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We are diligently preparing for a podcast episode that will be posted on January 2nd where we discuss current Suns events and make our New Year's resolutions. We are also planning some surprises moving forward so please stay tuned!

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Goran Dragic - First up on the 15 Gifts of Suns Christmas is appropriately going to be given to the perceived, at least by the team, face of the franchise -- Goran Dragic. For a man who has nearly everything, a beautiful girlfriend, a basketball franchise to navigate, and a nice bank account I am going to keep it simple for him. Every guy knows how to pull a fast one with the gift of a deed that can be given at any time. Instead we make cheesy coupons for massages, just like the coupon for 20+ shots a game I am handing to Dragic. The team needs someone to take over games and it would only be fitting that the 30 million dollar man is that guy. ~Kris

Shannon Brown - I am particularly proud of the present I found for Shannon. It's really hard to shop for a player like the cannon who wants everything. As we all know there is a certain type of player that looks to shoot first and pass never. Once you give him the ball you ain't getting it back. That breed of player is sometimes referred to as Shannon Brown a black hole. That is why I got Shannon the Superunknown album by Soundgarden featuring the hit single Black Hole Sun. Not only is the gift apropos, but I think I'm going to start referring to him by that name. ~Jim

Jared Dudley - Every season Dudley pokes fun at his modest athleticism by creating a dunk count for the season. He is not Dwight Howard or Blake Griffin by no means so setting a goal gives him something to work for. Thus far he has three dunks and needs a lot of help to get to his goal. Utilizing his gift -- a Nerfoop Nerf Basketball Hoop -- Dudley can take to JMZ TV and upload dunk contests from his own home. It is a family gift to an extent as well where he can get the kids involved. ~Kris

Marcin Gortat - Marcin has had kind of a rough year. There have been quarrels and quibbles and declining production. One could almost say that Marcin is tiptoeing the line of the naughty list. I can't give Marcin what I think he really wants, which is a trade out of Phoenix, but I think I can get him the next best thing. I got Marcin a brand new Nautica Starboard 4 piece luggage set. I saved over 50% buying it on Amazon (Sarver would be proud of my frugality). This way he can have his bags packed when the phone rings. And it's gonna ring. ~Jim

Luis Scola - Throughout his career Luis Scola has been reaching for the stars and missing the net. The man with no vertical could use all the help he can get in order to get above or near the rim on occasion. For Scola, I am giving him a pair of Gravity Defyer shoe inserts, which are basically a modified trampoline in his shoes. Slapping backboards on 360 windmills near you, Luis Scola ladies and gentlemen. ~Kris

Michael Beasley - Finding the right present for Michael is like a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Like Michael himself... Mind blown. What does a player so reviled and castigated need? My final conclusion was that what Michael needed most was a hug. That's why I got him a gift certificate to the Build-a-Bear workshop. He can customize his own cuddly little friend. A plush companion he can hug and snuggle with who won't criticize him for sucking at basketball. ~Jim

P.J. Tucker - While Beasley is out creating his Build-a-Bear friends at the mall he might get distracted and be there for a while. In that time that he is gone and not available, hopefully making at least one bear in the Kansas State uniform to remind him of yesteryear when he was a great basketball player, someone has to take those minutes. That is my gift to the former D-League and European League star making the league minimum, the minutes of the 18 million dollar free-agent star are going to be gifted to Tucker. Let's see what he has with major minutes every night. ~Kris

Markieff Morris - I tried to surreptitiously coax some gift ideas out of Markieff, but I couldn't understand a thing he said. He has this barely audible, mouselike voice and kind of mumbles and mutters when he speaks. Eureka, coaxing complete. I got Markieff a month of voice lessons from the Prestige Music Academy. Located less than 10 minutes from the arena, they should fit right into his schedule as he can whip right over there before or after practice. Hopefully this will help Markieff develop a more stentorian voice by teaching him to project from the diaphragm. The media wins. The fans win. Markieff wins. We all win. ~Jim

Sebastian Telfair - Toughness, grit, and scrappiness are commonly associated with players from New York like Sebastian Telfair. Sometimes that scrappiness can lead to irrational play and cloud the judgment of the Suns back-up point guard causing poor decisions leading to ill-timed turnovers. To calm him down we are going to invade his iPod adding Miles Davis's classic "Birth of the Cool" to get him centered and relaxed before games. Adding some jazz to the mix might be the final piece of the puzzle to the full on renaissance of Bassy. ~Kris

Jermaine O'Neal - We all know that Jermaine is getting up there. While he's still a young man in normal terms, he's a wizened fossil in the NBA sense. What to give a grizzled veteran barely clinging to his NBA life but a year's supply of joint juice. The Suns medical staff is already working diligently to turn back Jermaine's clock, but I figured this couldn't hurt. Plus, I think Jermaine might have an expanded role here in the near future due to the departure of a querulous teammate. ~Jim

Diante Garrett - With Kendall back from the Developmental League there are going to be even less minutes and, more importantly, roster spots. Diante Garrett is likely going to be a casualty to the active roster availability meaning he is going to need to spruce up the attire. He is a casual guy usually rocking a sweat suit or more comfortable clothes. Per NBA policy he is going to need to get a suit and with the partnership with The Clotherie it is fitting that I get him the Belated Norfolk Sports Coat (think Downtown Abby). It is fashionable and tasteful for a young basketball player that wants to look good no matter the minutes. ~Kris

Luke Zeller - I spent a lot of time thinking about Luke's gift, more than he has spent playing this season. That was the inspiration for what I eventually decided on. I got Luke a pair of wonderbrief 2.0s from bubbles bodywear at www.love mybubbles.com. These padded underwear have removable foam butt pads that not only give Luke the bubble butt he's always wanted, but should also save his buttocks from undue stress from the rigors and grind of sitting on the bench for an entire 82 game season. I was also able to get them to add a special anti-splinter device for extra protection while riding the pine. ~Jim

Kendall Marshall - Speaking of Kendall Marshall, his return to the NBA does not mean he is going to get a majority of the minutes. He will still be spending a lot of time on the bench. I want to keep him engaged and tap into that well known basketball IQ he possesses. A membership to http://coachesclipboard.net will go a long way to his progression as a coach on the sidelines. Add a dry erase board to the equation for Marshall to draw up plays for either the team or even just his bench buddies Zeller, Johnson, and Garrett as practice. ~Kris

Wesley Johnson - The perfect gift for Wesley has to be a Sonic Air toothbrush kit. He needs to protect that smile, because it's pretty much the only thing he's got going for him. You know how some celebrities insure body parts like their butts and boobs? Wesley should be insuring that smile that shines and dazzles so brilliantly. If he ends up liking his gift, I hope we could work out for him to come by my house sometime between now and the New Year so he can stand outside of my house one night and make my light display the most radiant and refulgent in the entire valley. ~Jim

Alvin Gentry - Kris and I both chipped in on a joint present for head coach Alvin Gentry. This has been a tough season so far for Alvin. His "more talented" roster kinda sucks and he might need a crutch just to survive. That's why we got coach Gentry a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23 year, 95.6 proof Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. Trust me, he'll need it... because while the Suns play may be hard to swallow, this whiskey most definitely isn't.

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It is that time of the year when we all decide to promise to make major changes in our lives knowing full well that we will never ever even attempt to live up to those promises. I have already pledged to pretend to do the following:

  • Lose 30 lbs by eating right and exercising more [as I take a sip of Coke and eat that third donut from Krispy Kreme]…
  • Show more patience and calmness when my daughter talks back to me [as I scream at her to stop bugging me while I am working - as donut flies out of my mouth]
  • Be a better listener when my wife talks to me about whatever the hell she was saying…
  • Spend more time working on my business and less time watching and analyzing basketball games [as I set my DVR for tonight’s game and am ready with my notepad]

So now that we covered everything I could do next year [but really won’t], let’s all look at what every Suns player has committed themselves to change for the New Year [although I have no real clue what they would actually say]:

Goran Dragic: says that he will promise to be the player he started the year out as [intense, all-star quality on both ends of the floor], and not the player he has been over the past month [no better than an average backup player].

Marcin Gortat: Promises to not throw rocks inside glass houses, keep his mouth zipped and find some sort of consistent effort all next year.

Luis Scola: Plans on wearing better looking hair gear and to stop pushing his hair behind his ears incessantly.

Michael Beasley: Pledges to play well enough off the bench so that other teams will inquire about him at the deadline.

Shannon Brown: Promises that for every amazingly athletic play he successfully makes, he will only make one incredibly bone headedly stupid and pathetic play [down from his current ratio of 1:10].

Sebastian Telfair: Will stop trying to prove he can score and stick with the defensive intensity that made us believe he was becoming a solid backup point guard.

P.J. Tucker: Vows to work on his shooting and ball handling skills so that he can eventually become a believable and viable starter next season.

Markieff Morris: assures us he will stop playing soft and focus on attacking the rim, rebounding with abandon, defending like P.J. Tucker and be the PF that we need.

Kendall Marshall: to defy all the naysayers and show that the one elite skill he has can actually bring value to the table by producing net positive results when given playing time.

Channing Frye: To spend all his time worrying about a healthy life and not worrying about basketball.

Diante Garrett: Plans to work out more and get stronger so he can actually become the backup point guard we thought Marshall would be - but unfortunately for someone else.

Luke Zeller: Promises to say nice things about the Suns to all his new teammates wherever he plays next year.

Wesley Johnson: Promises to say nice things about the Suns to all his new office mates wherever he works next year [get it… Works! Office mates! See what I did there...]

Jared Dudley: Pledges to keep on, keepin on!

Alvin Gentry: Promises to play Beasley and Brown less minutes and not on the floor together, play Beasley at the PF spot only, find more minutes for J. O’Neal, gets the lineup of Dragic, Dudley, Tucker, Scola and O’Neal on the floor a whole lot more, and light into the guys a lot more for their poor effort at times.

Lon Babby: Promises somehow to screw this team up even more by trading for Rip Hamilton, who will go on to help us win a few more games in order to worsen our draft position slightly, then leave us for nothing, then trading Gortat and Dudley in the summer for some overpaid high volume scoring wing that plays no defense.

Robert Sarver: Promise to sell the team to Charles Barkley.

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Coming off of a tough, devastating loss the Phoenix Suns (11-18) took to practice early this morning to get prepared for a three game road swing. The team flies out today so it was a very quick, early practice to work on the current issues plaguing the team.

Here is what I learned.

What Did The Team Do?

The theme of practice was "when we watched film on that" so it appears that on top of the typical physical walk through in practice the team did a lot of film study. Most of the teams' errors have been coming off of very similar mistakes, which is disconcerting for the coaching staff.

With the team typically one, two, or three plays away from a victory in most cases having mental lapses on the defensive end and poor turnovers late have been killing them.

They spent a lot of time reviewing the lapses on the defensive end, especially the rotations on three point shots. It is not one player or two players making a mistake, it is a collection of 10 or so miscues a game from players, rotations, and positioning leading to a team getting clean looks.

Injury Update

Goran Dragic took a nasty fall that was, according to Gentry, "not a dirty play at all." He did not practice today and is "pretty sore" according to his coach.

The wrist is not the primary issue for Dragic as the bulk of the fall was absorbed by his... posterior. "The wrist is just a minor sprain, nothing serious," stated Dragic after practice. So where does it hurt? "Especially since I am really skinny... The butt is really hurting me right now."

With the way coach discussed the injury and its severity right now Dragic looks very doubtful for the game Friday night at the Indiana Pacers. In that case, Sebastian Telfair will start, Kendall Marshall gets back-up minutes, and Diante Garrett will be activated.

Coach Gentry's Take:

"When you do what we did, first of all we had a wide open guy that we didn't get the ball to and then we step out of bounds. When you do that I am telling you the Basketball Gods really frown upon that and usually something bad happens. It is kind of what our year has been like we just didn't make that one or two plays that win a game for us, rather than just saying you played great, you played hard, just keep your head up. I don't want to keep my head up. I want to win games. Everybody else in there (players in the locker room) wants to win games too." -- On the final minutes of last night's loss

"I think it will be tough for him to line-up against Indiana, but he is a tough, tough kid so Minnesota he may be ok." -- On Dragic's injury

The 2013 NBA Draft Update

As of today the team is slotted in the 8th spot and the 12th spot in the lottery of the draft if it were to happen today. The 12th pick comes via the Los Angeles Lakers who are playing sub-playoff quality basketball, hence the swap of the pick.

The Suns would also receive the Memphis Grizzlies pick (No. 25) today.

Here are the players they are taking in the current Mock Draft (The Mock does not reflect current standings):

At No. 8 - Michael Carter-Williams

At No. 10 - Dario Saric

At No. 27 - Jeff Withey

20121226_mjr_su5_122

Coming off of a tough, devastating loss the Phoenix Suns (11-18) took to practice early this morning to get prepared for a three game road swing. The team flies out today so it was a very quick, early practice to work on the current issues plaguing the team.

Here is what I learned.

What Did The Team Do?

The theme of practice was "when we watched film on that" so it appears that on top of the typical physical walk through in practice the team did a lot of film study. Most of the teams' errors have been coming off of very similar mistakes, which is disconcerting for the coaching staff.

With the team typically one, two, or three plays away from a victory in most cases having mental lapses on the defensive end and poor turnovers late have been killing them.

They spent a lot of time reviewing the lapses on the defensive end, especially the rotations on three point shots. It is not one player or two players making a mistake, it is a collection of 10 or so miscues a game from players, rotations, and positioning leading to a team getting clean looks.

Injury Update

Goran Dragic took a nasty fall that was, according to Gentry, "not a dirty play at all." He did not practice today and is "pretty sore" according to his coach.

The wrist is not the primary issue for Dragic as the bulk of the fall was absorbed by his... posterior. "The wrist is just a minor sprain, nothing serious," stated Dragic after practice. So where does it hurt? "Especially since I am really skinny... The butt is really hurting me right now."

With the way coach discussed the injury and its severity right now Dragic looks very doubtful for the game Friday night at the Indiana Pacers. In that case, Sebastian Telfair will start, Kendall Marshall gets back-up minutes, and Diante Garrett will be activated.

Coach Gentry's Take:

"When you do what we did, first of all we had a wide open guy that we didn't get the ball to and then we step out of bounds. When you do that I am telling you the Basketball Gods really frown upon that and usually something bad happens. It is kind of what our year has been like we just didn't make that one or two plays that win a game for us, rather than just saying you played great, you played hard, just keep your head up. I don't want to keep my head up. I want to win games. Everybody else in there (players in the locker room) wants to win games too." -- On the final minutes of last night's loss

"I think it will be tough for him to line-up against Indiana, but he is a tough, tough kid so Minnesota he may be ok." -- On Dragic's injury

The 2013 NBA Draft Update

As of today the team is slotted in the 8th spot and the 12th spot in the lottery of the draft if it were to happen today. The 12th pick comes via the Los Angeles Lakers who are playing sub-playoff quality basketball, hence the swap of the pick.

The Suns would also receive the Memphis Grizzlies pick (No. 25) today.

Here are the players they are taking in the current Mock Draft (The Mock does not reflect current standings):

At No. 8 - Michael Carter-Williams

At No. 10 - Dario Saric

At No. 27 - Jeff Withey

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The Suns managed to find another way to lose a very winnable game. The Knicks were still able overcome a career high 36 points by Jared Dudley and pull out the victory despite playing with a skeleton roster.

With Christmas over, it's time for the Suns to get back to work. The schedule makers blessed the Suns with bookend home games around the holiday, and the team was in no danger of being highlighted in a Christmas day game, so they should be fresh coming off of time off with family and friends. Hopefully they weren't getting too fat and happy while tonight's opponent, the New York Knicks, were busy getting coaled up by the Los Angeles Lakers.

When: Wednesday, December 26, 2012, 7:00 PM local time (9:00 EST)

Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

Watch/Listen: TV: FSAZ, Radio: 620 KTAR

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Last Meeting:

The Knicks won the previous meeting between the teams 106-99 at Madison Square Garden on December 2nd. New York used a 35-22 second quarter to put separation between themselves and the Suns. Phoenix closed the gap to six at 91-85 with 6:24 left, but couldn't completely recover from the disastrous second quarter. Carmelo Anthony had a game high 34 points. Marcin Gortat had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns. Raymond Felton dominated the point guard matchup with 23 points and seven assists versus Goran Dragic's nine points and five assists (foreshadowing alert).

Team Bios:

New York Knicks: 20-8

Points per game: 102.6 (T-5th) Points allowed: 96.5 (T-12th)

Injuries: Marcus Camby, Raymond Felton and Steve Novak have all been, or still are, nursing injuries, but all are expected to play. Amar'e Stoudemire is not expected to play for a few more games. Rasheed Wallace is also out and Iman Shumpert is recovering from a long term injury.

The Knicks are coming off of a hard fought loss on Christmas day against the surging Lakers at the Staples Center. Carmelo Anthony, as he has done all season, led the Knicks with 34 points, but he also logged 43 minutes in the game. Four other Knicks played at least 34 minutes in the game, including Tyson Chandler who clocked in with 40.

New York is off to a sizzling start, but has tapered off recently with three losses in their last five games, including home losses to the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls. The team has incorporated many new pieces around its remaining core players and has seemed to do so rather seamlessly. This is not the same Knicks team that ended the 2011-12 season. The additions include Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Ronnie Brewer, Rasheed Wallace, Pablo Prigioni, Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby. Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert return, but neither has seen action this season. The only remnants from last season's roster are Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Steve Novak. Four players. That's it.

One of those players happens to be early season MVP candidate Carmelo Anthony, which is quite an important returning piece. Melo is currently second in the NBA in scoring (28.3) and actually boasts the highest eFG% of any year of his career (.531) thanks in part to blistering shooting from three point range (.437). Did I mention he played 43 minutes yesterday? Felton and Kidd seem to be the newcomers who have been most impactful, orchestrating an offense that was stagnant all too often last season.

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Phoenix Suns: 11-17

Points per game: 97.3 (12th) Points allowed: 100.9 (26th)

Injuries: None, as usual.

The Suns are coming off of a savage beating at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night in what turned out to be the fourth time this season that the Suns have lost by more than 20 points. The final score of 103-77 wasn't really indicative of the Suns play, because it wasn't really that close. The Suns seemed more concerned with complaining about the officiating than competing in the game and the Clippers smelled blood.

The Suns look to recompose themselves in the getaway game before a daunting three game road trip to close out the year. The near future holds grave implications for the Suns, as they will either reverse their current trajectory and fight for a playoff spot or find themselves hopelessly out of the race in the next two to three weeks. It's already gut check time for the Suns. Unfortunately, recent indications don't adumbrate favorably.

After a stretch that provided a glimmer of hope on the defensive end, that spark is fading into the gloaming. The Suns are now mired in 29th in opponent field goal percentage (.471) and 30th in opponent three point field goal percentage (.405). The Suns are an average offensive team with no go to scorer that plays hideous defense. I think that sums it up pretty thoroughly and tersely.

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What To Watch For:

Player X vs. Goran Dragic: Goran has been playing so poorly lately that I pretty much expect him to get violated on a regular basis. Dragic is now averaging 12.6 points (on 41.2% shooting) and 5.8 assists for the month of December. The Suns have played 11 games so far in the month. Dragic is supposed to be the team's best player. Flip a coin. That will tell you whether Dragic will score more than 10 points, considering he's pulled off the feat only seven times in his last 14 games. Throw in the nasty habit of picking up early fouls and it becomes alarmingly clear that he needs to get his sh$# together. Tonight sounds good to me.

Fireworks: The New York Knicks are on pace to set NBA records for three pointers made (11.5) and attempted (29.2). Despite launching bombs at such a prodigious rate the Knicks rank third in the league in three point field goal percentage. The Suns, as previously mentioned, are dead last in the league at defending the three. Tonight we will see how the matchup of best vs. worst unfurls.

Rebounding: Finally, an area where the Suns don't suck worse than their opponent. The Suns are an impressive -3.5 in rebounding differential (good for 25th in the league) while the Knicks are a lowly -4.2 (three spots below Phoenix at 28th). Both of these teams get owned on the glass on a regular basis. Maybe this could be a point of emphasis for the Suns to focus on in the game since the Knicks don't have a superfluous number of areas of weakness.

Tired Legs/Playing the Suns/Dignity: Not only did the Knicks play a fiercely contested game against the Lakers yesterday, but now they're playing the Suns. The legs might not be quite as fresh since key players logged heavy minutes. It might be hard for New York to get up for this game after the spotlight of a Christmas day matchup. The Knicks may be bummed about playing a back-to-back and missing out on holiday festivities. The Knicks may be disinterested in playing a team of the Suns caliber and overlook them. The Suns may be pissed off after the humiliating rout they suffered through last game. Any or all of these may culminate in an unexpected victory for the Suns.

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Key Stat: The season high for scoring in a game by an individual Sun this season is 26. Both Dragic and Shannon Brown have hit this mark once. Carmelo Anthony has scored at least 26 points 17 times. Seventeen. I set the over/under for a Sun scoring 30 at 27 games. We are officially over. Anthony has scored at least 30 points 11 times this season. The Sun is a star, but the Suns have no star.

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The Final Word(s):

I really like the dynamic coming into this game based on the way the last few days have played out for both teams. The Suns would definitely appear to have the advantage based on rest and intangibles. The only problem I see in forecasting a Phoenix victory is that the Suns just aren't very good at all right now.

The Suns are just 3-9 against teams with winning records, as of right now, on the season. So while a victory isn't outside the realm of plausibility, I don't know that I'd give the Suns the same coin flip of having a good game that I gave Dragic earlier.

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