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Before we get into this game, let's give credit where credit is due. Marcus Morris had a big steal and the game-winning shot but the Suns wouldn't have been close enough late in this game if Kendall Marshall hadn't drained two threes in the final two minutes of the game.

I really don't know what to make of these shots from Kendall.

He didn't look good for most of the game, a fact his head coach acknowledged, but when it was time to step up Marshall reversed his trend of passing up shot opportunities and he drained the big buckets. He finished with 13 points on 3-6 shooting (3-5 from three) and had six assists and no turnovers.

Does this change the way I feel about this young player? No...at least not yet.

Marcus Morris explains game-winning shot and slow start.

"Kendall can shoot it when he's out there and he's left open. What we're always talking to him about is getting his shot up. He's going to prove he can make those shots and all of sudden they're going to guard him a little harder but today he shot it with confidence, it was right there, and he hit two huge shots for us," Hornacek said after the game.

Look, coach is right of course. But I'll be happy with him just taking and hitting those open shots and forcing the defense to respect him enough to open up some more passing lanes. Too many times I saw him drive and the defenders just stayed home and he turned down open 10 and 15 foot pull-up jumpers. Realistically, there's a lot of guys that can hit wide open threes. If Kendall is at least one of those, we can start talking about the next steps.

As for the differences between the first quarter (Suns went down 32-14) and the second half (they won 60-50), Marcus Morris put the blame on the dreaded "E" word.

"Our energy early on wasn't matching their energy. In the second half, that was the main thing in the locker room, was to come out with energy," the smaller Morris said before adding this bit about pride, "It was kind of embarrassing. We had the most veteran guys on our team. We actually have (NBA) starters, so we definitely had to step it up and match their intensity and once we did that it showed."

Both Marcus and Coach Jeff said that the plan is for this Morris to play a "big three" in the regular season. He's mostly played the four in Summer League with Markieff at the five, but the plan is for him to play small forward.

The energy and intensity were certainly an issue early in the game, but the Suns were also running a tightly controlled version of their motion offense in the first quarter. Assistant coach Jerry Sichting explains:

"We've got a play that's got a flex cut in it where we're trying to post up and we didn't do a very good job feeding the post when we were making that cut. It's timing...We've let them play in the second half. That's the thing. We scored 50 points, I believe, in the second half in Game 1 against Portland and tonight we got 60 in the second half. We've tried to tell them that we want to play with pace and that eventually we'll wear teams down and the first two games, anyway, it's come to fruition."

What I saw sitting a few rows up on the sideline was the Suns calling and trying to run the exact same play every time down the floor. It wasn't working but this is not a regular game and the coaching staff kept trying to give them opportunities to get it right. When they finally turned the dogs loose the Summer Suns extra talent was able to shine and the results have been two-straight wins.

-- Markieff finished with 22 points and six rebounds (and seven fouls in a very poorly officiated game). He had 16 of those in the second half.

-- Dionte Christmas showed why he's close to being an NBA player but not quite there. He added 16 off the bench and showed good poise but nothing special about his game that makes you want to spend a roster spot on him.

-- The Suns tried to give Goodwin some looks at point guard but it wasn't really anything to write home about. As expected, his best move was coast-to-coast finish off a rebound where he was able to show his speed and athleticism. You might as well just think "raw talent" every time you see/hear the name "Archie Goodwin".

-- The BIG THREE BIGS all looked like non-NBA players. Onuaku was the best of the bunch showing his energy and rebounding ability (six boards in 16 minutes) but he doesn't seem to have good hands or much skill at all offensively. The other two looked worse so far. I suspect that we'll see less and less of the Morris brothers at the four and five and these cats will get increased minutes as the week goes on. Maybe.

Vine recount courtesy Zach Harper Marcus Morris made up for a 5-for-14 shooting day, but it took him just a tick over 40 minutes to do so. A buzzer-beating 20-foot jumper by Morris gave the Suns a...

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The Suns, and more importantly their fans, will get a second look at future Hall of Famer, Archie Goodwin and his sidekicks, the Morris twins, Diante Garrett, P.J. Tucker, and Dwayne Collins. Kendall Marshall will also likely play but as we all know, Summer League isn't his best format. I'm not exactly sure what outside UNC is his best format, but he's still young so that's cool and stuff.

The Timberwolves feature one of my all-time favorite Senegalese players individuals, Gorgui Dieng. Dieng started at the five in the Wolves first game against the D-league Select team. He played 22 minutes and recorded four points, four rebounds, three turnovers, two blocks and only three fouls! To be fair, he was playing against the likes of Darnell Jackson.

The enigmatic Shabazz Muhammad is also on Monday's docket. The former UCLA Bruin went 3-7 (7 points) in his first 24 minutes as a pro.

Other notable Wolves include: Luke, son of the famous Jack Sikma; D-league stud Othyus Jeffers; journeyman Solomon Jones; and Chris Johnson (an "NBA player" who is easily confused with several other "NBA players"). Oh, and some person is excited about Brandon Paul and Lorenzo Brown.

Questions for the Suns in this game:

- Will Kendall Marshall shoot more than two threes? Will he make more than four buckets? Will he show us anything more than he showed us at the end of last season?

- A consistent theme around these Vegas Summer League parts is young, first-time players who struggle in their first professional game but then quickly find their confidence and show some progress. Others, however, don't do that. Which of those will be Archie Goodwin? The world wants to know.

- Can the Morris bros continue to do what they should be doing in their third summer as NBA pros (but only their second Summer League due to the lockout)? Both looked solid and mature on the court in the first game. It's quite possible that they see their minutes cut as the team shifts focus to other players they want to see. That's common with "veterans" like the Morri.

- P.J. Tucker, see above. I really have no idea why he's even here other than to be a positive example to the young'uns.

- I have to think (and also I read Jim's great interview quotes from GM McRyan) that the Suns will find a roster spot (sorry, Diante) for another big and the three bigs they have here in Vegas qualify as BIG. Onuaku got the most minutes and showed his advanced age (26) compared to the younger and more inexperienced Oriakhi and Collins. Those rotations could change as the week goes on. Or not.

GAME TIME: 3:30pm PT and AZT. The game will stream live on ESPN3 (online) and then should be replayed at some point on NBA TV.

Timberwolves Summer League Game Two - Canis Hoopus
The Wolves take on the Phoenix Suns in Las Vegas this afternoon. Game time is 5:30 CDT, but the game is not televised live. It will be shown on NBA TV tomorrow at 11 am CDT.

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A year ago yesterday, the drama between the Phoenix Suns and the New Orleans Hornets (nee Pelicans) over 23 year old shooting guard Eric Gordon came to an end when the Hornets matched the Suns' maximum-salary offer of $58 million over four years.

The uber-talented but often injured Gordon, a restricted free agent, refused contract-extension offers and asked the Big Easy to let him jump ship to the Suns. But the Hornets had no interest in letting Gordon leave after he'd been the centerpiece of the Chris Paul trade, so they matched the max offer despite Gordon's attitude.

Before his injuries and commitment issues in New Orleans, Eric Gordon was a rising star in Los Angeles. In three Clipper seasons, Gordon put up 16.1, 16.9 and 22.3 points per game, supported by 38% three-point shooting on five attempts per game. Gordon also drives hard to the hoop and passes well (3 assists per game), while providing strong defense on the other end of the court.

The teams reportedly did not even engage in trade discussions during the three-day matching period. If the Hornets were ready to rid themselves of Gordon, they could have taken back Robin Lopez (who was traded to NOLA later that summer in a 3-team trade that netted the Suns Wes Johnson and a future #1 pick, who then traded him again a year later for future second round pick).

Truly, the Hornets were not about to let their most talented player walk away no matter how badly he may have wanted to go.

Instead, they decided to pay $14 million per year to a guy who had played only 9 of 66 games in the 2011-12 season, sitting out for unspecified knee pain, after playing 196 of 246 games in his first three years with the LA Clippers.

The Suns were left holding the proverbial bag. Their grand scheme included a potential All-Star talent at shooting guard flanked by the talented Goran Dragic in a two-headed backcourt of driving and dishing to open three-point shooters in Jared Dudley, Channing Frye and free agent signee Michael Beasley.

Those Suns could have been young and exciting, with at least one young player who would earn All-Star buzz every season.

Instead, the Phoenix Suns lost the potential All-Star and soon after that lost one of those good three-point shooters in Channing Frye (heart ailment).

2012-13 season

Neither team "won" the Eric Gordon derby in the 2012-13 season.

The Hornets paid Gordon $13.668 million to pout and sit out another 40 of 82 games over that same mysterious knee pain. Again, the Hornets doctors could not pinpoint the issue and Gordon had no surgery*. He eventually returned to the Hornets lineup, scoring 17.2 points per game. The Hornets were 16-26 with Gordon in the lineup vs. 11-29 without.

*Gordon did have surgery in May, after the season, to clean up debris in an ankle and should be fine for training camp.

The Hornets reportedly tried to shop Gordon all season but, just like the Phoenix Suns the summer before, no one wanted to pay Gordon all that money AND give up a lot of talent in trade.

Due to the matching rules in the CBA, the Hornets had trade restrictions on Gordon the entire season. They couldn't trade Gordon to Phoenix at all, and couldn't trade him to anyone else without his permission.

The Suns, as you all know, executed Plan B which was a lay low and ride out the season with an incomplete roster. They talked a big game, hoping for playoffs and such, but you can't make the playoffs without talent.

One year later

As of yesterday, New Orleans is allowed to trade Gordon anywhere they want, without his permission. They could even trade him to Phoenix if they wanted to. But Gordon is still an injury risk and, coupled with his big salary, cannot demand too much in trade value.

But does New Orleans (now named the Pelicans) even want to trade Gordon anymore?

The Pelicans want to make the playoffs next season, and they are now making every effort to load the team with more talent. In a matter of weeks, they have brought in two of Gordon's former AAU mates in All-Star PG Jrue Holiday and mercurial, position-less Tyreke Evans for the tidy sum of $20 million per year.

Gordon now says he is "all in" with the Pelicans, and his new teammates can't stop gushing about the possibilities. But can they all play together in a real, effective NBA lineup?

Holiday is truly a PG, and Gordon is truly a SG. The 6'6" Evans can play PG, SG and SF but really doesn't like playing small forward. He wants the ball in his hands, as do Holiday and Gordon.

To put Evans in the starting lineup moves three-point shooting Ryan Anderson from SF to PF, and second-year whisper-thin Anthony Davis from PF to C in their most talented lineup. This lineup would have real trouble holding the opponent under 100 points per game, but at the least the offense would be prolific.

While Gordon is now excited about playing for the Pelicans, it's quite possible that the acquisitions of Evans and Holiday were simply to put the Pelicans in position to trade Gordon without taking a major hit in talent. Plus it would allow the Pelicans to finally turn the tables on Gordon after being held hostage by his pouting for the last two seasons.

But do the Phoenix Suns still need Gordon?

In a word, yes. The least-talented team in the West still needs any top-end talent they can get. But it's not as simple as that.

The Suns just acquired former Gordon teammate Eric Bledsoe to play the two-headed ball handling game with Goran Dragic they'd envisioned Gordon to play. To add Gordon, the Suns would be committing to the same kind of match-game lineup problems as New Orleans faces, yet with even more trouble because none of these guys can shift to SF due to size problems (none over 6'3").

But the Suns don't have any All-Stars. They still need to acquire more and more talent any way they can, and a young (still just 24) two-way playing shooting guard with All-Star talent cannot be ignored.

What the Suns have to decide is whether they want to trade $14+ million in salaries (likely expiring) plus potentially a young asset to acquire an expensive, injury-prone player who forces one of Bledsoe/Dragic to the bench?

Plus, acquiring the long-term contract of Gordon would take the Suns out of the free agent market until at least 2015 and could possibly take them out of the top 5 draft picks next spring - a draft loaded with potential franchise players.
Acquiring someone like Gordon would be tempting for a quick turnaround, but is it worth the cost?

Poll
Should the Suns trade for Eric Gordon?

  1201 votes | Results

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Record: 8-7

Place In Standings: Third

Points Per Game: 83.9

Points Against: 85.8

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This season has been much like a game of basketball. It has had runs that go both ways as the Phoenix Mercury are struggling with consistency, hence their near .500 record. They started the season 0-3 before rattling off eight wins in nine games that has led into this current three game losing streak.

Injuries have played a part in the teams inconsistency as rookie Brittney Griner has been on-and-off the mend with minute restrictions, missed games, and struggling to stay on the court.

IT IS NOT MY CALL. IT IS NOT MY CALL... I WOULD LOVE FOR HER TO PLAY. -Coach Gaines on Griner's status

Add to that Penny Taylor coming back from injury and Candice Dupree having one game where she was suspended and this team has yet to get everyone on the court at the same time.

"If you are not healthy you are not winning any Championships," Diana Taurasi on the teams recent injuries. "We have to get healthy and go from there"

Getting the entire band back together has been a struggle the past few seasons with injuries and other short-comings. That will be the key to the team finding consistency because depending on the day of the week there is a different line-up, minute restrictions, or miscellaneous issues that limit the team as a whole. So far Taurasi and DeWanna Bonner have been the only constants this season, but that is not enough with the great teams around the league.

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Team Defense

Those injuries have played a major part in the teams defense this season as they are a more secure fortress with Griner inside and have become an open flood guide without her. Teams are attacking the rim and scoring with ease inside that has become a reoccurring theme game-in-and-game-out.

The team is giving up 44.5% shooting on two point shots and 37.5% shooting on three-point shooting. Teams are attacking the Mercury at the heart of the defense.

"You can say you want to work harder, but when someone is 6-5 it doesn't matter how hard you work," Taurasi on missing team height and size. "We have to find a way to cover that up and we haven't done a good job of that."

So far this season the Mercury have given up 59.3% of their points inside the three-point arc either at the rim or extended to the mid-range. Compare that to the amount of points scored from three (20.2%) and from the free-throw line (20.3%) and it is clear where the issues lie for the team defense. Inside and at the heart. They are not defending the rim.

What is the team missing?

"Obviously BG's (Griner) size, she is 6-8 and is able to come over and help," said Dupree after the loss to the Sparks. "She is hard for opponents to just drive around and she takes up a lot of space, in a good way, and right now that is what we are missing. In the past we have been without that and won games so we just have to get get back to that."

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...Speaking of that Defense

This season the Mercury are the last defensive points per game, a basement they are used to being in, and at the same time they are the second highest scoring team in the league. Those two facts were similar if not the same in 2007 and 2009 for Championships. There is a different feeling with this team though as they used to out score opponents in the past while this year the team is trying to score more that their opponents.

Over the past five years defense has ruled the WNBA Finals. In 2012 the Indiana Fever (72.3 points allowed, 2nd in the league) won the Championship behind great defense. The same thing happened in 2011 with the Minnesota Lynx (73.6, 2nd), in 2010 the Seattle Storm (73.8, 2nd), and in 2008 the Detroit Shock (74.1, 4th) all won the title behind defense.

Only the one team won a Championship without a Top 4 defense -- the 2009 Mercury with the worst defense in the league.

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Upcoming Schedule:

Wednesday @ Los Angeles Sparks at 7pm AZ Time

Sunday vs. Minnesota Lynx at 3:00pm AZ Time

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