Steve Nash, NBA All-Star

There's going to be folks in Denver or Utah that might not agree, but Steve Nash making the 2012 NBA All-Star team as a reserve was a no-brainer. You already know this because you watch Steve Nash on a nightly basis. You know how well he's shooting. You know how well he's running the team and dishing the ball. You even know how well he's swatting shots (two of them!) this season.

Here's what NBA All-Star Steve Nash had to say about the honor earlier in the day before it became official that Captain Canada would be heading to his eighth All-Star Game.

"I had one scholarship offer and had a lot of ups and downs in the league so I don't want at any stage of my career to be under-appreciative of the All-Star Game. In some ways I'd probably appreciate it a lot more now knowing the stage of my career that I'm at and how hard I've worked to continue to play. I'd definitely enjoy it."

Not bad, for an old guy. Not bad at all.

Here's the list of Western Reserves:

G Steve Nash Suns
G Russell Westbrook Thunder
F LaMarcus Aldridge Trail Blazers
F Kevin Love Timberwolves
C Marc Gasol Grizzlies
X Tony Parker Spurs
X Dirk Nowitzki Mavericks

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The Michael Redd renaissance is helping the Suns immensely during their three game win streak.

When the Phoenix Suns last played the Rockets on February 3rd in Houston, the Suns 99-81 loss was the type of game to make a fan throw his hands up and say, "I can't watch this crap!" The Rockets crushed the Suns from the opening tip and led by 20 at halftime, making the whole second half essentially garbage time. Seven Rockets scored in double figures and the Suns shot only 41% from the field. It was a thorough whupping.

At 8-14 then, the Suns looked like toast. An unimpressive win over the sorry Bobcats followed, then a strange thing happened: two consecutive wins on the road against teams who are in playoff position, the Hawks and the Bucks. Reclamation project SG Michael Redd scored 17, 10 and 14 points, and the Suns go into tonight's rematch against the Rockets at home down only 3 in the loss column to the #4 team in the West.

Of course, the Suns remain in the 12th spot in the stacked Western Conference, with four teams to leapfrog for a playoff spot, and have beaten only one of the current playoff teams in the conference so far. Tonight provides an opportunity to make up ground on the Rockets, and to see how much progress they've made since the debacle of last Friday night.



Now looks to be the best time to face the Rockets, as they played a hotly contested game at Portland last night, but the Rockets beat the Blazers behind a strong bench performance and have now won two in a row on the road against quality opponents (the other being the Nuggets). In a lot of ways, the Rockets are the kind of team the Suns aspire to be this season: light on star power, with lots of role players.

The difference is that the Rockets' role players are more effective and comfortable in their roles, and they're a more fundamentally sound and consistent team. With the right mix of players and coaches, this ensemble type of a team can be very good, as teams like the Rockets, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers are showing this season. Is there any chance the Suns, with the most recent edition of their rotation, have that mix? Sure, it's possible but they have a long way to go yet. Tonight will give us a good view of just how far that is.

Some matchups to watch tonight:

Channing Frye vs. Luis Scola - This was no match last time as Frye went 1-7 in 17 minutes and Scola went for 14 points and 8 rebounds (5 of them on the offensive end). Markieff Morris didn't fare much better, going 3-10, and the Suns PFs combined to make 0-4 3-pointers. It can't be this lopsided tonight if the Suns hope to win, and Frye needs to continue his recent hot shooting streak.

Steve Nash vs. Kyle Lowry - Lowry is an underrated player, and his style as floor general is appropriate for this Rockets team. He doesn't do anything especially well, but does everything pretty well. Lowry shot only 1-4 in the last game against the Suns, but he also dished 9 assists and had 8 rebounds. Nash has been on fire recently, as he leads the league in assists and has the best FG% of any guard in the league. The Suns must win this matchup but Lowry is not a pushover by any stretch. Lowry's status for tonight is uncertain. If no Lowry, then Nash vs. a certain Slovenian point guard with whom we're very familiar. Per The Houston Chronicle, Lowry said last night that:

"I tried to throw a pass to Jordan (Hill) on a cut. I kind of hyper-extended it, strained it a bit. I just have to do treatment. You know me. I don't want to sit out too many games. I don't want to sit out games at all. I'll see how I feel tomorrow and get treatment in the morning and see how it feels."

Suns bench vs. Rockets bench - The Rockets bench is one of their team strengths and has allowed them to be a consistent team this season. Former Sun Goran Dragic is showing a steady hand running a unit which features Chase Budinger, Courtney Lee and Patrick Patterson. Meanwhile, the Suns have shaken up their rotation, giving more minutes to Michael Redd and Josh Childress, and less to Shannon Brown and Hakim Warrick. Results have been positive so far, but Sebastian Telfair leaves the Suns with questionable backup PG play.

Rockets roster:


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Kevin Martin 24 33.4 6.4 15.1 42.4 2.1 6.1 34.0 3.8 4.2 90.1 0.4 2.7 3.1 2.7 1.7 0.8 0.0 2.0 18.7
Luis Scola 26 30.3 6.7 13.8 48.6 0.0 0.1 0.0 1.8 2.4 76.2 1.9 3.8 5.7 1.7 2.9 0.4 0.3 3.1 15.2
Kyle Lowry 24 35.0 4.8 11.8 40.6 1.7 4.6 36.9 3.5 4.0 85.6 1.1 4.8 5.8 7.9 3.3 2.0 0.3 2.8 14.8
Courtney Lee 18 25.2 4.1 8.7 46.8 1.0 2.8 36.0 0.8 0.9 87.5 0.2 2.1 2.3 1.3 0.9 1.2 0.3 1.4 9.9
Chase Budinger 23 20.9 3.4 7.4 45.6 1.4 3.4 40.5 1.0 1.2 88.9 0.8 2.9 3.7 1.1 0.7 0.3 0.2 1.0 9.2
Goran Dragic 26 20.0 3.0 6.6 45.3 0.6 2.0 28.3 1.4 1.8 77.1 0.3 1.5 1.8 3.5 1.8 0.8 0.1 2.0 8.0
Samuel Dalembert 26 23.5 3.2 6.2 50.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.4 1.6 88.1 3.0 4.7 7.7 0.5 1.4 0.7 2.0 2.5 7.7
Patrick Patterson 24 20.8 3.4 7.0 48.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 44.4 1.5 2.2 3.8 0.6 0.5 0.3 0.5 1.7 7.0
Chandler Parsons 25 24.4 3.0 7.2 42.0 0.5 2.0 25.5 0.2 0.6 31.3 1.4 3.6 5.0 1.6 0.8 1.4 0.7 2.2 6.8
Terrence Williams 9 16.4 1.9 4.7 40.5 0.8 1.8 43.8 0.4 1.1 40.0 0.2 2.3 2.6 0.8 0.8 0.3 0.1 1.2 5.0
Jordan Hill 24 15.8 2.1 4.3 49.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.8 1.3 66.7 1.5 3.7 5.3 0.5 0.9 0.3 0.8 2.0 5.0
Jonny Flynn 7 11.4 0.9 3.3 26.1 0.1 0.9 16.7 1.3 1.7 75.0 0.1 1.0 1.1 2.4 1.0 0.4 0.0 0.7 3.1
Marcus Morris 3 5.7 0.7 3.3 20.0 0.0 1.3 0.0 0.3 0.7 50.0 0.7 0.0 0.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.7 1.7
Hasheem Thabeet 4 4.8 0.8 0.8 100.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.8 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 0.8 1.5


Playoffs?!?!

As I mentioned in a weekly recap last month, it's tough to find any of the top 8 teams in the West who look like they won't be playoff teams. Thunder, Clippers, Spurs, Lakers, Mavs, Nuggets are a given. Blazers, Rockets and Jazz can be seen as vulnerable and passable in the standings but the Suns need to start making that push right now by beating the Rockets tonight.

With any kind of standings watching like this, it's important not to get too hung up on what the other teams are doing. The Suns simply need to continue to shoot better, lock down their rotation and seize every opportunity to get wins: no more losses to the Hornets and Nets of the league, and take advantage of home court. Then these standings will take care of themselves.


Western Standings

GP W-L PCT
Oklahoma City Thunder 25 20-5 .800
San Antonio Spurs 27 18-9 .667
Los Angeles Clippers 23 15-8 .652
Houston Rockets 26 15-11 .577
Dallas Mavericks 26 15-11 .577
Denver Nuggets 26 15-11 .577
Los Angeles Lakers 25 14-11 .560
Utah Jazz 24 13-11 .542
Portland Trail Blazers 26 14-12 .538
Memphis Grizzlies 26 13-13 .500
Minnesota Timberwolves 26 13-13 .500
Phoenix Suns 25 11-14 .440
Golden State Warriors 22 8-14 .364
Sacramento Kings 25 9-16 .360
New Orleans Hornets 26 4-22 .154

[Note by Seth Pollack, 02/09/12 2:15 PM MST ]

Lowry left the Rockets game with a hyper-extended elbow. He's called a game time decision by the Rockets beat writer.

Here's Nash talking about going against his former pupil:

Phoenix Suns Vs. Houston Rockets: TV Schedule, Lineups, And Return Of The Dragon - SB Nation Arizona
If Lowry can't go, former Suns guard Goran Dragic will get the start against this old friend and mentor, Steve Nash.

"If Goran happens to start, he poses very many problems for us as well, we'll have to be ready for him and hopefully we can do a good job limited his opportunities," Nash said. "It would be great to go up against him, but he's a handful so I'll have my work cut out for me."

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Houston Rockets 96, Phoenix Suns 89 The Phoenix Suns found confidence in most everything spanning their current three-game winning streak. Shots are falling thanks to strong cohesiveness in ball...

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Here's this week's episode of the Sunscast podcast in which we talk about WINNING. More specifically, we discuss the changes to the rotations and the awesome that is Steve Nash.

Frankly, there's not all that much new for readers of this site as the topics have been well covered but you do get to hear us talk about it again and if you are so inclined, you can plug in your ear buds and let my sultry voice lull you to sleep.

Subscribe on iTunes or stream online after the jump and you can find all the past episodes here.

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We're going to see a lot of this in 2012, and it's badly needed. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Michael Redd is on a roll, and just maybe a Phoenix Suns team with very few reliable scorers has found themselves a reliable scorer. Whoda thunk it would be Michael Redd after all those injuries?

Redd said he knows people in Milwaukee and elsewhere felt his career was over after two surgeries for anterior-cruciate ligament tears in the same knee, per Paul Coro, beat writer for azcentral.com and the Arizona Republic. But he said he never questioned his ability to return, working individually since a brief 10-game return at the end of last season with the Bucks. "Not even in a bad way," Redd said of the doubting fans. "Like, 'He should go ahead and retire. He's had a great career.' I knew I had something left in the tank. A lot, actually. I thought I got robbed of a couple years with the ACL injuries.

"That's been the story of my career, kind of overachieving and climbing over mountains. When people say I couldn't do something, that motivated me to do it."

If he continues on his current pace (averaging 14 points in 21 minutes over last 3 games), or even improves as his rusty game returns to him, the Suns may have had a gift drop right into their laps. A gift that was desperately needed.

For scoring on this team, you can only count on Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat on a night-in night-out basis. Both will get you at least 10 point a night. Occasionally 20. All while producing 10+ a night in their secondary category (rebounds/assists) as well.

Everyone else on the team? Scoring is a total crapshoot.

Not good. Only one guy (Jared Dudley) outside Nash and Gortat scores 10+ points at least half the time, and that was just barely.

Guess how many TOTAL 20-point games these 10 players have produced? One. That's it. Once out of 120 total chances (10 players * 12 games each)

Hence the need for a professional shooter like Michael Redd.

Redd, sporting a lifetime 19.7 point/game average, has scored more than 10 points in each of his last 3 games for the Suns. The first of those three was his first and only start this season, and the first in 2 long years of injury and rehab.

After his most recent game in Milwaukee, Redd had this to say:
"From where I came from the last couple years to get to that point to play at this level again is a miracle," Redd said, according to Paul Coro, beat writer for azcentral.com. "The NBA is tough so to come back into form, all the hard work and tears paid off."

The Suns need reliable scoring from someone other than Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat.

It makes a whole team feel better when they KNOW who is going to score the ball when given the chance. Players like to know their role, to know where everyone fits around them. They have to know who that scorer is.

When Gortat and Nash rest, it's a total crapshoot. When they are not on the floor, you can't look at any one guy and say "he's got this. We're getting some points right now."

Now maybe they can feel good about Redd. And then everyone else can just play their part.


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