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When you start a marathon you know it is going to be long and tough, but nonetheless you have to finish the marathon. For the Phoenix Suns (23-54), they gasped for air, felt their lungs burn, drank their share of water, and knelt down hands on knees through 94% of the season.

But they are nearing the finish line.

Game Recaps

@ Los Angeles Clippers- L (126-101)

vs. Golden State Warriors - L (111-107)

vs. New Orleans Hornets - L (95-92)

This is the time of year where teams like the Suns are judged and evaluated on effort and toughness. The team played tough in all three games, even getting in a shoving match with the Clippers who are fighting for a Championship this year.

In the two other match-ups the Suns had leads and the potential to win the game, but didn't have the talent to hold on for victories.

The losing streak has reached nine games overall as the Suns hit the road to try and get a win. On the season they are 7-30 on the road leaving the underlying question for the remainder of the season as; Can the Suns win another game to avoid reaching even more franchise futility?

2013 NBA Draft Update

For as bad as the Utah Jazz (41-37) were during their stretch of losing 12 of 15 games right after the All-Star Break, they have been equally as good winning 7 of 8 to position themselves firmly ahead in the race for eighth. With four games remaining against the Thunder, Grizzlies, and a home-and-home against the Timberwolves the Jazz have the opportunity to slam the door on the Los Angeles Lakers (40-37).

The Lakers have five games remaining against the Hornets, Blazers, Warriors, Spurs, and Rockets. They need to finish ahead of the Jazz since they have the tie-breaker.

Right now the Suns are slotted securely in the 3rd spot in the Draft Lottery. With four games remaining the Suns have a 1.5 game lead on the Cavaliers while "trailing" the Magic by 4.5 games. With the Lakers pick they would have two slots in the Lottery at 3rd and 14th. The third slot has won the lottery five times including last year.

The Highs

Was there one?

The Lows

To compound the current losing streak, the Suns have another streak within the streak with seven straight home losses. That is a franchise record in the worst of ways. The Suns have one more game at home to try and end the season on a high note for the fans, season ticket holders, and for their general pride.

Grades

A look at three different players on the Suns for the week forming a good, bad, and a surprise either way each week.

  • B- for Luis Scola: Two double-doubles while playing out of position at the five was impressive this week for Scola. His hustle and effort have been commendable, especially with the team losing games by large margins nightly.
  • D+ for Markieff Morris: The second year forward has started the last 16 games and as of late has shot the ball poorly, this week going 9-21 overall
  • B+ for Michael Beasley: He shot the ball very well going 17-25 in the first two games scoring with ease and confidence, but fell off a cliff with a 1-11 performance to end the week.

Player of the Week:

Goran Dragic - 18.3 PPG 2.7 RPG 5.0 APG 0.7 SPG 48.6% FG

The rest paid off for Dragic as he has played 48 minutes per game since coming back from his late season siesta. Since the All-Star break Dragic has been fantastic scoring, facilitating, and doing everything he can to push the team to victory. The Suns could use about 5-7 more Dragic's on the roster.

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Tuesday, April 9th @ Houston Rockets (43-33)

Wednesday, April 10th @ Dallas Mavericks (38-39)

Saturday, April 13th @ Minnesota Timberwolves (28-47)

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I've seen the Phoenix Suns list of "crimes" include signing Eric Gordon to an offer sheet knowing the Hornets would match. That never made sense. The Suns forced a rival to pay market value for their own player and got a PR boost from a relatively top-tier free agent expressing his desire to play in front of Robert Sarver, Lon Babby and The Gorilla.

Lakers really might miss playoffs

Sad Kobe
The Lakers are on the verge of missing the playoffs and having their lottery pick go to the Suns.

Gordon's definitely had a crazy season since all that went down this summer. Early on, there was the mysterious knee situation with the team seemingly throwing the player under the bus for not coming back despite being medically cleared (hello, Chicago Bulls, we see you too!).

More recently, there was a public blow up between Gordon and coach Monty Williams.

Eric's undoubtably a great talent. Perhaps not coincidentally, he put that on display on Sunday against the Suns putting up a solid 17 points, six assist game and showed his ability to get to the rim. Put him in the backcourt with Goran Dragic and you've got something really nice to build on.

Well, it might be possible according to this teasingly enticing report from The Big Easy:

New Orleans Hornets guard Eric Gordon likely to return to starting lineup Sunday against Phoenix Suns | NOLA.com
The Hornets were unable to pull off a trade involving Gordon before the February trade deadline, but the franchise is still likely to remain open to trading him after this season ends, according to sources Saturday.

The question is: what would it take to get him from the Hornets?

The Suns don't have much to offer in the way of backcourt talent but they could (and should) certainly offer the Lakers late-lottery pick (GO JAZZ!). Beyond that, what would the Hornets want? Scola? A Morris or two? Tucker? Dudley?

They seem set in the front court so maybe it is Dudley that they would want and I would definitely do Dudley and the Lakers pick for Gordon although I'm not sure that's enough.

It's always hard impossible to know what gets deals done, but the Phoenix Suns should absolutely be on the phone with the Hornets to try and make this happen...and I'm sure they will be even if we don't hear about it.

Additional notes:

Since these issues were raised....

1) Obviously, I don't advocate trading for Gordon without a full medical evaluation. He's missed a lot of time, but hasn't had major surgery (like Amare, Derrick Rose, Shumpert, Rubio, etc.)

2) Per Larry Coon's respect NBA CBA FAQ, the Suns are able to trade for Gordon one year after they signed him to the offer sheet

NBA Salary Cap FAQ
If a team matches an offer sheet and retains its free agent, then for one year they cannot trade him without his consent, and during that year cannot trade him at all to the team that signed him to the offer sheet. They also can't trade the player in a sign-and-trade transaction (see question number 89). A restricted free agent's resulting contract (whether with the new team or the contract is matched by the player's prior team) cannot be amended in any manner for one year.

That means the Suns can trade for Gordon in early July. I don't see anything that prevents the Suns and Hornets from negotiating ahead of that date and having a deal in place in time for the draft in late June, however, that would require some mutual trust since it would remain unofficial until the one-year deadline passed.

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The Cardinal Rule of communication is quite simplistic in it's most basic form; keep everything in house. On the surface that is easy, but in the world of professional sports with reporters shoving microphones and recorders in your face 24/7 it can be difficult to keep everything in house.

After the Phoenix Suns (23-54) dropped a tough game to divisional rival, the Golden State Warriors; embattled, polarizing, and at times misunderstood forward Michael Beasley offered his take on how he has improved his focus as of late.

"Everybody. I don't really read articles. But you know, just everybody. My friends, my family, teammates, coaches. Just everybody. Everybody telling me 'you need to do that' or 'do that' or this gets you open. I'm the one playing. I'm the one controlling my fate. It's just trusting my instincts, being aggressive and doing what I know best. -- Beasley

Those comments can be taken in different contexts depending on how you personally view the enigmatic player that has been a lightning rod for controversy for years. Remember, early in the season, he claimed there were "Gremlins" on the rim knocking his shots out of the hoop...

In a world where Twitter, YouTube, and social networks spread news and gossip faster than kerosene on a fire those comments simply cannot happen.

Beasley's retort came on the court a mere 48 hours later in the form of the worst shooting performance of his career, on any level, shooting 1-11 from the field.

To compound the situation, interim head coach Lindsey Hunter did not come in with a fire extinguisher, but rather a bucket of gasoline with his nonchalant, lackadaisical approach to the subject. What could have been brushed off as a simple, "we talked about it and it is a non-issue today" would have ended all of the talk, but instead Hunter came back with a shot of his own ignoring the basic principles of communication.

"Consider the source," Hunter said when asked about the comments, the source being Michael Beasley while adding clothes pins to the the laundry hanging out in the open at U.S. Airways Center

Hunter continued on saying, "it's Mike. I don't pay attention to Mike. If he isn't listening he better figure out what we are trying to do defensively or he won't play."

The continued safety net this season for Hunter has been the notion of if you don't play defense you will not play. Whether that is pointed at Beasley in this instance or the Morris brothers lack of intensity earlier or any other unsavory situation during his 36 game tenure.

Under the new regime the message has been that this is going to be a defensive team, but the play has not met the message halfway and this is simply a theory being tested out on the fly without the correct pieces.

In his 36 games as interim head coach the team has surrendered 100+ points 21 times and has won 10 games total. Through the first 41 games under Alvin Gentry the team had 20 games where they gave up 100+ to their opponents. Same results, different voice. The rotations have been poor, still, and the players simply do not fit the mold of Hunter's vision of the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons for the 2012-2013 Suns.

This could have all been said in jest, but the inclination was not conveyed in a clear and obvious manner taking this back to the underlying theme of the second half of the season; Lindsey Hunter is learning a lot on the fly. This week it is communication.

Pot shots like "consider the source" or playful poking with "I don't pay attention to Mike" is laughed off when a team is winning or when a clear culture has been established between the player and coach. Neither of those exist.

"For Mike to say he doesn't listen to anybody... we don't listen to Mike. He better figure out how to guard people in this scheme or he won't be playing. I don't care who he is listening to he better figure that part out."

Again, minor pot shot, lackadaisical on the whole, and the pretense of a threat that has no merit for a player that has not found a coach that can reach him since Frank Martin unleashed the abilities of Beasley on the Big 12 for his only season in college.

That was one of the primary reasons Hunter was chosen for this job: to reach Michael Beasley.

20130219_ajl_ad3_495

The Cardinal Rule of communication is quite simplistic in it's most basic form; keep everything in house. On the surface that is easy, but in the world of professional sports with reporters shoving microphones and recorders in your face 24/7 it can be difficult to keep everything in house.

After the Phoenix Suns (23-54) dropped a tough game to divisional rival, the Golden State Warriors; embattled, polarizing, and at times misunderstood forward Michael Beasley offered his take on how he has improved his focus as of late.

"Everybody. I don't really read articles. But you know, just everybody. My friends, my family, teammates, coaches. Just everybody. Everybody telling me 'you need to do that' or 'do that' or this gets you open. I'm the one playing. I'm the one controlling my fate. It's just trusting my instincts, being aggressive and doing what I know best. -- Beasley

Those comments can be taken in different contexts depending on how you personally view the enigmatic player that has been a lightning rod for controversy for years. Remember, early in the season, he claimed there were "Gremlins" on the rim knocking his shots out of the hoop...

In a world where Twitter, YouTube, and social networks spread news and gossip faster than kerosene on a fire those comments simply cannot happen.

Beasley's retort came on the court a mere 48 hours later in the form of the worst shooting performance of his career, on any level, shooting 1-11 from the field.

To compound the situation, interim head coach Lindsey Hunter did not come in with a fire extinguisher, but rather a bucket of gasoline with his nonchalant, lackadaisical approach to the subject. What could have been brushed off as a simple, "we talked about it and it is a non-issue today" would have ended all of the talk, but instead Hunter came back with a shot of his own ignoring the basic principles of communication.

"Consider the source," Hunter said when asked about the comments, the source being Michael Beasley while adding clothes pins to the the laundry hanging out in the open at U.S. Airways Center

Hunter continued on saying, "it's Mike. I don't pay attention to Mike. If he isn't listening he better figure out what we are trying to do defensively or he won't play."

The continued safety net this season for Hunter has been the notion of if you don't play defense you will not play. Whether that is pointed at Beasley in this instance or the Morris brothers lack of intensity earlier or any other unsavory situation during his 36 game tenure.

Under the new regime the message has been that this is going to be a defensive team, but the play has not met the message halfway and this is simply a theory being tested out on the fly without the correct pieces.

In his 36 games as interim head coach the team has surrendered 100+ points 21 times and has won 10 games total. Through the first 41 games under Alvin Gentry the team had 20 games where they gave up 100+ to their opponents. Same results, different voice. The rotations have been poor, still, and the players simply do not fit the mold of Hunter's vision of the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons for the 2012-2013 Suns.

This could have all been said in jest, but the inclination was not conveyed in a clear and obvious manner taking this back to the underlying theme of the second half of the season; Lindsey Hunter is learning a lot on the fly. This week it is communication.

Pot shots like "consider the source" or playful poking with "I don't pay attention to Mike" is laughed off when a team is winning or when a clear culture has been established between the player and coach. Neither of those exist.

"For Mike to say he doesn't listen to anybody... we don't listen to Mike. He better figure out how to guard people in this scheme or he won't be playing. I don't care who he is listening to he better figure that part out."

Again, minor pot shot, lackadaisical on the whole, and the pretense of a threat that has no merit for a player that has not found a coach that can reach him since Frank Martin unleashed the abilities of Beasley on the Big 12 for his only season in college.

That was one of the primary reasons Hunter was chosen for this job: to reach Michael Beasley.

PHOENIX – For the third game in a row, the Phoenix Suns got smacked in the third quarter. And even against a lesser opponent this time, no fourth-quarter rally would make a difference on Sunday....

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