Yo Brightsiders! Welcome to installment numero tres of our look at the 2011/12 Phoenix Suns roster by position. Today we will look at our Point Guards. Only 4.5 days until the regular season opener!
All I want for Christmas is a back-up point guard who won't screw things up too bad when Nash leaves the game.
How about you?
Let's face the facts - we know Steve Nash will start, he looks like he's in great shape and ready to get the ball rolling, or bouncing. But how will Aaron Brooks bounce back from his 'eh-so-so' showing after the trade last.... oh wait, he's still in China? Dang.
Just kidding! (Borat Voice)
We know the Suns front office has done a pretty good job so far by bringing in some quality players and also keeping a sense of continuity and familiarity by not doing too much. Now whether or not that's the right thing to do philosophically and from an arm-chair GM standpoint is an entirely different conversation.
Weaknesses: Does the most interesting man in the world have weaknesses? Then why would you ask if his mentor did?
Okay seriously now.
The lockout is and was many many things - ugly, stupid, jerk-face, dumb-heads - those words come to mind first... but throwing my childish emotions aside and placing my philosophical goggles on, the lockout was a double-edged sword for our Phoenix Suns. Before the lockout inhaled any games, the regular season schedule looked really good for our sun-setting Suns (I'm talking about Grant Hill and Steve Nash if you didn't catch that metaphor). There were only 16 scheduled back-to-back sets, that was the least in the entire league!
But. The lockout DID happen. The 82 game regular season was thrown into a compactor and squashed down to 66 games. Now the Suns face 21 back-to-back games, 14 sets of 3 games in 4 days (compared to 11 pre-abbreviation), and 2 sets of 4 games in 5 days (compared to 1). That's not so good for Steve Nash and Grant Hill.
But what was good, at least for Steve was the fact that the extended summer gave him a better opportunity to nurse and heal his previous year's injury, that pelvic gyrational stabilization of instability injury... you know, that one. It wasn't until August of this year that Steve Nash publicly stated that he felt he had finally come back to 100% health and could do more basketball moves in his training.
Gorilla 'other' Gorilla in the Suns locker room. Nash is grinding down. Consider this.
Nash shot under 50 percent from the field (.492) for the first time in 6 years. He shot under 40% from 3 (.395) for the first time in 11 years (He also attempted less 3-point shots than he has in 12 years, only 2.7 per game).
To be fair, at the beginning (or for about the first half) of last season Steve was playing at a VERY high level, numbers comparable to his MVP years - but once the injury hit, his numbers dipped significantly. He also led the league in assists - again. Can we blame all his shooting/playing time dips on his pelvis? Maybe. But remember, Nash has chronic back problems, and it wasn't but 2 years back that he also played very well at the beginning of the season - only to tail off as the grind wore on.
All indicators (Coaching staff, media, teammates) relay the message this year that Steve is playing at a 'High' level, that he's 'in mid-season form', that he 'hasn't lost a thing'. That's familiar, because that's how Steve Nash is - he prepares rigorously for the new season by doing anything but basketball. Steve might be in terrific shape to run a marathon every week - or even to join a professional Soccer club and play at an elevated level... but I worry that it's Steve's basketball muscles that are wearing down. I don't doubt that he'll start the season off looking amazing. I'm concerned about how it'll end.
Is the shortened schedule a blessing - being that there are ultimately less games to be endured? Or will the lack of rest between games and the increase of back-to-backs be the straw that broke
the camel's Steve's back? Nobody knows. Not even the "Smartest Suits in the Room" know the answer to that, but there is definitely something they can try to do about it, and they did. They brought in two legitimate candidates for the back-up point guard spot.
Hark, the herald point guards sing.
I'm going to brush off the shaky performance in both the team scrimmage and the 1st preseason game and evaluate Telfair based on a bigger pool of performance - I'll do the same for Ronnie. I don't snap-judge like most of you heathen. Just playing. But for reals.
Strengths: Good defense, speed, and self-proclaimed pick and roll specialist, nickname: Bassy
Weaknesses: Size and offensive consistency
His work ethic is great and he has a lot of experience in the NBA, but he's been in the league for 7 years on 6 different teams and hasn't been able to pin down a starting job - even when he was on perfect teams to do so. To me that kind of says a bit by itself. When asked, Telfair replies that he feels he just really hasn't had the right opportunity, not only considering teammates but also coaches and styles of play as well, he feels here he has a great opportunity, or even a perfect opportunity to show the NBA and Phoenix Suns fans what he can really do.
So far this preseason he has indeed shown good skill in executing the pick and roll - but has had a hard time pushing the ball up court and dictating the tempo. The key for this position and because of our lineup and our style of play, the Point Guard has to push the tempo and be unselfish with the ball. If Bassy can keep this in his subconscious forefront he'll improve and excel with this team behind Nash.
I hope he does play at his best level and I hope he can at least keep the Nash-to-bench effect to a manageable lull instead of the cavernous drop we've seen in the past. Another concern I have his is his mental concentration - if he does get beat out of the #1 back-up spot by Price, will he hang his head and sulk? Or will he continue to work hard and be ready when his number is called?
Let's keep our eyes peeled.
Strengths: Above average defense, athleticism, hatred for the Lakers
Weaknesses: Size and offensive polish
Price is a better defender all around than Telfair, not only because he's a tad bigger - but he has great speed and persistent energy. He's a fly, constantly bothering those he defends, and he's got enough vertical ability and lateral speed that his contests, challenges and blocking ability are legitimate and not just motions which the offensive player can comfortably ignore.
Former teammate Deron Williams had this to say about Price,
"He's one of those guys who can be ready no matter what. And that's what you've got to love about him," teammates Deron Williams said. "No matter if he plays two minutes or if he plays 20 minutes, he's gonna be ready to play every night." - Deseret News
At this point in the preseason - it sounds as if Ronnie has beaten out Bassy for the #1 back-up spot. I know I said I wouldn't let the scrimmage or the first preseason game weigh much on these reviews, but the Suns coaching staff is indeed factoring in these two games. And if Paul Coro is as good as reading minds as I truly believe he is, there is absolute truth to this.
Remember a few things. First of all Alvin Gentry has proven that he is a coach who will undoubtedly use his bench. He's also a coach who notices effort and performance. If Price is deemed the #1 back-up now, he'll be that until Telfair can show that he deserves it, and if that's the case, he'll earn it. There will not, or should not be a Vince Carter pity rule for these point guards. Meaning one won't earn minutes simply because he's been an All-star a bijillion times or because he won the dunk competition or because your owner is paying him 17.7 Million dollars to suck buffalo wings and tap butts and high-fives to the opposing team... HAVE FUN DALLAS!!! HAHAHAHA MUAHHAHAHA [Maniacal Laugh]
But seriously - I believe Gentry will use both Telfair and Price a lot, maybe even more so because of the aforementioned Nash health concerns and the shortened season. He'll match them according to the opponent - and Gentry himself will get better at that matchmaking as he continues to learn how both players play their game.
My big question is the same question we had for Goran Dragic.. and for Aaron Brooks... and for any point guard who ever tried to back-up Nash - Will Steve Nash cause them to change their forte's(strengths)?
Will Price and Telfair play to their strengths or will they try to reinvent their wheels because of Steve Nash?
Brooks tried to last year and stunk. Dragic constantly had trouble 'trying too much to be like Steve' - though in our most recent WCF run Dragic put an exclamation point on his own style of play and it helped (along with Dudley and the other bench mobbers) the 2nd unit really create it's own unique identity. That translated to success. Is it the awe of how smooth and great he is that just hypnotizes his back-ups to emulate him and fail? Is it something they just do subconsciously because Nash unknowingly has super telepathic mind-controlling influence? I'll stop there... it's a mystery though indeed.
I implore you all to have great patience with both Telfair and Price. NO ONE will be Steve Nash - there will always be a drop of play when Nash leaves the game. He's the greatest point guard alive. Give these two a chance and have an understanding heart - they are new to this team, to these players, to this style, to this culture - be grateful that we have REAL depth at the point guard position for the first time in a long time. It's not necessarily a bad dilemma to have if we're concerned about whether it will be Ronnie Price or Sebastian Telfair that comes in to relieve Steve Nash.
P.S. - I miss Goran.
Ok. We’re close enough. I can’t contain myself anymore. I feel compelled to substantiate my reflections on the schedule before I fulminate from suppression. Does this practice serve any useful purpose? Probably not. Is it fun anyway? I think so. Plus, it’s tradition. How can we call this a preseason without the obligatory pore through the schedule and count off the wins and losses article?
Before I get started a couple things of note…
This schedule is too compressed. It’s bursting at the seams.
· 17 back-to-backs
· 2 back-to-back-to-backs
· 5 back-to-back days off during the season (not including all-star break)
· 6 days off for all-star break
I’m still miffed that the Suns “avoided” home games against the Knicks, Celtics, Magic, Bulls, and Heat. Sure it takes tough games off the schedule, but people only get one opportunity a year to see some of the premier Eastern Conference players in person and none of them are coming this year. Another faux pas from the beloved NBA, thanks for looking out for us fans again. If Phoenix was going to have only one game against 12 of the Eastern Conference teams (Phoenix plays Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Cleveland twice) it would have been nice to host a couple of the star-laden teams. I’d trade a road game against Toronto for a home game against Chicago, for instance. Those tough road games are almost sure losses. Also, isn’t a victory at home against Boston much more satisfying than vanquishing the Bobcats? Oh well, enough divagating.
For in depth analysis that can only be found on BSOTS, bounce with it...
Dec. 26 ... vs. New Orleans W
Dec. 28 ... vs. Philadelphia W
Dec. 30 ... at New Orleans W
Dec. 31 ... at Oklahoma City L
Jan. 2 ... vs. Golden State W
Jan. 4 ... at Dallas L
This team needs a good start. Playing New Orleans two out of the first three games should help provide that. Anything less than a 3-0 start and a jump out of the gate will be disappointing. 4-2
Jan. 6 ... vs. Portland W
Jan. 8 ... vs. Milwaukee W
Jan. 10 ... at LA Lakers L
Jan. 12 ... vs. Cleveland W
Jan. 13 ... vs. New Jersey W
This block provides one of the first important conference games of the season – a battle against Portland
without with* Aldridge. The Suns need to defend home court against the teams they are jockeying for playoff spots with. Losing these games is twice as painful because it directly benefits the competition. 4-1 Total: 8-3
Jan. 15 ... at San Antonio W
Jan. 17 ... at Chicago L
Jan. 18 ... at New York W
Jan. 20 ... at Boston L
Jan. 23 ... at Dallas L
This 5 game road trip is brutal. Two wins would probably have to be considered a success even if it is a losing record on this parlous stretch. I threw in the W over the Knicks to satiate our brethren who still harbor ill will towards the apostrophied one. Who Phoenix beats is inconsequential as long as they win at least 2. 2-3 Total: 10-6
Jan. 24 ... vs. Toronto W
Jan. 27 ... at Portland L
Jan. 28 ... vs. Memphis W
Jan. 30 ... vs. Dallas L
It will be important not to slip up against the Raptors the night after returning from Dallas. The game against Memphis will be another one the Suns need. Again, it comes the night after a tough game on the road. 2-2 Total: 12-8
Feb. 1 ... at New Orleans W
Feb. 3 ... at Houston L
Feb. 4 ... vs. Charlotte W
Feb. 6 ... at Atlanta L
Feb. 7 ... at Milwaukee L
Again we see the recurring theme of back-to-back away/home sets that the Suns will need to be chary of, can’t afford to drop one to the Bobcats here. Stealing another road win here could turn this to a 3-2 stretch. 2-3 Total: 14-11
Feb. 9 ... vs. Houston W
Feb. 11 ... at Sacramento L
Feb. 13 ... at Golden State W
Feb. 14 ... at Denver L
Feb. 15 ... vs. Atlanta L
The Suns must offer the Rockets no quarter in this matchup. If they can find a way to win 2 of 3 on the first back-to-back-to-back this stretch would be a roisterous success. Sacramento could be a trap game if the Suns beat Houston and are looking past the Kings. 2-3 Total: 16-14
Feb. 17 ... at LA Lakers L
Feb. 19 ... vs. LA Lakers W
Feb. 20 ... vs. Washington W
Feb. 22 ... vs. Golden State W
A split with the Lakers and a three game winning streak headed into the break would be a serendipitous fashion in which to close out the first half of the season. Hopefully the Suns aren’t running on fumes when the spry Warriors come to town. 3-1 Total: 19-15
Feb. 24-26 ... All-Star Weekend in Orlando – a fugacious respite in a frenzied tempestuous season.
March 1 ... vs. Minnesota W
March 2 ... vs. LA Clippers L
March 4 ... vs. Sacramento W
March 7 ... at Oklahoma City L
March 8 ... vs. Dallas L
A couple tough games after the break. First the Suns catch their first look at the new look Clips on the back end of a b-2-b, then in the same week they catch the Mavericks on the back of another of those damn away/home sets. 2-3 Total: 21-18
March 10 ... vs. Memphis W
March 12 ... vs. Minnesota W
March 14 ... vs. Utah W
March 15 ... at LA Clippers L
March 16 ... vs. Detroit W
March 18 ... vs. Houston W
Here’s a chance to make some hay. If the Suns can take care of business, they can bulwark their playoff aspirations in this stretch. Defending home court against conference rivals is still a central theme for me as well as watching out for trap games like the Pistons on the last night of the Suns second b-2-b-2-b. 5-1 Total: 26-19
March 20 ... at Miami L
March 21 ... at Orlando W
March 23 ... at Indiana L
March 25 ... at Cleveland W
March 27 ... vs. San Antonio L
March 28 ... at LA Clippers L
April 1 ... vs. New Orleans W
This section is a little more inimical. I give the Suns the Magic game under the assumption that Howard will be gone. A win against the Spurs would be huge, but surviving this with 3 wins is still bearable. 3-4 Total: 29-23
April 3 ... at Sacramento W
April 4 ... at Utah W
April 6 ... at Denver L
April 7 ... vs. LA Lakers L
April 9 ... at Minnesota W
April 11 ... at Memphis L
April 13 ... at Houston W
April 14 ... at San Antonio L
Going down the home stretch the Suns have a lot of match ups against teams they will potentially be battling for playoff positioning (fingers crossed). Unfortunately, during this part of that home stretch most of the games are actually away… Just find a way to split these games. Any way. No time for lassitude yet. 4-4 Total: 33-27
April 16 ... vs. Portland W
April 18 ... vs. Oklahoma City L
April 19 ... vs. LA Clippers L
April 21 ... vs. Denver W
April 24 ... at Utah W
April 25 ... vs. San Antonio W
Hoping for a stout finish against some stiff competition. I can very well envision the Suns in a dogfight with these very teams coming down the stretch. Good way for the schedule to shake down. Wouldn’t you want the Suns to be able to have a direct say in their eventual fate? I like it. 4-2 Total: 37-29
So there’s my two cents. Actually that’s probably more like three or four cents. Obviously the season won’t unfold exactly like my fanciful notions concocted above. The Suns will lose some games that leave us shaking our heads in disgust, and they will (hopefully) win some games that have us cavorting and carousing. I think this is probably a reasonable facsimile of what the Suns might achieve if they perform to the maximum of their capabilities. If I was pressed on the matter I might actually pick just south of this mark. I would, however, be north of 14th place.
So what say you Brightsiders? Light me up or add your insight below.