This isn't a franchise that's used to losing. The Phoenix Suns have had the unlucky fortune of being named the "Best franchise never to win a championship" in the NBA. Although the Suns have yet to reach the promised land, the Suns are still viewed as being one of the top franchises in the league. In fact, John Hollinger of ESPN ranks the Phoenix Suns as the 5th best NBA franchise overall, ahead of several teams who actually have trophies in their book case.
So when a historically successful and proud team like the Phoenix Suns suddenly fails to produce wins, struggling even against many of the lesser teams in the league, the inevitable finger pointing is soon to follow.
Ask a dozen people what they think is wrong with the Suns and you are likely to get a dozen different answers...I know, I've done it. While the opinions as to what the problem is and what should be done to fix it may vary, the fact of the matter remains constant. The Suns just aren't very good right now.
A bad team means poor ticket sales and low merchandise revenue. As I write this, the Suns now rank 21st in attendance...that's down from 15th last season. Not only that, but Suns' owner Robert Sarver has already stated previously that,
As long as Steve (Nash) and Grant (Hill) are here, I feel an obligation to be as successful as possible... (and) I don't know that I can sit there for four years and watch a terrible team play. I think we have too many good players to be terrible, even if we wanted to try and be terrible.
Well Sarver's not talking, and neither is anyone else in the Suns front office for that matter. But one thing's for sure, something is bound to happen soon to try to right the ship before US Airways Center starts looking like a ghost town.
Will the Suns make a trade soon to acquire more talent, or could head coach Alvin Gentry be the first to go?
Read on after the jump for more.
First, let's be clear, the lack of talent on this roster right now is no accident. The Suns have made a concerted effort to limit expensive free agent signings this season so they could enter into the free agency period of 2012 with plenty of cash to spend. The Suns are currently made up primarily of expiring contracts and one-year deals, with only 6 of the 13 players on the roster currently under contract for next season.
In the first 20 games of this shortened season, the Suns now stand with a record of 7-13. The Suns already have four to six (depending on how you look at it) bad losses on their books, and only two quality wins. The bad losses include defeats at the hands of the Hornets, Cavaliers, Raptors, Mavericks (Without Dirk Nowitzki), Bulls (Without Derrick Rose), and Nets (without Brook Lopez); and the only two quality wins were against the Trail Blazers and the Grizzlies...both of whom have winning records.
Because of this, many analysts and fans have begun to question whether or not the Suns' front office plan on making changes, and what their options are. While there's no doubt the Suns lack the talent they are accustomed to, there's still a sense that the Suns are under-performing even considering the players currently on their roster. Last season the Suns got off to another slow start but picked up considerably after the trade with Orlando. The changes that have been made to this team between this season and last season after we traded for Marcin Gortat have been minimal (and many would argue that our roster has actually improved), yet the team seems to be playing markedly worse.
Again, and this can't be stated enough, the front office does not want to take on more salaries and contracts that will bog them down when they try to make a play for a couple of high powered free-agents next summer. I'm guessing they want better production with the team they currently have in place...and I seriously doubt they foresaw this team being this bad.
This leads me to wonder if they will resist making any substantial trades at all, and if the head coaching position may be the first change made instead?
What do you think?
Nash would be a welcomed a readdition to a Suns squad that is 10-25 without Nash in his second tenure with the Suns. In 38 games against the Hornets, Nash has averaged 13 points and 9 assists. Nash has scored in double figures in 6 of the Suns last 8 games while averaging near 10 assists.
Wednesday the Suns face David Stern's 4-17 Hornets who are missing Eric Gordon and losers of 4 of their last 5. It would be nice to be able to sit Nash against the awful Hornets but Phoenix is in no position to be taking an team for granted, especially the Hornets who bested them opening night, 85-84.
In late December, 2010, then-newcomer and unproven Suns backup center Marcin Gortat committed the bold, controversial act of publicly and bluntly criticizing his teammates for poor defensive effort. Gortat had been a member of the Suns for less than 2 weeks when a 123-110 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers (at the time, a team with a worse record than the Suns) set him off to challenge his new teammates with statements such as:
"We have to be more serious about everything we do. When you pass through that door up front over there, this is time when you pack it in and are getting ready for the game or the practice. We got to read the scouting report, which guy likes to do what, and learn it. It's a lot of work."
Is it time for Gortat, now a team leader, to again speak up publicly about the sloppy lack of effort we've seen from the Suns this season?
As Seth Pollack noted at the time of Gortat's quote 13 months ago:
He specifically calls out his teammates for lack of preparation and attacks the very culture of the Phoenix Suns. This isn't a team used to wearing their game face all the time. This is a team who wants to play loose and have a positive, upbeat attitude.
Gortat was also indirectly but undoubtedly calling out team leaders Alvin Gentry, Steve Nash and Grant Hill. Who else had set this tone and culture that Gortat found unacceptable? For a team that had made the conference finals only 7 months prior, led by these same men, to be called out by a newcomer and a backup was a remarkable situation.
There was some immediate short-term success as the Suns held their next three opponents under 100 points, but old habits and better opponents returned and the Suns surrendered 132 points once in January of 2011, and 121 points two other times en route to a season total 25th place out of 30 in DRtg.
It can be said then, that Gortat's words didn't have much impact to the bottom line. Sadly, the Suns stink even worse overall since then and are about the same level of failure on defense. We can debate whether the Suns persistent defensive woes are due to scheme, simple lack of talent or lack of effort and intensity.
It's a combination of these things, but the Suns have lost 4 games out of 20 so far by at least 20 points, including 2 of the last 3. They've lost to fellow bottom-feeders the Raptors, Hornets, Cavs and Nets at home. We can say the Suns lack talent, need another scorer or two, etc. But is this roster truly only capable of winning 1 game out of 20 against a quality opponent, at home over a Blazers team that had played the night before?
Even the Warriors have been able to defeat the Bulls and Heat so far, the Wizards beat the Thunder, the Bucks beat the Lakers, etc. Yet the Suns have, nearly without exception, been destroyed when facing good teams. Are they truly giving maximum effort? Or are they starting to tune out the coaching staff and pack it in for the season, especially as soon as games get out of hand?
Back to Gortat, he also had this to say in December, 2010:
"I'm trying to get some rebounds and stops, but unfortunately there is not too many opportunities to rebound because the 76ers are scoring 120-something points. It is just frustrating. It is frustrating as hell; I'm not going to lie. It is a reality check for me, going from a team who is winning to a team who is losing and we are the worst defensive team in the league."
That frustration he felt right there is healthy. He wasn't used to being on a team where defensive collapses happen regularly, and didn't intend to become used to it. But, has he now become used to it after over a year on the Suns? Is he speaking out privately like this, but no longer publicly?
Gortat has been the most dependable Suns player this season, so there is no questioning his desire and effort to win. What I'd hate to imagine is that the fail all around him has numbed him to failure. I want it to still piss him off. Whether it would do the team any good or not, I'd be happy to hear Gortat rant about the BS happening around him on the team. And besides, the Suns look like they've already resorted to the "throw darts at the board and hope something works" stage of the problem-solving process this season, so what the hell? Why not?
Rant on, Marcin! I hope that you're mad as hell, because a lot of us fans certainly are.
Let's take a break from the misery that is the Phoenix Suns 2011-12 "No Fight" season where the team is 3-7 over their last 10 games with an average margin of loss of -15.6 and an average margin of victory of just 4.3. There's no fun to be found there, but fortunately we have Blake Griffin to ogle as he throws down a SAVAGE dunk on Kendrick Perkins.
Not surprisingly given our short attention span and the media's constant need to stir up trouble, Blake's dunk is already being called one of the best ever. Hold on, folks.
Does Griffin's dunk stand up to Dr. J's dunk over Michael cooper? No.
How about Kevin Johnson's dunk on Hakeem Olajuwon? Close, but no.
How about Jared Dudley's dunk over the rim? Duh.
Hit the jump and check them both out...
For my money, Amare's dunk is far better. It came in the fourth quarter of a close game and literally turned the tide and gave the Suns the win.
Game situation aside, Amare gets far more power on his dunk whereas Blake barely gets his finger tips on the rim. Both guys did go through a defender and Perkins is more formidable a road block than Tolliver, but Anthony had more force moving towards Amare while Kendrick was jumping straight up.
No contest, Amare's dunk wins...and also makes us remember just how much fun this Suns team used to be.