All a coach wants from his team is for them to play hard and show effort at the very minimum. If the talent is there then the results will com, without the talent interim head coach Lindsey Hunter is simply looking for the effort. He got it last night.


Unlike many of his teammates, Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic has been the picture of consistency this season. He plays every minute like it could be his last, leaving nothing in reserve when the final buzzer sounds.

And not coincidentally, Dragic is having the best season of his five-year career.

His effort has always been there and his shooting percentages are down this season, but no one does more for this team than The Dragon.

Trip Dub

Last night's near-triple double against a playoff team (32 points, 12 assists, 9 rebounds) might have been his best stats game all season but, true to form, Dragic was having none of it.

"It doesn't matter about statistics," Dragic said to Craig Grialou of last night, via twitter. "I try to win games and unfortunately we lost."

This was the second time this season that Dragic flirted with a triple-double. He tallied 19 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds against Dallas on February 1 (also a loss).

Dragic' 9 rebounds last night were the third-most of his career. He'd previously had 10 boards twice and 11 once in April of 2011 for Houston when Kyle Lowry went down and Dragic finished the season out.

But rebounds are not what Dragic's game is all about. His job is to make himself available to the rebounder to bring the ball up the court and possibly start a fast-break. If he's down amongst the trees in the paint for rebounds, those breaks aren't happening.

Dragic's main job: gobbling up points and assists for a poor offensive team.

The Dragon has 16 games with 10+ assists, and is second in the league with 11 such double-digit assist games since the All-Star break last month.

He has scored 10+ points in 57 of 69 games this season. The Suns are 2-10 in games he has not scored in double-digits.

Elite Company

No NBA player has topped his 31-12-9 line all season. Not LeBron James. Not Kevin Durant. Not Russell Westbrook or Rajon Rondo.

And no Phoenix Sun since Kevin Johnson in 1993 has put up a line like that either. KJ's 32-14-9 came 20 years ago when the Suns were an NBA juggernaut.

Putting last night aside, on the season only FOUR players in the entire NBA are putting up more points, assists, steals and rebounds than the Suns' Goran Dragic.

LeBron James. Chris Paul. Russell Westbrook. Jrue Holiday.

That's it. FOUR.


Of those four, Dragic plays the fewest minutes, takes the fewest shots and commits the second-fewest turnovers. He's also the worst shooter and rebounder of the five, but that's splitting hairs amongst elite company.

But the offense sucks

Yet, it's a bit early to call Goran Dragic a savior, and it's certainly wrong to absolve him of all blame for the Suns' season.

The Suns' offense has been terrible this season and you can't shift all blame away from the head of the snake. After starting the season with a middle-of-the-pack offense under Alvin Gentry, the Suns have been one of the worst offenses in the league since interim head coach Lindsey Hunter started playing the younger guys.

Right now, the Suns sit at 29th in offensive rating out of 30 teams.

Only Washington is worse, but they are charging fast with John Wall powered up. The Suns could easily finish the season with the league's worst overall offense. After being in the low teens in offensive efficiency as late as Christmas, the fall-off has been dramatic.

Is it the Dragon's fault?

Sure, you can't put all the blame on Dragic. He's hustling and trying his best out there - it's obvious to anyone who watches the game.

But Dragic is not a team leader who absolutely requires the others to follow his lead. He does not get in players' faces. He does not require them to get into position before he starts the offensive play. He just wants to do his job the best he possibly can.

If the offense is failing, part of that falls on Dragic.

He has not found a bread-and-butter play that works when all else fails. He has not made the most of a career 38% three-point shooter (Jared Dudley) on a team with the worst three-point shooting in the league.

Except for a two-week span just after the All-Star break, he has not found great chemistry working with talented pick-and-roll finisher Marcin Gortat. With Nash, Gortat flashed great ability to finish on the roll, even leading the league in that category. But he and Dragic have not found rhythm.

And now Gortat is out. Channing Frye has been out all season - a very underrated loss for the Suns' spacing. Jermaine O'Neal has missed time too.

Rotations are changing every night, as Hunter tries to mix and match youth to winning. In a lost season, it's tremendously important to play everyone on the roster to see their strengths going into another summer of overhaul.

New offense?

Lindsey Hunter loves Goran Dragic. He is quick with praise any time Goran's name comes up in conversation, and puts Dragic back in the game in the fourth quarter of a 30-point deficit just to send a message to the rest of the players about effort.

Hunter has said that he wants to change the offense this summer to fit Dragic's talents better as a slasher, a guy who can drive and kick rather than float around on the perimeter.

Hunter has mentioned Manu Ginobili as a comparison to Dragic and has played rookie PG Kendall Marshall side-by-side with Dragic for long stretches this past month, possibly hinting he sees Dragic in that supporting-assassin role rather than traditional PG.

Certainly, the current offense is not working. Maybe a new one will be better.

All I know is this: the Suns are better off as long as Goran Dragic plays 30+ minutes a night.

PHOENIX – Finally finding their fire and aided by fresh legs, the Suns set themselves up for a thriller in U.S. Airways Center on Sunday. Right with the Brooklyn Nets until the final buzzer, the...

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The energy among the team was high all night and it eventually fed into the crowd, who hooped and hollered the Phoenix Suns through a second-half comeback from 12 points down after the second unit struggled once again to find their traction despite playing with high effort.

Wesley Johnson dropped in 17 points (4 3-pointers) in the THIRD QUARTER ALONE as the Suns outscored the Nets 33-20 to take a one-point lead.

The fourth quarter was a seesaw affair, with each team hitting big shot after big shot.

Goran Dragic (31 points, second highest of career, 12 assists and 9 rebounds) was the player of the game for the Suns, just short of a triple double after three quarters alone. He poured in points when the Suns needed them in the fourth as the Nets tried to start flexing their muscle.

Unfortunately, the Suns had a hard time stopping Deron Williams and the Nets in the fourth quarter. The Nets scored on 5 of 6 possessions after the game was tied 87-87 to take a 99-95 lead with two minutes left.

From there, the Suns could not muster enough offense (a missed layup, a missed three and a missed stepback jumper all on the same possession) to tie it up or take the lead before it became a free throw fest.

Gerald Wallace missed one of two free throws, giving the Nets a 100-97 lead with 14 seconds left. With the Suns sporting the league's second-worst three-point shooting offense (and worst overall in recent weeks), prospects did not look good to tie it up.

In fact, they didn't even try a three. Dragic tried to draw a double-team down low for the kick-out but the Nets guarded the line well. Eventually Dragic sank a short jumper to cut the lead to one. After a quick foul, C.J. Watson made both free throws and the Suns could not get off a three-point attempt before Dragic was fouled inside the arc.

Dragic made the first and missed the second, on purpose, but Haddadi missed the lefty layup on an offensive rebound with mere seconds left.

THIS is the kind of loss that's easier to take than laying down against the Wolves, Suns fans.


Brooklyn, missing former Sun Joe Johnson tonight, came into the game with a 40-29 overall record, and a better road record (18-15) than the Suns' home record (16-19).

Apparently, these Suns seem only to be able to get up for the good teams while they don't even bother showing up against the bad ones.

This is getting to be a pattern, one that makes little sense until you consider how frustrated these guys are with how the season is going. They have been out of the playoff picture since early January, no chance to salvage the season. Their fans don't want them to win, and even the moves by the front office and coaching staff scream of evaluation for next season.

It appears the only time the players are fully engaged is when they get to prove themselves against a "good" team - one that's currently positioned to make the playoffs. Since Hunter took over (signaling the season to be effectively over), the Suns have beaten the Clippers, Lakers (twice), Grizzlies, Spurs, Hawks and Rockets.

If the Suns could put out this same effort against teams like Sacramento, Washington and Minnesota they would have a much better season record.

Wesley Johnson finished with 21 points, his high with the Suns.

Markieff Morris had 15 rebounds, his second-highest board total for the season (though he only had 5 points on 5-18 shooting).

The Nets made 28-31 free throws, just enough to top the Suns on the road.

Time: 6 p.m. MST TV: FSA PHOENIX — No matter how far the Phoenix Suns fall down the Western Conference ladder, interim coach Lindsey Hunter doesn’t want to panic. He took an easy day on...

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