Against all the odds, Grant Hill will return to the court for the Phoenix Suns Friday night — just two weeks after surgery to repair his torn meniscus. Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic...

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Hi everyone. I don't really remember how to begin a blog post since it's been like a year so I'll just say this - Trevor Ruffin, Ian Lockhart, and Kenny Battle. What do those 3 former Phoenix Suns have in common? Probably nothing.

Smooth transition

So did everyone notice that we're in the thick of a playoff race in the Western Conference? That's pretty fantastic, no? The regular season ends in 16 days and the Suns are going to play 9 games in that span of time. Things are as tightly packed as something which is by its nature very tightly packed.

9 of the Western Conferences Top 10 teams were in action last night and unfortunately for our beloved Phoenix Suns pretty much all of the relevant players in our part of the race reigned victorious. Here are last night's results:

Los Angeles Lakers 93, New Orleans Hornets 91: Kobe didn't play again but the Hornets are like really, really bad at basketball. Something called a Devin Ebanks started in the place of the guy who once scored 81 points in a game and the Lakers were carried by Pau Gasol's 25. NOLA actually led this game by 8 with 6:03 to play in the game but then forgot to keep scoring. The win helped LA create some separation from their Staples Center roommates for the Pacific Division crown.

Oklahoma City Thunder 109, Milwaukee Bucks 89: The Oklahoma City Preening We Refuse to Act Like We've Been There Beforers (rolls off the tounge nicely) opened up a 35-18 first quarter gash on Milwaukee and never looked back. Monta Ellis shot 3-12 for the Bucks and, in surprise news - Monta Ellis only shot 12 times in a game. Russell Westbrook led the winners with 26 points and probably puffed his chest out and did some sort of faux tough guy face on all of his 11 baskets.

Memphis Grizzlies 94, Los Angeles Clippers 85: Somebody woke the Grizzlies from their bear sleep and they've won 8 of their last 10 while tallying wins over Miami, Oklahoma City, the Clips, Lakers, and probably the 1986 Celtics. Marc Gasol led this balanced effort with 18 points and 5 other Grizzly professional basketball players scored in double figures. Blake Griffin had 19 points but probably no highlight dunks otherwise you'd have seen them 697,426 times by now.

Denver Nuggets 123, Golden State Warriors 84: My effort level for this paragraph will reflect that of the Golden State Warriors. Uh, Denver won by a lot, avenging a loss from last week. Danilo Gallinari came back but Al Harrington tore his meniscus probably. That's it.

Phoenix Suns 114, Minnesota Timberwolves 90: You all know what happened in this game and if you don't then just scroll down or click this link: Recap

Utah Jazz 91, San Antonio Spurs 84: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker all sat this one out. In not so breaking news, the Spurs aren't as good without Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. "Former All-Star" Devin Harris (yes the quotes were necessary as unless you remember seeing it then it didn't happen) led the Jazz with 25.

Houston Rockets 94, Portland Trail Blazers 89: Anyone know who Portland's head coach is without googling it? Didn't think so. If you didn't figure it out from having Seth Pollack ram it down your throat repeatedly - Goran Dragic has developed quite nicely for the Rockets and he led them again last night with 22 points and 7 assists. Portland played both Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn last night, which would indicate to me that they weren't trying that hard.

So where does that leave everything? Here are your standings for April 10th, 2012:

Western Conference Standings:

TEAM W L PCT GB L10 STREAK
1. Oklahoma City
42 15 .737 - 7-3 WON2
2. San Antonio
40 15 .727 1
9-1 LOST 1
3. LA Lakers
36 22
.621 6.5 6-4 WON 1
4. LA Clippers
34 23
.596 8
8-2 LOST 1
5. Memphis
33 23 .589 8.5 8-2 WON 3
6. Houston
32 25 .561 10 7-3 WON 4
7. Dallas
31 26 .544 11 4-6 LOST 2
8. Denver
31 26 .544 11
5-5 WON 1

- SUNS

30 27 .526 12 7-3 WON 2
- Utah
30 28 .517 12.5
4-6 WON 1

See what I was saying about things being tight? They totally are. Almost no room for error for any of the teams listed above. Tonight's schedule is pretty light:

April 10th Western Conference Games (that are relevant):

Sacramento Kings @ Dallas Mavericks: The Kings are 5-23 on the road this season, so barring a complete collapse from Dallas I'd expect to lose a half game to the Mavs tonight. On the plus side for Suns fans, this is the last game the human sacrifice that is the Sacramento Kings has with anyone in the 6th through 10th spots in the West.


Telfair is improving by the game. Keep it up, Bassy! Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Is Sebastian Telfair one of the best backup point guards to Steve Nash since Nash returned to the Suns in 2004?

He certainly has played well recently, most notably in big wins this past week over the Jazz (9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and a block), Lakers (13 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals) and Timberwolves (14 points, 7 assists, 2 steals and a block), all in about 20 minutes a game.

Telfair is one of the Suns' most improved players since the All-Star break, producing more points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks each game while shooting at a higher percentage in those all-important minutes when Nash is resting.

He is feisty on defense, creating havoc for the ball-handler and producing steals at a high rate. And now he is being more aggressive each game, making his presence known in the second and fourth quarters. As a unit, the Suns second team has begun to produce winning results, staking the starters to a 4th-quarter lead in nearly every game lately against stiff competition.

Building on a lead is important for the second unit, considering Nash and Co. don't always come back as fresh in the second and fourth quarters as when they started each half. Telfair's unit has helped the Suns in the win column as well, contributing to the 18-8 run since just before the All-Star break.

But where does Bassy rank in terms of Nash's other backups these last few years? Hit the jump to find out.

Below is a table from basketball-reference.com showing all the backups to Steve Nash since 2004, broken down by season, for players who appeared in at least 10 games. Not a distinguished list, to be sure.

You'll see fan favorites Leandro Barbosa and Goran Dragic at the top of the list, of course. But you'll also see guys like Zabian Dowdell, Eddie House, Ronnie Price, Marcus Banks and Aaron Brooks.

Suns-backups_medium

Leandro Barbosa was by far the Suns best backup PG, and he wasn't even really a point guard! At least some of his minutes each game since 2004-05 were played at shooting guard alongside Nash. Eddie House ranks high as well, despite not being a true PG either.

And while Aaron Brooks is fairly reviled on this board as an undersized shooting guard, his assist rate as the Suns' backup PG last year was higher than any Suns backup PG since Nash returned to the Valley. By far.

It is really difficult to back up Steve Nash because Nash has a unique and highly effective style that teammates love because he sets them up so well for easy scores. Any backup pales in comparison, especially if they try too hard to imitate the Nash Rambler, and generally take a long time to acclimate themselves into a successful role. Take a look at the first season for each of those guys in Nash's shadow, all clustered at the bottom of the list.

A couple more things jump out at me on this list:

  • The Suns have never given the backup PG a real chance to shine. Other than Barbosa, not one of them started more than 5 games in a season, or averaged even close to 20 minutes a game. And many of Barbosa's starts were at shooting guard.
  • The best backup PGs have been, in order: Barbosa, Dragic then Brooks.
  • Telfair is possibly the best of the rest of journeymen that follow those three.
So, is Sebastian Telfair the best backup ever? No.

Is he better than Price, Banks, Dowdell and House? Yes.

Is he holding his own in each game, while Nash is resting? Yes.

While I was not excited about Telfair as the Suns' backup this season, he has really held his own this season and is improving by the week. He plays both ends of the court, and brings a certain swagger to the team. It's taken him only half a lockout-shortened season to find his game, and now he is producing at a high clip for the Suns most every night.

Let's hope he can keep it up for the last 9 games while the Suns earn themselves a playoff spot.

Once again, opposing teams are shaking their heads at the Suns' depth, wondering how the Suns are playing so darn well with such a journeyman squad. Most of them credit all of the Suns' wins to Nash, but really you have to spread the credit to the rest of the team and the coaching staff.

And maybe even a sprinkle of credit goes to the Suns' front office for signing Shannon Brown, Michael Redd and Sebastian Telfair for less aggregate salary than Josh Childress makes this season.


Because watching the Phoenix Suns dismantle the Minnesota Timberwolves was so much fun the first time, why not re-live the highlights.



Even the Timberwolves dancers are cheering for Grant.

(SB Nation Arizona, Seth Pollack) It's pretty hard to keep Grant Hill off the court. Over the last few years this has been a running joke with Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry who "battles" with his aging star to even limit Grant's floor time in practice. So it's no surprise to hear that Hill is close to returning to the court for the Suns just a few weeks after having the meniscus in his knee repaired on March 30.

During the ESPN broadcast of the Suns win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, Hill said that he would like to play as soon as Saturday in San Antonio. He admitted, however, that the team would probably like to wait a bit longer.

The Arizona Republic is also reporting that Monday's home game against the Portland Trail Blazers is a more realistic target date. Here's an update on Hill's rehab from the Republic:

Suns' Grant Hill could return next week vs. Portland
Hill went through a rigorous pregame workout Monday night of plyometics, sprints and shooting that had him drenched in sweat. Earlier Monday, Hill did a workout of lateral basketball movements for the first time.

Complicating matters to some small degree has been the performance of the team without Hill. The Suns are 5-3 since Grant last played and 5-1 over their last six games. Shannon Brown and Michael Redd have stepped up and played well.

Brown, as a starter in place of Hill, is averaging 17.4 points in 10 games as a starter and shooting an efficient 45 percent from the field. He's also handling the ball more and dishing assists and playing well within the flow of the offense.

Hill, however, is still a premier perimeter defender and will almost certainly return to the starting lineup when ready although it's possible that his minutes will be limited depending on match ups and game situation.


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