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We at Bright Side of the Sun realize that game threads are highly emotional places whereby people are free to express their glee, disappointment, melancholy, alcoholism, and hatred for all basketball things L.A. and San Antonio. And while many comments are made in the moment and don't necessarily reflect the core beliefs an individual, some comments are spot on-brilliant and or unanswerable. Or, at least provide some thought provoking insight.
As our boys EBR and PHXgp so aptly put it in their recent writing, the Suns are doing well at sucking right now. And while there is really no formula to turn it around (other than a time machine and Air Bud or Teen Wolf), there is still plenty for us all to talk about. Jump that thing and check out what thought provoking comments some of you left last night in the game thread along with this hack's thoughts:
"This team is underperforming given the schedule."
False. I don't buy this statement one bit. The free agents brought in this season had a shortened training camp and preseason to deal with. That's a standard argument for why some guys are having slow starts, we get it. A free agent needs time to learn the system and teammates, coaches, schemes, plays, philosophies, right? Right. The Sebastian Telfairs and Shannon Browns are struggling out of the gate. Michael Redd, clearly he's going to take time if ever catches on. But Sun veterans like Childress, Warrick, and Lopez are having trouble as well. Why?Because these guys are simply mediocre players at best.
There are plenty of examples of teams around the league that have been able to assimilate free agents and new acquisitions. One obvious case was the Heat. Granted you have two of the best players in the league on that team, which makes this analogy greatly exaggerated, but it fits my point: Good players can pick up the intricacies of their new squad in less time. They have the physical talent and mental makeup to do so. Their assimilation tends to be near seamless. If there are struggles, they don't take more than a half season.
What the Suns have been doing for two seasons is picking up mediocre talent (talent which they can afford), asking them to play out of position (Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick to name two) while expecting Steve Nash to make them successful. Asking Channing Frye to be a banger down below has worked out slightly better in spurts, but again, it's asking someone to play the type of game they haven't been asked to do before. Not only do they need to change and adapt to their new expectations, they need to adapt to a new team and all that goes with it. That is a lot to ask for anyone.
As much as these losses are frustrating, and watching the Suns not being able to make a basket while they are able to defend (sporadically) is perplexing for us-this team's combination of talent (or lack thereof), age, and free agents equates to a team that can win on any given night and lose on any given night. This equates to mostly optimism which ultimately equates to frustration when the team ultimately fails...So who is beatable? The 3-10 New Jersey Nets? Well, not when you let Deron Williams go for 35 and you don't have a man to go to down the stretch...The Lakers? When they out rebound and defend you well and Kobe goes for 48? Which Sun is going to match that output? What Sun is going to defend those two when they go apesh*t? Which leads us to the next statement:
"This team is void of talent outside of Nash and Gortat"
Basically true. Why not change this statement to this team is void of consistent performers outside of Nash and Gortat? Is anyone putting up numbers at the top of the WC other than these two? Do any Suns belong on the All-Star ballot other than these two? No.
I discussed this a bit above. No one has brought it every night like these two. Not with effort and results. We know Dudley mentally brings it every night, but it doesn't mean he's going to put up the numbers, he physcially isn't talented enough. Channing Frye, like most shooters, runs hot and cold. He's been mostly cold this season with the exception of a couple of games. And to his defense, this is consistent for him to start out slow and or suffer through some awful streaks.
So who else is there? Grant's showing his age (finally), Robin Lopez is settling in to normal expectations, which leaves what? Hakim Warrick? Josh Childress? Shannon Brown? NO. Shannon Brown is a journeyman who has a couple of rings and Josh Childress is...well a truly likeable guy, but worthless as a wing in the Suns system which demands 3 point making ability.
Markieff Morris has proven a pleasant surprise, but as a rook not named LeBron, Amare, or Kobe, he's not going to take over a game and he can't be depended upon to do more than what he's doing. So yeah, not much consistency, not much talent.
"Current Management is Substandard, we wouldnt have this mess if Kerr was still here."
Again? The Sarver blame game? OK, let's play it.
Did Kerr bring Shaq to the desert and hire Terry Porter? Did he draft Earl Clark? Look, Kerr was a relatively new GM, he was smart enough to know the Suns wouldn't be very good without Amare, and that doesn't take much brain power. Kerr would make a great GM in LA or NY, places where he didn't have to watch the bank balance and was free to be the architect of a quality club. But by no means did the guy prove to be a top tier GM.
We love to harken back to the good old days with J. Colangelo as the owner and GM, and later Bryan as GM- guys who didn't make mistakes, right? Well there were some mistakes, yeah? Was anyone old enough to remember? DJ for Rick Robey? How about Hot Rod Williams for Dan Majerle? There were abysmal draft choices as well. But the thing with Colangelo was he was the first. He was endearing to the masses because he inevitbly made the franchise a winner. He was old school Chicago transplanted to the desert. He was there for the only Finals appearances for the Suns. He lived in Phoenix. Bryan Colangelo's exit was Sarver cleaning house of the Colangelo family name. Maybe it was a screw job, maybe not, but I don't see the Raptors tearing up the league. Regardless, let's move on, man, it's over and done with, like college.
We may never like Sarver, simply because he comes off as a cheap, arrogant, jerk. This is perception, it isn't necessarily fact, right? Who's had a nice long chat with the man? He may be a great guy, but we judge him on the quality of the team he puts on the floor. And that comes with the territory, so while I'm not going to say he's an awful ower, I won't defend nor do I feel bad for the man.
We may never know what Lance Blanks does, or how competent Lon Babby is. This group of guys just may find a way to pick up Westbrook, Howard, or Williams. Maybe. And then maybe some opinions (including my own) may change. 'Spose my point is Sarver may indeed be no good for Phoenix, but if you gave him 30+ years, like Colangelo had, maybe we can consider a "small sample size" argument.....OR, come to think of it, maybe it's a reflection of the times-instant gratification-billionaires buying sports teams to inflate their egos just a smidge more, expecting Wins and profit and, and, and....maybe the whole Colangelo atmosphere of family and continuity was something special we may never see again.
"AG has been making questionable decisions. He should settle into a 9 man rotation"
Maybe. This is an old one, and I like to answer this one with, "look at the 2009-10 squad." They were chosen by some to be an 8th seed or worse. In fact they were out of the conversation altogether by those guys over in Connecticut and Hawaii. Instead the Suns nearly made the Finals. Yes there was Amare, healthy Steve and Co. But Gentry kept that squad cohesive and believing. He's a player's coach, guys believe in him, enjoy playing for him, and he's fogotten so many X's and O's that it's not fair for any of us to rate his coaching expertise..But......
Is Gentry a good coach for this team? Future Suns teams? Personally I don't think Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich could coach this team into a winner. That's just me. Gentry's been dealt a crappy hand for the past two years. I think it only fair for the suits to judge Gentry once they get the talent on a team capable of making a run in the playoffs.
As for the rotation...Adjustments are being made. The Suns began the season with J Chill in the rotation, Warrick ready to contribute, Lopez pushing Gortat for the starting nod, and healthy versions of both Hill and Nash. Well, everything changes, yeah? How do you solidify a rotation when guys are hurting, tired, not performing, or needing more floor time to pull it together? You can't just take guys like Shannon Brown, Josh Childress, Jared Dudley, and Channing Frye and give them inconsistent minutes. These are guys that rely on their rhythm to contribute. Is Shannon Brown a Pietrus-level chucker? Probably. But when your offense is as inconsistent as the behavior of your Vicodin addicted cousin, what do you do? These guys need court time, Frye will be Frye, and in the case of the newcomers, the Suns simply don't know what is going to lead to W's and what won't. Not after 12 games.
"When do the Suns make a trade? Should Nash be traded?"
If the Suns shit the bed during this road trip, I would say Lon and Co. start making phone calls immediately (if they haven't already). Losing 8 in a row will keep the fan base at home or increase revenues on alcohol sales during games. Maybe both. Then you're dealin' with a drunken angry mob trying to break into the corporate suites and stealing hot dogs and tater tots. The heat will be turned up on Sarver and Gentry, and there's a good chance the Suns go Indy Colts and play for 2012. On the blocks:
Steve Nash is not wired to jump in the life raft on a sinking ship. The only way he goes is if he wanted to-which is what the Suns brass says all the time. They won't shop him unless he is OK with it, and the return, along with some added pieces results in a Howard, Williams, (whoever-we aint rosterbating here) or high draft pick.
I don't think Lopez is healthy. His production is off, his energy is off, his body language, everything compared to the first few games is....OFF. But if he's healthy now, and somehow he's still not getting it, he needs the proverbial change of scenery. And the return for an early 20 something, healthy, big man could be lucrative.
Warrick, Chill and Brown could be pieces of a larger deal. On their own, they don't get much return. Brown only stopped in for a year to get his stats inflated playing next to Nash, so that's no big deal. Hak had a great training camp. So what? Frye is a luxury-when he proves to be a luxury. When he can't hit from beyond the arc, well, you start off 4-8 and end up much worse. I love Dudley like everyone loves Dudley. But he's by no means untouchable on this team. If it takes Dudley and others to net star power, you make the deal.
So who is untouchable? Gortat, unless you trade him for Howard (hahahahahaha), and Markieff Morris. The Suns have finally found a serviceable big man. Ain't no way they're letting him go unless the return is a windfall. Morris is evidence that the current FO aren't totally inept and have evidence to show everyone they can make a good draft choice.
These are strange times, to put it nicely. The Suns evidently have a lot of dough to spend next year, but there's no guarantee that whatever happens this off season is going turn the Suns into the machine we're used to seeing. Who's the PG of the future? And if you get him, do you sign Nash as a backup? Does he love Phoenix enough to play backup? He's still great, but he's not going to last carrying a team like this on his back for 30+ minutes a game ever night out. And the true rebuild only comes when he is gone or not the saving grace of the team.
Is Markieff your starting PF? We are all looking for Amare Stoudemire production from our big 4. Markieff's game is very disimilar to Amare's, but maybe the production on offense could come from Russell Westbrook or Deron Williams. We do not know. There's a whole lot we do not know. What we do know is that excitement is in store. The team cannot stand as they are for much longer. And whether it be now, the trade deadline, or the coming offseason, planet orange is in for a world of change.
The Suns entered last week with the biggest win of the season under their belt, a 102-77 dismantling of a Portland Trailblazers squad that had rolled into town with a 5-1 record. A 109-93 thumping of the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday gave the Suns hope going into a showdown with the rival Lakers, but a Kobe Bryant supernova performance in LA foreshadowed a gigantic crash as the Suns two-game homestand featured losses to the mediocre Cavs and lowly Nets before a difficult 5-game road trip started with a loss to a Spurs team missing Manu Ginobili.
Hope and a 4-4 record gave way to injuries and 4-game losing streak, dropping the Suns to 4-8 and a tie for the #11 position in the West with upcoming road games against the Bulls, Knicks, Celtics and Mavericks.
This was a rough week, and things figure to get worse before they get better. Read on for more of the gory details.
Record for the week (January 8-15): 1-4
Average Score: Opponents 101.0, Suns 95.2
Losing to the Lakers and Spurs on the road is excusable. Losing to the Cavs and Nets at home? Not so much. And it isn't as if we can point to one or two issues that are the cause of the problems; there are plenty to choose from. Against the Lakers, Kobe had one of his tremendous scoring performances and the Suns offense collapsed down the stretch. Cavs star rookie Kyrie Irving victimized us against Cleveland, then our elderly team leaders Steve Nash and Grant Hill missed the Nets game due to minor injuries, and the Nets shot the lights out from behind the arc. And the Spurs.....well, the Spurs are simply a better team than us. Shooting, defense, rebounding, lack of a go-to scorer late in games and age have taken turns as the fatal flaws with the team.
Western Conference Position: 11th (tied)
What's troubling when looking at the Western Conference standings is that the following teams are virtual shoo-ins to make the playoffs: Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets. That's six playoff spots. Then there are the Blazers, who have cooled since their fast start but still figure to be strong players in the mix, and the Utah Jazz, off to a surprising 8-4 start behind deep frontcourt play and defense. Who among those teams can the Suns realistically be expected to pass for a playoff spot?
Offensive Rating: 103.2 (13th out of 30), PPG: 93.8 (19th out of 30)
The Suns offense started to perk up with high output nights against the Blazers and Bucks, but came back down to earth during the losing streak, and the team still has only three players averaging double figure scoring with Marcin Gortat's measly 14.3PPG leading the way.
Through twelve games, the Suns have only scored 100+ points four times. Remember when the Nash-led Suns used to blow the doors off teams with relentless scoring? Those days are in the past, and there are plenty of reasons for that. Our wings are poor shooters and generally not NBA starter quality players. Gortat continues to improve his mid-range shot and post game and has been our most dependable threat, but Channing Frye is as inconsistent as ever. Markieff Morris has been a mixed bag as well, to be expected from a rookie.
Defensive Rating: 104.8 (23rd out of 30), PPG Allowed: 95.3 (17th out of 30)
Unfortunately, after a strong defensive start, this is closer to what we're used to seeing and, while the Suns have shown flashes of improved defensive play, breakdowns persist and the Suns last three opponents scored over 100 points while their star players (Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams and Tim Duncan) all exceeded their PPG averages playing against the Suns.
Pace: 90.9 (20th out of 30)
The Suns are not pushing tempo the way they were in their heyday, and the way coach Alvin Gentry claims they still want to with this team. The uptempo game has been the Suns identity throughout the Nash era. What is the team's identity now?
Game of the Week: Suns 109, Bucks 93
It seems like so long ago that the Suns blew the Milwaukee Bucks out 109-93 on January, 8th in Phoenix behind the double digit scoring of seven players and 56% shooting from the field. Of course, the Bucks are a team that a.) had played the Clippers in LA on the previous night and b.) hadn't beaten the Suns in Phoenix since Reagan was president, but the Suns dominated this game from the beginning and led the Bucks by 25 points going into the fourth before emptying the bench.
Stud of the Week: Marcin Gortat
Marcin Gortat has been a solid defender and rebounder since joining the Suns, and his offensive game has continued to progress. Over these last 5 games, he averaged 18.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game on 64.7% shooting. Those right there are all-star numbers, as he's playing better since the splint was removed from his thumb. We finally have a center! Now, can somebody please consistently help the Polish Hammer out?
Dud of the Week: Grant Hill
Remember the last couple of years when we marveled at how Grant Hill looked like an athlete 5-10 years younger than he is? Well, this year's edition of Grant Hill looks every day of his 39 years and 103 days of age. He had his best offensive performance of the year against the Bucks with 14 points on 6-11 shooting, then followed it up with a train wreck of a 1-12 shooting night as the Lakers dared him to take open shots. Then he injured his quad early in the Cavs game. Removing the one game he completely missed and the other he missed most of, Hill averaged 7.7 points, 1.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game on 32.1% shooting. Yes, he's been dinged up most of the season and his defense is still an asset but his offensive production is truly awful right now.
All in all, lots of holes on this team and a brutal stretch of games coming up. It was critical that the Suns come out of the gate strong and win their games against "beatable" opponents before this road trip, and that didn't happen. Time is running out quickly. At the end of this road trip, the Suns will have completed about 25% of their schedule (16 games out of 66) and are staring 4-12 or 5-11 in the face. Day of reckoning is approaching as hopes for the season fade fast. The Suns front office will soon be forced to make a lot of hard decisions about the future of this roster because the current mix isn't getting it done.