For the first 49 games of the season, the Phoenix Suns had lost the fewest player-games to injury (4) in the entire league. Now Channing Frye is hurt while Grant Hill remains out as the Suns fight for their playoff lives. The Suns starting five of Gortat-Nash-Hill-Frye-Dudley boasted the league BEST scoring differential (+/-) in the entire league, but they have not played together since March 25, 2012 - 15 games ago.
The NBA offseason lockout left players to fend for themselves for six months and then, without warning, the league threw all players jam-packed an abbreviated training camp and 66 regular-season games into 4 months after a new Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed.
Despite their health, the Suns played poorly before the all-star break. Channing Frye has reportedly commented he expected the whole season to be cancelled. As a group, the team was unprepared to play the season. The team, held back mostly by their unproductive second unit, started 12-19 with a handful of egregious losses on the docket (14-20 at the all-star break). Eventually, the second unit began to gel and the Suns started winning games. Since the all-star break, the Suns have gone 19-11 without losing a single game that they were supposed to win while chalking up several wins they were supposed to lose.
But the injury bug is starting to take its toll.
First, Grant Hill went down just when the long road trip kicked off. The Suns' best perimeter defender, who took on all comers from point guards to small forwards, has missed 14 of the Suns' last 15 games. His defense has been missed especially against teams with strong perimeter play.
Now, Channing Frye subluxed his shoulder again, and may miss much if not all the Suns' remaining games.
But even unofficial injuries are catching up to the Suns, just as they hurt other NBA teams, I'm sure.
All-star point guard Steve Nash has played - for him - poorly in the last few weeks. His assists per game have dropped from 11.8 in March's 16 games to 8.8 in this month's 12 games. His shooting percentages have remained strong, but he's taking 2 fewer shots per game since the all-star break. But even beyond the numbers, Nash has appeared "tired" more often than not.
Coulda-been All-Star Marcin Gortat has tailed off as well. After averaging a team-high 36.6 minutes per game in February and earning consideration for all All-Star bid, the Polish Hammer has appeared tired. In April, the Suns' best rebounder and pick-and-roll finisher is down to only 29.9 minutes per game. Some of that can be attributed to Robin Lopez' improved play, but I just know by watching Gortat that his fire from last year and early this year seems to be missing.
Somehow, the Suns have gone 19-11 in the second half despite a drop-off in production from their best players - Gortat, Nash and Hill.
And now Channing Frye is injured too.
The Suns need 2 more wins to earn a postseason bid, despite their mounting injuries and stars' tired legs. Can they pull off two more miracles?