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The Phoenix Suns, visiting the Houston Rockets as they prepare to finish the season with 4 of their last 5 on the road, are a really bad road team. Not only are the Suns only 7-30 on the the road, they have dropped 10 of their last 12 on the road including their last SIX straight.

But they might prefer being on the road though, after losing 9 of their last 11 home games including SEVEN straight on the home court to the disappointment of die-hard Suns faithful who still came to see them play. At least on the road they won't have see the faces of their fans as they fall apart again in the third quarter.

Hit the road Jack!

The Suns visit a good Houston Rockets team tonight. Led by young James Harden, the Rockets are 43-34 on the season, seeded 7th in the West playoff race at the moment.

At home, they are even better, winning of 27 of 38 games in front of their home crowd including 13 of their last 16. Contrary to the Suns, the Rockets make their fans giddy over the present as well as the future, being the youngest playoff team in the West and ready to sign another max free agent this summer if they want to.

Tonight's outlook

Don't expect tonight to break any mold. The Suns fold on the road and the Rockets dominate at home. This game has all the makings of a really, really ugly game. I mean really ugly.

Of course, I highly recommend watching the game because this is one of the last times you will see the Suns play before a six-month break. As a Suns junkie, that's a LONG time between real games.

For those totally jaded, you can still watch whether doghouse roomies Marcus Morris, Shannon Brown and Michael Beasley get any solid run in this game.

All have challenged the interim head coach in some way, and all have realized he won't just turn the other cheek (unless it's the one on his backside as he walks away from them). This is Hunter's "tough love" that has so far backfired on him in a big way. I'm not a fan of letting the inmates run the asylum, so I have little sympathy for instigators, yet it's on Hunter to get the rest of the team to respond in a positive way and so far that's not happening.

Odds and ends

  • Chandler Parsons and Carlos Delfino have missed recent games and are questionable for tonight's matchup at home against one of the league's worst teams 10 days before the playoffs start. In other words, Houston is not chomping at the bit to play these guys, I'm sure.
  • With a win, the Rockets will secure a playoff spot - it's first in four years. That will be a sad sight for former Rockets Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Marcus Morris.
  • This is Scola, Dragic and Morris' second return to Houston, the last one ending in a 111-81 bloodbath in which none of them played particularly well.
  • The ever-blunt Luis Scola: "There's no reason why to be positive. So how are we going to stay positive? Nobody should be positive. We have to work hard. The way we do it is we realize that we have problems and that we need to fix them."
  • These two teams play again Monday, but don't expect Houston to be resting anybody. They are fighting the Warriors for the 6th seed, and a chance to avoid facing the Thunder or Spurs in the first round.


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
James Harden 73 38.2 7.5 16.9 44.2 2.2 6.1 37.1 8.6 10.1 86.0 0.8 4.0 4.8 5.9 3.6 1.8 0.5 2.3 25.8
Chandler Parsons 73 36.2 5.9 12.3 48.1 2.0 5.2 38.3 1.4 2.0 72.4 1.1 4.3 5.4 3.5 1.9 1.0 0.4 2.0 15.3
Jeremy Lin 77 32.0 4.8 10.8 44.6 1.0 3.0 34.3 2.6 3.3 78.6 0.4 2.6 3.0 6.1 2.9 1.7 0.4 2.5 13.2
Carlos Delfino 63 25.4 3.8 9.3 40.5 2.3 6.3 37.2 0.7 0.9 85.5 0.3 3.0 3.3 2.0 1.1 1.0 0.1 1.7 10.7
Omer Asik 77 30.0 4.1 7.5 54.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.1 3.8 55.5 3.4 8.2 11.6 0.9 2.2 0.6 1.1 2.7 10.3
Aaron Brooks 52 19.1 2.8 6.1 45.4 1.0 2.6 37.3 0.8 1.0 76.9 0.3 1.3 1.5 2.2 1.3 0.6 0.2 1.8 7.2
Donatas Motiejunas 40 12.7 2.4 5.0 47.0 0.6 2.0 30.0 0.8 1.2 61.2 0.8 1.3 2.1 0.7 0.9 0.2 0.2 1.7 6.1
Greg Smith 65 15.1 2.3 3.8 62.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.2 1.9 63.6 1.5 3.0 4.5 0.3 0.6 0.2 0.5 2.4 5.9
Francisco Garcia 53 17.6 2.0 5.2 39.3 1.2 3.0 38.7 0.3 0.3 88.9 0.1 1.4 1.6 1.1 0.5 0.8 0.7 1.6 5.5
Patrick Beverley 36 17.1 1.9 4.5 42.0 0.9 2.3 39.5 0.8 1.0 81.1 1.1 1.5 2.6 3.1 1.1 0.9 0.5 1.9 5.5
Thomas Robinson 69 15.2 2.0 4.6 42.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.6 52.3 1.8 2.8 4.5 0.6 1.2 0.6 0.4 1.8 4.8
Terrence Jones 14 11.5 1.7 4.1 41.4 0.3 0.9 30.8 0.6 0.8 81.8 1.4 1.3 2.6 0.5 0.6 0.4 0.4 0.7 4.4
James Anderson 36 10.6 1.4 3.3 41.7 0.6 1.6 35.1 0.7 0.8 85.7 0.5 1.4 1.9 1.1 0.6 0.4 0.1 0.7 4.0
Tim Ohlbrecht 3 3.7 0.3 1.0 33.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 100.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 0.3 1.3 0.3 0.0 0.3 1.0


Time: 5 p.m. MST TV: FSAZ PHOENIX — Luis Scola will be at the center of attention when the Phoenix Suns take on the Houston Rockets Tuesday night at the Toyota Center, but it has little to do...

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Luis Scola has always been honest to the media, albeit bereft of specifics, in his season with the Phoenix Suns. His words emanate with authenticity and purpose. When Scola talks, people listen and nod.

More than any other player or coach this season, Scola has been open about saying what we were all thinking.

"We just don't know how to play well," Scola told Craig Grialou on Sunday night after the loss to the Hornets. Grialou, with arizonasports.com, is the intrepid reporter who finds time with players outside the "normal" media sessions. "We don't know how to play basketball and that's why we lose. Until we learn how to play 48 minutes of basketball, we're not going to win games. I'm surprised we won (23) games playing this way. Many of the games we won, we did the same thing. We just overcame it somehow.

"I'm also surprised we didn't fix it. We saw the problem pretty much the first week and we couldn't fix it. It's very frustrating. It's a bad year."

Scola has been telling us the problem all season long. Back when the season was young and Alvin Gentry was trying to rally the troops into a winning record, Scola already saw the writing on the wall. He was the first to speak openly of what would become a very long season.

Scola on November 2

"There's only one way to win games and that's playing focused for forty-eight minutes and play hard and hustle and do all the little things," he said after just the second game of the season, a good win against a bad Detroit team.

"It's not going to be pretty a lot of times," he warned. "But that's just the way it has to be."

Scola on November 24

"I am discourgaged," Luis Scola said, about the ongoing deficits. "I know we are going to lose a lot more games than we are going to win if we put ourselves 15, 16, 18, 19 down. We are going to lose most of those games."

The Suns started the season allowing 10-point deficits in 11 of their first 13 games. And remember, this was the EASY part of their season schedule.

Scola on December 1

"We need to change the dynamic, we need to change our attitude, we need to change our minds," he said. "We're in the kind of dynamic where everything goes wrong. We just can't get it going.

"We need to start thinking like a winning team. We need to start believing in ourselves and winning games."

Scola on December 10

"I don't know," Luis Scola said once again to a throng of reporters after the game, his response as honest as it can be to the media. He was not angry or defensive or evasive. He was, and always is, open and forthcoming and willing to talk to the media after every game. He apologizes for not having better answers.

"We don't have a day off anymore," he said about Monday's off day after the back-to-back. By his tone, you could tell he was grasping at straws. "We need to practice. It's not going to happen by talking. I think a lot about it, I just don't know."

After we left him alone, he just sat there in his shorts at least ten more minutes. He didn't go take a shower or talk to any other players. He just sat there, staring at the floor.

----------------

Since that game, Luis Scola's presence after games has been fleeting. He and most of the other Suns players prefer to hang out in the hot tub until long after the media give up and go home for the night.

Only diehard reporters like Paul Coro and Craig Grialou have gotten the occasional soundbite from Luis at off hours and times.

The writing was on the wall early, folks. It has clearly had little to do with the coach, since the Suns have burned through two of them. One was 13-28, the other has been 10-26. One had a full compliment of players, the other has had to go without Marcin Gortat since starting 8-13.

Both had to deal with virtually the same roster of players though, and the frustration has been high all year. Everyone is frustrated, not just Luis Scola. Dragic has called out unnamed teammates for lack of effort. So has Marcin Gortat. Both head coaches have bemoaned lack of consistent effort as well.

It's been a bad, bad season. Luis Scola knew it from day one.

Let's not absolve Luis of all blame here. He has not been able to help lead a charge in the right direction. He says he's surprised the Suns haven't figure it out, yet part of that can be attributed to the leadership on the court.

But amid the turmoil, Scola has been a model of consistency. He has earned consistent minutes despite a youth movement because he exemplifies what the coaches have wanted all season: effort every second.

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When you start a marathon you know it is going to be long and tough, but nonetheless you have to finish the marathon. For the Phoenix Suns (23-54), they gasped for air, felt their lungs burn, drank their share of water, and knelt down hands on knees through 94% of the season.

But they are nearing the finish line.

Game Recaps

@ Los Angeles Clippers- L (126-101)

vs. Golden State Warriors - L (111-107)

vs. New Orleans Hornets - L (95-92)

This is the time of year where teams like the Suns are judged and evaluated on effort and toughness. The team played tough in all three games, even getting in a shoving match with the Clippers who are fighting for a Championship this year.

In the two other match-ups the Suns had leads and the potential to win the game, but didn't have the talent to hold on for victories.

The losing streak has reached nine games overall as the Suns hit the road to try and get a win. On the season they are 7-30 on the road leaving the underlying question for the remainder of the season as; Can the Suns win another game to avoid reaching even more franchise futility?

2013 NBA Draft Update

For as bad as the Utah Jazz (41-37) were during their stretch of losing 12 of 15 games right after the All-Star Break, they have been equally as good winning 7 of 8 to position themselves firmly ahead in the race for eighth. With four games remaining against the Thunder, Grizzlies, and a home-and-home against the Timberwolves the Jazz have the opportunity to slam the door on the Los Angeles Lakers (40-37).

The Lakers have five games remaining against the Hornets, Blazers, Warriors, Spurs, and Rockets. They need to finish ahead of the Jazz since they have the tie-breaker.

Right now the Suns are slotted securely in the 3rd spot in the Draft Lottery. With four games remaining the Suns have a 1.5 game lead on the Cavaliers while "trailing" the Magic by 4.5 games. With the Lakers pick they would have two slots in the Lottery at 3rd and 14th. The third slot has won the lottery five times including last year.

The Highs

Was there one?

The Lows

To compound the current losing streak, the Suns have another streak within the streak with seven straight home losses. That is a franchise record in the worst of ways. The Suns have one more game at home to try and end the season on a high note for the fans, season ticket holders, and for their general pride.

Grades

A look at three different players on the Suns for the week forming a good, bad, and a surprise either way each week.

  • B- for Luis Scola: Two double-doubles while playing out of position at the five was impressive this week for Scola. His hustle and effort have been commendable, especially with the team losing games by large margins nightly.
  • D+ for Markieff Morris: The second year forward has started the last 16 games and as of late has shot the ball poorly, this week going 9-21 overall
  • B+ for Michael Beasley: He shot the ball very well going 17-25 in the first two games scoring with ease and confidence, but fell off a cliff with a 1-11 performance to end the week.

Player of the Week:

Goran Dragic - 18.3 PPG 2.7 RPG 5.0 APG 0.7 SPG 48.6% FG

The rest paid off for Dragic as he has played 48 minutes per game since coming back from his late season siesta. Since the All-Star break Dragic has been fantastic scoring, facilitating, and doing everything he can to push the team to victory. The Suns could use about 5-7 more Dragic's on the roster.

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Tuesday, April 9th @ Houston Rockets (43-33)

Wednesday, April 10th @ Dallas Mavericks (38-39)

Saturday, April 13th @ Minnesota Timberwolves (28-47)

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I've seen the Phoenix Suns list of "crimes" include signing Eric Gordon to an offer sheet knowing the Hornets would match. That never made sense. The Suns forced a rival to pay market value for their own player and got a PR boost from a relatively top-tier free agent expressing his desire to play in front of Robert Sarver, Lon Babby and The Gorilla.

Lakers really might miss playoffs

Sad Kobe
The Lakers are on the verge of missing the playoffs and having their lottery pick go to the Suns.

Gordon's definitely had a crazy season since all that went down this summer. Early on, there was the mysterious knee situation with the team seemingly throwing the player under the bus for not coming back despite being medically cleared (hello, Chicago Bulls, we see you too!).

More recently, there was a public blow up between Gordon and coach Monty Williams.

Eric's undoubtably a great talent. Perhaps not coincidentally, he put that on display on Sunday against the Suns putting up a solid 17 points, six assist game and showed his ability to get to the rim. Put him in the backcourt with Goran Dragic and you've got something really nice to build on.

Well, it might be possible according to this teasingly enticing report from The Big Easy:

New Orleans Hornets guard Eric Gordon likely to return to starting lineup Sunday against Phoenix Suns | NOLA.com
The Hornets were unable to pull off a trade involving Gordon before the February trade deadline, but the franchise is still likely to remain open to trading him after this season ends, according to sources Saturday.

The question is: what would it take to get him from the Hornets?

The Suns don't have much to offer in the way of backcourt talent but they could (and should) certainly offer the Lakers late-lottery pick (GO JAZZ!). Beyond that, what would the Hornets want? Scola? A Morris or two? Tucker? Dudley?

They seem set in the front court so maybe it is Dudley that they would want and I would definitely do Dudley and the Lakers pick for Gordon although I'm not sure that's enough.

It's always hard impossible to know what gets deals done, but the Phoenix Suns should absolutely be on the phone with the Hornets to try and make this happen...and I'm sure they will be even if we don't hear about it.

Additional notes:

Since these issues were raised....

1) Obviously, I don't advocate trading for Gordon without a full medical evaluation. He's missed a lot of time, but hasn't had major surgery (like Amare, Derrick Rose, Shumpert, Rubio, etc.)

2) Per Larry Coon's respect NBA CBA FAQ, the Suns are able to trade for Gordon one year after they signed him to the offer sheet

NBA Salary Cap FAQ
If a team matches an offer sheet and retains its free agent, then for one year they cannot trade him without his consent, and during that year cannot trade him at all to the team that signed him to the offer sheet. They also can't trade the player in a sign-and-trade transaction (see question number 89). A restricted free agent's resulting contract (whether with the new team or the contract is matched by the player's prior team) cannot be amended in any manner for one year.

That means the Suns can trade for Gordon in early July. I don't see anything that prevents the Suns and Hornets from negotiating ahead of that date and having a deal in place in time for the draft in late June, however, that would require some mutual trust since it would remain unofficial until the one-year deadline passed.

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