The Mavericks will play the Suns on their second night of a back to back so it's safe to say that Phoenix will win this game, right? I mean, The Suns will even play at home.
The above statements are the ones who I'd love to use in a non-sarcastic tone of voice when talking about the Suns. We all know they can lay an egg any given night no matter who they play against or under what circumstances. It will be a great test for this squad to play against one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
The Dallas Mavericks and Steve Nash have a history; expect to hear that like a thousand times during tonight's broadcast. Steve and Dirk are best friends, we know that too. One thing I can tell you though is that playing basketball against your long time buddy is a really cool experience.
This wouldn't be a P-Sun game preview if it didn't include one of my stories so guys bear with me. And you ladies out there bare with me. I love this so called English language.
When I was in the States in elementary school I fell in love with basketball. I became so obsessed with it that I wouldn't sleep at night only to practice my dribble in my bedroom. At one point my dad was so pissed that he hid my basketball for a week. I do not remember ever crying as much as I did during that whole week. You see, my dad always wanted me to play soccer. Before I was born, he was on his way to play in Brazil in a semi pro league when he busted his knee so I guess he was trying to live his dream through me. Big mistake, I couldn't kick a soccer ball even if my life depended on it and besides I just hated the sport. When we came back to Panama he realized I was really good at basketball and reluctantly started to come to my games. And this is where I met my best friend (at the time) Luis. Both of us were 14 years old, we had similar skills but always played for the same team. Same high school, same Panama National Team at the age of 16. We pushed each other to our basketball limits. If he trained 3 hours I would train 4. If he made 25 free throws in a row I would have to make 30.
Luis, being born in Panama but with Costa Rican parents had a double nationality and chose to play for Costa Rica once he was called by their coach who had previously shown interest in him. He moved with his parents to San Jose and we tried to keep in touch but eventually didn't.
Why would he go to a significantly weaker team? To be the man? To play against me at some point? He was granted both wishes 7 months later. We played in an exhibition match that was everything but friendly. I played my heart out; I wanted to beat him so bad.
I was pissed that he had left to play somewhere else and wanted to show him we didn't need him. That I didn't need him. We both played well but he played better. They beat us and I felt miserable. At the same time I was happy for him, he had found a place where he could shine and run the team. It was a strange mix of feelings.
I have to agree with Michael Jordan here, playing with your friends is not nearly as fun as playing against them. You want to beat those guys, not play on the same team with them. Playing against them brings the beast best out of you.
Enough of my stories! Let's talk Mavs Vs Suns after the jump!
The Mavericks will look for their 13th win in 14 games and not even that stat describes how good their team is playing.
The addition of Peja gives them a sharpshooter who helps them spread the floor. He scored 12 points in last night's win against the Kings. Another headache for the Suns will be Rodrigue Beaubois. He played his first game last night after missing 54 games with a fractured left foot. After a couple of back to back turnovers he settled down and ended up scoring 13 points and ditching 6 assists.
The Mavs have beaten the Suns six out of the last seven games these teams have played while averaging 113.8 points 50% shooting. So yeah, it's safe to say the Suns are the Mavs' bitch.
We all know their weapons too well for my liking. Dirk is a match up nightmare. Tyson Chandler protects the rim as well as anyone in this league. You got guys like Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson chasing everyone around in the perimeter. They have the luxury of bringing a guy like Jason Terry off the bench who can light it up at any moment. Their depth is ridiculous. They can rest their 38 year old point guard for the playoffs. JJ Barea pisses me off so much because he is that good.
But... we have all seen this before. A Dallas team who seems unbeatable in the regular season but still has to prove everyone (and themselves) that they can make it happen in the playoffs.
As for the Suns, we can say that they are playing decent basketball. The bench is a cause of concern to say the least. They are unable to keep a lead let alone extend it. If Gentry keeps giving Nash more minutes on the court he will regret it if they make the playoffs. This is a problem that needs to be fixed and fast. Whoever plays better, whether is Dragic or Dowdell, needs to be given the opportunity to lead the second unit. As simple as that.
It will be interesting to see how Gentry tries to counter Dallas' size. Will we see a Robin- Marcin lineup at some point? You can certainly expect Grant Hill on Dirk and maybe Dudley to give Dirk different looks.
Nowitzki averages 28.9 points and 9.8 rebounds in his last 9 visits to the valley (Good Luck with that, Grant) while Nash is averaging 19.7 points and 11.6 assists against Dallas since joining the Suns in 2004.
So yeah, it's safe to say that playing against your buddy brings out the best of you.
If the Suns pull out a win, it will be a legitimate one. A good sign of things to come.
Josh Childress has been a name mentioned in some rumor circles that the Suns are looking to move by the trade deadline.
No thank you.
I understand we have a ton of wings... but Childress can and should be a vital part of the future of this organization. For the life of me I don't know why he would be on the trade block - and it frustrates the crap out of me that Vince Carter (regardless of what he is/is not doing), who is essentially a loaner/leach, or better, a byproduct of the Gortat/Pietrus trade is playing when I believe the Suns would have a better chance at winning day in day out with Childress playing the minutes Carter is sleeping through.
Here is my case for Josh Childress. Don't Trade Him. Play him more.
The Nostalgia Matrix
Recently after one of the games where Jared Dudley threw down one of his 2 or 3 dunks of the season, Steve Nash was asked in a post game interview where he (Dudley) ranked among Nash's all time most explosive targets to pass to over the years.
Jokingly, Steve responded (something like this),
"Well without a doubt a doubt I'm going to have to say Shawn Marion was number one... then Amare, then Jared Dudley - he's a beast."
It was a funny joke and I chuckled. But then I cried.
Ah Shawn Marion.... he was my favorite member of the Suns during the Nash/Marion era [2004-2008]. I miss him as most of us do - it was his tireless and consistent effort every game, his explosiveness to the rim, his nose for the ball, his quick second, third, and sometimes fourth jumps on the glass and scrapping for loose balls that won me over. Those are probably the very same things that makes Steve Nash, without hesitation, drop his name when asked the question above.
Though he was one of my favorites... I won't lie and say don't feel a small grain of satisfaction when I see him struggle without Nash and away from Phoenix considering the circumstances under which he was shipped out of town. But still - Shawn Marion was himself an element of the essence of the revolutionary style that embodies Phoenix Suns Basketball. Chew on that.
What Shawn Marion brought to the table here in Phoenix is something we've missed and really haven't been able to replace since his departure. With 'Gang-Rebounding', Gortat, and the development of some players like Channing Frye for example - we've been able to improve our rebounding issues... but we still struggle to reclaim the consistent hustle-play-born possessions and offensive rebound-possessions that Marion manufactured day in and day out.
I think that's why we all love Jared Dudley - he does those things... but it's not exactly the same. Help me out, but I'm concluding that it's because Jared Dudley is all 'below-the-rim'. That's impressive in it's own right, don't get me wrong - but it was just another dimension to the Suns arsenal when Shawn Marion could create those kind of hustle-plays above the rim and finish with power and authority - the kind of authority that injects adrenaline and confidence in teammates and fans alike that Jared's under-the-hoop scrap can't quite always duplicate.
All of this winded introduction relates to why I was so excited to hear that the Suns had signed Josh Childress this past off-season. If you've ever heard Josh compared to Marion it's usually because their jumpshot is of a very similar style... UGLY.
Let me remind you of Marion's 3 point shooting form.
Now take a look at Josh Childress' 3 point shooting form - since we have hardly seen Josh this year on the floor and only 9 times total from behind the arc...
You can see why Childress can be compared to Marion. But what also is interesting is that they both play the same way as well - both would much rather cut to the hoop and finish at the glass or banging on the rim if given the option. Childress plays with the same frantic effort - he has a similar nose for the ball, and a similar speed on his second and third jumps in the paint. Childress does not have the verticle that Marion had here in Phoenix - but in his own right he can jump out of the gym.
Another thing we have (maybe prematurely) surmised is that his defensive solidity is not quite what we had hoped. Meaning this is probably the main reason he is truely 'Shawn-Marion-Lite'. His ability to gaurd smaller, quicker gaurds isn't something we've seen him be able to really accel at... but then again, I feel he really hasn't been able to show what he can do when a) he's fully healthy and not nursing a badly broken finger and b) confident in his role as a consistent minutes player for the team. Those thing do make a difference.
So despite the somewhat initial defensive disappointment, we've seen that Childress can give us a big chunk of the offensive rebounds, blocks, the steals and overall scrappiness and above the rim action that Marion provided... and again, for the life of me I can't understand why he isn't playing more.
Why They Say it Might Not Work...
Okay - so I have a couple ideas as to why he's not playing. And if you're wanting to know who 'they' is, I don't know maybe I made this all up... but it makes sense to me.
He's not playing because Vince Carter is here - because Grant Hill is here - because Jared Dudley is here - and because Mickael Pietrus is playing. LOGJAM - HEEEEELLLO?
That's two spots and 4 guys - I love Grant Hill, I love Jared Dudley, I feel like Pietrus deserves minutes and I don't feel like Vince Carter should be playing. I know it sounds stupid - and I'd bet my liver that the Vince-lovers will be in full force to run Vinsympathy parties down my throat... but I'm not concerned.
I am of the opinion, as I mentioned before that Vince is a byproduct. He's like the annoying little dog that you have to inherit when you marry the hot super-model babe. The difference is, we won't have to wait forever for the little dog to die - later this year the Suns will pay him his guaranteed 4 Million and we'll be rid of him, maybe he'll retire.
Here's my logic for that opinion: We signed Childress to a 5 year 33M dollar deal - We will NOT pay Vince 18M to NOT lead the team in scoring.
Am I heartless? Maybe. Will the Suns do what I want? Probably not. Vince is an established pro and an All-Star, and I imagine it can't be representative of anyone's reputation here in PHX to be known as the dude/s who stuffed VC on the bench to wither and die. Maybe it's some kind of Basketball etiquette that I don't understand or just want to abrogate.
Regardless of whether or not Vince plays and Childress doesn't - but following my same above logic - it makes no sense to trade Childress right now. He's a young long-term asset.
He can't space the floor like the Suns and Steve Nash need since he doesn't shoot the 3 ball very well.
How do you know he can't shoot the 3 ball well? After his career night on Tuesday against the Utah Jazz where he nailed 5 3-pointers, Channing Frye said,
"I just went out there with confidence.. you know, when you shoot as many 3's as I do, you start to get good at it - just like if I were to write the letter 'A' a whole bunch of times, I'd be pretty good at writing the letter 'A' at some point".
Getting good at something, especially something like 3-point shooting is a matter of repetition and confidence.
Let's look at Shawn Marion as an example - why? Because he was a below-average 3-point shooter coming out of UNLV... then he was a below-average 3-point shooter in his first couple years here in Phoenix, but then what happened, because the Suns could all of a sudden play Marion and space the floor just fine for Steve Nash?
Oh - he became an average 3-point shooter, and partly that is enough to space the floor for a Steve Nash team.
It was because he started putting up more 3-point shot attempts - and you know what that is? Repetition. What did we say comes with repetition? Confidence. What happens when somebody is confident? They make ish happen.
Take a look a the graph below - you'll have to click and enlarge to soak it all in.
This Graph chronicles Shawn Marion's 3-point shooting career.
As you can see - he only took 22 shots his first year in the league, and of those he only netted 4 for a terrible 18.2 3P%... you'd never have guessed that with his ugly shot, and those horrible numbers that he'd turn into a legitimate though below average weapon from beyond the arc.
As his career went on he began taking more shots and consequently he made more and more and shot a higher percentage.
Now pay close attention to the years 2004-05 through 2007-08 because those are the years that Steve Nash was in town and the Suns made 2 trips to the Western Conference Finals, a trip to the Western Semi-Conference Finals, and an early exit in the first round of the playoffs the final year. For all 4 of those years - Marion averaged a 3-point shooting percentage of just about 33%. That is below average, yet it was enough to space the floor - that is my point.
Can Childress shoot around that mark from the 3-point line? I believe he can and here's why, check out his career 3-point shooting graph.
Though Childress has yet to attempt more than 100 3-point shots in a year - the trend is the same. The more shot attempts he gets up, the more he makes and generally the higher his percentage ends up.
He hasn't been given enough opportunity to play consistent minutes - it's got to be only that much harder to develop confidence in your 3-point shot when your confidence in playing time isn't even a constant. Now go back to Marion's graph... after his years in Phoenix - he went right back to virtually no 3-point attempts, and a horrible 3P%.
He must play more. That's the only way he can have the opportunity to space the floor - until he plays there is no reasonable argument that trumps mine here that can prove he would not be able to space the floor enough for our offense to click.
Enter Euty's Imagination
I broke down the 3-point shooting percentages of the starting line-ups for those 4 years that Nash and Marion ran the floor together. Here's what we have.
2004-05 [62-20 - Western Conference Finals]
Starting Line-Up -- 3-Point %
J.Johnson = .478 [This was a J.Johnson career high year 3P% - his career average is .369]
S.Marion = .334
S.Nash = .431
Q.Richardson = .358 [226/631 - Career high attempts by almost double the next closest year, looking at his career, in the years that Q does not come close to attempting 300 3-Point shots or more, his 3P% is VERY pedestrian]
A.Stoudemire = .188 [3/16]
In each of these year's we're just not even going to consider the 3P% from the Center position - Amare rarely shot threes, same with Kurt Thomas as we will see.
So let's take the average of the 4 other players on the floor and identify their collective 3P% as one of the main floor spacing mechanism that allows Steve Nash to drive and kick and effectively run the Pick and Roll with "pick your poison" consequences.
The 2004-05 collective average was the highest it's ever been in the Steve Nash era = .400
I think it should also be noted that almost every one of these teams has had 2 players off the bench who also shoot a threatening percentage from 3-point range. This year it was,
B.Diaw = .267 [8/30 - did not attempt many at all]
S.Marion = .331
S.Nash = .439
Kurt Thomas = .000 [0/0]
Funny thing about this team... really only 3 players with 3-point weaponry (including Marion's below average %)... yet floor spacing was not an issue at all.
The 2005-06 collective average = .370
L.Barbosa = .444
J.Jones = .386
2006-07 [61-21 - Western Conference Semi-Finals]
Starting Line-Up -- 3-Point %
R.Bell = .413
B.Diaw = .333 [ 15/45 - again, not a big 3P shooter]
S.Marion = .317
S.Nash = .455
A.Stoudemire = .000 [0/3]
Again - only 3 players needed shooting from the perimeter to space the floor.
The 2006-07 collective average = .380
L.Barbosa = .434
J.Jones = .378
2007-08 [55-27 1st Round Early Exist from the Playoffs]
Starting Line-Up -- 3-Point %
R.Bell = .401
G.Hill = .317
S.Marion = .347 [ His best year shooting from the perimeter with Steve Nash, after 3 years of sub-average shooting... he shot around the league average 3P%, more than enough to be considered a threat]
S.Nash = .470
A.Stoudemire = .161 [5/31]
This was the year Shawn Marion was traded and Shaq was acquired... Also we only had 1 real threat from the bench this year, L.Barbosa = .389.
The 2007-08 collective average = .384
NOW this brings us to our Starting Line-up for this year...
Starting Line-Up -- 3-Point %
V.Carter = .381 [45/118]
G.Hill = .388 [19/49 - doesn't shoot many... but on track for more than B.Diaw ever did in a year]
S.Nash = .411 [62/151]
C.Frye = .388 [112/289]
R.Lopez = .000 [0/0]
And from the BENCH
M.Pietrus = .325 [27/83]
J.Dudley = .379 [64/169]
As our line-up is currently - the 2010-11 collective 3P% is .392, that's second only to the amazing 2004-05 season 3P% of .400. We have a great line-up with 4 threats from the out-side... so here's the redundant argument made against Josh Childress - he can't shoot from 3 and subsequently doesn't space the floor enough for Steve Nash.... REALLY?
I've already expressed my opinion as to the fact that he should play more - and with more minutes he will shoot arguably more/better from the perimeter, just like we saw Shawn Marion develop.
But let's just take his shooting percentage from distance for what it is. As he stands, Childress currently has a career 3P% of .348.
The league average 3P% for this year is .359 which is the 6th highest it's ever been in 32 years of NBA 3-Point shooting. That means there are a lot of good 3-point shooters out there and Childress is just below average.
As my observations have pointed out - the Suns haven't always needed 4 players on the floor who can shoot from the perimeter in order for the floor to be spaced sufficiently. AND even when they only have 3 shooters on the floor - we've seen that (Shawn Marion) one of those players can have sub-par shooting percentages and still create the stir needed to keep players at home defending shooters and consequently space the floor as needed for Steve Nash.
If we plunk Josh Childress in for Vince Carter...
J.Childress = .348
G.Hill = .388
S.Nash = .411
C.Frye = .388
R. Lopez = .000
The collective 2010-11 3P% could/would be = .384
So now please tell me how Josh Childress can't space the floor as a member of the Phoenix Suns? Try me.
One concern is that Hill and Childress are similar in style - both slashing cutting wings... and that they are both wings as well is a concern. But as we've seen all too well, Grant Hill is more than capable of gaurding younger/smaller guards in this league, while Josh could take the SF - I don't defensive matchups as quite the problem. I do see the offensive potential as appealing - with Childress on the floor with Grant Hill, Josh and Hill can rotate either crashing the glass or leaking-out on the break as we know Hill (and possibly Chilly) can do best. Childress would be a much better rebounder than Vince Carter or a majority of the gaurds we could imagine on our team - plus his natural nose for the ball and quick elevation would benefit the team by providing more offensive rebounds and 2nd chance points.