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Goran Dragic has had to shoulder the load before without Eric Bledsoe, but he needs his teammates to start stepping up for this to work again...

Another 2-1 week for the Phoenix Suns (20-12) a float in the Western Conference Standings despite playing two games without emerging star Eric Bledsoe. This is not the first time the team has been without Bledsoe in the line-up due to injury and have tread water in those games going 4-4 overall.

Game Recaps

@ Los Angeles Clippers - W (107-88) Full Recap

vs. Memphis Grizzlies - L (91-99) Full Recap

vs. Milwaukee Bucks - W (116-100) Full Recap

This week Head Coach Jeff Hornacek had to create a last minute gameplan against the scrappy Grizzlies which resulted in a tough loss at home, but with a few days to prepare they were able to knock off the underachieving Bucks despite being shorthanded.

The highlight of the season so far came with a knockout blow type victory over the "rival" Clippers who lead the Pacific Division.

Getting a resume win like that with the style points that go along with it is important for a young team trying to wave waves. The wins against the Blazers earlier in the season where great, but this was a statement win. Chris Paul described the loss to the Suns as the "worst loss" he has had in a Clippers uniform. That says a lot because the Suns roughed them up. They played tough and took the flashy and fun Clippers out of their element. Sounds a bit familiar, right Suns fans?

Key Stat

Point Distribution

With Eric Bledsoe out the team is missing 18.0 points and 5.8 assists per game. Not going to deep into advanced stats, shooting numbers, and overall impact on the game. He impacts the game in ways that stats cannot describe for this team. Here is a look at the scoring distribution for the eight games that Bledsoe has not played in this season:

Gerald Green: 16.8 points 2.1 assists per game (+4.6 points w/o Bledsoe)

Channing Frye: 16.0 points 1.2 assists per game (+6.2 points w/o Bledsoe)

Marcus Morris: 11.6 points 1.0 assists per game (+1.7 points w/o Bledsoe)

Markieff Morris: 10.3 points 1.5 assists per game (-2.5 points w/o Bledsoe)

P.J. Tucker: 9.0 points 2.0 assists per game (-0.2 points w/o Bledsoe)

Miles Plumlee: 8.3 points 0.25 assists per game (-2.1 points w/o Bledsoe)

In total, without Bledsoe the role players have accounted for +12.5 points and are nearly dead even, +0.205, in assists per game. The team is leaving 5.5 points and 5.6 assists per game on the bench in a suit making life for Goran Dragic that much tougher. Having a consistent secondary scorer or multiple role players step up and score 4-5 points more per game helps relieve the pressure...

Quote of the Week

We need everyone to play well for us to win. We do not have that guy that we can go to and say, "Hey, carry us tonight," -- Coach Jeff Hornacek on getting secondary scoring without Bledsoe in the line-up

2014 NBA Draft Update

Surrogate Watch continues and the Suns have three first round picks with the current projections, none of which are in the lottery. A slight change of pace from pre-season projections. Here is the update on how the three picks look right now:

Minnesota Timberwolves (16-17) -- No. 13 Overall (Pick stays in Minnesota based on Protections) James Young, Freshman Wing Kentucky -- Very good lefty shooter that has drawn comparisons to a young Michael Redd with athleticism.

Washington Wizards (14-17) -- No. 18 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Adreian Payne, Senior F/C Michigan State -- Dynamic stretch-four that has show the ability to score inside, score outside, and defend the interior as well.

Phoenix Suns (20-12) -- No. 22 Overall (Pick stays in Phoenix based on Protections) Sam Dekker, Sophomore Forward Wisconsin -- Skilled prospect that can play the three in a traditional line-up and small-ball four as well with his shooting and ball-handling/play-making ability.

Indiana Pacers (27-6) -- No. 30 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) Troy Williams, Freshman Forward Indiana -- Raw young athlete that is starting to gain more responsibility as a ball-handler, but overall is an elite athlete, quality defender, and rebounds his position well.

Keep following along here to get updates and information on the 2014 NBA Draft Class and more.

News & Notes

  • Eric Bledsoe will miss up to a week (or longer) with a sprained right knee...
  • Leandro Barbosa was signed to a 10-day contract...
  • Goran Dragic notched his career-high with 33 points against the Memphis Grizzlies...

Suns History Lesson

This week in Suns History: January 9th, 1972: In a loss to the Baltimore Bullets at College Park the NBA's 2,000,000 point was scored. By who? Who knows? Connie Hawkins and Dick Van Arsdale led the way with 22 points each in the loss.

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Tuesday, January 7th @ Chicago Bulls (14-18)

Wednesday, January 8th @ Minnesota Timberwolves (16-17)

Friday, January 10th @ Memphis Grizzlies (15-18)

Saturday, January 11th @ Detroit Pistons (14-20)

It feels like every week is a test for the team that has crashed the party, but proven that they belong there with everyone else who came with bells on. Their invitation was three years in the making and they decided to show up early, like a freshman at the senior dance.

Here is another opportunity for the Suns as they hit the road for five games in seven nights with four of them this week. The Bulls and Pistons are playoff teams in the Eastern Conference, but would be slotted No. 11 and No. 9 respectively if they were in the Western Conference. While the Bulls are struggling, they are feisty, like the Grizzlies which will be another stop on this trip. Without Bledsoe with for all these games it is not expected that the team will sweep through a road trip like these even with teams that are struggling. Getting back home with a 2-2 week would be acceptable while a 3-1 week would be admirable.

It's great that the Phoenix Suns have dipped into the good-will pool to sign Leandro Barbosa to a 10-day contract, but how will that impact other young guards on the roster?

Just when you thought the good vibes were as high as possible, the Phoenix Suns pull a blur out of the hat to raise the bar a bit higher.

The Suns cannot officially sign former fan favorite and one-time "Sixth Man of the Year" Leandro Barbosa to a 10-day contract until today, the first day allowed by the NBA's CBA, but that's just a formality.

Just like Goran Dragic and Channing Frye remember great times in Phoenix, the Brazilian Blur had this to say back in 2012 after helping the Raptors beat the Suns in Phoenix:

LB after the January 24, 2012 game, on 'Suns Live', saying what he misses the most about Phoenix:

(after a long pause) "The fans was really great for me, man. The fans was unbelievable, and I miss that. It was 7 years here, and 7 great years for me in my life and my career and I can't forget about that. And definitely my teammates, and the organization too that helped me, you know, to be where I am right now, so I... I miss... I miss a lot in Phoenix."

LB looked like he was about to choke up at this point as Mark McClune wrapped it up and wished him well with his new teammates.

Welcome back, Leandro!

Expect the Suns brass to talk about veteran influence in the locker room and on the floor while Eric Bledsoe recovers from a sprained knee. Per Paul Coro, the Suns did perform an MRI on Bledsoe and determined that he only needed rest, while Bledsoe himself said the knee was progressing. I wouldn't expect a long-term injury here.

And even if there IS a long-term injury to Bledsoe, there's no way a 31-year old Leandro Barbosa is the answer. You simply don't replace Bledsoe with a guy who was playing in the Brazilian league. More likely, Ish Smith and Gerald Green will continue to get more minutes in Bledsoe's place. It's when Bledsoe returns that Barbosa's long term role will be defined.

Ish Smith, by the way, is one of only three Suns backups since the 80s to collect at least two 8-assist games in less than 20 minutes of playing time in a single season. The others: Jeff Hornacek and Goran Dragic.

Fourth-guard insurance

My expectation is that the team will mostly use this 10-day period to assess Barbosa's health (which seems fine, per video from recent games) and his ability to play at NBA levels this season (the bigger question). He will likely get small minutes - maybe in Archie's place - but won't take Smith's PG role.

If he's good, then he's veteran "fourth guard off the bench" over the team's inexperienced backup guards - Archie Goodwin, Dionte Christmas and Ish Smith - for what looks like a playoff run, once Bledsoe returns from the knee injury.

Barbosa can produce more offense in terms of catch-and-shoot threes than Ish Smith in two-PG lineups (lifetime 39% 3-point shooter), and Goodwin and Christmas have not been producing big numbers in limited time lately.

Goodwin (still only 19) and Christmas, both rookies, are great for a rebuilding team looking at the future, but if you're in a playoff run it's best to have guys who have been to and produced in the playoffs. And it's best to have someone who will do it consistently. A 10-year veteran gives you the same game every night.

Regarding trades

As far as trade flexibility is concerned, the Suns will certainly have more roster flexibility.

Already, coach Hornacek only gives about 10 minutes a night to guys outside the top-8 in the rotation (again, with Smith taking Bledsoe's minutes in the top 8 during injury). Barbosa makes for a full 15-man roster. Why have a full roster if you're not going to play them?

But to surmise that a Barbosa signing is a definite tea leaf for an impending trade is no different than surmising any trades a week ago. Barbosa is more about veteran insurance than major rotation piece.

Christmas past

We all love Dionte Christmas, but not as much as the team in the locker room. He's a refreshing influence among the guys, really ingrained in their fabric of good will and hard work.

Yet, Christmas is on a non-guaranteed contract, which becomes guaranteed for the season if he's on the roster after tomorrow. He is the only player on the roster with a non-guaranteed deal for the entire season.

The Suns aren't hurting for money, but you can't forget that owner Robert Sarver is paying nearly $13 million this year to players no longer on the team (Childress, Beasley) and Christmas doesn't really have a rotation spot on a full roster.

Still, he's good to have around and you don't yet know if Barbosa can even play at NBA levels anymore. I'd vote to keep Christmas, but it's not my money.

Can the Suns keep pace with other playoff hopefuls in a brutal Western Conference as their schedule delivers a couple of daunting road trips... and will the replacement of an old adversary provide a new nemesis?

The Suns recovered from a second defeat at the hands of the Grizz to inauspiciously kick off 2014 by bludgeoning the Bucks Saturday night in a game that felt like a scrimmage. A scrimmage in which 6' 0" (in shoes) Ish Smith dunked on his former team. Phoenix still has a lot of work to do this month, though, and the schedule the rest of January provides ample adversity, especially when exacerbated by the loss of Eric Bledsoe. The Suns are now 4-4 when playing without Bledsoe after their most recent victory.

To help combat this significant loss the Suns have enlisted the aid of Leandro Barbosa (aka the Brazilian Blur) who will join the team on a ten day contract. He will join Ish in the backcourt as the Suns look to find production from other sources during Bledsoe's absence. Although no time is a good time for an injury, especially to a such an integral component, this setback finds the Suns at a pivotal point during the season where they stand to solidify their position in the playoff standings.

The Suns (20-12) currently sit one game back of both the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden St. Warriors (23-13 each) in the Pacific Division and are seventh in the Western Conference. While the Warriors are surging the Clippers are dealing with their own injury to star point guard Chris Paul. As well as the Suns have been playing there is no room for complacency, as a three or four game losing streak could shift momentum in the standings.


The Suns have two extended road trips in the month - one is five games in seven days and the other is four games in five days. There are four back-to-backs in those two Eastern trips. The Suns are 7-7 in seven sets of back-to-back games this season. Twice this season the Suns have had three game/four day trips and went 1-2 on one and 2-1 on the other.

While the Eastern Conference's inadequacies have been highly publicized (while writing this Sunday night the East is 56-114 against the West) winning any game on the road is still a task. The Suns are a respectable 8-7 on the road this season, but have really taken care of inferior opponents by going 6-2 against teams with losing records. Having split their first two games in January, a 5-4 road record and 4-1 at home would put the Suns at 10-6 for the month. They'll probably need something around there to keep pace in the standings, but that seems pretty roseate considering the challenges ahead. This team hasn't been one to be intimidated by any obstacles though...

In the midst of all this Goran Dragic is having a career year. As Sean Sullivan detailed in his Player of the Week periodical Dragic averaged 24.6 points, seven assists and three steals last week while shooting .548 from the field. Goran has been surging and, while in no way desirable, Bledsoe's injury may be a catalyst for Dragic to continue breathing fire. The Dragon has averaged 21.3 points and 8.2 assists in the eight games he's played without his backcourt counterpart.

While most of the media attention has been directed at Bledsoe, many who follow the Suns closely believe that Dragic is just as important, if not moreso, to the team's success. With Bledsoe scheduled to miss at least the five game road trip the Suns embark on this week Goran will have a chance to show his mettle as the team leader in a solo role. Can Dragic make a case for a berth in this year's All-Star game by carrying the Suns through this rough patch?

Unfortunate injuries to Western Conference guards have changed the landscape in terms of All-Star game representation. With Kobe Bryant (12/17), Russell Westbrook (12/25) and Chris Paul (1/3) all forced out of commission recently there will be at least one position opened (Westbrook) that was heavily speculated to be already filled. While Bryant is on a timetable that suggests he may return before the game, it has been announced that Paul has been diagnosed with a grade three AC joint separation and will miss up to six weeks. Six weeks from the day of the injury would be February 14th, just two days before the All-Star game on the 16th. Unless Paul proves resilient and recovers ahead of schedule it would seem prudent of the Clippers to shelve him until after the game and bring him back after the break for their game against the San Antonio Spurs on the 18th.

With reserve/replacement positions possibly opening let's take a look at the...

Selection Rules

Each coach votes for three frontcourt players, two backcourt players and two other players irrespective of position. Coaches cannot vote for their own players. The selections are ranked in order of hierarchy in each of these categories.

If any player is unable to participate in the game the NBA commissioner selects a replacement for that player.


These are the ways that the Suns can earn representation in the festivities since shockingly enough the voting leader boards have been bereft of Phoenicians.

I'm going to assume that coaches around the league agree with me that Goran Dragic is the best player on the Suns so far this season (which may be specious logic on my behalf) and that Eric Bledsoe is going to miss enough time to stymie his chances of earning the necessary coach votes (which supports my previous assumption).

To summarize up to this point - the fate of Dragic's possible selection could lie in the hands of Kobe Bryant and David Stern.

Now let's delve into the rest of the possible participants...

Utah Jazz - Next.

Sacramento Kings - Isaiah Thomas is actually having a quietly spectacular season, but the Kings are a meager 10-22. If they do get a selection it will likely be DeMarcus Cousins, who has established himself as one the most physically dominating presences in the game.

Los Angeles Lakers - Kobe Bryant is about a month away from a potential return according to latest reports. This puts him on a timeline that would allow him to play in the game on February 16th. That would be fitting since he's really earned the spot based on his on court performance so far this season...

Memphis Grizzlies - Mike Conley deserves to be in the conversation as he has been the club's leader this season, but the team's declivitous descent from 56 win Western Conference Finalist to sub .500 team poised to miss the playoffs really emphasizes the value of injured center Marc Gasol.

New Orleans Pelicans - Jrue Holiday is acquitting himself satisfactorily after switching teams and conferences since his first All-Star selection last season, but he just doesn't shoot enough threes or free throws to have impressive advanced shooting numbers and stats. He also faces the uphill battle of having a superior teammate in Anthony Davis. It's reasonable to conjecture that if Davis isn't picked as a reserve he will be gifted a replacement position based on the location of the game...

Denver Nuggets - Ty Lawson fits the bill of potential All-Star by the criteria of having a great year and being the best player on his team, but his team still isn't that good. Since he hasn't clearly separated himself from the rest of the pack of point guards team performance will likely be weighed into his consideration.

Minnesota Timberwolves - Kevin Love is in. The other Kevin (Martin) is having one of the better seasons at shooting guard in the Western Conference (which may be revealing of the overall level of play at that position), but he is a mostly one dimensional player and the Wolves are probably an underachieving team.

Dallas Mavericks - Monta Ellis's per game numbers rival any of the bubble guards and he has been a key addition to a Mavericks team that may be on its way to a playoff appearance after narrowly missing last season, but he's still Monta Ellis. I think it's much more likely that Dallas be represented by Dirk Nowitzki, as the 35 year old is putting up 21 points a game while encroaching on 50/40/90 shooting numbers - .488/.408/.920.

Golden St. Warriors - Stephen Curry is in. The whole Splash Brothers phenomenon may garner some support for Klay Thompson, but he is more of a shooter/scorer than a complete player. Besides, teammate David Lee, who was an All-Star last season, is probably more deserving of a selection.

Houston Rockets - James Harden and Dwight Howard are in.

Los Angeles Clippers - Blake Griffin is in. Chris Paul will be a starter by popular vote, but now that he is out six weeks him playing in the game seems dubious.

Portland Trail Blazers - LaMarcus Aldridge is in. Damian Lillard has a great chance to join him. I would put him at the top of the list of hopeful guards in the chart below.

San Antonio Spurs - Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are always threats. The reserves get voted on by the coaches and these two guys have their respect, and rightfully so.

Oklahoma City Thunder - Kevin Durant is in. Teammate Russell Westbrook would have joined him, but he will now miss the game due to injury... opening up a spot for another Western Conference hopeful.


I gave priority to players on teams with better records, but it's not without precedence that a team with a winning record lacks a representative. Last season Denver was 26-18 and perched in sixth place in the Western Conference on January 24, 2013 and received no selection when the reserves were announced. That was a more balanced team, like the Suns this season, with Ty Lawson as a leader. Lawson is again on the fringe this season and will likely not get an invitation, instead being one of the first few players who just missed.

Record doesn't preclude a player from being selected, either. Kyrie Irving was selected as a sub last season despite the Cavaliers limping to the announcement day with a record of 11-32. I just subscribe to the tie goes to the runner philosophy in cases where players are similarly qualified. If two players are fairly close and one is on a far superior team then that guy should be awarded the spot. The replacements selected by the commissioner can be arbitrary as well, like the replacement of injured point guard Rajon Rondo with center Brook Lopez. Kind of unpredictable since they don't have to be position specific.

My All-Star team and the next most deserving players:


Still not a very sanguine picture. Davis might as well be included, because even if he doesn't make it as a reserve, which he probably deserves, he seems like an automatic choice as the first replacement. Lillard will most likely be given more consideration than Dragic, but I don't see any reason why anyone else deserves to be taken ahead of him from the backcourt. A Spur being kicked would open a spot, but players like Cousins and Nowitzki would probably rate ahead of Goran too. The best bet for Goran is that both Paul AND Kobe are unable to attend. At that point Dragic would have at least a shot of being the fifth guard.

So we're back to Kobe and David Stern (and possibly Chris Paul) standing in the way.

But maybe a ray of hope? The commissioner who will be making the replacement selections will not be David Stern, who steps down on February 1st, but the neophyte Adam Silver. Perhaps Silver can begin his reign with a magnanimous gesture by rewarding the best player on a Cinderella team that caught damn near everyone with their pants down? Or perhaps this provides a happy coincidence for the two to collaborate on a final middle finger as Stern exits stage right and Silver prepares to carry on the tradition of vitriol towards the Phoenix Suns...

I'm at least glad to be writing this as a person who felt that Goran would probably never make an All-Star game... because now I think he borderline deserves it. Circumstances be damned. So while the focus should definitely be on the Suns winning games it never hurts to cross your fingers that Goran Dragic might accomplish something special.

Mine will be.

Welcome back, Leandro.

AZ Sports 620's John Gambadoro broke the news that the Phoenix Suns plan to sign former fan favorite Leandro Barbosa to a 10-day contract at the start of the team's 5-game road trip this week.

The Phoenix Suns are working to finalize a 10 day contract with former sun Leandra Barbosa

— John Gambadoro (@Gambo620) January 5, 2014

Barbosa who played with Boston last year will be in insurance for the injury to Eric Bledsoe

— John Gambadoro (@Gambo620) January 5, 2014

AZ Central's Paul Coro confirmed the news:

Barbosa will meet the #Suns in Chicago. 10-day is pending a physical. He was playing in Brazil. Last played for McDonough's Celtics in Feb.

— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) January 5, 2014

Leandro Barbosa, 31, suffered an ACL tear last year and has been playing well in Brazil this season, averaging 20 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists with the Pinheiros. Check out some recent highlights of the Blur's play in Brazil:

With Eric Bledsoe's recent knee sprain, this signing will serve as a clear insurance move to shore up the Suns' bench. As a 31 year old guard coming back from an ACL tear, especially as one who depends on his speed and quickness to succeed, it remains to be seen how well Barbosa will play in his return to the Valley.

Suns fans obviously have fond memories of his time here - the Blur was a key component of Mike D'Antoni's "Seven Seconds or Less" teams, even winning a 6th Man of the Year award in 2007. He was last seen in Phoenix as Goran Dragic's back-court mate off the bench for a Suns team that made the Western Conference Finals in 2009-10. He was then traded to Toronto in the 2010 offseason that brought another Suns fan favorite, Hedo Turkoglu, to Phoenix. What, am I the only one who also has fond memories of the "Turkish Michael Jordan's" time in Phoenix?

Although this is clearly a low-risk move (at the very least, it will excite fans), it does make one wonder if the front office has any serious concerns about the injury to Eric Bledsoe, who as of now is only expected to be out one week. In any case, this is a good move to sign a familiar veteran who might be able to help the team's push to the postseason. Who knows just how long Barbosa's stay in Phoenix will last this time - a 10-day contract is very much a trial-and-fit sort of deal - but at the very least, it will be nice to see him back in purple and orange.

Welcome back, Blur.

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