With Grant Hill injured, will Josh Childress be able to rise to the challenge?

The Phoenix Suns had a rare stretch of three consecutive days off to lick their wounds after dropping two games in a row to the Spurs and Clippers, plus the news that Grant Hill needed surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee and will be out of action for an estimated 2-4 weeks.

A visit from the worst team in the Western Conference, the New Orleans Hornets, should help cure what ails the Suns. The 13-39 Hornets are 28th in the league in offensive rating, 29th in points per game and last in pace. They're a slow, grinding team that tries to lure opponents into defensive slopfests and then steal a win at the end, as they did on opening night in Phoenix, winning 85-84 on Eric Gordon's game-winning jump shot.

Gordon played one game after that, then had arthroscopic knee surgery, and has yet to return this season. The Hornets also missed injured players Trevor Ariza, Carl Landry, and Emeka Okafor, plus Chris Kaman (illness) and Gustavo Ayon (personal reason) in last night's loss in Los Angeles to the Lakers. That means the Hornets will likely have only one starter in the line-up tonight from that season opener.

This should be a game the Suns will be able to win, yeah?

That doesn't necessarily mean it will be pretty. On the surface, the Hornets are a team in tank mode but they've continued to compete. This past week, they've played the Spurs and Blazers tight, beat up on the Warriors and nearly stole one from the Lakers in LA last night.

They also flat out don't give up many points. A lot of that is due to the snail's pace with which they play and they're only 18th in defensive rating, but the bottom line is that they only gave up 100 points twice in the month of March. In one of those games, they gave up 101 to the Warriors and in the other they gave up 107 in an OT loss to the Lakers, but less than 100 in regulation.

The Suns, meanwhile, have averaged 101 points per game in going 11-6 since the All-Star break. The loss of Hill will be felt much more in games against opponents with strong perimeter scorers, which the Hornets don't have right now unless Marco Belinelli scares you.

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Eric Gordon 2 39.0 8.5 20.0 42.5 0.5 6.0 8.3 3.5 4.5 77.8 0.5 4.5 5.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 1.5 2.5 21.0
Jarrett Jack 44 34.1 5.9 13.0 45.5 0.9 2.5 34.5 2.9 3.3 87.0 0.5 3.4 3.9 6.4 2.3 0.7 0.2 2.1 15.6
Chris Kaman 39 29.3 5.8 13.3 43.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.7 2.3 76.4 2.1 6.1 8.1 2.2 2.9 0.5 1.5 2.2 13.3
Carl Landry 28 24.9 4.5 9.2 49.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 3.5 4.3 80.8 2.0 2.9 4.9 1.0 1.7 0.4 0.3 2.4 12.5
Marco Belinelli 52 30.6 4.3 10.3 42.0 1.6 4.3 37.8 1.5 1.9 78.6 0.3 2.3 2.6 1.5 1.2 0.7 0.1 1.8 11.7
Trevor Ariza 38 33.6 4.2 10.1 41.0 0.7 2.2 32.9 2.0 2.6 77.3 1.1 4.4 5.5 3.4 1.9 1.7 0.6 1.8 11.0
Emeka Okafor 27 28.9 4.2 7.9 53.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.4 2.7 51.4 2.6 5.3 7.9 0.9 1.4 0.6 1.0 2.7 9.9
Jason Smith 27 23.0 4.2 8.6 48.9 0.0 0.3 12.5 0.9 1.2 69.7 1.6 3.0 4.7 0.6 0.8 0.5 1.1 2.6 9.3
Greivis Vasquez 52 23.9 3.2 7.3 43.2 0.6 1.8 31.5 1.4 1.7 80.9 0.3 2.2 2.5 4.9 2.0 0.9 0.1 1.9 8.3
Gustavo Ayon 41 21.3 2.9 5.2 55.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.7 1.2 61.2 1.6 3.2 4.9 1.4 1.0 1.1 0.9 2.2 6.5
Xavier Henry 32 16.2 2.1 5.2 39.5 0.2 0.5 40.0 1.2 1.9 59.7 0.5 1.6 2.1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 1.0 5.5
Al-Farouq Aminu 52 20.1 2.0 5.1 40.3 0.1 0.6 18.8 1.1 1.4 78.7 1.4 2.8 4.2 0.8 1.2 0.8 0.4 2.1 5.3
Lance Thomas 30 14.6 1.5 3.2 47.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.4 1.7 82.0 1.3 1.8 3.1 0.2 0.7 0.3 0.1 2.1 4.4
Chris Johnson 26 6.6 0.8 1.6 48.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 0.7 78.9 0.6 0.9 :1.5 0.1 0.5 0.2 0.3 1.2 2.1

Markieff Morris isn't expected to play for the Suns, still out with the flu. I would have thought seeing his Kansas Jayhawks beat Ohio St. to make it to the NCAA Championship game would have made him feel better.

Projected starting line-ups, using Hornets starting five from last night:

PG Steve Nash vs. Jarrett Jack

SG Shannon Brown vs. Marco Belinelli

SF Jared Dudley vs. Lance Thomas

PF Channing Frye vs. Al-Farouq Aminu

C Marcin Gortat vs. Jason Smith

In the first three meetings between the teams, two won by the Suns, the Suns scored 84, 93 and a whopping 120 last time they met. Still, I'm calling this one a likely ugly win, scoring under 100. Sorry fans, no free tacos. You'll just have to get your own.

Additional reading

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At the Hive

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Will the Suns score at least 100 points tonight?
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Phoenix Suns 92, New Orleans Hornets 75 There isn’t much working in the Phoenix Suns’ favor right about now. They’re losers of two straight and four of their last six, they remain...

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Lindsey Vonn is a Clippers fan, the Clippers helped us out by beating the Jazz last night. Yay, Lindsey!

Only a few games of significance to the Suns' playoff hopes were played last night, but the ninth place Utah Jazz lost in L.A. to the Clippers for their third straight defeat, dropping them to even with the Suns in the loss column at 27-26.

The Nuggets and Rockets were off last night, so the Suns remain 2 1/2 games behind both the No. 7 and No. 8 spots.

This sprint of a lockout-shortened season has now entered its final month, with the last day of the regular season coming April 26. The Nuggets and Rockets are both currently playing at a 35.5 win pace. Will the Suns be able to make it to that many? Or will one of those competitors see the wheels fall off for some reason? We' will learn in the next three and a half weeks.

Utah Jazz 96 @ Los Angeles Clippers 105, SLC Dunk

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin get it done, combine for 50 points

Devin Harris had as many assists as CP3 did, but only took 4 shots. He just couldn't keep up. Big Al was Big on offense, netting 26 points, though zero free throw attempts (which sucks, he deserves more than zero). He only had 4 rebounds, which was surprising. Paul had 18 and 9, with 5 assists, but he shot 6/14. He did make up for it somewhat by going 6/6 at the free throw line. The Jazz left 9 points there in this game going 22/31.

Memphis Grizzlies 99 @ Milwaukee Bucks 95, Straight Outta Vancouver

As repetitive as it may be, it has to said that in spite of a win, it's concerning that the Grizzlies once again barely beat an inferior opponent. It's especially frustrating that Memphis only won by 4 considering that Monta Ellis, the Bucks' best scorer, went 2-12 for 8 points. Admittedly, Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova both dropped 20 points, but I can live with that when we limit the rest of the team (Note: Brandon Jennings also scored 24, but it was so inefficient that it actually worked in our favor).

Once again, the Grizzlies didn't dominate this game because they couldn't put the ball in the basket. O.J. Mayo, Zach Randolph, and Quincy Pondexter had nice offensive outings and that's it. More than anything else, Mike Conley was sorely missed for his ability to create turnovers and push the ball in transition.

New Orleans Hornets 85 @ Los Angeles Lakers 88, Silver Screen and Roll

There are plenty of reasons to be disappointed in this game. The Lakers just struggled to beat the New Orleans Hornets ... decimated by (or perhaps aided by, since their goal isn't really success at the moment) injuries ... at home. Kobe's terrible shooting played a big role, but the Lakers as a team were once again slow to loose balls and defensive rotations. The big men both played well (21 and 11 for Gasol, 19 and 10 for Bynum) and Ramon Sessions made the kind of influence that is easily lost if it isn't highlighted - 10 points and 10 assists for Ramon, and just one turnover for the first time as a starter., but the bottom line is that the Lakers were once again out worked and out hustled to many loose balls and rebounds.

Note that the Suns opponents today, the Hornets, battled hard with the Lakers yesterday. We can hope they won't have that type of energy today.

Current standings:


On a roster that requires every point, rebound — every contribution really — because of its lack of star power, the loss of Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill to a knee injury is painful for...

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Expect to see this again next season. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

In a rare schedule quirk during a grueling season full of 6-in-8s, 4-in-5s and 3-in-3s, the Suns enjoy their third consecutive non-game-day of the season.

The team is practicing and cryo-therapying and Cellebrini-ing, getting ready to make a final playoff push without the services of Grant Hill. Yesterday, Gentry said that Shannon Brown (19 ppg in 4 starts) will start and Josh Childress will get some minutes. While I applaud the Childress minutes, I do think he'd be more effective with the starters as a "scraps" guy than with the bench. If Brown is starting in Hill's place, then we're looking at just another "who me?" guy on the second unit when the shot-clock is inevitably running out. At least Chill can post up, occasionally.

There has been a lot of angst among Suns fans over the last couple of days while national media have drooled like Big Baby Davis did a couple years ago after making a big shot in the playoffs.

Nash said, without prodding, that he wants the Suns to improve a good deal this summer before committing to return. And then he said, after a lot of prodding, that he wouldn't ignore LeBron's James' phone call.

Suns fans freaked out. "OMG Nash is gone!" "We're DooOOOOoooMMMED!"

Personally, I felt a sense of calm and contentment wash over me. My heartbeat slowed and I exhaled long and deep.

The Suns will be okay. In fact, the Suns will be better than okay. Nash will be back in orange-and-purple and the Suns will be a solid playoff team again next season.

First off, let's put Nash's comments into context.

Anyone who's been on BSotS all season knows that most Suns fans want the front office to bring in more talent. Even the most optimistic fans of the current roster would agree that the Suns would be better served with a big-time scorer in the lineup, even if it means having Duds or Frye coming off the bench.

So why the angst when Nash says the same thing?

"If you look at our team, we don't have a 20-point-a-game scorer or a go-to guy," Nash said to Paul Coro yesterday. "It'd be great if we can get that. If not, we're going to have to do it by committee and try to sign (the best) players as we can. I think that's why the club made this summer the summer that they created cap space and flexibility."

Are we, as fans, going to jump ship and root for another team just because we wish the talent on the team was better? No. So why assume Nash is jumping ship?

In fact, I think his quotes are saying the exact opposite. To me, he sounds invested in the franchise. He sounds like a guy who wants the Suns to win a lot of games again, rather than a guy who is looking to join another team. I love that!

But even if you don't agree with me, even if you read those quotes and listen to those interviews and decide that Nash is basically outta here, there is a bigger takeaway from his comments that you can stick in your back pocket and carry around with you.

Nash was unequivocal about the fact that the Suns are going to spend long-awaited cap money this summer to improve the talent on the team for the 2012-13 season.

"We're a team that is in transition, so I thought everybody knew we were waiting for the summer to improve the team."

Smile, Suns fans!

This is a guy who talks to the front office a LOT more than we do.

This is a guy who could have asked to be traded many times over the last few years, and especially over the last few months, but instead decided that he wanted to stay.

This is a guy that the Suns' front office has unrelentingly said they want to keep around.

So for Steve Nash to say "I thought everyone knew we were waiting for the summer to improve the team," even after a couple of days to re-think his initial words and soften his assumptions, then you can be sure that the Suns front office is a part of that "we" that Nash speaks of.

Those are the comments of a player who has reassurances from Babby, Blanks and Sarver that the Suns will be better next season and that this offseason will be a big one.

Exactly HOW and WHO, I have no idea.

What I do know are two things:

  • the Suns front office is ready to spend at least a good chunk of the $30 million in cap space this summer, if the opportunity presents itself.
  • the Suns are not likely to overpay. Since Babby and Blanks came aboard, the Suns have only offered smart contracts. Everyone signed or picked up since September 2010 has been a smart, safe contract.

I'll give you this quote again:

"If you look at our team, we don't have a 20-point-a-game scorer or a go-to guy," Nash said to Paul Coro yesterday. "It'd be great if we can get that. If not, we're going to have to do it by committee and try to sign (the best) players as we can. I think that's why the club made this summer the summer that they created cap space and flexibility."

Nash knows there's no all-star out there waiting to be signed. He knows it's a process. He is using "we" a lot.

And that makes me smile.

Don't expect Aaron Brooks back this season

Over on suns.com, Suns General Manager Lance Blanks wrote a blog about his visit to China to see Aaron Brooks, currently a restricted free agent for the Suns. In the blog, there is no mention of Brooks returning to the Suns in the next few days. In fact, Blanks specifically mentions the opposite.

"...[Brooks] is eager to get back home to the States, see his family and begin his off season training to prepare himself for a return to NBA."

Brooks cannot sign with any NBA team other than the Suns until this season is over. If the Suns do not sign him for the last three to four weeks of the season, then he remains a restricted free agent during the offseason. If he signs an offer from another team over the summer, the Suns have a right to match that offer to keep him.

It's just another BB in the barrel. If Nash leaves for another team, Brooks is a serviceable point guard until someone better is found. In his only full season as a starter (with Houston), he averaged more than 19 points and six assists per game and won the Most Improved Player award.

Then he asked for "starter money," got a long-term ankle injury, lost his starting job to Kyle Lowry, developed a bad attitude and got shipped to Phoenix where he barely played behind Nash.

He is little, skinny, doesn't play a lick of defense and doesn't "see the floor" particularly well.

But he was a legitimate NBA starter for 1.5 of his first two seasons in the NBA. His career record in a starting role is 68-49, and he led his team to the playoffs each year he finished as a starter. If Nash leaves this summer and the Suns strike out on Deron Williams, Brooks is a viable starting point guard.

Better to keep his rights over the summer.

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