The Suns have been consistently inconsistent this season, but when they are, they find a way to rebound which has been impressive in and of itself... Here is how the week that was went:
In losing two games in a row, one to a team at the bottom of the standings and another right in the middle, the Phoenix Suns (11-9) started to show more cracks in the armor. They were not defending with consistent passion, they were playing lackadaisical as of late, and without a sense of urgency.
That is one thing that the Suns have been consistent with all season, when they get erratic, inconsistent, they can rally to get back on track.
This season the team has had five 2-game winning streaks, which is their highest winning streaks of the season, and two have come off of different losing streaks. At 11-9 the team is not consistent and has not played a brand of basketball that would be conducive of a playoff team out west -- maybe in the Eastern Conference, but they have been up and down at best.
With that the Suns in the first quarter of the season (24.4% of the schedule) have been better than advertised before the season.
For a young team to take a leap from doormat to potential playoff team they have to beat teams when they are short-handed (Houston) and teams that are below them in the standings (Toronto) like they have done this week. Against the Raptors the team embraced their flaws and in a single game sample size went from being abominable on the offensive glass and in the paint to better than one of the better teams in those two categories.
This week was important or the Suns to create some separation in the standings between wins and losses. They did so by improving on the offensive glass (-4 overall) and scoring second chance points (-12) with those rebounds.
Those numbers seem poor, as negative numbers generally are, but they won the rebounding and second chance points battle in two of the three games and in the game they lost the battle, they won the war against the Rockets.
After giving up 100+ points in five straight games the Suns found asylum in Houston, against a short-handed Rockets team, and at home against the hapless Raptors. What made the Suns uniquely successful at the beginning of the season was their defense, through seven games 96.0 points allowed, giving up 100 points only twice. One time in a win. Can't consistently give up 100+ points and be a playoff team at the same time. That is rare.
Quote of the Week
When you are up 14 with three minutes to go that is when you really want to lock down, because when you get one or two more stops they take their guys out, put their subs in, and then we can play our guys. Then the game is over. I think they like to torture us coaches, I don't know... -- Head Coach Jeff Hornacek after the win over the Raptors
2014 NBA Draft Update
Surrogate Watch continues and the Suns have one lottery pick (theirs) and with the current projections they do not own four picks yet. It was a pipe-dream to begin the season, but still something to root for. Here is the update on how the three picks look right now:
Minnesota Timberwolves (9-11) -- No. 10 Overall (Pick stays in Minnesota based on Protections) Things are evolving with the draft and some prospects are proving to shine. Here the T-Wolves take athletic play-maker Jerami Grant, sophomore forward out of Syracuse.
Phoenix Suns (11-9) -- No. 14 Overall (Pick stays in Phoenix based on Protections) At this position in the draft the Suns can take a swing, unlike recent years, this year a prospect like James Young out of Kentucky can wind up being a home-run. He is a smooth lefty shooter with the ability to make plays at the rim.
Washington Wizards (9-10) -- No. 17 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Rising UCLA freshman Zach LaVine might not be here at this point on draft night, but for now... He is a bouncy athlete, combo guard, and can shoot the ball from NBA three. Think a more athletic, shorter Kevin Martin...
Indiana Pacers (18-3) -- No. 30 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Every draft is fluid, which is why a pre-season lottery pick like Glenn Robinson III right now might now be a Top 20 pick. He is a four in a threes frame, good athlete, below average shooter from the perimeter.
Keep following along here to get updates and information on the 2014 NBA Draft Class and more.
News & Notes
Make sure you listen to the special edition of the Phoenix Suns Podcast this week on Tuesday to get the details. We are holding another contest with a fantastic prize pack sent to one loyal Bright Sider as a Christmas present. As a staff we appreciate the loyalty, participation, and effort all of you put into making Bright Side one of the premier destinations for Phoenix Suns news, notes, and commentary.
Again, special edition of the podcast dropping Tuesday. Hint, you are going to want to listen to the podcast as early as possible tomorrow...
Previewing the Week Ahead:
Tuesday, December 10th @ Los Angeles Lakers (10-10)
Friday, December 13th vs. Sacramento Kings (5-13)
Sunday, December 15th vs. Golden State Warriors (12-9)
Going back to the key stat of the week the Suns are facing off against three Top 20 defenses in the Lakers (102.6 PPG), the Warriors (101.0), and the Kings (97.9 PPG) which will challenge the recent defensive improvements. This week the highlights are the return of Kobe Bryant against the Suns (second game back), the return of Rudy Gay shooting jumpers (now with the Kings), and a can't miss game from an entertainment perspective (the Warriors) against the Splash Brothers. The Suns have an opportunity to take two out of three again this week putting some cushion between their record and the .500 line.
Kobe is back. After a warm up against the Toronto Raptors tonight he will be expectantly awaiting the Suns arrival on Tuesday with a fire to win burning in his dark heart. After all, Kobe Bryant hates the Suns. But for me, the feeling isn't mutual.
We all know that Kobe is a bit of a bitter, resentful shell of a human being. And he's made no secret of professing his true feelings towards the Suns organization.
"I don’t like them," Bryant said of the Suns. "Plain and simple, I do not like them. They used to whip us pretty good and used to let us know about it, and I. Will. Not. Forget. That."
Even though most of the guys from that team are gone?
"I. Don’t. Care," Bryant said. "I won’t let it go."
But with his return from a major injury at the age of 35 the number of games for Bryant to work out his pent up frustration is dwindling. And as the Suns chance to lay another beating on the Lakers approaches my mind wandered to the last days of another former star who had a prominent position in my rooting interests years ago.
Michael Jordan was one of the first professional athletes that made my blood boil. I had never bought into the Air Jordan mania that swept the nation and was irritated by the bandwagon nature of people that sprouted up wearing Bulls gear when the team started winning championships. The Suns were my team and, after the trade for Barkley, the Bulls were not only the enemy, but the main obstacle in my team's championship aspirations. His ascendance to anathema was complete after the 1993 NBA Finals. I was 14 and this marked the first time I really felt heartbroken watching sports. In fact, I'm not sure if anything else has ever hurt that much...
I celebrated the news that he would leave the NBA to pursue a career in baseball, placing the Suns at the front of a group of favorites to win the title in his absence. I even chortled at his futility on the Barons as he failed spectacularly and squandered an opportunity (much like the Suns) he never deserved in the first place.
Then, one day while watching Jordan as his career waned for the Wizards I found myself cheering for him. Time had passed and he was no longer the hated enemy. Time had healed the wounds. Jordan was no longer the face of what had crushed my dreams. And he was about to be gone.
I had missed the beauty of the trees because of the forest fire in my heart. Instead of having a collection of memories of the milestones and epic individual performances Jordan had racked up I had mostly vague recollections obfuscated by umbrage and animosity.
And I realized that I had only hurt myself.
I had blocked myself from watching the sport I love being played at the highest level possible. I was the one missing out. Not Jordan. He had been busy ruling the basketball landscape, winning championships and receiving adulation from swarms of fans... while I festered. It was like I was drinking poison and hoping he died.
I haven't done that with Kobe. It's not a situation where I go to games wearing a Bryant jersey, but I do watch and appreciate his unique ability.
I don't watch sports to canonize the players on a personal level, but I have grown to appreciate their greatness on the field. And I like to watch the greatest players excel at their individual sports, even if I wouldn't let them babysit my kids... or even want to have a beer with them for that matter.
I can, and do, separate what players do.
Tiger Woods - His off the course indiscretions have been detailed to the nth degree, but I just don't care much about his sex life. I'm also not the moral police and infidelity just happens to be pretty damn prevalent as it turns out. Tiger is the reason I'm a fan of golf and the reason why I took up the sport.
Tom Brady - Is it perceived hubris (perhaps deserved) or just jealousy that turn people off of Brady? After all, he's possibly the best ever at the highest profile position in all of sports... plus he's married to a supermodel and lives in a castle.
Barry Bonds - He was a generally unpleasant guy turned cheater, but some of my favorite baseball memories ever are running to a tv set to watch him take at bats. Sure, I could pretty much care less about him now that he can't bust the cover off a baseball anymore, but I have a sneaking suspicion that at least a couple of you thought baseball was a little more exciting back when the players were jacked.
LeBron James - Dude has received an unimaginable amount of vitriol for the solecism of his puppet show platform to announce his free agency "Decision." His second biggest "character flaw" seems to be that he's not as big of an a**hole as Kobe or MJ. His third? Maybe that he was actually able to realize he might need help to achieve his goals and went about getting it? Damn him for doing what I tell my kids to do.
Obviously Bryant isn't exactly a peach off the court, either.
But what would sports be without these transcendent players? And doesn't their greatness just magnify these flaws anyways? Is anybody outraged that Carlos Almanzar was taking PED's? These great, polarizing players make sports compelling.
I need Kobe Bryant. Kobe is part of what makes sports so great. He is the villain. He is the Joker to the Phoenix Suns Batman.
And right now he's the last unicorn in the league. The Spurs don't really do it for me. I was actually cheering for them in the Finals last year. I respect their organization. What other rivalries are there for the Suns right now?
Who do you look forward to watching? What games do you have circled on the schedule?
How many playoff series have been as great as the first rounder against LA in the 2006 playoffs where Tim Thomas hit that three to help the Suns overcome 50 from Bryant in game six before watching Kobe quit oh his teammates in a game seven blow out?
And when Kobe does eventually hang up that ugly ass Lakers jersey (but not before crippling his team's chances to compete by taking up cap space with a contract he can't possible need financially - big ups on that one), the league will be worse for it.
I'm actually ready for the Suns' next Kobe Bryant to come along now. Another player I can have that much fun cheering against.
So welcome back, Kobe. I don't hate you... sports need people like you (yes, that's a sideways insult). I hope you know I missed you... and I hope that makes you hate the Suns even more.