The Phoenix Suns beat the Los Angeles Lakers in a muddy game highlighted by a fight more than anything else. Eventually, a basketball game was played.

Both teams were winners because they had lots of fans in the stands. And both teams were losers because they played a bad basketball game.

But the Phoenix Suns win the tiebreaker by scoring the most points.

Neither team will chalk this game up to a good defensive effort.

Goran Dragic came up just short of a triple double (18 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists) and Gerald Green broke out of an ice-cold shooting slump with 28 points on 18 shots, plus 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.

Channing Frye somehow had 20 points and 8 rebounds despite playing poorly and passing on open shots. Alex Len had his best effort of the season (2 points, 3 rebounds in 4 minutes) but got himself kicked out due to a hard foul on a breakaway by Nick Young. Young got up fighting, and both players were ejected.

The Suns barometer, Markieff Morris, had 25 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Of course.

First Half Notes

Kendall Marshall started the night on Goran Dragic, and the Dragon was so excited with his options he didn't know what to do. In the end, he dribbled the ball off his leg.

However, the Suns first 10 points were on 5 transition baskets, two of those putbacks thanks to extra effort, giving the Suns an early 10-4 lead.

The Lakers stayed in the game, though, with offensive rebounds (early) and made jumpers (later), while the Suns continued to struggle with playing well for more than a few seconds at a time.

Markieff Morris was the Suns best player early, tallying 9 points and an assist in his first 6 minutes of play. He still forced a lot of fallaways and played poor defense in the post.

The Suns went on a miss-the-threes run while the Lakers turned to Chris Kaman for offense, and a 6-point Suns lead turned into a deficit as the quarter ended.

The Suns were just missing on all cylinders, and the Lakers had a 27-26 lead after one. No one was really inspired, and no one tried to play much defense. Not a good combo, Suns.

In the second quarter, I realized how much I miss seeing Archie Goodwin out there. He didn't do much, but he looked good. Rookie Alex Len looked great as well in limited time, even calling for the ball on an occasion.

Nick Young had 9 points in 6 minutes, but took exception to a hard foul by Alex Len, got up pushing Len and then even punched Goran Dragic (like a basketball player punches, anyway). In between, he was shoved a couple of times by Marcus Morris. After the melee, the Lakers ended up with the lead but lost their best scorer.

Nick Young was ejected, as was Alex Len. Too bad. That was Len's best stretch as a Phoenix Sun, with bounce in his step and confidence in his movements. He altered shots and had 2 points, 3 rebounds and a block in 4 minutes before getting kicked out.

The Lakers kept the lead because the Suns brought their road shooting back with them - 41% through the middle of the second quarter while the Lakers got some confidence on back-to-back-to-back threes from Marshall (twice) and Meeks and three more free throws.

This game was close to getting out of hand. Against a Laker team on a 5-game losing streak. Missing their best scorer. With Kendall Marshall getting pumped up and quieting the crowd (hard, since there were way too many Laker fans in attendance).

I would say the Suns defense looked terrible, but I couldn't find it to properly evaluate.

I would say the Suns defense looked terrible, but I couldn't find it to properly evaluate.

Goran Dragic finished just 1-8 from the floor in the first half (5 points), but had 6 rebounds and 5 assists to help the Suns cut the Lakers lead to just 4 at halftime, 58-54.

Second Half Notes

Let's see if the Suns can come back in this second half to a semblance of their former selves. They are down only 4 at halftime, but with their recent shooting that's a daunting deficit.

But the Suns came out with energy and took the lead just two minutes into the quarter. Green got his confidence with Marshall defending him (who wouldn't), by taking KMarsh into the post several times for clean scores.

The Suns still stepped on their own feet too much with turnovers, but were playing with more confidence in their shot so that's a plus. They weren't really going in, mind you (Green and Frye with an egregious three consecutive misses on open OPEN shots) but at least the Suns were energized.

The Lakers kept it close on pocket passes from Marshall and Gasol becoming inside shots and jumpers just outside the paint.

The Suns finally pulled ahead with fast breaks and finally making some midrange jumpers. Those were needed, since the entire team was 2-16 from the three point line.

No word whether the team made 2 of 16 on threes as a TEAM FIRST statement in support of Green's 2-16 night on Monday. Team would probably deny it anyway.

The fourth quarter was a time for the Suns to break away. The Lakers had just played a tough game the night before, while the Suns had the night off and were playing in front of their home crowd.

The Suns pulled out to a 9-point lead early and the watch was on for who of the three point guards - Kendall Marshall, Ish Smith and Goran Dragic - would have the best 4th period.

Dragic entered the quarter needing only 4 assists to get a triple double but the team kept driving or missing off his passes instead of finishing. Dragic should have had 10+ assists easily but just couldn't get the team to cooperate.

Kendall Marshall got himself a double-double while Wesley Johnson had 22 points on 14 shots (plus 7 free throws) for a good "homecoming" for each player.

An update on Leandro Barbosa's status for Wednesday night's game against the Lakers plus the possibility of Archie Goodwin going to the D-League.

The Suns are back at home to face the Lakers Wednesday night after a 1-4 road trip.  They held a shootaround this morning as they prepare to put an end to their three game losing steak.  Here are some notes from the media session that took place.

  • Leandro Barbosa is a game time decision for tonight's game. The shoulder injury occurred from bumping into Kenyon Martin at the beginning of overtime according to Barbosa. Head coach Jeff Hornacek thinks it's just a bruise.
  • Barbosa mentioned the two other teams that showed interest in him were the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers
  • Jeff Hornacek discussed the possibility of Archie Goodwin getting sent to D-League. Nothing is imminent, but it hasn't been ruled out if Goodwin continues not to play much with the Suns. He only played one minute against the Knicks and was a DNP-CD in the previous three games.
  • Alex Len isn't hurt. His zero minutes versus New York was a match-up based decision.

No other major news from US Airways. Everyone remember to say hi to Kendall Marshall tonight.

The Phoenix Suns have a golden opportunity to play the Harlem Globetrotters tonight against the struggling Los Angeles Generals. Err, Lakers.

After a dismal 1-4 road trip that marks only the second lull of the season, the Phoenix Suns receive a get-well card today in the form of a struggling Los Angeles Lakers team riding a 5-game losing streak in which they are losing by a margin of 17.8 points per game.

The Lakers are scoring, but they aren't defending. The Suns are kinda defending, but they can't score. Between them, they have 1 win in their last 10 games.

Whoever wins tonight will likely be apparent in the field goal percentages.

The opponent

One could call this section "Where are they now?" While former Sun Steve Nash has barely played this season due to injury, two of last year's worst-in-franchise-history Suns are in the starting lineup for the Los Angeles Lakers this season as they march toward a worst-in-decades finish in LaLa Land. Apparently, Wes Johnson and Kendall Marshall are the key to a high draft pick.

One year ago, three major players in the Suns rotation represented former backups to each of the Lakers Hall of Fame starters: Goran Dragic -- Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant -- Shannon Brown, Marcin Gortat -- Dwight Howard. A year later, only one of those six players will see the floor tonight - All Star candidate Goran Dragic. Gortat is in Washington, Howard is in Houston, Brown is out of the league and Bryant and Nash are injured.

Now, the tables have turned. Lakers starting PG Kendall Marshall used to be Suns PG Goran Dragic's backup. And Lakers starting SF Wes Johnson used to be P.J. Tucker's.

Smilin' Wes has somehow started 27 of 37 games this year while shooting a little better but producing less per minute. His per game averages are nearly the same as a year ago on 8 more minutes per contest. But he smiles, doesn't complain and tries hard each night. That counts for something.

Kendall Marshall is quite the story and I'll be one of the first to hope he gets cheered tonight when he returns to Phoenix for the first time since being traded/released just a year after being a lotto pick. Unfortunately, Marshall is more likely to be booed for association to last year's team or just simply ignored.

The 22-year old Marshall has found a resurgence in LA since being signed to a 10-day contract a couple of weeks ago. Not only has he been a good passer for the Lake Show, he has showed he can score as well. In 6 starts, Marshall is averaging 13 points, 12 assists and 5 rebounds per game. On the surface, quite excellent numbers, especially for a second-year player.

However, the Lakers have not gotten the results - losing their last five games by an average of 17.8 points a night by surrendering 117 points per game since Marshall joined the starting lineup.

Opponents against the Lakers in January are making 49% of their shots on 28 assists, along with 49 rebounds and 11.7 steals per game, making the Lakers appear to be the Washington Generals of the NBA.

Of course, the Lakers have been injured like few teams can boast this season. Not only are they missing their HoF back court, but Marshall is quite literally their 5th point guard on the season. Jordan Framar, Xavier Henry and Steve Blake are all injured as well. They even tried Jodie Meeks at PG before slotting Marshall in there.

Pau Gasol has been up and down this season as he declines with wear and tear, but put up 20 and 12 last night while nursing a toe injury.

The Suns

The Suns, of course, are struggling right now. While the Lakers have a 5-game losing streak, the Suns are only one game better (1-4). The league's worst passing team for the entire season is coming off a road trip in which they made only 39.5% of their shots.

I wrote before the road trip that Markieff Morris was the key to the Suns hopes.

More often than not, there's one player in every team's rotation that indicates wins vs losses because of their inconsistency. In the Phoenix Suns case, that player has so far been backup power forward Markieff Morris.

Well, he laid an egg out there. A 12/6 player off the bench all season, and once the Western Conference Player of the Week, Markieff probably wished the road trip never happened. He halved his season numbers, putting up only 6 points and 3 rebounds a game, missing 32 of 45 shots.

The difference between winning and losing is quite tenuous for this team. There's no 'roll the ball out there and win' with a lineup boasting no All-Stars. If any one player goes through a lull, the whole team will.

Of course, it also hurts that Gerald Green forgot his jumper in Phoenix, as did the rest of the team. Hopefully, they will find those shooting strokes back in the Valley.

What did go right for the Suns was Leandro Barbosa. After shooting terribly in his first few games, he was the catalyst for the 4th quarter comeback against the Knicks on Monday night, putting up 21 points, though he may have injured something because he sat out the overtime.

The stats


The lineups


The key matchup

The key matchup is Suns castoff Kendall Marshall against Suns darling Goran Dragic. After being drafted 13th overall just last year as a 20 year old pass-first point guard, Marshall saw the Suns sign Goran Dragic, draft combo guard Archie Goodwin, and trade for Eric Bledsoe and Ish Smith to play ahead of him in the rotation.

Now Marshall gets a chance to show Phoenicians why he was a lotto pick. While still being paid $2 million this season (by Washington, since the trade), Marshall is running a high-octane offense the way he always envisioned when he came into the league. He always said he didn't have to change his shot (he still shoots from the hip, literally) and didn't need elite athleticism to succeed in the NBA. All he needed was his smarts and passing. In LA, he's proving that's true, as long as you're okay with losing games due to low shooting percentages (shooting 40% over last 5 games) and poor defense.

Goran Dragic, on the other hand, has also improved his game and is trying to make his first All-Star game this year, a 20 point scorer in the absence of Eric Bledsoe, along with 7 assists per game.

The prediction

The safest prediction is that Leandro Barbosa will get the longest, loudest ovation of the night. Hopefully, the Suns have put together a welcome back montage for fans to cheer over.

Regarding the game, Daniel Buerge of and I exchanged some thoughts:

Why the Lakers will win

Dave King: Why, Kendall Marshall of course. If anyone has a reason to prove to the Suns they can play basketball it's Kendall Marshall. He went through 3 coaches in the span of 10 months and couldn't get a foothold with any of them. Most recently, he couldn't get rookie coach Jeff Hornacek's trust and lost his third-PG spot to Ish Smith who can't shoot either. That the Suns were clearly going as young as possible this season and still didn't have room for a 22 year old PG is a troubling sign. Ish won his coach over with speed, fire and humility that seemed to be lacking from Marshall. Still, Marshall had his supporters who focused on his ability to set up teammates for good shots while ignoring Marshall's inability to make defenses focus on him or play his own defense on the other end. I was one of those supporters until he "lost" his third coach in just over a year. If the Lakers win on Wednesday night, it's because Kendall Marshall showed he's a really, really good NBA point guard.

Daniel Buerge, The Lakers will win if they can limit turnovers. The team has been turning it over at an astonishing 15.4 turnovers per game, which is 27th in the league. Their turnovers lead to transition opportunities for the other teams, and that kills the Lakers defensively. If they turn it over, they're dead. If they control the ball, they have a chance.

Why the Suns will win

DK: The Suns will be itching for a win of any kind, and will likely play as if their lives depended on it. The road is a terrible place for an inexperienced team to regain its footing, so a home game after a two-week roadie against a defensively-struggling rival is a great place to start. Still, the Suns will have to play their very best basketball to win the game.

DB: Phoenix will win if they're able to get out in transition. That's a result of the Lakers' turnovers, obviously, but it goes beyond that. Transition options for Phoenix also likely means a lot of missed shots from Los Angeles, especially missed outside shots. So if Phoenix is out and running it means the Lakers are either giving up the rock or missing shots - two recipes for losing.

Hit up for all your Laker coverage, and follow Daniel on twitter: during the game for the Laker side of things.

It's been a rough patch for the Phoenix Suns, losers of 3 straight and 5 of 7 since the calendar turned to 2014. But how do they stack up agains the rest of their division and conference foes?

It's been a rough patch for the Phoenix Suns, losers of 3 straight and 5 of 7 since the calendar turned to 2014. But how do they stack up agains the rest of their division and conference foes?

Pacific Division

Los Angeles Clippers (26-13, 1st Pacific, 4th Conference) - The Clippers are 3-1 since losing starting point guard Chris Paul to a shoulder injury on January 3, and 5-1 on the new year. Darren Collison has filled in like a champ for Paul, averaging 18 points and 6 assists since the injury. Their latest victory was a 36 point beatdown of the Injury-riddled Los Angeles Lakers. Collison will need to continue to perform at a high level if they want to hold off the...

Golden State Warriors (25-14, 2nd Pacific, 6th Conference) - The Dubs are rolling hard, winning 11 of their last 12 and 5 of 6 to kick off 2014. While the Splash Brothers might be the stars of the show, Andre Iguodala scored 22 in their most recent victory over the Boston Celtics. The Dubs are doing it with defense. With the third best defensive rating in the league, they're knocking on door of the Pacific Division lead.

Phoenix Suns (21-16, 3rd Pacific, 8th Conference) - Before Eric Bledsoe's injury, the Suns were flirting with being a Pacific Division contender. Without him, they're fighting for their 8th seeded lives. You know the story: 2-5 in January with 3 of those losses coming in the last 3 games, including an ugly one to the Knicks. I dare anyone to watch that game again. On the bright side, at least the Suns are doing better than the...

Los Angeles Lakers (14-24, 4th Pacific, 14th Conference) - This season has been an unmitigated disaster in Lakerland. A plague of injuries has descended on the Lakers. All 3 point guards that started the season with the Lakers are out with injuries. They dressed just 9 players for their most recent lost, in which they gave up 120 points to the Cleveland Cavaliers. They're 1-4 in 2014 and have dropped 11 of their last 12. But, hey! Kendall Marshall is putting up 13 points (on 44.8% FG and 41.4% 3FG) and 12 assists as a starter, so they've got that going for them.

Sacramento Kings (13-23, 5th Pacific, 15 Conference) - You've got to feel for Sacramento fans and Mayor Kevin Johnson. They moved mountains to keep the Kings in Sactown and they are rewarded with the 2nd worst team in the conference. Things are looking up though. The team is .500 in January and had won 3 in a row before getting drubbed by the Pacers, 116-92, last night. It's all about the future for this young squad and they've got a bright future (but probably not this season) with Isiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins leading the way.

The Rest of the West

At the top of the conference, the Spurs keep Spurring. Crack all the old jokes you want, the Spurs are laughing their way to a 5 game winning streak and the best record in the West. The Portland Trailblazers are nipping at their heels, trailing by only a game and a half. But one has to wonder if the upstart Blazers have what it takes to not get assimilated by the Borg-like Spurs. The other presumptive favorite, the Oklahoma City Thunder, are biding their time until their star point guard returns from a knee injury (sound familiar?). January has been unkind to OKC, who are 3-4 this month. Nevertheless, the Thunder are hanging tough and only a half-game behind the Blazers in the west.

Perhaps more germane to the Suns' interests are the travails of the teams trailing them in the standings. After ringing in the New Year with their 8th loss in a row, the Nuggets seem to have finally figured things out, winning 5 of their last 6 to surge in to the 9th seed, 2 games behind Phoenix. Their continued success could imperil the Suns' playoff hopes, especially if the Suns continue to sink in the standings. And with the Minnesota Timberwolves seemingly unable to follow up a win with a win, the door is wide open for the Memphis Grizzlies to make a move. While Marc Gasol had a modest 12 points and 4 rebounds in his return, the Grizz were still able to knock off the Thunder in his first game back from a knee injury.

The sharks are circling the 8 seed and right now there's blood in the water, Bright Siders. Do you think the Suns can tread water long enough to rise above them? Or will a resurgent Nuggets team and newly whole Grizzlies squad commence with the feeding frenzy?

The potential end of DragonBlade came too quick... Was unexpected... And has been tough for everyone to swallow.

Bad news is bad news... No matter how you sell it. Last week the Phoenix Suns (now 21-16) got probably the worst possible news for the season with the loss of Eric Bledsoe to a right meniscus tear. A similar injury to the one that caused Derrick Rose to miss seasons and Russell Westbrook to miss a collective 20 games and counting. But Bledsoe took the quick-return path that should have him back on the court in 6 weeks but might shorten his career in the end.

This is not good news for the upstart Suns who were the talk of the NBA with their impressive 19-11 before he went down.

Enough doom and gloom (from me), let's get to what matters. The staff takes on this injury news, here we go.

Twenty-Sixth Topic: What is the future of Eric Bledsoe?

1. Breaking the Ice: Reaction to the news of Eric Bledsoe being injured, having surgery, and potentially missing the rest of the season...

Jim Coughenour: Complete and utter despair. I could write a lot on this so I'll try to be succinct. It's his second injury to that knee - is he injury prone? His contract situation is more nebulous - with questions lingering is he worth four years and $58.5 million? What does this tell us about his value and the value of the rest of the team? How much of the positive vibe has dissipated with this injury, compounded by the team's less than stellar play in Bledsoe's absence, and how much more will erode if the team misses the playoffs? That's a lot of questions redirected back at you, Kris, but after this inimical injury I have started questioning everything...

Dave King: At first, I thought the Suns would be able to tread water without Bledsoe, but it seems they completely lost their mojo on that road trip. Sure they played hard every game, but forgot how to shoot the ball. Does Bledsoe make you shoot better? No. But shooting is all about confidence, and the Suns just don't seem to have it. Bledsoe seems to have taken that mojo with him.

Mike Lisboa: It's a heartbreaker for sure and a real test for a young roster that was just starting to hit its stride.  If Bledsoe comes back after the All-Star Break, then I think the Suns will definitely be in the hunt for a playoff spot.  If not, ugh.  They're back in the too good to tank, too bad to matter spot in the lottery.

Sreekar Jasthi: It's a big gut punch for a team that had become the pleasant surprise of the NBA season. This team thrives on Dragic ans Bledsoe's shot creation and to lose one of them is a significant hit. There could be some potential long-term implications as well, with this being the second tear to Bledsoe's right meniscus. However, the injury could have been far worse and Bled's recovery is in the magical hands of the Suns' exceptional medical staff, so it's not all doom and gloom.

Sean Sullivan:  It's tough, no two ways about it.  I knew it would be a struggle for the Suns without him,but I underestimated just how mediocre at everything they would suddenly become.  This isn't to say they can't figure out how to be successful without him for a while.  It will also probably take some time once he comes back to re-acclimate him into the won;t be an instant fix.  It's all about chemistry...all the more reason I think the Suns will figure this thing out eventually.

2. What is the immediate impact of Bledsoe's injury to the Suns?

DK: Immediately, the Suns have lost their confidence, which was bred from a steady diet of forced turnover and fast break finishes. Without the 20 points a game on fast breaks, the Suns have to execute in the half court. They clearly are not comfortable in that setting.

ML:  Thus far, it's been an inability to push the pace and score in the paint.  Ish Smith can do a lot of things, but unfortunately driving and scoring are not among them.  Here's hoping Leandro Barbosa can regain his old NBA form and give the Suns a much-needed attacker in the lane.

SJ: I think we've seen what the immediate impact has been on this brutal road trip. Without Bledsoe, this offense relies far too much on Goran Dragic and as brilliant as he's been this year, the Suns need someone else to demand defensive attention and create shots for others. Bledsoe's loss also hurts the defense, as those replacing his minutes are all worse on-ball defenders than him.

SS:  Scoring, fast-breaks, defense, steals, and even some rebounding it appears. Nobody on the roster will replace Bledsoe...but they have enough options to mitigate his absence if they figure things out and play as a team.  They haven't done that yet.  It's been all Goran, all the time.

JC: Fast break scoring has been down and I think they miss his fourth quarter presence. It's a drop off in a lot of ways going from Bledsoe's production to more Ish Smith and Leandro Barbosa (although hopefully he's regaining his form after last night). It's still hard to quantify exactly what his loss means, though. Is it because Bledsoe is gone that Green went 7-33 from the field in the last two games Phoenix lost by a combined four points. How about Markieff Morris averaging 5.6 points while going 13-45 from the field on the road trip. Mix in the facet that the Suns played a couple teams that are bad mismatches and I think we need to see them play a few games at home before we make definitive statements.

3. What is the long-term impact?

DK: If long term is this season, then it could cost the Goran Dragic a chance at the playoffs for only the second time this year. If long-term is next season and beyond, then the impact is very little. An season-long injury clouds the contract picture, but the Suns will sign Bledsoe anyway. And, given the injury, the Suns are even more likely to keep Dragic. Win!

ML: I think it's minimal.  The Suns have made it clear that Bledsoe is a part of the long-term plan in Phoenix.  If he comes back from the injury this season, I think he gets whatever deal he would have gotten if he had remained healthy.  If not, maybe the Suns are wary of giving him something approaching a max deal.  Perhaps the Suns spend a little more on a back-up point guard or shooting guard in the off-season than maybe they had planned.

SJ: This remains to be seen, as none of us are really capable of accurately predicting the trajectory of Bledsoe's recovery. However, many players have returned to full form after a meniscus tear - Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, etc - and I would expect Bledsoe to return at some point this season, to receive a max offer sheet from another team in July, and the Suns to most likely match it. As for the team's success this season, holding onto a playoff spot until Bledsoe returns will be a tall task and I really don't know how that will play out, as I haven't been able to accurately gauge this team all year.

SS:  This is the question.  If it takes us from a fourth seed to a seventh seed when it's all said and done, we may have to play a tougher opponent and without home court advantage in the first round...Or we could potentially be taken out of the playoffs altogether....destined for another late lottery pick.  That's the shorter long-term, I guess.  Long-long term?  Nothing.  This doesn't change our plans to retain Bledsoe at any cost after the season, a partially removed meniscus isn't the end of a player's career by any means and shouldn't really have any effect once he's healthy, and he has already shown what a game-changer he can be for the Suns.  Oh yeah, and we still have McDonough.  The future is still bright!

JC: Does missing the playoffs count as long term? That certainly looks like a possibility at this point. The Suns hold on the eighth spot suddenly appears tenuous and Marc Gasol just went through a full practice yesterday.  If he returns ahead of Bledsoe, which appears quite likely, Memphis suddenly becomes a very real adversary for the last couple playoff spots. I don't know what the track record down the line is for players who have two knee surgeries by the age of 24... It worries me. I was already hesitant giving $14 million a year to a player who I felt was borderline worth it (I dont think it would be a bargain contract anymore), but now there are health concerns above that.

4. Who is the most important perimeter player for the Suns now between Gerald Green, Ish Smith, Leandro Barbosa, Archie Goodwin, and Dionte Christmas?

ML: Leandro Barbosa.  Assuming the Suns keep him for the rest of the season, which I think is more likely given Bledsoe's injury, he'll need to step up both behind the arc and in the paint.  He's a career 39.1% three point shooter and a capable ball handler who fits nicely with the Suns' offense.

SJ: I think it's Gerald Green. Even after his abysmal shooting night against the Knicks, he will be the starter in the back-court alongside Dragic and the team will need him to have good scoring performances more often than not. As great as Barbosa was against New York, we have to keep in mind that he literally JUST returned to the NBA and is best suited to be a sparkplug off the bench in Bledsoe's return. I'm not ready to sell low on Green after the worst performance of his season.

SS:  If Barbosa can keep playing the way he did last night.  He is, without a doubt.  If Gerald Green can eventually find the broad side of the barn he was shooting at last night, he can also be a huge impact player for the Suns as well.  I have a feeling our next best guard besides Dragic will change nightly until Bledsoe returns.

JC: The Blur. Green has his minutes regardless. GG might have more overall impact, but that's kind of like a sunk cost. He's already entrenched and he either will or he won't produce. Barbosa suddenly comes in to play (potentially) the lion's share of Bledsoe's minutes. The better Leandro can be the more of Bledsoe's production he can make up for.

DK: Certainly Barbosa. He finally got his scoring touch last night (21 points) and the Suns need that every single night from him. For some reason, he missed the last few minutes and overtime - and it really showed as the Suns just couldn't score while Dragic was being blanketed by Shumpert. Sad that Green and Frye couldn't make them pay for going small.

5. Over/Under 0.5 games played in a Phoenix Suns uniform for Eric Bledsoe.

SJ: Over. This season isn't over.

SS:  Over.  Book it.

JC: I'll say under just to be a contrarian. After his (most recent) surgery the press release basically said to ask his agent any questions about the procedure. It would be hilarious if people are told to ask his agent about his timeline for returning to action down the road. Something has felt off to me about Eric's body language since he came here - not sure if that means anything except that I possibility have issues with not feeling loved. If for some reason Bledsoe becomes a misfit for McMiracle's puzzle I can easily see him moving him. I think McMiracle sees all the players he brought in as valuable members of the team... and completely movable assets.

DK: If you're talking the rest of the season, then I'll take the over. If nothing else, he shows up in the last week to prove he can still run to the contract-signing table.

ML: For the rest of the season?  Over.  This is the Bright Side of the Sun after all.

BONUS: If the team starts losing, misses the playoffs, gets back into the Top 10 of the lottery, and lands a quality pick... Is that a worthy ending to this narrative?

SS:  I think that ship has sailed.  At the worst we might end up with a 10th overall pick, but I don't really see that happening either.  I think the Suns will get better without Bledsoe, and when he returns after the All-Star break, we will be ready to resume that playoff push.

JC: Depends. If things start to unravel and the Suns end up 9th or 10th in the lottery (can't imagine them falling any further than that) and move up to the top three it would be great. It illustrates that Ryan was mostly successful in building a solid foundation in the middle of a swamp and things went awry because of injuries and not being quite ready in an ultra competitive Western Conference.  But that is a rather improbable scenario. What seems more likely is that the Suns manage to hang around .500 and just miss the playoffs (this is probably worst case) or they shake this off and still make it to the postseason, hopefully/probably with Bledsoe's help. But who knows what kind of conversation McMiracle is having on his smart phone right now...

DK: Uh no. Since tasting the wins, it's hard to imagine a season-long tank job from here on out. Frankly, the Suns will play better and win some games. Going .500 is not crazy talk for the rest of the season. That's pretty close to a playoff spot.

ML:  I think it's a pyrrhic victory.  This was always a rebuilding season, even with the early success of the Suns.  With Bledsoe, this team isn't quite a contender yet.  However, there is definitely a lost opportunity for this squad to see what elite competition is all about with a trip to the playoffs to prepare them for their contending years.  It's a nice consolation prize, but I would rather see this team reach its potential together to give a better picture of what needs to happen in the off-season.

SJ: I guess? It would hurt to see this team lose that much after all the early success, but I guess it'd be better to lose big than to tread water. However, I don't think there's any way the Suns can lose enough games at this point to get a top ten pick.

Bright Siders, what do you think?

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