where to be.

KH: Going to step outside the box here and talk about Gerald Green. He is one of the most talented players I have ever seen practice and play in a non-game setting. So far this season Green has been a steady offensive player off the bench, not doing much the first two games, but exploding off the bench in Oklahoma City. There will be games this season where he earns a DNP-Coach's Decision and others where he gravitates towards a big shooting (and scoring) night.

SJ: I have to go with Bledsoe here. I might have considered Plumlee but he really crashed back down to earth against the Thunder (for what it's worth, I still think he'll be a nice surprise this season). Bledsoe has had his share of problems with efficiency (shooting percentages and turnovers) but he really has taken control of this team and at least so far has been the primary catalyst for the team's success. That game-winner was fantastic, but Bledsoe also single-handedly kept the Suns in the game against OKC after Dragic got hurt.

SS: Plumlee, just based on the difference he's made. Without Plumlee, the Suns are a different team, as was evident from his offensive absence against OKC. When Plumlee is playing to the best of his abilities, he's a game changer. We know what we have with Dragic, we had a good idea what Bledsoe would bring, but I think Plumlee is our x-factor. I've been thoroughly impressed with everything he's done in his short time on the Suns.

JC: MCW. Carter-Williams has been phenomenal. Four games into his NBA career he's averaging 21 points, nine assists, five rebounds and four steals per game. Oh, wait... you probably were implicitly requesting a nominee from the Suns. I'll go with Bledsoe. That game winner was filthy. I think I heard something about it being his first ever...? I'm assuming that's just at this level...

JP: Eric Bledsoe has put up huge numbers. Gerald Green hasn't been awful. Miles Plumlee looks like a competent NBA player who can actually make a positive contribution. That is all surprising to some extent. but I'll go with the "What have you done for me lately?" answer with Channing Frye. Fyre was terrific in the last game against the Thunder, hitting threes, scoring in the post and even hitting a jumper off the dribble. Frye has started every game and has played a significant amount of minutes. Not bad for a guy who sat out all of last year.

4. With that, who has been the least impressive for you? Again, there are a few candidates...

KH: Going back to the Center of the Sun where just about everyone predicted that Markieff Morris would be a major disappointment, I am going to go with Markieff Morris. One game he was suspended, the next two he scored a total of 12 points and grabbed 9 rebounds as a power forward. With the play of Channing Frye early on this season it seems like another Lance Blanks lottery pick is on the way out of the rotation, or the team in general.

SJ: Yeah....the Morri. Everyone else will discuss plenty about their shortcomings thus far so I'll save myself the trouble.

SS: Hate to jump on the bandwagon, but the Morri it is. I may have said Gerald Green before his game against the Thunder, but the Morri have been consistently unimpressive. Even in game one in which Marcus hit some shots for Phoenix, he still took far too many bad ones and hurt the team.

JC: Marcus and Markieff have played like dogs. Good thing the Suns just picked up their options. Hopefully they can both turn it around (types Jim while not holding his breath), because right now they're both being outplayed by Dionte Christmas.

JP: The Morri. My goodness have they been bad.

DK: I'm going to say Archie Goodwin. Not because I expected a lot - he's a 19 year old rookie who shouldn't be able to take over the NBA by any stretch. He is playing like a #29 pick in the Draft. Yet, after summer league I guess I expected more than this. I expected Archie to already be impressing us in the few minutes he plays. It's a long season, so I will be patient.

5. What does this start say about the talent evaluator Ryan McDonough is and the coach that Jeff Hornacek is becoming?

SJ: Tough to draw conclusions just yet but I'm still huge fans for McDonough and Hornacek. I love the moves the former has made (regardless of the results on the court this season) and I admire the latter's demeanor, intelligence and affinity for fast-paced basketball.

SS: Their a perfect match. I really like them both, and they have each exceeded my expectations thus far. The only thing I'm not totally convinced on yet is the drafting ability of McDonough. We'll have to see how Len and Goodwin shake out first. I'm not expecting much from them this season, and I view them both as long-term investments, as I'm sure McDonough did when he drafted them. But we'll still need to see how much they can progress, and we won't know that for at least another season.

JC: Nothing. Too small of a sample size. I think the totality of the off-season moves lead me to believe that Ryan is going to be a great GM, but it's probably going to be a long time before his talent evaluation skills can be fairly assessed. E.g. what are Len and Goodwin doing in 3-5 years, how is the 2014 pick working out 3-5 years from then, etc. Same thing with Hornacek. Sure he's like 158-1 including all the summer league, pre-season and regular season games... plus half court shooting contests in practices, but this team is going to face some adversity and growing pains. Let's see how he comes out on the other side.

JP: I'm already sculpting their statues to place outside U.S. Airways Center. Seriously though, Ryan McDonough has made some big-time moves that have improved the Suns now and in the future,. I've loved the way Hornacek has gotten this team to play. They are playing hard and together on both ends of the court; something we didn't see much of last year. Plus, P.J. Tucker's shot is looking darn good, an I'm sure Hornacek had a lot to do with that.

DK: This start says that the Suns hired the right guys. McDonough is a serious candidate for Executive of the Year, while Hornacek coaches like he's Jerry Sloan merged with Cotton Fitzsimmons. These guys know what they're doing and everyone believes in them. The Suns will be better, faster because of these guys and we can only sit here and enjoy it. Unless, of course, we start arguing over whether they deserve max contracts. Then the weaknesses will be exposed quick.

KH: Demeanor is the main takeaway so far. Both the General Manager and Head Coach are poised, well spoken, and have done a great job of managing this young roster. They have made every step in stride and have yet to misstep so far, when they do, it will be a moment that will be shocking to all. But, because of the way they have been with the fans, the media, and overall they have the cache in a handful of months that Lance Blanks was unable to create in three years.

BONUS: In any way are you disappointed that the team is two wins better than most people thought they would be?

SS: Not at all. The Suns have enough draft picks next year that they can get a great haul no matter where they end up in the standings. Give me a fun to watch, competitive team any day over a boring team that's only out to lose games and get a high draft pick. Now if they can be competitive, fun to watch, and still manage a high draft pick....that would be the best of both worlds.

JC: I picked them to win 16 games and they're only one win better than I thought they would be. I think Portland is somewhere between 9-12 in the West and Utah is 14th. They should split a pair of home games against teams that bad. What bodes ominously for my win total is some of the individual performances and signs of potential in players on the roster. I still think that they can win some more this month since the only teams they play are Portland, Utah and Sacramento (or at least it's going to feel that way by the end of the month), but eventually the losses are going to pile up. Injuries and trades, which I factored into my prediction of doom, are also still a possibility. Not disappointed at all. The wins and losses are what they are. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised that the team played as well as they did. Good for them and the cheering fans.

JP: Not at all. These guys have been a ton of fun to watch and root for so far. I've enjoyed watching them do their thing. That being said, this team can still lose plenty of games. The Suns were going to win more than two games this year no matter what.

DK: Absolutely not. This is fun. If the Suns win 35-45 games, I might feel a tinge of dissatisfaction that they "missed" their chance at a franchise player on a really cheap contract for many years. But that's a long way off.

KH: Oh no, there are 82 games in a season and eventually the Suns will come down to earth as the scouting reports and information on them becomes more readily available for opponents. The worst team in the NBA rarely "earns" the top pick in the draft so if the Suns finish between 4-6 instead of between 1-2 they have a good chance of nabbing one of the top prospects in the upcoming draft. Silver linings.

SJ: Nope. I was VERY glad to see the Suns start out the season strong and really play with a lot of heart and hustle. There are still 79 games left and anything can happen so I'll just strap in for the ride and hope the roller-coaster of a season leads to anywhere but a 35-win season and a late lottery pick.

Bright Siders, what do you think?

When: Tuesday, November 5, 2013, 6:00 PM local time (8:00 EST)

Where: New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, LA

Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ Radio: 620 KTAR

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Last Meeting:

This will be the Suns first meeting ever against the newly branded Pelicans. Interestingly (or not), in mythology the Pelican is associated with death and the afterlife, whereas the Phoenix is associated with death and rebirth. Our logo is better than yours (and more ferocious no matter how many basketballs you shove in that bird's mouth).

600_medium

Photo credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

And let us wax poetically about the greatness that was Hugo the Hornet.


The last meeting between the Suns and the artists formerly known as the Hornets was April 7, 2013, with New Orleans fighting off a late Suns rally to win 95-92. After finding themselves down 81-65 thanks to a layup by the inimitable Lou Amundson (Bet you didn't think I'd find a random way to fit him in this preview.) the Suns used a 15-4 rally to cut the lead to five with just over four minutes to play, but the Hornets were able to hit their free throws down the stretch to seal the deal.

Anthony Davis led all scorers with 20 points while Ryan Anderson posted a double double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Not to be outdone, Luis Scola went for 17/10 himself in a losing effort. Markieff Morris had a rare (like unicorn rare) solid performance in posting 18 points to lead the Suns. Michael Beasley scored three points on 1-11 shooting.

Due to the reshaping of each team's roster that contest should have negligible impact on tonight's game.

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Team Bios:

New Orleans Pelicans (1-2)

Injuries: Ryan Anderson (fractured toe) out

Full team statistics.

The Pelicans recorded their first victory of the season as they darted out to a 33-15 advantage in the first quarter on their way to a 105-84 blowout of the fearsome Charlotte Bobcats. The closest the game got in the second half was 13 points, as efficient shooting and a franchise record 18 blocks quelled and possibility of a comeback. This victory followed an 0-2 start that saw New Orleans get thrashed by the Orlando Magic (110-90) and surrender a late lead in a loss to the Indiana Pacers (95-90).

At the ripe age of 20 wunderkind Anthony Davis appears to be on the verge of ascending to the select pantheon perched atop the NBA masses. In his last game he narrowly missed compiling the 16th five-by-five performance (at least five points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals) since 1986-87 with a box score stuffer line of 25/8/4/6/6. Davis is averaging 23.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 4.0 blocks per game in the early going this season.

Newly acquired point guard Jrue Holiday acts as an appurtenance to his apparent all-NBA teammate and is helping the cause with 18.3 points and 6.0 assists. Eric "expect the max" Gordon is contributing 14.7 points a game. Who here is starting to think the Suns may have ended up with the right former Clipper guard? Jason Smith (yes, the Jason Smith) has recorded three starts in the absence of stretch sharpshooter Ryan Anderson.

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Phoenix Suns (2-1)

Injuries: Goran Dragic (left ankle sprain) out, Alex Len (sore ankle) questionable

Full team statistics.

After two wins and 48 minutes of hard fought basketball against OKC to start the season Phoenix has turned down the volume on the pundits' (and opinionated people like me who are not experts) forecasts of futility.

Miles Plumlee (10.3 points and 11.0 rebounds per game) and P.J. Tucker have been unexpected and expected, respectively, contributors to a team that has just flat out looked like it has been working harder than its opponents so far. This energy has culminated in impressive defensive performances and numbers (more on this later). The Suns are much more athletic than last year's team and have been getting their hands in passing lanes and touching lots of loose balls.

Unfortunately, loose balls were an issue in the Suns loss to OKC, as they racked up 27 team turnovers. Particularly frustrating was the uncanny knack of Tucker and Gerald Green to step out of bounds when catching passes by the sideline outside the three point arc. The last such instance, by Green, was the final nail in the Suns' coffin. Bledsoe posted 26 points and a career high 14 assists in the defeat, but also coughed up eight turnovers of his own. The Suns will have to address ball security from the bench as Dragic is reported to be out until a hopeful return when the Suns are back at home this Friday against the Denver Nuggets.

Eric Bledsoe has radiated from the Sun like a corona in his first three games. Opponents looking at him have been left seeing spots (yes, I'm talking to you Gordon Hayward). He has easily been the team's best player so far this season while posting averages of 22.0 points, 8.7 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.

And this...


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What To Watch For:

Running and Gunning(?): The Suns are leading the league in fast break points with 26.3 per game. The Minnesota Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies are tied for second with 19.3. In contradistinction, however, Phoenix is only 19th in pace. This has lead to a paltry 95.7 points per game for the Suns thus far, just a smidgen under their coach's bold prediction. Are the Suns' opponents attempting to muck up the process and turn the game into a quagmire or do the Suns just run inordinately slow half court offensive sets protracted by exhibitions of over-dribbling? It appears to be a feast or famine situation. I'll try to keep an eye on whether the Suns are actually taking any shots between 8-18 on the shot clock...

(Too) Free for Three: The Suns, by virtue of the barrage in OKC, are now fifth in the NBA in three point attempts per game (26), but only 22nd in % (.308). In all fairness, the Suns did shoot 14-37 (.378) in the last contest to ascend from the putrescence of the first two (10-41 for .244). Will the Suns tether in this total? 37 three point shots is a lot of three points shots... How many is a lot (besides the obvious answer of 37 which I already stated was a lot)? Well, the Suns have only attempted more than 37 three point shots eleven times since the 1985-86 season. They've only heaved up 40 or more four times in franchise history. Does this team really like the group of smoking hot sharpshooters you want rewriting that part of the history book?

Parsimony: The Suns have been playing some stingy D. The Suns are fourth in points allowed per game (92.7), third in FG% allowed (.399) and first in 3P% allowed (.246 - OKC was 2-18). The Pelicans come in shooting just .409 from the field (25th), but are an impressive 50% from three point range, albeit in limited attempts (12 per game). Can the Suns continue to bring tenacious defense and stifle an opponent in the bottom half of the league in scoring?

Anthony Davis vs. Eric Bledsoe: Both of these guys are on a blistering pace to start the season. Which can put more of his fingerprints on this game, though? It would definitely seem if one succeeds while the other flounders that could be decisive in the game's outcome.

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The Final Word(s):

The Suns are going to need to bring their A game and bust their tail off to win this one. They are playing against a better team on the road without their starting point guard (or is he the two guard... maybe a 1.5?). The Suns will have to count on a Christmas Ish combo to counter Jrue Holiday and not let this get out of hand. With the Spurs coming up next a loss here would bring the Suns perilously close to a donut on the roadie.

And this...

Consider these two tidbits. One that has made recent circles:

The #Suns are 2-0. Only 10 other teams in franchise history have begun a season with two wins. All of them made the playoffs.

— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) November 2, 2013

And one that I will provide:

The 2012-13 Charlotte Bobcats started the season 7-5. They followed that with an 18 game losing streak en route to a 21-61 season. That equates to a 14-56 finish after the smoldering (in Bobcat terms) start.

So who are the Suns? Are they the feckless 16 win team as I (less than prophetically at this point) predicted, taking the under on lines of 19 - 19.5 in Las Vegas. Or are they double that total, or even better? Maybe somewhere in between... This test against a Pelicans team that will likely be in contention for a playoff seed will be the first in a series that should help bring clarity to this question.

Goran Dragic has had a tough season, physically, so far. After being an iron man last year, and for nearly his entire career, Dragic has played healthy in only two of the Suns last six games.

He injured his left ankle in a preseason game against Sacramento Kings, missed the next preseason game, returned for two healthy games (the last preseason and regular season opener), then left Friday's game with a head injury and Sunday's game after re-injuring the left ankle.

"It felt worse this time," Dragic said to Paul Coro of azcentral.com.

Dragic said he had not experienced issues with the left ankle since returning from the previous sprain.

"It's frustrating, but I have to be strong," Dragic said. "Maybe it's because I played the whole summer (for Slovenia's national team), but I feel good. Maybe I just don't have luck. I'll be strong, work on this and come back stronger."

After a day of rest since the ankle roll on Sunday against Oklahoma City, the team decided that Dragic needed the rest of the road trip to recover, at the least.

"I'm guessing he probably won't go these couple of games," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said to Coro today of the road trip's final stops against New Orleans on Tuesday night and San Antonio on Wednesday night.

The Suns return home on Friday to face the Denver Nuggets, hopefully with Dragic in the lineup. Then again, it would be better just to make sure he's completely healthy and strong again before taking any more chances. Once an ankle is turned, it remains weak and prone to re-spraining for a long time.

Len mending too

Speaking of ankles, Alex Len is still nursing the one that was repaired last spring. He had months of immobility before suddenly starting heavy rehab, and the ankle will be a come-and-go problem for a while. After the opening game last week, the surgery done on Len's left ankle was still evident with heavy purple coloring from scarring and irritation.

"Sometimes it hurts to walk," Len told me last week after his first regular season NBA game. "And then some days it feels great to jump and bounce and stuff like that. It's going to go away eventually, so you just got to push through it."

Now, Len missed Sunday's game against OKC and may miss more time this week on the road. The Suns are being cautious - they'd rather than 10 years of health in the future than 20+ minutes a night right now. It's a long term plan they knew they were getting in to.

"He's always going to be day-to-day," Hornacek said to Coro of Len. "This is what we anticipated would probably happen all year."

Ford eats a bit of crow

ESPN's Chad Ford has not been a friend of the Suns over the years. Once, back in 2009, he said "word out of Phoenix" was that Amare was a locker room cancer. After Stoudemire called him a liar, he later called in to the local radio show to say it was "someone from another team". Sure, Chad. Someone "in Phoenix" but with "another team". The Sun Devils, then?

I also remember as late as March 2010, when the Suns were still in 8th or 9th position in the West, right in the middle of the 28-7 run to third that didn't crystallize until the final night of the season, Ford picked the Suns to be the team to miss the playoffs entirely. Ford has also regularly ranked the Suns in the bottom five of Future Rankings for the past five years, despite the Suns being good or, at worst, middle of the pack, every year but 2013-14.

Anyhoo, I digress.

Here's Ford last week in his wonderful new weekly series called Tank Rank.

1. Phoenix Suns | Status: Tanking

...blah blah blah, rabble rabble...

Factor in that the Suns are playing in the brutal Western Conference and it's hard to see them winning a game in the West this season.

Days later, the Suns started the season 2-0 with wins against, gasp!, Western Conference teams.

Now, here's Chad in today's NBA chat in which an intuitive and mildly interesting NBA fan asks Chad a follow-up question to his rankings. (I am guessing he added the addendum in parenthesis in order to entice Chad into answering, as opposed to many other questions he's posed to Ford in the past that went ignored. At least, that's my assumption anyway):

Dave (Phoenix): Hey Chad, what happened to the Suns not being able to win a game in the West? Have you watched any of their games yet, and has your take on them changed at all? (this coming from a guy who thought you were close to right on, and is worried the Suns will lose out on the best 2014 talent now)

Chad Ford (1:06 PM): Yes, I said before the season I wasn't sure the Suns could win a game in the West and they go out and win their first two against Western opponents (Blazers and Jazz). Eric Bledsoe has been great and in those first two games, Miles Plumlee played out of his mind posting back-to-back double doubles and a 24 PER. To put that into perspective ... Plumlee only had 3 double-doubles in his last two seasons at Duke. Of the two (between Phoenix and Philly) I think the Suns are more likely to come back down to Earth on their own.

And then after the chat, he updated his Tank Rank column, placing the Celtics and Jazz ahead of the Suns in the race for the #1 overall pick:

3. Phoenix Suns | Status: Tanking | Record: 2-1

Conventional wisdom from Tank Rank last week: "It's hard to see [the Suns] winning a game in the West this year." To which the Suns responded by beating both the Blazers and Jazz to start the season. In those two games, center Miles Plumlee played out of his mind, putting up back-to-back double-doubles. To put that into perspective, Plumlee put up just three double-doubles in his last two seasons at Duke. Plumlee was sporting a 24 PER before regressing to the mean (0 points, 5 rebounds) in a loss against the Thunder on Sunday.

Expect the rest of the team to follow Plumlee's lead eventually. However, with games against a struggling Pelicans team and an even shakier Nuggets team coming up this week, they may yet put another win or two in the books.

(Last week: 3 )

Conventional wisdom, huh? So, it's conventional wisdom to predict the likelihood that an NBA team can possibly go 0-52 against the teams in its own conference, no matter how bad you might think they are? It's "conventional wisdom" to say something so stupid that it's obvious you made a childish accusation in order to get back at some unknown monster who made you scared and defensive one day?

So, he's modified his "conventional wisdom" from 0-52 against the West to potentially 3-2 in the span of 7 wisdom-consuming calendar days. Good to know, Chad. Schanks, pal.

Meanwhile, back in Sunsland

After suffering through three consecutive years of declining play from a swiss cheese roster full of gaping holes in their basketball playing hero's games, it seems that Bright Siders, at least, cannot shake the habit of pick-pick-picking even the smallest scabs of Suns players not named Goran Dragic or Miles Plumlee.

After three seasons of averaging no more than 20 minutes a night, and producing per-36-minute numbers of 15, 5, and 4 with 1.5 steals per game, new guard Eric Bledsoe has delivered a whopping 22 points, 8.7 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals per game in his first three real NBA games as a Phoenix Sun.

On top of that, his team - which was predicted to lose at least 75% of its games by any number of national outlets (and local bloggers named Jim) - has gone 2-1 with a top-5 defense. Bledsoe himself even made a ballsy game winner, the likes of which Suns fans haven't seen in years.

Yes, Bledsoe has warts. He floats on defense, can't make jumpers consistently and doesn't run the team like the last team MVP did. And possibly worst of all, to some at least, he doesn't smile big into the camera and try to make friends with us through the TV.

But while the Suns are winning, and while Bledsoe is the head of the snake that's surprising the league by emulating his talents (hustle, athleticism, highlight reel plays), let's enjoy it while it lasts. He's pretty darn good and, at just short of 24, he's still improving.

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

Goran Dragic told Paul Coro that his left ankle injury in the Phoenix Suns’ Sunday night loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder was worse than the one suffered in the preseason. Indeed, a re-injury...

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