The Phoenix Suns take on the Denver Nuggets tonight at US Airways Center in Phoenix. The Nuggets just won their first game of the season last night, a two-point win over Atlanta. In the off season, the Nuggets lost their GM, fired their coach and brought in a more traditional mindset - defense first, offense second.

Let's get to know the Nuggets through Nate Timmons, editor of SB Nation's Denver Stiffs.

Dave King: can't remember the last time a 57 win team completely changed their style to a more traditional one that neutered half the team's assets. Oh wait, yeah, the Suns did that 3 years ago. Worked out real well in Phoenix. I totally see why Denver followed suit. Do you see the same parallels or are the situations totally different?

Nate: I don't know all the ins-and-outs to the Suns situation from those incredibly fun teams from years back, but it sure has been a roller-coaster ride in Denver. I truly think that the Nuggets, in particular Josh Kroenke, wanted to keep Masai Ujiri and remain on the path that he was on. The fact they had a "handshake" deal with him in place after the Philadelphia 76ers came calling before the 2012-13 campaign and never put pen-to-paper after the fact left many in Nuggets Nation scratching their collective heads. The dismissal of George Karl may seem like a disaster to the outsiders, but many Nuggets fans were ready to see a new coach at the helm.

Now that the Nuggets are 1-3, people are asking a lot of questions. The roster doesn't totally seem to fit the style yet, but Brian Shaw also isn't liking what he has seen. People think he doesn't want to run, but I spoke with him, at length, about how he does want to run and use the altitude to his team's advantage, but how he also wants a good half-court and defensive team. The word around Denver is "patience", but I'm not sure people are wanting to see the franchise continue on with the parallels to the Suns (who have spent years re-tooling and re-building).

DK: is Kenneth Faried suddenly just "a guy" who will eventually join McGee on the bench/trade block?

Nate: I believe that in Shaw's system and with J.J. Hickson on the roster that Faried is best served being a bench big man. That's not to say he is just "a guy" in that role. He can continue to be very effective and a big asset off the bench, but he also has to show some improvement to his overall game. People love to see his high-flying alley-oop dunks and rebounds, but those plays often blind people to the fact that he also gave up a plethora of points to his man on the defensive end, or is constantly missing his assigmnet in the pick-and-roll defense. We all know he has to improve his shooting range, but he's still young enough to get there. We all want to know if he'll be traded as nobody on this roster is safe from that talk.

DK: Who is Denver's player of the future? Still Ty Lawson and Javale McGee (highest paid new contracts)? Or is it Evan Fournier?

Nate: I don't know if that guy is on the roster. The Nuggets appear to be in wait-and-see mode with this team. Many in the media suspect that we could see a very different team after the trade deadline - that might be when the front office feels it has ample time to make some decisions on this current roster. The McGee honeymoon is over; people want to see him play better, but many fear that with his asthma and his lack of attention to detail that he may be a high-priced bench player who is currently being outplayed by Timofey Mozgov (who looks pretty good thus far, in his own right). Fournier has struggled mightily, but he's still a youngster without much experience, as is Quincy Miller (who has yet to play a role with the team). Lawson is still the team's best player and he's also the team's best asset for a potential trade.

DK: How will Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler co-exist on this team, given what appears to be Shaw's desire for traditional positions?

Nate: That's a great question. Shaw has paid lip-service to wanting traditional positions, but he also has been using J.J. Hickson at center, Nate Robinson at shooting guard, and Andre Miller at small forward. Yes, Andre Miller at small forward. Shaw also has discussed playing Chandler at shooting guard, with Gallo at small forward or Darrell Arthur in his stead, as he plays very well with Gallo. Right now, Nuggets fans would take either guy to just be healthy and worry about all the other stuff later. Chandler has yet to appear in a preseason or regular season game and Gallo may not be back until late November, sometime in December, or really anyone's guess. Most national people say January or February with Gallo, but I think they failed to get the update that he suffered a partially torn ACL that did not require surgery.


There you have it folks. Straight from the horse's mouth up in Denver. For more game coverage, troll around BSotS for a preview, practice report, gamethread and recap throughout the day as the Suns try to go 4-2 on the season. We will also post a link of my own Q&A on the Suns for the Denver Stiffs website.

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

After turning over most of the roster in the off season to a din of cheers from the fan base, the Phoenix Suns now face a difficult decision between building up or continuing the tear down.

The team on the court is playing better than expected, 3-2 entering tonight's game, and some key indicators suggest the Suns won't fade back into the West cellar any time soon. Their defensive scheme is solid, and their offense is difficult to defend. Yet, they don't have the star power to make a deep playoff run either.

Right back where they left off?

Hello, Worst Place in the NBA. Nice to see you again. Oh, our table in the corner is still reserved for us? Why thank you. Yes, it's been a year since we stopped by. We had a detour, but at least temporarily we're back. We'll take a Evian and a plate of mozzarella sticks to start. Do you mind if we slap this new logo onto the wall over our old one?

The Worst Place in the NBA is just good enough to draft outside the Top 10, but just bad enough to miss the playoffs. This rebuilt Suns roster was not supposed to sniff this region, but it sure looks like that's where we are headed.

No NBA team wants to win 30-40 games in a season. All you get for your troubles is a middling draft pick that promises another year of mediocre play. The Suns have been there the last several years with picks at the 14, 14, 13 and 12 spots from 2008-2012. Those picks led to a disappointing 2012-13 team that "earned" the #5 overall pick last June, but unfortunately it was a weak draft. Alex Len will be a good NBA player, but he's not a future superstar. No one available at #5 last June is a future superstar.

Tearing it down

When new GM Ryan McDonough took over this team, he saw what everyone else saw: the easiest path back to relevance was to build a loser in 2013-14 and try again for that high pick in the 2014 Draft. It's been billed as the best draft in a decade, with as many as half a dozen franchise-changers waiting to be snapped up. Everyone on the team embraced that goal, and four trades later the Suns were torn apart.

When all was done, the Suns entered the season without a single player who would start for most teams in the NBA. The Suns best returning player, Goran Dragic, wouldn't start on half the league's teams in a PG-rich league. The other starters - P.J. Tucker, Eric Bledsoe, Channing Frye, Miles Plumlee - never started full time for any NBA team before this season.

League wide sentiment was that the Suns were doing a very good job setting themselves up for failure.

Rising from ashes

But the coaching staff didn't get that memo, and neither did the players. A week into the season, the surprising Suns are 3-2 and quickly building a fan base falling head over heels for the scrappy players on this team. Nicknames are being developed and jerseys are soon to be flying off shelves.

What was once a waste land where turnover was hotly anticipated now becomes a minefield where Ryan McDonough and Lon Babby must tread lightly. Any trades with this team might be met with negative backlash.

The Suns want to simultaneously build a winning atmosphere while not stocking it with enough talent *yet* to win consistently until after the 2014 Draft. It's the Orlando Magic model from last year - get the kids playing right but still lose a ton of games.

But to where?

But what if that plan gets scuttled? What it they win consistently enough to ruin the 2014 Draft possibilities, but not enough to project playoff wins?

No one wants to be there, drafting 12th again. Sure the Suns have other draft picks in their back pocket - up to three more from 12-30 - but the better the draft the less likely the Suns can trade into a Top 10 pick using those assets. Nay, the Suns plan has their own pick in the Top 10.

On the flip side, if this team won't go away and keep winning games, do you go all in to improve the talent right now? Toronto tried to do that last year, acquiring Rudy Gay in January for playoff push that ultimately sputtered and cost the GM his job. Houston did it a year ago, acquiring James Harden to make a successful run. They never bottomed out in Houston and somehow have a contending team a year later.

But if you don't see that superstar available in trade, do you further tear down this team to ensure a top pick? How would a team this happy to be together, this "clean" of spirit, take to a trade of Goran Dragic for a future asset? Or Channing Frye?

That's the minefield. Any attempt to improve the talent or further tear it down would mess with the chemistry of the team, possibly in the negative direction. Chemistry is intangible. You can't control it. And now that the Suns have some good stuff brewing, you don't want to mess with it.

But if you don't make any changes, it's quite possible the Suns are looking at a handful of middling draft picks again.

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

our Phoenix Suns are 3-2 after the first nine days of the 2013-14 NBA season, with the only losses coming in down-to-the-wire bouts against Western Conference powerhouses Oklahoma City and San Antonio. It's hard not to love this team. The Suns entered the season expected by most to stumble and struggle (a particular "expert" even predicted that Phoenix would lose every single game against conference opponents) and have thus far shown that no matter what, they will play with hustle and heart. For most Suns fans this year, that is a very welcome development after the travesty that was the 2012-13 Suns team.

If the playoffs started today, the Suns would be the 6th seed matched up with the Houston Rockets. For some reason, the NBA playoffs don't begin after five regular season games so we'll have to keep tracking the team's lottery playoff status as this young season progresses. Meanwhile, let's take a look at what's been written about the Suns elsewhere on the interwebs.

Power Rankings

CBS Sports (Nov. 5) - #8:

Seriously guys, you're going the wrong way! 21(29)

Sports Illustrated (Nov. 4) - #10:

The Eric Bledsoe Show is even better than imagined in Phoenix. Three games into his first opportunity as a full-fledged starter, Bledsoe is averaging 22 points, 8.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds. He's excelling as a No. 1 option and giving opponents fits with his energy on both ends. Bledsoe and Co. are showing that Phoenix -- which was widely predicted to be the worst team in the Western Conference -- has no plans to roll over for a lottery pick.

ESPN (Nov 4.) - #16:

Presented without conclusions: The committee (of one) wrote THIS when Eric Bledsoe was not signed to a contract extension before the Halloween buzzer. In the two games since, Bledsoe spectacularly carried Phoenix late to clinch a win in Utah and then dazzled in a narrow defeat at OKC.

USA Today (Nov. 2) - #11:

Coach Jeff Hornacek gave the 76ers two good years as a player. Now his overachieving team is toiling in their shadow.

Play of the Week

There's really no other choice:

Tweets of the Week

As much as I hate the nickname "Plumdog" ("Frequent Flyer Miles" is so much better), my favorite Suns-related tweet of the week was this gem:

Plumdog Millionaire (cc @seth_slabs) and thanks to @bochurney

— Jordan White (@JordanSWhite) November 6, 2013

In other Suns-related Twitter news, former Sun Jared Dudley argued with Amin Elhassan that he believed Phoenix should have given Eric Bledsoe an extension last week:

@JonesOnTheNBA @AminESPN don't listen to Amin! Bledsoe is 21 or 22.. Way different situation then Amare and Gordon. Should of payed him

— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) November 5, 2013

@AminESPN @JonesOnTheNBA It is when your that young, shown signs of star potential, traded away a fan fav and took on salary to get him..

— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) November 5, 2013

Never mind that Jared got Bledsoe's age wrong. We can add him to the long list of NBA players who have expressed belief in Eric Bledsoe's star power.

Bright Sider of the Week

We will have a weekly "Bright Sider of the Week" segment where I will pick one commenter based on totally arbitrary and meaningless criteria. This week, brawadis earns the prestigious award for his extremely evident fandom. Congrats (I think), brawadis:


NOTE: Bright Side of the Sun does not advocate quitting your job.

Creepiest Mascot of the Week All Time

Phoenix defeated New Orleans on Tuesday and will once again play them on Sunday, this time in Phoenix. This means that Pierre the Pelican will be in town, which is good news for no one. Be wary, Suns fans:


(via @Nick_Pants)


Any other news you'd like to share? Any suggestions for weekly segments I should include in Solar Flares other than the ones above (these segments will change week-to-week because I'm just making things up as I go along)? Feel free to discuss below!

Ultimately, the Suns are disappointed to come away from their first road trip of the year with only one win. Their defeat in OKC could be chalked up to Russell Westbrook’s unexpected return. They...

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Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan went to work inside early, scoring 10 of the Spurs first 14 points to get things going for the evil empire.  The Suns countered by playing their usual role of rebarbative pests.  P.J. drew a charge on Kawhi Leonard that epitomizes why he succeeds as a player. He draped himself on Leonard all the way down the court as Kawhi brought the ball up, making just enough contact to avoid the foul.  Instead, Leonard lost his cool and dropped his shoulder.  Turnover San Antonio.  Not all went this well.  After being down just one (12-11) halfway through the quarter the Suns relaxed on D and the Spurs rattled off a 15-4 run.  The Spurs look to push the pace and the Suns allowed them to do so unabated.  Markieff Morris helped the Suns close the gap, however, as he built off a strong performance from Tuesday's game by scoring all the Suns points in a 6-2 run to cap the period.  Score: SA 29, Suns 21

The reserves cut into San Antonio's lead at the beginning of the second quarter.  While the Spurs decided to pound the ball down low with Tiago Splitter, Phoenix kept riding Markieff Morris.  He hit a jumper with 8:32 left in the period that pulled the Suns within one (32-31) and gave him 12 points in just eight minutes of play.  The whole unit proved to be pesky, though, including Ish Smith - who reminds me of a wasp out there.  In the midst of the run Archie Goodwin crept up behind Tim Duncan and pilfered the ball, running down the court for a savage dunk followed by a vociferous, primal scream.  The tally was 23-6 to start the quarter before the Spurs finally regained their footing.  It was another impressive stretch by a Suns team that has been showing a propensity to enter beast mode at the drop of a hat.  Duncan scored six quick points to provide some cessation from the Suns barrage, but too much Markieff (18 points on 9-10 shooting and seven boards) helped the Suns head back to the locker room with a two point lead.  Score: Suns 53, SA 51

The Suns and Spurs traded blows in the third quarter in what slowed to a more methodical pace.  Bledsoe (6) and Plumlee (4) shouldered the scoring load, with the latter showing that he was in no way backing down from the challenge of going against an all-time great.  The mixing and matching of lineups with players who haven't realized they aren't supposed to be playing like this continued.  One play after being subbed in Dionte Christmas came up with a steal that led to a fast break layup by Bledsoe.  That's just how it's been working.  The wrong Green (Danny for the Spurs) provided the scoring punch for the bad guys with seven in the quarter.  A very tightly contested quarter ended up with the score being tied dead nuts.  Score: Suns 73, SA 73

The fourth quarter continued to be gripping theater.  The teams traded blows and buckets.  Danny Green continued to flirt with flamethrower status and help the Spurs maintain a scant lead.  Plumlee converted an unusual three point play (missed the second of two free throws then scored a basket) to cut the lead to 83-82, but Marcus Morris committed an offensive foul on the ensuing offensive possession and the Spurs went back up by five (87-82).  Back came the Suns.  Gerald Green followed a three pointer with a two-handed throwdown and it was back to even (87-87).  Neither team led by more than three points the rest of the way.  Phoenix actually regained the lead 96-95 after Plumlee scored on an acrobatic roll across the lane assisted by P.J. Tucker.  Ultimately, though, Tony Parker was just too much.  Parker scored 15 of the Spurs final 16 points, reminding us that he's still one of the elite point guards in the game.  The Suns had absolutely no answer for him as Parker didn't even miss a shot during the stretch (7-7).  Still, the Suns had two chances to tie the game in the closing seconds.  Bledsoe missed a three pointer, but the rebound went off the Spurs.  After the next inbounds pass the ball ended up in Gerald Green's hands, but the play wasn't executed well and he didn't get a clean look.  His awkward launch from well behind the line was off the mark, allowing the Spurs to escape with  a harrowing victory.

Final Score: SA 99, Suns 96


Player of the Game:

Tony Parker (begrudgingly).  After being stifled for the first 41 minutes of the game Parker managed to score 15 points on 7-7 shooting in the final seven, damn near single-handedly carrying the Spurs to the victory.


Comments of the Game:

I feel like Green is gonna be hot this game.

No, not Danny Green.


"Plumlee: don't let his looks fool you, he's a terrific atlete."

Translation: he's white!


Dear Bright Side of the Sun Doubters,

Get Bent.


Markieff Morris


How come the refs at Spurs games never take us and give the points when they bet?

We're a 15-point underdog tonight.


I have absolutely no idea what to make of what I'm seeing from Markieff Morris.


Popovich is seriously yelling about the Suns travelling???

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black........


I've been straight impressed by our fringe NBA players.

They've looked like they aren't fringe NBA players.  Ish and Dionte in particular.  Plumlee too if that's what he was categorized as.


Seriously - this is like a playoff game!

And who would have thought we'd have THIS atmosphere against the Spurs on the 5th game of the season?


Professor Plum

In the air, with the orange roundie


This loss.  I can accept.  Good game.


The Good:

The Bench.  The reserves for Phoenix outscored their counterparts 46-24.  The Morrii, through some diablerie, have looked like real NBA basketball players for two straight games.  Ish Smith darts around the court like a whirling dervish.  Dionte was only on the court for 28 seconds before he started a fast break with a steal.  Archie Goodwin threw one down with fervor.  The box score may not love these guys, but it's easy to be enamored if you watch them play.

Markieff Morris.  He followed an impressive performance last night with 23 points (on 11-13 shooting) and 12 rebounds.  Let's hope this is the beginning of him evolving into a legitimate NBA caliber player instead of a two game anomaly.  We've seen a couple of flashes like this before, which just makes the ensuing regression more frustrating.

Miles Plumlee.  He just keeps stepping up to the challenge.  The Spurs aptly called "bigs" didn't deter Miles from mixing it up.  He finished with 15 points, six rebounds and two blocks while continuing his attack mode mentality.  Plumlee also continues to impress by showing some nice touch and footwork.  Just please... for the love of all that is holy... stop calling him Plumd**.  Anything but Plumd**.  It's like keying a Lamborghini.  Don't ruin the greatness that is Miles Plumlee by besmirching his good name with that putrescence.

The Bad:

Channing Frye and P.J. Tucker were largely ineffective.  Tucker still made his normal presence felt on the defensive end, but a combined 6 points on 2-11 shooting just isn't getting it done.

18 turnovers are still too much.  The most grievous offender, Bledsoe, reeled himself in tonight and pitched a shutout, but his partner in crime (Gerald Green) picked up the slack.  Or maybe in this case dropped the slack...  In any case, Green had a serious mental lapse and committed an offensive foul, charging recklessly into the lane, with just 40 seconds left when he should have been holding the ball to kill time off the clock.


The Ugly:

I'm still having a hard time getting over Pierre the Pelican.  The only thing I can think of even close to as terrifying is Albert and EJ saying Plumdog... Stop the madness.


Final Thoughts:

The Suns can come home with their heads held high.  They just gave the two best teams in the Western Conference from last season every single bit they could handle.  Winning on the road in the NBA is tough, even for the best teams.  A 3-2 start, especially with the way they've played, is nothing to be ashamed of.

And what a great game.  I'm really enjoying watching this team play.

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