Worst game I have seen in a long, long time.
For a young team, the Phoenix Suns are a really bad back-to-back team. Entering the game, they had lost all three back-to-back opportunities on the season. Those were both Miami games, and the Utah game (in Utah) after the huge comeback against Cleveland the night before.
Apparently, no matter how "young" these Suns are, they don't play well on consecutive days. Once again, they "built" a 14-point deficit in the first half and grew that to a 26-point deficit in the third before Gentry threw in the towel. Would the Suns make another comeback - #5 out of 14 opportunities on the season? Hell no.
After making 60% of their shots in the first quarter (9 for 15), the Suns shot less than 30% for the rest of the game. U.G.L.Y. They scored only 36 points in the second and third quarters combined. F-A-I-L-fail-fail-fail.
For those of you who called last night's 13-point win over Cleveland a terrible game, or one of the worst of the season, I implore you to enjoy life's little pleasures while they last. Why spend time complaining about a 13-point win? That's like getting a fiver from your grandma and bitching under your breath about the impact of cost of living increases.
At least this time, your complaints are justified. Have at it. Good on ya.
THIS was the worst Suns game of the season. Not one player came to play. Not one. Check me on that. Did anyone play to their potential tonight? Anyone on the Suns I mean?
Well at least we got to see some real action for Kendall Marshall and Wesley Johnson. Both players hit their first shots (Marshall's a 3), while the veterans like Dudley, Scola, Tucker and O'Neal continued to bumble and make mistakes.
Marshall stayed within the offense and made some nice passes but is not yet aggressive. Anyone thinking he can lead an NBA offense right now should look at the 4th quarter score: 36-17 Pistons.
Wesley Johnson really likes to shoot. He's not a passer, or anything else really. Just a shooter. He started well, but then got worse and worse. There is a reason he's on the deep bench.
The Pistons had a fun night, playing many of their best players because they were just playing so well until they'd built the lead to 29. Nice night for them, for sure.
But any game where Charlie Villanueva goes off and starts preening with a 30-point lead is not a game I EVER want to see again.
For any of you who want to read my first half notes, read on...
The Suns kept it close for a while in the first half, but when Jermaine O'Neal got hurt early in the second quarter the Suns defense deflated. A four-point Pistons lead quickly climbed to 14 while the Pistons hit shot after shot. They were the aggressor all night, and good things happen for the aggressor. They even passed the ball into tighter defense a few times and still the shots fell for them.
Once again, Gortat was passive. Sad, considering he had 16 points and 16 rebounds against this same front line just three weeks ago. He finished the first half with only 6 points, 3 rebounds, 0 blocks and 3 official turnovers in 16 minutes.
The game started with both good and bad. The Suns made 6 of their first 7 shots and shot 60% overall in the first quarter (including 4 for 6 on threes), but they turned it over NINE times and gave up 24 points on good shooting by the Pistons. The Pistons made both of their 3-point attempts in the first (and made 5 of 6 in the first half).
Several of those turnovers could be attributed to Marcin Gortat either losing the ball or missing the pass down low to him. Beasley and Dragic also got two fouls apiece within the first six minutes on the Pistons aggressive drives to the hoop. The first quarter ended 24-24 tie.
The bench, usually a huge plus for the Suns, gave up a 13-4 run from late in the first to early in the second - a bad sign for the Suns' chances in this game. The Pistons were just beating the Suns with aggression, and making big shots after big shots despite the Suns bench unit showing their usual level of effort.
The Pistons, who have one of the worst offenses in the league, went up by 14 points quicker than the Suns could stem the tide. But finally they did, if only a little, ending the half with an 11-point deficit.
The Suns shots selection in the second quarter rivaled their turnovers in the first. Which was worse? (Toss up) After Jermaine O'Neal left the game with a strained quad, the Suns took only just shots when Gortat returned. Could the team have been remembering the Polish Hammer's first-quarter turnovers? Maybe.
At the half, Markieff Morris led the Suns with 10 of their 44 points (8 in the first quarter) and the Suns had outrebounded the Pistons 23-19, including 11 offensive rebounds. But the Suns missed a lot of shots (including eight straight three-point attempts) and the Pistons made theirs (5 for 6).
The second half did not start well. The Suns started the half with four missed layups and two turnovers before they scored a bucket. The Pistons lead was 18 by that time and they weren't even trying very hard.
Then the Suns lost their cool (funny because they weren't working very hard, so what's to lose? Why not just play harder, huh?) and drew a couple of technical fouls. The Pistons began living at the free throw line and the Suns caved further.
Gentry finally decided that an 18-point deficit justified bringing back in the bench guys. Duh. What took so long, you know?
In the last four games, the Suns bench players had outscored the opponents' bench players 171-72. But not tonight. No, not tonight.
The bench was as bad as the starters, letting the lead grow to 24 before Gentry called in the deep-deep bench. Kendall Marshall got some run against NBA starters.
Prologue written by the eminently qualified and inimitable Jason Feldman. Thank you for collaborating with me on this venture.
When I was in college, I had the chance to date a Denver Bronco Cheerleader. A few years later, I was all but handed an assistant coaching job with the Cleveland Browns [why? I have no clue]. One time in line at McDonalds, I actually let someone go ahead of me because I was trying to decide if I wanted to supersize [never do that by the way], and the guy won $100,000 in that Monopoly game.
Woulda, shoulda, coulda!
Well, I say shut up Buddha! [Am I going to Naraka for that?]
I like to spend time agonizing over life's choices gone wrong. It makes it so when things go right, I feel that much greater satisfaction. I am a dweller. And so it goes with the Suns.
Over the past decade or so, the Suns brass has had many opportunities to tweak and shift their roster. During that time, most of the transactions the Suns made were done as a result of some other circumstance. We acquired Boris Diaw because we failed to keep Joe Johnson. We kept Shawn Marion around too long only to acquire the rotting corpse of Shaq [BTW, I think Shaq needs to make a guest appearance on Walking Dead].We waited and waited until we got absolutely zip for Amare [actually we got worse than zip]. We held on to our beloved HOF point guard only to acquire some low level first round draft picks. In between, we needed to fill in the blanks or clear up roster/cap issues, so we brought in guys like Raja Bell, Jason Richardson, and a host of other nameless non-producers [at least we are trying to wipe memories of them out of our minds], and dumped others and draft picks.
They say history repeats itself. Whoever "they" are must work for the Suns.
Once again we sit in a position of weakness with one of our players, when we had every opportunity to proactively make something happen. Back in March and again in July, I wrote an article about trading Marcin Gortat. The idea behind this was to be proactive in parlaying the "hype" surrounding Gortat's increased production/performance into other assets to build this team. It occurred to me that Gortat's value was more than likely never to rise higher, or more importantly that he had hit his ceiling. Certainly at that time, there were teams with GM's that coveted Gortat enough to part ways with good assets. My theory was that over time, GM's would be able to gather more observation and data to talk themselves out of liking Gortat. Additionally, with the roster turnover and the unknown of how he would survive without a certain player feeding him, the probability was high that Gortat's perceived value would decrease over time. Add to that the fact he will be 30 when his contract is up and you get the gist.
Here we are. After fourteen games of data collection, an inauspicious start to the season and mouthing off about not getting touches, Marcin has played his way backward a bit. While the chance for him to recover is there, a problem still exists.
Gortat has two years remaining on his contract, and the Suns allowed a contract milestone to pass by without making a definitive decision about the direction they want to go. Knowing Gortat is unhappy means that there is a good chance he will not re-sign with the Suns. Now he is fair game and what any particular team would give up for in a trade just dropped considerably at this point.
History repeating itself.
The next milestone will be the trade deadline. I am quite certain that many will bellow and rail against trading Marcin. However, once we get past that point, value in return drops again.
The truth is, regardless of a trade right now, we are in a position where I believe one of two things can happen:  Marcin plays his way out of big money and we keep him around as a middle level contract so-so starter or  he continues to produce at this level and garners a near MAX deal over 4 years that the Suns will never pay. In either case, we are not ever going to see enough value in Gortat to warrant doing nothing. It makes no sense to let it get to that.
What makes most sense is, that despite creating a hole in the middle [that frankly JO is filling quite admirably, and can do so for the same 2 year period Gortat is under contract for probably less money], we should probably showcase the hell out of Gortat to build his value back up and trade him at the deadline to a team that is desperate in need of his services to help them get over the hump. Otherwise we are bound to repeat history yet again.
I completely endorse the previous well elucidated, eloquent, non-partisan, completely fair and in no way scathing (or influenced by my opinion) statement by my esteemed colleague. So now that we've all decided that Gortat must go for the sake of all our souls, we need to set the market.
Here's what Gortat has done this season sans Nash (limited sample alert):
11.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg
T-95th in ppg (15th among centers)
T-140th in p/48 (23rd among centers)
20th in rpg (10th among centers)
T-31st in r/48 (13th among centers)
T-5th in bpg
13th in b/48
So far this year, by these metrics, Marcin has been a slightly above average (at best) center. Note that he has also posted a career low WS/48 and a PER lower than either of the last two seasons (weigh those in or disregard them completely) combined with recent events and play and I think it's safe to assume that Marcin's stock isn't at an all-time high (like it was last summer).
Now let's look at an eyeball test, since a definitive analysis tool is a metempirical pursuit (there's always at least one dissenter). Here are the centers I believe are at least as good, or very close to, Gortat.
Centers older than Gortat:
Tyson Chandler (30) Knicks
Anderson Varejao (30) Cavaliers
Centers younger than Gortat:
DeAndre Jordan (24) Clippers
Marc Gasol (27) Grizzlies
Al Jefferson (27) Jazz
Brook Lopez (24) Nets
JaVale McGee (24) Nuggets
Greg Monroe (22) Pistons
Dwight Howard (26) Lakers
Brandan Wright (25) Mavericks *one year expiring $1 million deal
Al Horford (26) Hawks
Byron Mullens (23) Bobcats
Joakim Noah (27) Bulls
Omer Asik (26) Rockets
Roy Hibbert (25) Pacers
Andrew Bynum (25) Sixers *crippled players have no trade value - see Stoudemire, Amar'e
In terms of trade value, this list doesn't include players like Jonas Valanciunas (20) Raptors, Andre Drummond (19) Pistons or Meyers Leonard (20) Trail Blazers since there's no way their teams would trade them for Gortat straight up (or with any combination of Suns players, for that matter).
If you look at that list, I am contending there are at least 15 (Bynum doesn't count) centers playing this year that are comparable to or better than Gortat. There are also other players with more trade value or who teams flat out wouldn't trade (such as those listed above).
Gortat is also one of the oldest players on the entire list (did you notice what I did there?). So what is his trade value? I would purport that it's possible it's only as much as a contending team needs him.
So who are the contenders?
Boston - obvious need, in win now mode, probably have the pieces to make something work if they're motivated (Fab Melo/Jared Sullinger/Avery Bradley/Brandon Bass)
Milwaukee - obvious need, I'm not sure I see the pieces to make a deal, though (John Henson/Doron Lamb/Larry Sanders).
Atlanta - obvious need, contending team, Al Horford could slide to the four, do we have enough to get Josh Smith?
OKC - have some good young pieces (Eric Maynor/Jeremy Lamb/Perry Jones III), but any deal would probably mean swallowing Perkins contract
San Antonio - Suns not likely to trade with them, that would be awesome though, after we just gave the Lakers Nash, team in win now mode, Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green?
Golden St. - Andrew Bogut's bones are made of glass, Gortat would be an upgrade, interesting pieces (Klay Thompson/Harrison Barnes) - would they trade either of those guys, though?
What about teams that (a) aren't contending or (b) don't have as much of a need? Here are a couple of more names Jason and I bounced off each other, i.e. more ammunition to whip you into a frothing, frenzied, fracas:
Orlando: Aaron Afflalo/Moe Harkless
Dallas: Jae Crowder/Brandan Wright
Indiana: Danny Granger
Memphis: Darrell Arthur
Minnesota: Derrick Williams/Nikola Pekovic
Philadelphia: Thaddeus Young/ Evan Turner
Utah: Derrick Favors/Paul Millsap
So now that we got you started, ready, set, go!
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Suns won only their second road game of the season last night, now head to Detroit to attempt to even their record on the season.
But don't count your chickens before they are hatched, Suns fans.
After an 0-8 start, the Pistons have won four of their last seven including their last two home games. Greg Monroe is having a great season with 17 points and almost 10 rebounds a game with a 20.3 Player Efficiency Rating (PER), but no other Piston getting more than 20 minutes per game has a PER at league average (15.0).
Rodney Stuckey, once considered the future at point guard for the Pistons, has been really bad this year but he has been playing better than the Stuckey who went 0-7 against the Suns in game two. Marcin Gortat contributed 16 and 16 with 3 blocks in that game while Goran Dragic has 15 and 10 assists.
Despite Stuckey's troubles, the Pistons had the early 11-point lead and kept the game close against the Suns by hitting timely shots like a three-pointer by rookie Kyle Singler with seconds left. But the Suns got the win, and should be able to do so again tonight.
Luis Scola was very prophetic post-game:
"There's only one way to win games and that's playing focused for forty-eight minutes and play hard and hustle and do all the little things," [Scola] said after [the November 2 game] in which he led a second quarter effort that turned an 11-point deficit into an 8-point halftime lead.
Scola was reacting to the Suns second consecutive game allowing the opponent a double-digit lead before coming back to tie or take the lead. Unfortunately his starting teammates never got the message and, after allowing double-digit leads in all but one of the first 11 games, Gentry shook up the lineup.
The Suns have won three of their last four games with the new starting lineup; their only loss being on a missed layup with seconds left against Philadelphia. In last night's game, Goran Dragic and Luis Scola helped the Suns go on a 34-12 run from late in the third to late in the fourth to put down Cleveland for good.
The third quarter was the Suns' undoing in those games, but it appears that things have changed in some ways. From the inimitable Vince Kozar in the Suns Communications Dept after last night's win:
After allowing double-digit deficits in 9 of the first 11 games, the Suns new starting lineup has gotten down by 10+ points only twice in four games. Hey, it's a start right?
Suns with the ball: PHX O-rating 105.7 (12th of 30), DET D-rating 107.6 (27th of 30)
Pistons with the ball: DET O-rating 102.0 (21st of 30), PHX D-Rating 107.5 (25th of 30)
Detroit is bad at pretty much everything except that they can hit threes better than most (36.3%) while the Suns give up a league high percentage shooting. If Detroit goes off from distance, they can stay in the game.
The only other real threat on the court is C Greg Monroe, who plays below the rim much like Marcin Gortat. The Polish Hammer outplayed Monroe in the first game, putting up 16/16/3 vs. Monroe's 10/6/0. Let's see how that plays out on Wednesday night, but it could bode well for Gortat's potential resurgence.
"We'll take it," Gentry said about the win over Detroit on November 2. He would love to say that again on Wednesday night.
The Suns really should win this game. No one is tired after the Cavalier beatdown - the starters played enough to rest the bench, at least. And Micheal Beasley has come to life as well.
After seeing how they took care of business in Cleveland, look for the Suns to do the same against Detroit. Even if the Suns' starters fail, the Suns' bench is light years better than the Pistons bench.
But still, the Pistons are playing at home so the game should stay close.
Suns by 10.