The Phoenix Suns don't have nearly as much talent as a lot of other teams in the NBA. This is no secret, even Steve Nash said as much both before the season started and more recently after the Suns lost at home to the Toronto Raptors.
As Steve said, the Suns are going to have to "find a little magic and our chemistry and cohesion" to win games.
Instead of chemistry, cohesion and magic, they've seemingly given up the ghost, thrown in the towel and through their play screamed, "no más".
This team got blown out on the road by Portland prompting Grant Hill to say after the game that the team "rolled over". They managed to bounce back and barely beat the Grizzlies at home showing some faint memory of pride, and then completely tanked against the Mavericks in a game where the defensive intensity was laughable.
That lack of effort carried over to the first half of the Hornets game where players of dubious NBA pedigree torched the Suns in the paint before the team rallied like a once proud, but now dying tiger to lash out a final time.
If you want to see what the difference between a team playing hard and a team going through the motions looks like, watch the two halves of that game.
The real test came Friday night. What kind of team is this? Would that second half carry over and at least spark some sort of competitive result?
No. The Suns rolled over again for the third (and a half) time in their last five games.
Here's a sample of what the leader of this fine team said after the loss in Houston:
Rockets' balanced scoring attack cripples Suns
"When you play this team, you've got to play grown-man basketball," Gentry said. "We didn't do that. We got pushed around."
"I wasn't pleased with anything that our team did tonight. I wasn't pleased with one thing that we did. There's no bright spots. There's no moral victories. There's no anything. We have to play to win basketball games, and we've got to do a much, much better job than what we did. We've got to get the energy level up, and that's on me."
"I'm the coach. I'm supposed to make them play hard, and I will."
You can forgive a bad game here or there. You can understand, especially this season with this schedule, that teams aren't going to "bring it" each and every night.
But what the Suns are showing us is the opposite. They're showing us that they're a team that can only be bothered to fight for a half a game here, or for the occasional game there after a particularly bad performance.
That's the sign of a team that's given up on themselves and their season.
Some of you might be happy with that -- the more losses they have the better their chances in the NBA lottery. But there's a difference between playing hard and getting beat by a better team and not showing up to play at all. Most fans can understand the first but will never forgive the second.
That's what we are seeing right now and if it continues, Robert Sarver will have to pull the trigger and make a change. Losing is one thing, not even trying to win is an entirely different and unacceptable matter.
The entire organization needs to look in the mirror and figure this one out.
Marcin Gortat, starting center for the 8-14 Phoenix Suns, appears to be the Rodney Dangerfield of NBA centers. His raw and advanced statistics scream for respect amongst his peers, but he didn't even get mentioned this past week as a player deserving of an All-Star spot!
To be fair, a team as bad as the Suns deserves no more than one all-star representative. If Steve Nash makes the squad as a reserve, I can understand Gortat getting hosed. But shouldn't he still be lamented on a national level as being snubbed?!
Andrew Bynum has been named the starter at C, so unless he suffers an injury he's going to make the team. Marc Gasol is generally considered the next best C in the West. After that, you've got journeymen (Sam Dalembert, Darko Milicic), the overhyped but clearly undeserving (DeAndre Jordan), and hybrids (Pau Gasol, Al Jefferson).
Let's looks deeper into the numbers to see whether Gortat is a top-2 center in the Western Conference.
(all player comparisons are performed using data from mySynergySports.com and basketball-reference.com)
Let's consider Andrew Bynum for a moment. According to mySynergySports.com, Bynum is a more effective isolation and post-up scorer than Gortat, a better rebounder and a better defender. I won't go into any further depth than this, since Bynum has already been voted the starter.
Marc Gasol is generally considered the next best center in the West, behind Bynum. How does he match up against Gortat?
Offensively, Gortat produces more points per possession (a play that ends with a shot, pass or turnover) on roughly the same number of touches, meaning that Gortat is a more proficient scorer. His field goal percentage is higher than Gasol on nearly every type of play.
The nature of their touches is dramatically different though. Gasol's touches are 45% isolations/post-ups (versus Gortat's 22%), while Gortat's touches are 45% p&r roll man/cuts (versus Gasol's 31%). So you can make the argument that Nash's passes make Gortat look better than he is. Marc Gasol also gets fouled in the act of shooting a lot more often than Gortat does (though they have similarly low number of 'and one' plays).
Defensively, Marc Gasol is a more-effective defender in nearly every category than Gortat. He gives up fewer points-per-possession overall (.66 vs .74), allowing a worse scoring percentage to the opposition on nearly every type of play (iso, post-ups, p&r roll man).
Gortat is the more proficient rebounder at least. He pulls down more rebounds per opportunity than Gasol. Normally, I'd say it's because the Grizzlies have better supporting rebounders than the Suns, thus reducing Gasol chances, but with Zach Randolph out that's not really the case. Plus, only Shawn Marion found a way to average double-digit rebounds on this team in the past 7 years, so let's give Gortat credit.
In summary, both guys are very good players. Gasol is a more-independent scorer and plays more effective defense, while Gortat rebounds a bit better. Neither is very pretty to look at, and neither draws oohs and ahhhs on their dunks. Gasol's team is in the playoff hunt, while Gortat's is not.
Looks to me like you have to give the edge to Marc Gasol for an all-star reserve spot as the second-best center in the West.
Gortat wipes the floor with the rest of the competition though.
Al Jefferson does not even compare favorably. Gortat produces a higher points-per-possession, better scoring percentages in nearly every category, is a better rebounder and better defender. Plus, Jefferson is really a forward playing center for his last two teams.
DeAndre Jordan? No. Jordan plays quality defense, but doesn't do anything else better than Gortat except for dunking lob passes.
No other Western Conference center comes close to the trio of Andrew Bynum, Marc Gasol and Marcin Gortat. Unfortunately, for all-star considerations, Marcin Gortat comes in a solid 3rd.