With the playoff push on, the Phoenix Suns have turned to another world basketball veteran to help them get over the hump and keep playing games into May. Add Shavlik Randolph to a rotation that features P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green.

The Phoenix Suns signed a relatively unknown big man last week to bring some veteran moxie to a team in a playoff push that's been counting on two young big men in the pivot all season, Miles Plumlee and Alex Len.

The Suns already start a world traveler in P.J. Tucker at small forward and Gerald Green at shooting guard. Both players spent years of their athletic prime out of the NBA as they honed their craft and figured out how to make themselves indispensable to an NBA team.

Shavlik Randolph (6'10", 240) has not played more than 16 games in an NBA season since he was a rookie, but he's had 6 seasons of NBA experience and brings a needed presence under the basket. He's also had two full seasons and a couple of partial seasons overseas as he keeps his basketball career alive.

What does he bring to the Suns?

"We like, defensively, how he's a little more mobile and active," coach Jeff Hornacek said after Randolph's first game on Sunday night. "A lot of times if you're just in the right position, guys don't get to that shot (they want). That's what he brings. There's a lot to be said for being in the right position at the right time."

Clearly, Hornacek doesn't expect Randolph to be a world beater. He's played in 113 total career games, with only 7 NBA starts to his credit and career averages of 2.7 points and 2.7 rebounds per game.

He's not as athletic as Miles Plumlee or as talented as Alex Len. But neither of the Suns young big men has seen as much basketball as Randolph, who knows he just needs to be in the right place at the right time.

"I try to stay in my lane," he said. "Not try to do anything I can't do. My mentality is just to stay ready. Coach has been great at communicating with me, since I got here."

In two games, Randolph is a +18 in 24 minutes of play, tallying 11 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. He was on the court when the Suns made good runs against both Atlanta and the Clippers. He's not a shot blocker or a talented offensive player, but he's active and is willing to do the dirty work. The Suns outrebounded the bigger Clippers, and Randolph was good at boxing out huge center DeAndre Jordan.

"My focus was just to try to get a body on him," he said. "Let my teammates get the rebound."

With Miles Plumlee nursing an knee sprain, and Alex Len not playing well enough to be trusted in crunch minutes, expect Hornacek to turn to Randolph in crunch minutes for the foreseeable future. Randolph can allow the Suns other big men to be more active and aggressive while Randolph does the little things like boxing out.

Still, Randolph is just a week removed from sitting at home in Miami after ending his China season with a thud. Now, he's been a fourth-quarter mainstay as the Suns try to keep their heads above water.

"I just kept myself ready," he said. "When I went over to China, I did it with the mindset that I was going to come back and finish the season in the NBA."

China wasn't fun for him, after hurting his shoulder early in the season.

"It happened at the beginning of the season in China," he said. "I missed a few more games than they wanted me to miss. It kinda got dicey over there. If you don't play, the team starts losing, they stop paying you. You're not getting the medical attention you need. It was dicey."

But now he's back in the states, doing what he wanted to do all along.

"My wind is coming faster than my knowledge of the plays is coming," Randolph said of joining the Suns. "This team, they have a system that works, a rotation that works. So I'm having to go in and figure out what I can do to help a team that's already really good."

Randolph sees a lot of promise in young Alex Len, who started the last game and contributed 6 points and 6 rebounds in the first half.

"He's a very talented young big man with a big future in this league," Randolph said of Len. "I think [Len] showed glimpses of it tonight. You see his size, his ability to play above the rim, how long he is. The Suns have a lot to be excited about."

But for now, the coach wants someone who knows his way around the block. He wants a guy who will deliver the same performance every single time out. Randolph can provide that.

According to Paul Coro of azcentral.com, the Suns will activate point guard Eric Bledsoe some time in the next four games.

Point guard Eric Bledsoe will definitely not play on Thursday night against OKC. But he could play anytime after that.

Of the three return date options, a Sunday return is the least likely because the Suns play again a night later after a short flight.

"You don’t know how they’ll come back," Hornacek said. "We might bring Eric in off the bench a little bit. We hope he’s there at the end of game. If you throw him right into the starting lineup, it might screw you up for a few games."

With Plumlee and Bledsoe returning any game now, the Suns will continue to fight their toughest stretch of schedule with upcoming games against Western foes Oklahoma City (Thursday), at Golden State (Sunday) and then at the Los Angeles Clippers (Monday) on a back-to-back.

Goran Dragic also now has a left side strain. Sounds like a bruised rib to me.

All credit to Paul Coro on this. Hit up the link.

According to Paul Coro of azcentral.com, the Suns will activate point guard Eric Bledsoe some time in the next four games.

Point guard Eric Bledsoe will definitely not play on Thursday night against OKC. But he could play anytime after that.

Of the three return date options, a Sunday return is the least likely because the Suns play again a night later after a short flight.

"You don’t know how they’ll come back," Hornacek said. "We might bring Eric in off the bench a little bit. We hope he’s there at the end of game. If you throw him right into the starting lineup, it might screw you up for a few games."

With Plumlee and Bledsoe returning any game now, the Suns will continue to fight their toughest stretch of schedule with upcoming games against Western foes Oklahoma City (Thursday), at Golden State (Sunday) and then at the Los Angeles Clippers (Monday) on a back-to-back.

Goran Dragic also now has a left side strain. Sounds like a bruised rib to me.

All credit to Paul Coro on this. Hit up the link.

PHOENIX — Suns forwards Shavlik Randolph and P.J. Tucker are in the spotlight of playing with each other in basketball arenas packed with thousands of people, a very reminiscent scene to their...

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The team was not built to make a run at the playoffs, but the Phoenix Suns are doing it anyway. However, injuries are starting to take a toll.

The Phoenix Suns weren't supposed to be here, but they are 10 games over .500 with 22 games to play and right in the thick of a playoff race.

It took a barrage of outside shooting by Matt Barnes for the Los Angeles Clippers to defeat an injury-riddled Suns team on Thursday, but a win is a win. To hear the Clippers post game, you can see the respect they have for the upstart Suns.

"I thought in the first half they were playing in a playoff game and we were not," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after the game. "I thought in the second half we joined and it became a really good game."

"It was intense," power forward Blake Griffin said. "They just outplayed us and out hustled us the whole first half. Being up 10, down 10, keeping a good demeanor about you; I thought the whole team to fight through adversity was huge. I think that’s going to serve us well late in games, especially in the playoffs."

A coach that's won an NBA Finals. A power forward that's tasted the playoffs the last two years. Both talking about Tuesday's tilt as if it were a good test for playoff basketball.

But who exactly were they playing?

The Clippers were playing a Phoenix Suns team missing two starters to injury, Eric Bledsoe (knee surgery rehab) and Miles Plumlee (knee strain), while a third rotation player (Leandro Barbosa) missed the second half due to a broken wrist. They were playing a Suns team who's top two centers have barely played any minutes recently. Rookie C Alex Len, 20 years old, has gotten DNPs on a regular basis. And backup C Shavlik Randolph was just working out at home in Miami last week, having not played in the NBA since last spring.

The result was a Suns team just not loaded enough to win a playoff-intensity game.

Generally, I'll take a loss that was born on the back of Matt Barnes having to hit 12 of 13 shots just to get the Clippers a lead.

But it's the piling up of injuries that really worries me about the Suns' ability to stay in the playoff hunt with 14 of their last 22 games on the road, including 4 of their last 5. When the playoffs look to be decided by 1 or 2 games when it's all said and done, the Suns are playing with a short deck.

Hopefully, Miles Plumlee's knee strain is short term. He wasn't on the injured list until an hour before tipoff on Tuesday night. After the game, coach Hornacek said he's been experiencing soreness and swelling in the knee for a few games now. He hopes a couple of days of rest will be enough to get Plumlee healthy again.

Hopefully, Eric Bledsoe's rehab will take that next step onto the active roster soon. Despite some twitter ravings on Tuesday, Bledsoe has NOT had any pain in this surgically repaired knee while upping his rehab to 5-on-5 scrimmaging on Saturday and Monday so far. Bledsoe's body is sore just from playing hard in practice, and that's a good thing.

Leandro Barbosa won't be back any time soon, having broken his wrist on a first-half play and electing to heal it without surgery. There is no timetable for his return, but the regular season only has 5 weeks left. It's possible Barbosa could return for the playoffs, if there are any to play, but that's completely unknown at this time.

And all this doesn't touch on Goran Dragic wearing down. He mentioned to Slovenian reporters recently that his ankle is going to bother him the rest of the season, and that he's exhausted.

Last night, he told me that he is just really tired, but was more frustrated with missing a couple of easy midrange shots in the second half that might have tipped the scales back in the Suns favor. He's a competitor. With a badly turned ankle, he scored 40. Last night, despite Chris Paul all over him, he put up 14 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds while holding Paul to 14 points on the other end.

Still, you've got to hope that Dragic can sustain this level of play the rest of the season. 22 games isn't much, but when you're on fumes it's an eternity.

Fully healthy, the Suns went 16-8 this season before the turn of the year.

Since Bledsoe went down, the Suns are 16-14. Treading water, but gaining little ground.

Combine Bledsoe's loss with another injury, the Suns can't close out games. They went 0-3 over the past week+ with missing a second starter. Dragic missed the 4th against Minny, and then the whole Utah game. Now Plumlee missed the Clippers game. The Suns couldn't do the job without them.

"That’s a part of the game, injuries," a tired Dragic said after the Clippers loss. "I wish them all a quick recovery, you know we need everyone here.

"We have 22 games left so we have to play hard and try to make a lot of wins and try to push for the playoff seed. In the end, if you don’t make the playoffs nobody is going to talk about us. We just have to keep our heads up and try to be together and the wins are going to come."

Coming up, the Suns have 3 extremely difficult games just in the next week: home against OKC, and then on the road against Golden State and the Clippers.

“That’s it man, there’s no hiding from it," P.J. Tucker (18 points, 10 rebounds) said. "We have to step up right now. Good teams are winning big games right now and if we want to be one of those teams we have to win games. We have to step up and win these games.

"If we want to take the attention of being a playoff team, being in contention to be in the playoffs, then we need to step up and win these games. There’s no hiding or running away from that we have to win some games.”

If the Suns can't win 2 out of 3, the will likely drop into the lottery and will spend the rest of the season trying to dig their way back while playing out the string mainly on the road.

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