The Phoenix Suns travelling contingent visited St. Jude's Children Research Hospital in Memphis, TN on Monday December 2nd while in town for a matchup against the Grizzlies the following day.

One of the benefits (and I do see it as a windfall) of being a professional athlete is the advantage of possessing more resources than most do to use in helping others.  From the benefits of affluence to the investment of something as simple as time, athletes are in a uniquely serendipitous position to bring joy to other people's lives. Professional sports organizations, more specifically the NBA, and most specifically the Phoenix Suns are also thoroughly committed to making a concerted effort to help others.

Everyone in Phoenix knows about the organization's continued effort to give back and build the community. From Suns in the Community to Phoenix Suns Charities, to local hospital visits and involvement in a number of other community programs the Suns are firmly entrenched in people's lives in the Valley.  But were you aware of the assiduity of the team in giving back at every opportunity, even on an off day on a road trip?

The Suns dropped by St. Jude's Children Research Hospital as part of the Hoops for St. Jude campaign, a partnership between NBA Cares and St. Jude.  The hospital treats children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases, but unlike other hospitals that only provide treatment for children it is also a research facility that has made great advances in contributing to pediatric cancer survival rates in the U.S.

The Memphis Grizzlies are also involved with the hospital and helped build a short term stay facility, aptly named the Memphis Grizzlies House, that can house up to 100 families a night while children receive care at the hospital. Check on St. Jude's page for more information about their mission and ways to help. Residents of Phoenix are probably familiar with PCH, Phoenix Children's Hospital, which is a huge part of our community like St. Jude's is to Memphis.

I would like to assert that trips like these do make a difference and leave a mark, as I was personally visited by the Gorilla in a Phoenix hospital as a five year old after sustaining a knee injury that had doctors concerned I might lose my leg.

As shown in the photo, all the Suns' horsemen and all the Suns' men were in attendance.  Of course, this included starting power forward Channing Frye.

"It's huge," said Frye.  "I think any time you look at the opportunity we have to play basketball and the chance we have to give back I think it's a great chance for us to give back to kids.  When kids are sick it just kills you.  When you have kids you never want to see them hurt or injured.  We're just appreciative of this great organization that gives us a chance to give back and see those kids."

Channing is speaking from firsthand experience as his daughter was born with cataracts in both eyes and has gone through care that has partially restored her vision.

But Frye was just a small part of a large group.  Here is coach Jeff Hornacek teaching some kids the finer points of the pick and roll and the value of the corner three.  They all appear to be picking up on it rather quickly, too.  I don't see any of these future all-stars missing defensive rotations.

Jeff_hornacek_reading_to_st

I encourage everyone to find a way to give back as we head into the holidays... and beyond. Being around the Suns organization, I can tell you these guys really do go out of their way to help in any way they can.  But everyone can make a difference.  I have always liked the aphorism, "I may not be able to do great things, but I can do small things in a great way."  Well, even all of those small things add up and sometimes they're really not small at all.

The Suns had a good week, going 2-1 overall which included beating the Houston Rockets on the road. So many different players had big contributions at various times...but who deserves to be named the "Suns Player of the Week"?

The Finalists

Eric Bledsoe aka "Crunch Time"

Weekly Stat Averages:

Points: 15.0 FG%: .525 Assists: 6.3 Rebounds: 3.0

After being out for six games from what I can only assume was the king of all shin bruises, Eric Bledsoe appears to be finally returning to form. Over his five games since returning to the Suns line-up, Bledsoe has had a few ups and downs, which is to be expected after missing so much time. However, he's starting to look more and more like himself...With his game against the Memphis Grizzlies being the only exception.

Still, Bledsoe gives the Suns an added element that they just can't get from anyone else. He has that kind of star quality that you see in marquee players, in which he seems to play his best in the biggest moments. Whether it's a buzzer beating three, or an acrobatic and-1 finish at the rim...Bledsoe has a knack for changing the momentum and finding a way to be the difference.


Goran Dragic aka "Scorin' Goran"

Weekly Stat Averages:

Points: 16.3 FG%: .489 Assists: 2.7 Steals: 2.0 Rebounds: 3.3

Dragic once again had the most consistent week of any Suns player...registering 16, 19, and 14 points, respectively, in the three games he played. Scorin' Goran continues to get it done with aggressive drives to the basket, and dare I say, Nash-like abilities to dribble circles around his man and pull big's out of the paint and score over the top of them.

The only thing missing from Dragic's game this week were the assists...something he excelled in during the time when Bledsoe was injured. This makes me wonder if he's struggling to run the offense the same way with Bledsoe sharing the duties, or if it's simply a matter of having the ball in his hands less and focusing more on scoring. However, Dragic continues to be the most consistent player on the team when it comes to his production overall, and he was once again the leading scorer for the team this week.


P.J. Tucker aka "Lock Down "

Weekly Stat Averages:

Points: 13.7 FG%: .427 3PT%: .500 Steals: 2.0 Rebounds: 7.0

P.J. Tucker may have had the best game of his career this week against the Houston Rockets...not just because of his 18 points on 8-13 shooting while going 2-2 from beyond the arc, nor his 6 rebounds (4 offensive), 4 assists, and 4 steals in his 40 minutes of play. Tucker's greatest achievement that night may have been the defensive vice-grip he squeezed James Harden into...all but taking him out of the game for most of the night, and limiting him to 3-17 shooting including 0-10 from three.

There's no doubt in my mind that Tucker was the best player on the court that night. His all-around game, and especially his defense were the reasons the Suns were able to marginalize the Rockets on the road, and beat them convincingly.



Honorable Mention:

Markieff Morris aka "The Philly Finisher"

Weekly Stat Averages:

Points: 14.3 FG%: .493 Rebounds: 7.7



The Player of the Week

P.J. Tucker

P.J. Tucker was the biggest difference for the Suns this week. How did he follow up his outstanding performance against the Houston Rockets? With another great performance against the Toronto Raptors in which he scored 18 points, and grabbed a team high 13 rebounds!

Tucker has been proving he is much more that just a defensive energy guy this season, with his current ranking as the 5th best three-point shooter in the entire league to prove it. However, it's his all-around game that I think impresses me the most about him. He's obviously worked very hard to become a threat from the corner three, and it's paying off for him big time...but he does a little bit of everything out there on the court, and has turned into one of the best overall players on the team because of it.

Poll
Who do you think deserves to be named the Suns' player of the week?

  332 votes | Results

PHOENIX — The question made him cringe almost as soon as it was asked. Minutes after scoring 18 points for a second consecutive contest in the Phoenix Suns’ 106-97 victory over the...

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It was not pretty, but the Suns collected another win over a bad team, which is what good teams are supposed to do.

It is hard to describe the Rudy Gay Experience live, which is why I feel for the writers of the Toronto Raptors (6-12) and sense a collective sigh of relief from the Memphis media contingent.

Almost all by himself, Gay made this Phoenix Suns (11-9) come to life.

From his off-balance jumpers, to making every offensive possession harder than it needs to be, all the way to one, two, no count it, THREE missed easy shots at the rim. Lay-ups and dunks have to go down for athletes like Gay, right? They did not tonight. This season Gay has been particularly inefficient on the offensive end (coming into tonight) taking 320 field goals to score 333 points. Tonight he went 15 from the field for 17 points in the loss.

Markieff was doing it defensively, offensively he was giving it too us so we stayed with him -Coach Hornacek

However, this was not the story of the game. Rudy Gay was one player that played his consistently inefficient brand of basketball, but the game was won in the paint.

Before the game Coach Jeff Hornacek talked about the offensive rebounds and paint play not only as a key, but the key to the game. When the dust settled the Suns won the battle inside from offensive rebounds (+7), to second chance points (+5), and free-throw attempts (+7) against a team that thrives inside.

Everybody went for them," Coach Hornacek on the rebounding dominance. "P.J. from the three spot pulls down 13 boards because he went after them. We boxed out. Again we are not a long team. Especially when Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee are not in the game."

It was a team effort on the offensive glass with seven players with at least one offensive rebound for the game.

The Suns played well inside and maintained the pressure on the Raptors there all night. Markieff Morris was the catalyst for the interior play scoring 25 points (11-14 shooting) with 11 rebounds (6 off.) for the night.

Those marks were one off his season high in rebounding and three off his season high in points.

All night the point guards were just feeding Markieff inside with good passes leading to even easier looks. That is good old fashion basketball. The guards break it down and the bigs hammer it home.

P.J. Tucker finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds to add a second double-double for the Suns and Eric Bledsoe (16 points 7 assists) made a big play late finishing at the rim to close it out. Neither performance on the offensive glass was a career achievement for Tucker or Markieff, which goes to show that this is a style the team could conceivably play with consistently.

This was not the prettiest performance of the season and one that will not make the highlight package at the end of the year banquet, but it was a win that keeps the Suns in the conversation.

It was not pretty, but the Suns collected another win over a bad team, which is what good teams are supposed to do.

It is hard to describe the Rudy Gay Experience live, which is why I feel for the writers of the Toronto Raptors (6-12) and sense a collective sigh of relief from the Memphis media contingent.

Almost all by himself, Gay made this Phoenix Suns (11-9) come to life.

From his off-balance jumpers, to making every offensive possession harder than it needs to be, all the way to one, two, no count it, THREE missed easy shots at the rim. Lay-ups and dunks have to go down for athletes like Gay, right? They did not tonight. This season Gay has been particularly inefficient on the offensive end (coming into tonight) taking 320 field goals to score 333 points. Tonight he went 15 from the field for 17 points in the loss.

Markieff was doing it defensively, offensively he was giving it to us so we stayed with him -Coach Hornacek

However, this was not the story of the game. Rudy Gay was one player that played his consistently inefficient brand of basketball, but the game was won in the paint.

Before the game Coach Jeff Hornacek talked about the offensive rebounds and paint play not only as a key, but the key to the game. When the dust settled the Suns won the battle inside from offensive rebounds (+7), to second chance points (+5), and free-throw attempts (+7) against a team that thrives inside.

Everybody went for them," Coach Hornacek on the rebounding dominance. "P.J. from the three spot pulls down 13 boards because he went after them. We boxed out. Again we are not a long team. Especially when Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee are not in the game."

It was a team effort on the offensive glass with seven players with at least one offensive rebound for the game.

The Suns played well inside and maintained the pressure on the Raptors there all night. Markieff Morris was the catalyst for the interior play scoring 25 points (11-14 shooting) with 11 rebounds (6 off.) for the night.

Those marks were one off his season high in rebounding and three off his season high in points.

All night the point guards were just feeding Markieff inside with good passes leading to even easier looks. That is good old fashion basketball. The guards break it down and the bigs hammer it home.

P.J. Tucker finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds to add a second double-double for the Suns and Eric Bledsoe (16 points 7 assists) made a big play late finishing at the rim to close it out. Neither performance on the offensive glass was a career achievement for Tucker or Markieff, which goes to show that this is a style the team could conceivably play with consistently.

This was not the prettiest performance of the season and one that will not make the highlight package at the end of the year banquet, but it was a win that keeps the Suns in the conversation.

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