Tonight is the first of a home-and-home with the Suns' favorite rival team, the Los Angeles Lakers. The Suns, on a 3-game losing streak after a sunny 4-1 stretch, really probably oughta win at least one of these games. I mean, it'd be nice, ya know?
But which game are the Suns most likely to win? The Suns are tougher on the road (7-10) than at home (5-8), but the Lakers - like most other NBA teams - are tougher at home (12-2) than on the road (5-10). This could easily be 2 more losses on the Suns' docket unless their supporting players do what's become the unexpected - step up and hit clutch shots.
The key to beating the Lakers is scoring
more than they do. They are 13-1 when holding an opponent under 92 points. Which means they are a putrid 4-11 when allowing 92 or more.
Let's score 92!
The Lakers' best player is still Kobe Bean Bryant, who still relishes games against the Suns.
Mired in his worst shooting season in a long time, he still went 18-31 for a whopping 48 points in their first matchup of the year, a 99-83 Lakers win. While "guarding" Bryant, Grant Hill made only 1 of 12 shots. So, that didn't work out too well.
Kobe is still Kobe, but he does seem to be fading a bit this season, while his team is fading even faster around him. He is averaging 5 more minutes per game than last season, is hiking up the most shot attempts since 2005-06 (the first year of the Suns' first-round dominance over the Lakers). He is suffering his lowest field goal % since the year before that, and his lowest 3-pt shooting % since 01-02. Those last two numbers combine to give Kobe his worst "true shooting percentage" (points per shot) of his career.
In his five extra minutes a game, though, he is racking up his most rebounds, assists and points per game since 07-08 (the year of the Pau Gasol trade).
But enough about Kobe.
The Suns need to score points. I posted a story last week, demonstrating that not one player on the Suns has shown any scoring consistency beyond Nash and Gortat. The other two-thirds of their nightly offense is a crap shoot. Who is going to score? Can you count on the guy who's hot in the first quarter to stay hot in the second quarter and fourth quarter?
The Suns also need to WIN THE SECOND QUARTER! There is an 85% chance that the Suns' fortune in the second quarter will dictate the final score. Win the second, win the game.
Which requires someone to approximate running an offense. Price and Telfair have been horrible. Price produced 4 consecutive turnovers in the 4th quarter of the Atlanta game. Telfair has been no better. Who cares whether either guy can play defense if their offense can't even get up a shot!
Win the second, win the game!
And, score more than 92 points!
Lon Babby was on the radio yesterday at KTAR (now called Arizona Sports 620) for about a 28 minute in-studio interview. Babby talked about his plans for rebuilding the Phoenix Suns into an elite team.
My little buddy, Adam Green, did a good job writing up the interview here at ArizonaSports.com, so check that out:
Newsmakers Week: Babby asks for patience - ArizonaSports.com
Most expected better. Everyone wants better. And the plan to get better, Babby told Arizona Sports 620's Doug and Wolf as part of Newsmakers Week, is in place.
"The first step in any plan is articulating what it is you're trying to accomplish, so what is it we're trying to accomplish," he asked. "We're aspiring to be an elite team."
You can listen to the full interview there as well which you should probably do if you want to be well-informed about the Suns.
There's a few things that stood out to me:
1) Babby once again said they wouldn't trade Nash unless he asked to be traded. This time, however, he explained that treating a player like Nash with respect and loyalty is beneficial to the Suns since it sends the right message to the rest of the league and future free agents. They believe it's important to make the Suns a "player-friendly" team.
2) Babby made it VERY CLEAR that while the Suns will have cap space this summer, they won't be pressured into spending it on the wrong players. He stressed being disciplined and that making the wrong move can set a team back for a long time.
Given the situation the Suns are in, that's the best thing we could hear.
3) Babby emphasized the need to focus on the draft and pointed out that the Suns only have two players on the roster they drafted (not counting Nash). He said the jury is still out on the Brooks deal that gave up a pick but that they need to "husband" their picks and also do a better job developing young players.
4) He asked fans for patience and you guys should know by know that I agree with this.
Suns fans are spoiled with a lot of success and bitter about not getting to the final promised land (that's me saying that, not him). Try and enjoy the ride and understand that along with past mistakes, this team did a lot of things well or they wouldn't have won so many games.
The past is the past and this team has been a lot of fun for a long time and now things are going to have to be rebuilt. It won't happen over night no matter what approach you favor. It comes down to making smart decisions and Babby asked for your patience in that process.
On another note, I spoke with Lon about the eight to 10 year time frame quoted for rebuilding from a "blow up". He explained that their research approach focused on teams since 1994 that traded or otherwise let their best player go and how long it took them to return to the conference finals.
They identified 15 teams that fit into those parameters with five returning to the conference finals in an average of 10.4 years.
He understood that there's different ways to look at the data and stressed that there's no guarantee regardless if what approach to rebuilding a team takes. It's hard to argue with that.