New York at Boston, TNT, 4PM PDT. Celtics lead series 1-0.
Atlanta at Orlando, NBA TV, 4:30PM PDT. Hawks lead series 1-0.
Portland at Dallas, TNT, 6:30PM PDT.Mavericks lead series 1-0.
Update: As Fritzy notes below, I neglected to mention that Shaquille O'Neal is a former Sun, too. Apparently, I've conveniently deleted memories of that ever happening, and I prefer to keep it that way.
Last fall, the BSotS staff put together a series of Season Preview articles, culminating with my "Summary and Forecast" article. Overall, the preview was written with a Bright-Side optimistic bent, drizzled with a healthy does of doom and gloom forecasting.
(scroll down the left-hand bar on BSotS home page to check out each article. Or, click on the Summary and Forecast link above. The first paragraph of that article has links to the others.)
Back then, a number of us were anticipating the season through purple-and-orange colored lenses. Hedo manning the PF spot. Robin Lopez producing a near All-Star season. Hakim Warrick giving us an Amare-lite. Josh Childress and the wings improving on the Suns' perimeter defense.
But of course the Suns rotation consisted of 2 Centers, 2 Point Guards and 6 Wings. That might not have been the season's death nell. Just look at Denver Nuggets. After the Carmelo Anthony trade, that's exactly the makeup of their rotation and it's producing incredible results.
But the Suns' version fell flat on its face.
At its best, this team may be well-oiled, supremely maintained and able to hit 60 in less than 6 seconds, but ultimately it's a cobbled-together pile of spare parts built around a 240,000 mile engine.
Reasons the Suns will suck
No lowpost scoring, unless Lopez is playing (and that's iffy still)
No interior defense at PF. Turk is more likely to be injury-prone due to excessive banging.
Health - aging Nash and Hill and Turkoglu, plus injury-prone Lopez
Lack of all-star quality closer on the court alongside Nash
J-Rich's expiring contract will not be as valuable as hoped
Inevitable regression to the mean. Frye, Dudley, Lopez, Dragic, Hill. All exceeded expectations last year to surprise the opposition. Logic says at least one will regress, if not a few of these guys.
That was my preseason list of things that could go wrong, and they all seemingly did. I forget what lowpost scoring even looks like. Defense, health, dearth of closers and regression to the mean all bit the Suns in the butts themselves.
Here's a good laugh:
Reasons the Suns will prosper
Smarter basketball. Hedo and Childress are smart players.
4-out offense is tough to defend. Just ask Orlando. You can't double the post because the Suns will have 4 guys hanging on the outer perimeter until someone slashes to the basket.
Aggressive, disruptive perimeter defense
Amare's remaining 5.7 million TPE and movable assets, along with Suns still 8 million under lux tax. Reinforcements can be had for little to nothing, if necessary (ie. lots of injuries)
Depth at wing positions and playmakers
Alvin Gentry will get the most out of this rotation
#2 kinda came true, as the Suns produced some nice offensive numbers with Hedo and JRich in the fold. But their defense was the worst the NBA has seen in many years. The worst.
Otherwise, none of those actually helped the Suns "prosper".
Hindsight is 20/20
Prescience, in the form of BSotS and SBNation writers:
Jose Romero (SBNation AZ):
(most disappointing player) "Goran Dragic. Regresses after decent 2009-2010. His shooting will be there but the Suns will be looking for a more true point guard when they see that Dragic is struggling to run the team and grasp offense/defense."
"This season I think the Suns will be battling for the final 2 Playoff seeds with San Antonio, Memphis, Houston and the Clippers. I think Memphis makes the leap (with Mayo, Gasol and Gay all maturing and carrying them) into the 8th seed and San Antonio wraps up the 7th leaving the Suns, Rockets and Clippers as the odd teams out."
Trevor Paxton (BSotS):
"The Suns are going to be a bubble team this year. The teams we will be fighting out for the 7 or 8 seed will be San Antonio, Memphis, New Orleans, and the Clippers. I think San Antonio has enough veteran gusto to snatch the 7 seed, so that leaves the Grizz, the Hornets and the Clips. Of those three (four including us), I think the Grizzlies will take the cake, leaving us out to dry. We will finish 10th in the Conference, missing the playoffs."
Of course, Trevor wasn't perfect though. He next predicted the Suns' non-Nash MVP:
"Josh Childress. While his averages prior to leaving the NBA were already pretty solid, he is going to have a monster year. Playing in a wide open style where he is (mostly) free to wander the court, Childress will find himself with more offensive opportunities than he's ever had. On top of that, I think he has the potential to be the team's leading rebounder - whether that's a good thing or not. Overall, I feel Chilly is going to have a great season, and who knows - maybe even pick up 6th Man of the Year honors?"
Of course, there were other terrible predictions as well...
Wil Cantrell (BSotS): (regarding biggest storyline of a positive nature) "Alvin Gentry coaches his squad through front office and locker room changes to a winning season. The season starts slow as the second unit has trouble establishing their roles. However, they recover to win 12 straight games down the stretch to gain the 8th seed and knock out the stupid Spurs. The new acquisitions: Turk, Chill, and Warrick learn the system and fit in like Suns jigsaw puzzle pieces."
(predicting the season's most disappointing player) "Channing Frye. Cannot find his touch and proves more worthless defensively than a year ago when asked to play PF and hit the rack."
Alex Laugan (BSotS):
I personally see the Suns hitting 50+ wins and a top-6 playoff seed. Why so optimistic? Because except for the Porter/Shaq season, 54 wins and 6 seed are the low water marks for the modern Nashian Age. The team's style is going to be so different from everyone else's that the regular season should be pretty successful, simply because the opponent will be unfamiliar with their offense.
And I wouldn't put it past Gentry to come up with equally unexpected defensive schemes. The zone was surprisingly effective against the Lakers in the WCF. Maybe they'll use it again this year. Other teams are working on the zone in preseason, citing the Suns as a successful example. Even moreso, the Suns are going to be aggressive in the passing lanes. Disruption is the key word going about lately.
Good thing Wil and I aren't the only ones on BSotS making predictions.
Over the next few weeks, you'll see player recaps as well as coach and front office evaluations from the 2010-2011 season. Before we start, I thought we ought to take a trip down memory lane to remind ourselves that hindsight is MUCH MUCH easier than foresight.
The Indiana Pacers pushed the Chicago Bulls to the limit in game 1, ensuring that the number 1 team in the East didn't have an easy ride and game 2 was no different. Despite the loss of Darren Collinson to a 2nd quarter injury, the Pacers pulled together to keep the game close going into the final quarter before Kyle Korver did his best John Paxson/Steve Kerr/Average-white-guy-who-can-shoot-when-needed-to impression for the second game in a row and canned a three with just over a minute to go to give the Bulls a 5 point lead and ultimately, the win.
Over at Blog-a-Bull, Bulls fans have pretty much adopted the same demeanour as their leader, Rose, and aren't getting carried away with their 2-0 lead.
At Indy Cornrows, the fans are happy that their team hasn't embarrassed them and has actually put on a good showing.
Yawn... this Heat team can be pretty boring when they're this good. They pounce on teams early and make the game a cake walk for themselves. For Philly, they really need Iguodala to play well for them to have a chance of even taking a game in this series. Until that happens, the main point of interest to follow is how far back Lebron will push his headband in order to disguise his hugely receding hairline. We can see it Lebron, we can see it.
Over at Peninsula is mightier, Heat fans are use to performances of extreme comfort such as game 2 and it shows.
Who said 76ers fans can be brutal? On Liberty Ballers the game recap actually includes a 'Good-Bad' list. Only one player makes the list. He's joined by a soft drink and a phrase. You heard me.
Dallas - Portland, NYK - Boston and Atlanta – Orlando tonight...I hate the play-offs without the Suns in it.
Great set of games last night! We saw upsets, beastly performances from elite players like Chris Paul and Kevin Durant, and Amare lead his new team to the brink of a game 1 upset at Boston, only to have to ball given to the "clutch" Carmelo Anthony down the stretch as the Knicks lost.
Will tonight's games be as entertaining? On the surface, probably not, unless Jrue Holiday and Danny Granger excite you. Nevertheless, Derrick Rose is always worth watching, as are the Heat for the chance that they might lose.
On the slate for tonight:
Philadelphia at Miami, TNT, 4PM PDT. Heat lead series 1-0.
Indiana at Chicago, TNT, 6:30PM PDT. Bulls lead series 1-0.