Winning isn't everything, but the will to win is everything.

~Vince Lombardi

The Suns are without Jared Dudley (thigh bruise) for tonight's game. Here's what Gentry had to say about the state of things:

Phoenix Suns Vs. Charlotte Bobcats: TV Schedule, Lineups And No Jared Dudley - SB Nation Arizona
Coach Alvin Gentry's biggest concern right now is the team's energy level and inconsistent effort.

"I am more concerned about the overall energy level as anything. To me that's the most important thing. We've just had too much of a discrepancy and that area right there is something we've got to get back and be consistent with, competing and playing hard night in and night out," Gentry said before the game.


Boris Diaw works hard hustling after a loose ball. Wait, what?

Phoenix Suns fans looking forward to the franchise trading off all assets in hopes of losing the maximum amount of games to get a premium pick in the upcoming draft need look no further than the Charlotte Bobcats to see what the resulting team would be. The Bobcats are the worst team in the NBA by most measures, sitting at 3-20. The average score of their games is 87.3-101.3.

If the regular Bobcats squad wasn't beatable enough, the Suns have the added advantage of their opponents missing their top three scorers, Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin and Corey Maggette for tonight's game at US Airways Center in Phoenix.

Of course, the Suns have plenty of problems of their own. This will be the second night of a back to back after being pulverized by the Rockets in Houston last night. In their last five games, the Suns have suffered losses of 38, 23 and 18 points, and Seth thinks the grim reaper is lurking. It's hard to look at any opponent right now and say, "the Suns should beat these guys." But really, the Suns should beat these guys.

Point guard Kemba Walker is the Bobcats leading scorer with the top three others out, and the #9 overall pick of the 2011 draft out of UConn figures to be the most intriguing Bobcats player to watch tonight. On the surface, the 11.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game look respectable, but it's taking a lot of usage for Walker to get those numbers. He's shooting only 36% from the field and his assist to turnover ratio is less than 2 to 1. In fact, advanced stats aren't kind to any of the Bobcats.

Rk Player Age G MP PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
1 Eduardo Najera 35 6 46 9.6 .636 .636 2.4 12.8 7.4 7.2 1.1 0.0 0.0 10.9 135 111 0.1 0.0 0.1 .122
2 D.J. White 25 17 399 14.7 .537 .519 6.6 17.2 11.7 6.9 0.8 1.9 8.6 17.3 107 110 0.5 0.1 0.6 .070
3 Byron Mullens 22 23 524 16.0 .511 .470 6.7 16.0 11.1 5.3 0.8 1.8 7.7 23.6 103 110 0.6 0.1 0.7 .060
4 D.J. Augustin 24 17 555 16.4 .518 .473 2.6 8.5 5.4 36.1 1.1 0.1 16.1 21.9 103 113 0.7 -0.1 0.6 .050
5 Derrick Brown 24 23 456 14.0 .517 .500 8.8 11.9 10.3 6.9 2.2 0.7 12.4 16.9 102 109 0.4 0.1 0.5 .048
6 Gerald Henderson 24 21 710 13.4 .505 .473 3.7 11.3 7.3 10.1 1.4 0.8 11.9 22.7 96 111 0.2 0.0 0.2 .012
7 Bismack Biyombo 19 22 279 10.2 .471 .464 8.6 20.3 14.2 2.3 0.9 8.3 21.0 14.0 85 104 -0.2 0.3 0.0 .005
8 Tyrus Thomas 25 16 444 10.3 .442 .376 4.4 16.5 10.2 4.4 1.9 5.5 14.0 16.0 87 105 -0.3 0.3 0.0 .000
9 Boris Diaw 29 23 634 12.2 .484 .473 4.6 19.2 11.6 25.6 1.0 1.4 20.9 17.9 93 109 -0.1 0.1 0.0 .000
10 Kemba Walker 21 23 633 14.0 .452 .406 2.2 14.9 8.3 23.2 2.1 1.2 13.5 25.1 91 108 -0.4 0.2 -0.1 -0.011
11 DeSagana Diop 30 14 179 7.6 .261 .259 11.0 20.5 15.5 10.8 1.7 3.7 21.8 9.3 76 105 -0.2 0.1 -0.1 -0.028
12 Matt Carroll 31 20 271 6.1 .418 .364 1.2 10.0 5.4 9.7 1.5 0.5 12.6 17.3 83 111 -0.3 0.0 -0.3 -0.057
13 Corey Maggette 32 6 181 8.2 .436 .329 4.8 18.9 11.6 8.3 0.9 0.4 15.2 24.8 85 110 -0.2 0.0 -0.2 -0.061
14 Cory Higgins 22 16 203 5.1 .394 .338 1.6 8.1 4.7 15.0 0.5 0.4 14.0 22.5 80 114 -0.4 -0.1 -0.5 -0.118
15 Reggie Williams 25 2 30 -0.7 .267 .267 14.5 11.8 13.2 5.8 0.0 0.0 16.7 27.3 60 114 -0.2 0.0 -0.2 -0.308
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/4/2012.

League average of win shares/48 minutes is approximately .100, meaning the Bobcats have no regular rotation players who are even average, let alone above average. Our old friend Boris Diaw sits at .000, which seems amusingly appropriate. Wasn't that Bluto's grade point average in Animal House?

Still, last year's edition of the Bobcats beat the Suns twice and The Big Croissant scored 26 in the first game and 18 in the second. Could a meeting with his former team motivate Diaw for a strong performance? That's certainly a possibility.

The Suns will also get their first look at freakishly athletic, raw as nigiri rookie Bismack Biyombo. He has yet to be a factor, averaging 2.9 points and 3.2 rebounds in 12.9 minutes per game.

Marcin Gortat continues his double-double producing ways and is playing like a near all-star, but he is the only consistent Suns player. Steve Nash is playing through a bruised thigh. At least last night's blowout at the hands of the Rockets allowed Nash to play only 25 minutes in the game. We'll have to wait and see how fresh his legs are tonight.

Rk Player Age G MP PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
1 Steve Nash 37 20 620 23.4 .631 .600 1.1 7.7 4.4 57.9 1.0 0.1 22.6 22.4 116 110 2.1 0.1 2.2 .172
2 Marcin Gortat 27 22 701 21.8 .584 .566 8.2 27.4 17.9 4.8 1.1 4.1 10.8 21.3 110 100 1.4 0.9 2.4 .163
3 Jared Dudley 26 22 657 15.3 .546 .495 4.6 10.8 7.8 9.9 2.0 0.4 7.6 16.7 113 106 1.3 0.4 1.6 .120
4 Josh Childress 28 10 136 11.8 .535 .552 6.7 11.4 9.1 9.3 1.9 1.1 11.8 11.5 109 106 0.1 0.1 0.2 .082
5 Robin Lopez 23 20 266 11.9 .528 .456 9.4 17.9 13.7 4.2 0.4 3.6 15.2 17.1 102 105 0.2 0.2 0.4 .079
6 Hakim Warrick 29 19 316 14.3 .513 .449 7.2 11.6 9.4 9.9 0.5 0.5 11.9 23.3 102 109 0.3 0.1 0.4 .060
7 Markieff Morris 22 22 449 12.0 .503 .480 6.5 20.3 13.5 8.5 1.5 1.6 14.1 18.9 97 103 0.1 0.4 0.6 .059
8 Channing Frye 28 22 482 11.0 .454 .419 4.9 22.6 13.8 6.6 1.3 2.8 10.5 18.3 93 102 -0.1 0.5 0.4 .042
9 Ronnie Price 28 22 373 9.4 .478 .444 3.6 7.4 5.6 21.5 3.1 0.6 24.6 15.6 91 105 -0.2 0.3 0.1 .017
10 Shannon Brown 26 21 439 11.5 .478 .443 2.3 8.1 5.2 7.5 2.3 0.7 11.2 23.4 91 107 -0.2 0.2 0.1 .006
11 Grant Hill 39 21 541 9.8 .458 .413 2.3 11.7 7.0 9.2 1.3 1.9 13.1 20.3 89 107 -0.4 0.3 -0.1 -0.008
12 Michael Redd 32 9 89 7.1 .411 .353 0.0 7.5 3.8 7.2 1.8 0.0 7.0 22.4 85 108 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 -0.042
13 Sebastian Telfair 26 16 210 8.5 .427 .375 2.2 6.9 4.5 17.3 3.2 0.0 15.6 25.4 84 105 -0.3 0.2 -0.2 -0.045
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/4/2012.

Ben Swanson of Bobcats' blog Rufus on Fire answered five questions about the Bobcats for us as they navigate a rough season but have their eyes on the future.

Ray: This is the Bobcats 8th season as an NBA franchise, without much success so far. North Carolina is known for its rabid college basketball fans. How are the Bobcats catching on? Have they built a solid fanbase?

Ben: The Bobcats are catching on slightly, I'd say. They had built up a somewhat strong fanbase during the playoff year, but fell off hard last season, especially after trading or not re-signing most of the pieces that were involved in that season.


Ray: Before last year's trade deadline, the Bobcats traded Gerald Wallace for Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks, Joel Przybilla, cash, a 2011 1st round draft pick (Tobias Harris) and a 2013 1st round draft pick. Wallace was the heart and soul of the team, and was dumped for cap space and a couple of non-premium draft picks. How hard was that trade for Bobcats fans to deal with?

Ben: It's a lot harder to deal with in hindsight. People often forget how much Wallace was struggling that season before he was traded. I, and others, wondered if age was catching up to him. It seemed like opposing defense had figured out how to stop him completely. He was called for more charges than I had ever seen. And when a player's style is so dependent on athleticism and has such a history of concussions and injuries, you have to wonder if Wallace had reached his apex the previous season. It wasn't a great return then, but I don't know if there was a better deal out there.


Ray:
The Bobcats appear to have gone with the "blow the team up completely and start from scratch" method of rebuilding. How's the long-term prognosis there? What do you think of the Suns alternate method to attempt to re-tool while holding on to Steve Nash and hoping to add pieces around him?

Ben: I'm definitely all for the 'blow it up' rebuilding mode for the Bobcats. It's painful for fans, but this team is on track for a top-four pick in a draft that's regarded as one of the most talented in years. As for the Suns and Steve Nash, I wonder if it's too late. Nash is still a great point guard, but he's nearing 40 (which is amazing) and injuries are catching up. The return on a trade involving him might not be as franchise-altering as even just a year or two ago. I think the way they're just adding pieces around him limits their future.


Ray: From an outsider's view, Michael Jordan looks overmatched as a team owner. Do you think he's capable of being an effective NBA executive?

Ben: I think he can be if he doesn't get too involved. Some input is fine, but he needs guys in that organization that are willing to contradict him if they have differing opinions. That is why I and many others were encouraged by the Rich Cho hiring. And though very few have heard of him, Bobcats Vice Chairman Curtis Polk has an important role in the organization as one of the few guys who Jordan will listen to as a dissenter. Jordan is not the GM (though many like to act like he is) but he needs to take a more hands-off approach when it comes to personnel.


Ray: Gotta ask about former Sun Boris Diaw. His career arc in Phoenix was one spectacular season followed by a fat contract, followed by him getting fat. Oh, and a lot of passes out to the perimeter when he had an open look right next to the basket. What have you seen from him in Charlotte?

Ben: Wow. That pretty much sums it up. He came on strong immediately after the trade but fell apart the following season, especially after the Stephen Jackson trade. His play is marked by immense inconsistency. It's maddening not only to fans, but to coach Paul Silas, who benched Diaw from the starting lineup last month for the first time in years. Diaw has so much talent but can never seem to put it together. He always prefers to just pass, when he needs to take shots and be aggressive to keep defenses guessing when he has the ball. It's a shame, really.

Thanks for the knowledge, Ben! For more insight and humor from Ben, AKA Cardboard Gerald, he's on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/CardboardGerald and his game preview can be found here:

Charlotte Bobcats at Phoenix Suns preview -- Game 24




Phoenix Suns 95, Charlotte Bobcats 89 Typically, this preview would focus on the statistical differentials between the teams in various advanced metrics — offensive rebound rate, effective...

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Photo

The Phoenix Suns don't have nearly as much talent as a lot of other teams in the NBA. This is no secret, even Steve Nash said as much both before the season started and more recently after the Suns lost at home to the Toronto Raptors.

As Steve said, the Suns are going to have to "find a little magic and our chemistry and cohesion" to win games.

Instead of chemistry, cohesion and magic, they've seemingly given up the ghost, thrown in the towel and through their play screamed, "no más".

This team got blown out on the road by Portland prompting Grant Hill to say after the game that the team "rolled over". They managed to bounce back and barely beat the Grizzlies at home showing some faint memory of pride, and then completely tanked against the Mavericks in a game where the defensive intensity was laughable.

That lack of effort carried over to the first half of the Hornets game where players of dubious NBA pedigree torched the Suns in the paint before the team rallied like a once proud, but now dying tiger to lash out a final time.

If you want to see what the difference between a team playing hard and a team going through the motions looks like, watch the two halves of that game.

The real test came Friday night. What kind of team is this? Would that second half carry over and at least spark some sort of competitive result?

No. The Suns rolled over again for the third (and a half) time in their last five games.

Here's a sample of what the leader of this fine team said after the loss in Houston:

Rockets' balanced scoring attack cripples Suns
"When you play this team, you've got to play grown-man basketball," Gentry said. "We didn't do that. We got pushed around."

"I wasn't pleased with anything that our team did tonight. I wasn't pleased with one thing that we did. There's no bright spots. There's no moral victories. There's no anything. We have to play to win basketball games, and we've got to do a much, much better job than what we did. We've got to get the energy level up, and that's on me."

"I'm the coach. I'm supposed to make them play hard, and I will."

You can forgive a bad game here or there. You can understand, especially this season with this schedule, that teams aren't going to "bring it" each and every night.

But what the Suns are showing us is the opposite. They're showing us that they're a team that can only be bothered to fight for a half a game here, or for the occasional game there after a particularly bad performance.

That's the sign of a team that's given up on themselves and their season.

Some of you might be happy with that -- the more losses they have the better their chances in the NBA lottery. But there's a difference between playing hard and getting beat by a better team and not showing up to play at all. Most fans can understand the first but will never forgive the second.

That's what we are seeing right now and if it continues, Robert Sarver will have to pull the trigger and make a change. Losing is one thing, not even trying to win is an entirely different and unacceptable matter.

The entire organization needs to look in the mirror and figure this one out.

For more exclusive content, follow us on Twitter @Brightsidesun and "Like" us on Facebook.


White men can jump! (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Marcin Gortat, starting center for the 8-14 Phoenix Suns, appears to be the Rodney Dangerfield of NBA centers. His raw and advanced statistics scream for respect amongst his peers, but he didn't even get mentioned this past week as a player deserving of an All-Star spot!

To be fair, a team as bad as the Suns deserves no more than one all-star representative. If Steve Nash makes the squad as a reserve, I can understand Gortat getting hosed. But shouldn't he still be lamented on a national level as being snubbed?!

Andrew Bynum has been named the starter at C, so unless he suffers an injury he's going to make the team. Marc Gasol is generally considered the next best C in the West. After that, you've got journeymen (Sam Dalembert, Darko Milicic), the overhyped but clearly undeserving (DeAndre Jordan), and hybrids (Pau Gasol, Al Jefferson).

Let's looks deeper into the numbers to see whether Gortat is a top-2 center in the Western Conference.

(all player comparisons are performed using data from mySynergySports.com and basketball-reference.com)

Let's consider Andrew Bynum for a moment. According to mySynergySports.com, Bynum is a more effective isolation and post-up scorer than Gortat, a better rebounder and a better defender. I won't go into any further depth than this, since Bynum has already been voted the starter.

Marc Gasol is generally considered the next best center in the West, behind Bynum. How does he match up against Gortat?

Offensively, Gortat produces more points per possession (a play that ends with a shot, pass or turnover) on roughly the same number of touches, meaning that Gortat is a more proficient scorer. His field goal percentage is higher than Gasol on nearly every type of play.

The nature of their touches is dramatically different though. Gasol's touches are 45% isolations/post-ups (versus Gortat's 22%), while Gortat's touches are 45% p&r roll man/cuts (versus Gasol's 31%). So you can make the argument that Nash's passes make Gortat look better than he is. Marc Gasol also gets fouled in the act of shooting a lot more often than Gortat does (though they have similarly low number of 'and one' plays).

Defensively, Marc Gasol is a more-effective defender in nearly every category than Gortat. He gives up fewer points-per-possession overall (.66 vs .74), allowing a worse scoring percentage to the opposition on nearly every type of play (iso, post-ups, p&r roll man).

Gortat is the more proficient rebounder at least. He pulls down more rebounds per opportunity than Gasol. Normally, I'd say it's because the Grizzlies have better supporting rebounders than the Suns, thus reducing Gasol chances, but with Zach Randolph out that's not really the case. Plus, only Shawn Marion found a way to average double-digit rebounds on this team in the past 7 years, so let's give Gortat credit.

In summary, both guys are very good players. Gasol is a more-independent scorer and plays more effective defense, while Gortat rebounds a bit better. Neither is very pretty to look at, and neither draws oohs and ahhhs on their dunks. Gasol's team is in the playoff hunt, while Gortat's is not.

Looks to me like you have to give the edge to Marc Gasol for an all-star reserve spot as the second-best center in the West.

Gortat wipes the floor with the rest of the competition though.

Al Jefferson does not even compare favorably. Gortat produces a higher points-per-possession, better scoring percentages in nearly every category, is a better rebounder and better defender. Plus, Jefferson is really a forward playing center for his last two teams.

DeAndre Jordan? No. Jordan plays quality defense, but doesn't do anything else better than Gortat except for dunking lob passes.

No other Western Conference center comes close to the trio of Andrew Bynum, Marc Gasol and Marcin Gortat. Unfortunately, for all-star considerations, Marcin Gortat comes in a solid 3rd.

Poll
Who should be the all-star reserve Center in the West?

  433 votes | Results


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