Goran Dragic has had a tough season, physically, so far. After being an iron man last year, and for nearly his entire career, Dragic has played healthy in only two of the Suns last six games.

He injured his left ankle in a preseason game against Sacramento Kings, missed the next preseason game, returned for two healthy games (the last preseason and regular season opener), then left Friday's game with a head injury and Sunday's game after re-injuring the left ankle.

"It felt worse this time," Dragic said to Paul Coro of azcentral.com.

Dragic said he had not experienced issues with the left ankle since returning from the previous sprain.

"It's frustrating, but I have to be strong," Dragic said. "Maybe it's because I played the whole summer (for Slovenia's national team), but I feel good. Maybe I just don't have luck. I'll be strong, work on this and come back stronger."

After a day of rest since the ankle roll on Sunday against Oklahoma City, the team decided that Dragic needed the rest of the road trip to recover, at the least.

"I'm guessing he probably won't go these couple of games," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said to Coro today of the road trip's final stops against New Orleans on Tuesday night and San Antonio on Wednesday night.

The Suns return home on Friday to face the Denver Nuggets, hopefully with Dragic in the lineup. Then again, it would be better just to make sure he's completely healthy and strong again before taking any more chances. Once an ankle is turned, it remains weak and prone to re-spraining for a long time.

Len mending too

Speaking of ankles, Alex Len is still nursing the one that was repaired last spring. He had months of immobility before suddenly starting heavy rehab, and the ankle will be a come-and-go problem for a while. After the opening game last week, the surgery done on Len's left ankle was still evident with heavy purple coloring from scarring and irritation.

"Sometimes it hurts to walk," Len told me last week after his first regular season NBA game. "And then some days it feels great to jump and bounce and stuff like that. It's going to go away eventually, so you just got to push through it."

Now, Len missed Sunday's game against OKC and may miss more time this week on the road. The Suns are being cautious - they'd rather than 10 years of health in the future than 20+ minutes a night right now. It's a long term plan they knew they were getting in to.

"He's always going to be day-to-day," Hornacek said to Coro of Len. "This is what we anticipated would probably happen all year."

Ford eats a bit of crow

ESPN's Chad Ford has not been a friend of the Suns over the years. Once, back in 2009, he said "word out of Phoenix" was that Amare was a locker room cancer. After Stoudemire called him a liar, he later called in to the local radio show to say it was "someone from another team". Sure, Chad. Someone "in Phoenix" but with "another team". The Sun Devils, then?

I also remember as late as March 2010, when the Suns were still in 8th or 9th position in the West, right in the middle of the 28-7 run to third that didn't crystallize until the final night of the season, Ford picked the Suns to be the team to miss the playoffs entirely. Ford has also regularly ranked the Suns in the bottom five of Future Rankings for the past five years, despite the Suns being good or, at worst, middle of the pack, every year but 2013-14.

Anyhoo, I digress.

Here's Ford last week in his wonderful new weekly series called Tank Rank.

1. Phoenix Suns | Status: Tanking

...blah blah blah, rabble rabble...

Factor in that the Suns are playing in the brutal Western Conference and it's hard to see them winning a game in the West this season.

Days later, the Suns started the season 2-0 with wins against, gasp!, Western Conference teams.

Now, here's Chad in today's NBA chat in which an intuitive and mildly interesting NBA fan asks Chad a follow-up question to his rankings. (I am guessing he added the addendum in parenthesis in order to entice Chad into answering, as opposed to many other questions he's posed to Ford in the past that went ignored. At least, that's my assumption anyway):

Dave (Phoenix): Hey Chad, what happened to the Suns not being able to win a game in the West? Have you watched any of their games yet, and has your take on them changed at all? (this coming from a guy who thought you were close to right on, and is worried the Suns will lose out on the best 2014 talent now)

Chad Ford (1:06 PM): Yes, I said before the season I wasn't sure the Suns could win a game in the West and they go out and win their first two against Western opponents (Blazers and Jazz). Eric Bledsoe has been great and in those first two games, Miles Plumlee played out of his mind posting back-to-back double doubles and a 24 PER. To put that into perspective ... Plumlee only had 3 double-doubles in his last two seasons at Duke. Of the two (between Phoenix and Philly) I think the Suns are more likely to come back down to Earth on their own.

And then after the chat, he updated his Tank Rank column, placing the Celtics and Jazz ahead of the Suns in the race for the #1 overall pick:

3. Phoenix Suns | Status: Tanking | Record: 2-1

Conventional wisdom from Tank Rank last week: "It's hard to see [the Suns] winning a game in the West this year." To which the Suns responded by beating both the Blazers and Jazz to start the season. In those two games, center Miles Plumlee played out of his mind, putting up back-to-back double-doubles. To put that into perspective, Plumlee put up just three double-doubles in his last two seasons at Duke. Plumlee was sporting a 24 PER before regressing to the mean (0 points, 5 rebounds) in a loss against the Thunder on Sunday.

Expect the rest of the team to follow Plumlee's lead eventually. However, with games against a struggling Pelicans team and an even shakier Nuggets team coming up this week, they may yet put another win or two in the books.

(Last week: 3 )

Conventional wisdom, huh? So, it's conventional wisdom to predict the likelihood that an NBA team can possibly go 0-52 against the teams in its own conference, no matter how bad you might think they are? It's "conventional wisdom" to say something so stupid that it's obvious you made a childish accusation in order to get back at some unknown monster who made you scared and defensive one day?

So, he's modified his "conventional wisdom" from 0-52 against the West to potentially 3-2 in the span of 7 wisdom-consuming calendar days. Good to know, Chad. Schanks, pal.

Meanwhile, back in Sunsland

After suffering through three consecutive years of declining play from a swiss cheese roster full of gaping holes in their basketball playing hero's games, it seems that Bright Siders, at least, cannot shake the habit of pick-pick-picking even the smallest scabs of Suns players not named Goran Dragic or Miles Plumlee.

After three seasons of averaging no more than 20 minutes a night, and producing per-36-minute numbers of 15, 5, and 4 with 1.5 steals per game, new guard Eric Bledsoe has delivered a whopping 22 points, 8.7 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals per game in his first three real NBA games as a Phoenix Sun.

On top of that, his team - which was predicted to lose at least 75% of its games by any number of national outlets (and local bloggers named Jim) - has gone 2-1 with a top-5 defense. Bledsoe himself even made a ballsy game winner, the likes of which Suns fans haven't seen in years.

Yes, Bledsoe has warts. He floats on defense, can't make jumpers consistently and doesn't run the team like the last team MVP did. And possibly worst of all, to some at least, he doesn't smile big into the camera and try to make friends with us through the TV.

But while the Suns are winning, and while Bledsoe is the head of the snake that's surprising the league by emulating his talents (hustle, athleticism, highlight reel plays), let's enjoy it while it lasts. He's pretty darn good and, at just short of 24, he's still improving.

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

Goran Dragic told Paul Coro that his left ankle injury in the Phoenix Suns’ Sunday night loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder was worse than the one suffered in the preseason. Indeed, a re-injury...

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For those that thought the Phoenix Suns (2-1) would finish with 16 wins and be historically bad from a franchise perspective, they now need to go 14-65 to close the season. That would take more effort than it would to win more games. Is my math right, Jim?

Game Recaps

vs. Portland Trail Blazers --- W (104-91) Full Recap

vs. Utah Jazz --- W (87-84) Full Recap

@ Oklahoma City Thunder --- L (103-96) Full Recap

This first week of the NBA season was all about introductions. For the Suns, it was a "Hello and welcome to the city," for Eric Bledsoe, Miles Plumlee, and Dionte Christmas.

All three had quality debuts and continue to prove that they deserve, and might have always deserved, a bigger role than they were ever given. Those three have played great while rookies Alex Len and Archie Goodwin have been playing as expected for 19 and 20 year old first year players.

Around the NBA there have been other introductions from the likes of Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo, and reminders from Chris Paul and Kevin Durant as to why they are some of the best players in the league.

For the Suns this has been a team effort. P.J. Tucker (13.0 points per game), Gerald Green (11.0), and Channing Frye (10.0) have filled in the gaps. Goran Dragic and Bledsoe are the team engine(s) with the way that they push the ball and control tempo. In the pre-season they were turnover prone, but so far in the season that matters they have been more controlled.

The trade of Marcin Gortat for Emeka Okafor has opened up more playing time for little used point guard Ish Smith and others.

Third year forwards Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris have bounced around the rotation, each starting one game and coming off the bench the rest of the games. They are a work in progress like the rest of the team as they try to work their way into a comfort zone in the rotation. This whole roster is a work in progress, but one heck of a fun one so far, that is for certain.

Key Stat: 5th and 22nd

For some reason, early in the season, the Suns are fifth in the NBA in three-point attempts despite being 22nd in shooting percentage from deep. The team is not loaded with shooters this season and in fact the team leader in attempts is Bledsoe, a slashing, athletic point guard who has shot 30.8% from three for his career.

Sometimes less is more and, for the 2013-2014 Suns, less three-point shooting might be more for their offense.

Quote of the Week

"It was reversed now it is even," Coach Hornacek after the Jazz game. "I thought Gordon gave P.J. a little shove to back up and make the three. That was a great shot by him. We had our guy do the same thing. Two great plays by two great players."

(A smile and a wink as Hornacek was clearly joking about the push-off in reference to another famous push-off in Utah Jazz history)

The High: Bledsoe Game Winner

In person, this was fantastic. On the possession where Gordon Hayward hit the game tying three I told my cohorts in the media section that if he caught the ball it was going in. He had been playing well all game and his confidence was growing. After he made the move to create separation (or the push, according to Coach Hornacek) it was over. That was until Bledsoe stepped up.

For the Suns, Bledsoe caught the ball confidently, dribbled to center court, and rocked Hayward to sleep before pulling up in his face... ONIONS! Great shot, great crowd reaction, and great moment for a fan base that is starved of those.

The Low: An Undefeated Season, No More

The Suns were predicted to be one of the worst teams in the league this year record wise, but after a 2-0 start it was clear that they were not going to go into the night quietly. They can still finish at the bottom of the standings, but with the way they play with energy, effort, and excitement makes for a team that can surprise anybody on any given night.

A loss to the Thunder means that there will not be an undefeated Suns team this year. Time to go back to the "tanking" talk.

Full Staff Predictions

Kris Habbas Jim Coughenour Sean Sullivan Jacob Padilla Sreekar Jasthi Dave King CONSENSUS
MVP P.J. Tucker Goran Dragic Eric Bledsoe Goran Dragic Goran Dragic Channing Frye Goran Dragic
LVP Marcus Morris Emeka Okafor Emeka Okafor Gerald Green Ish Smith Ish Smith Ish Smith
DPOY P.J. Tucker Eric Bledsoe Eric Bledsoe Eric Bledsoe Eric Bledsoe Eric Bledsoe Eric Bledsoe
6th Man Gerald Green P.J. Tucker P.J. Tucker Channing Frye Marcus Morris Marcus Morris T-P.J. Tucker and Marcus Morris
Rookie Alex Len Archie Goodwin Archie Goodwin Alex Len Alex Len Archie Goodwin T-Archie Goodwin and Alex Len
All-Suns Goran Dragic Goran Dragic Goran Dragic Goran Dragic Goran Dragic Goran Dragic Goran Dragic
All-Suns Eric Bledsoe Eric Bledsoe Eric Bledsoe Eric Bledsoe Eric Bledsoe Eric Bledsoe Eric Bledsoe
All-Suns Gerald Green P.J. Tucker P.J. Tucker P.J. Tucker P.J. Tucker P.J. Tucker P.J. Tucker
All-Suns P.J. Tucker Channing Frye Channing Frye Channing Frye Channing Frye Channing Frye Channing Frye
All-Suns Channing Frye Miles Plumlee Miles Plumlee Miles Plumlee Miles Plumle Miles Plumlee Miles Plumlee
Most Improved Goran Dragic Miles Plumlee Miles Plumlee Eric Bledsoe Miles Plumlee Miles Plumlee Miles Plumlee
Biggest Surprise Alex Len Win Lotto Gerald Green Archie Goodwin Alex Len Miles Plumlee Alex Len
Biggest Disappointment
Markieff Morris Markieff Morris Alex Len The Morris Twins Markieff Morris The Morris Twins Markieff Morris
Most Likely to Achieve Miles Plumlee P.J. Tucker Eric Bledsoe P.J. Tucker Goran Dragic P.J. Tucker P.J. Tucker
Wins 22.7 16 27 30 27 24 24.45

Player of the Week:

Eric Bledsoe - 22.0 PPG 8.6 APG 6.3 RPG 2.0 SPG 40.1% FG (22.2% 3PT)

With all do respect to the great play of Plumlee in the first game of the season, the week belonged to Bledsoe with a game-winner and a career-high under his belt. In just three games with the Suns Bledsoe has three of his Top 10 scoring performances and his career-high in both assists and turnovers. This is rapidly becoming Bledsoe's team. As Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons joked about in their preview series, "there are 30 teams in the NBA and DeMarcus Cousins owns one of them."

Well, there are 30 teams in the NBA and one of them is owned by Eric Bledsoe.

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Tuesday, November 5th @ New Orleans Pelicans (1-2)

Wednesday, November 6th @ San Antonio Spurs (2-1)

Friday, November 8th vs. Denver Nuggets (0-2)

Sunday, November 10th vs. New Orleans Pelicans (1-2)

Oh, And The Gorilla Tho...

More from Bright Side Of The Sun:

Summing it Up

The Suns suffered their first loss of the young 2013-14 NBA season as they fell in Oklahoma City, 103-96. Goran Dragic was playing well (10 points, three rebounds, two assists) before spraining his ankle early in the second half, but with the Dragon out of commission Eric Bledsoe stepped forward and took control. Bledsoe went off for 20 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the second half to finish with 26, a career-high 14 assists and seven rebounds. After turning the ball over six times in the first half, Bledsoe cut it to just two in the second.

But the Thunder's superstar duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were just too much for the Suns, finishing with 33 and 10 rebounds and 21 and seven assists respectively.

The Suns made more 3-pointers and connected at a higher rate in this game than they did in the first two games combined (14-37 compared to 10-41), but they also turned the ball over 23 times and sent the Thunder to the line 37 times.

Telling the Story

The Suns got off to a good start against OKC behind a few threes by Channing Frye. Goran Dragic was also feeling it early on, doing a little of everything with six points, two assists, two rebounds and a steal.

The front line of Frye and Miles Plumlee protected the rim well early on, blocking some shots and making it tough for the Thunder to finish. However, Plumlee picked up his second foul just over five minutes into the game and had to take a seat.

In addition to his three 3-pointers, Frye also took Kevin Durant down to the post to draw a foul and hit a dribble pull-up from 15 feet out.

Jared Dudley was watching in support of his former teammate, and offered an explanation for that pull-up.

RT @JacobPadilla_: @JaredDudley619 @Channing_Frye When did he learn how to shoot off the dribble? (he's been training with @RyanReadThrive )

— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) November 4, 2013

Frye finished with 10 points and two rebounds in the first quarter.

Unfortunately, Eric Bledsoe had a difficult time with the Thunder defense, turning the ball over four times in the first period. Despite Bledsoe's struggles, the Suns still found themselves up 24-21 after Marcus Morris hit a three late.

Russell Westbrook showed that the knee was just fine on a couple of plays, but overall he and Durant were held in check in the first with five and four points respectively.

The bench came in to play with Dragic to start the second period, and the Morris twins (Keef in particular) were all kinds of awful while Bledsoe started racking up assists but also continued to struggle with ball security.

Gerald Green provided a huge spark, however, and picked up the slack with his teammates struggling. Green brought a ton of energy and finished the period with 10 points and four rebounds.

Kevin Durant started to heat up, however, scoring nine in the quarter.

At the end of the half, the Suns still led 45-44.

The Suns suffered a major blow when Goran Dragic injured his ankle on a nice drive to the basket. Dragic sprained his left ankle and had to be helped from the bench back to the locker room. He obviously did not return.

With Dragic out of commission, Eric Bledsoe stepped up for the second straight game, and the Suns continued to play well without the Dragon. At the end of the third quarter, the Suns were still leading, 70-67.

The tide began to turn in the fourth quarter, however. The Suns expanded the lead to six at 79-73 with just under eight minutes to go, but the Thunder responded with a 22-8 run as Durant and Westbrook asserted themselves. A 3-pointer by P.J. Tucker and a step-back jumper by Frye brought the Suns within one possession, but failure to box out led to a rebound and slam by Durant.

The Suns ran a play to get Gerald Green open in the corner for a 3 and he hit it to cut the lead to three again. However, Tucker fouled Westbrook with just under 30 seconds left and Westbrook hit both. The Suns tried to run the same play to get Green open, but he stepped on the sideline, tuning the ball over and effectively ending the game.

Standout Performers

  • Kevin Durant: The second best player in the game shook off a slow start to post an efficient 33-10 double-double. He shot 10-19 from the field and hit 11-13 from the charity stripe.
  • Russell Westbrook: Westbrook made a much-needed return for the Thunder in this game and looked like his old self. He only shot 5-16 from the field, but got to the line 14 times (making 11) and provided Durant the offensive support he was missing in the first two games.
  • Eric Bledsoe: This game was a mixed bag for Bledsoe. He struggled mightily in the first half, turning the ball over at a high rate and failing to find a rhythm within the offense. However, he was terrific in the second half and almost singlehandedly won the game for the Suns down the stretch. However, even while he was playing well he made some bad decisions and shot way too many threes. Bledsoe is a work in progress, and at this point the spectacular things you're going to get from him are going to come with some facepalm-worthy plays as well.
  • Channing Frye: Frye was terrific tonight, and did more than just shoot long jumpers. He did that too (3-8 from deep), but he also went to work in the post, drawing a foul on Durant and hitting a couple of turnaround jumpers. Frye finished with 19 points, five rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes.
  • Gerald Green: Green returned to his preseason form in this game, providing a spark off the bench while hitting threes and crashing the glass. He finished with 21 points (5-10 from 3-point range) and eight rebounds, but also turned the ball over four times including the turnover that ended the Suns comeback attempt.

Final Thoughts

  • I pointed out in my preview that the Suns are going to have to start hitting 3-pointers, and they did that early on. However, they settled for and relied on the long ball a little too much late in the game. 37 attempts is way too many for this team. On the bright side, P.J. Tucker's shot is looking good and he made two threes for the third straight game.
  • The Thunder won this game at the free throw line. 37-22 is a huge gap in attempts. Westbrook and Durant out-shot the Suns by themselves with 27 between them. The Thunder were definitely the beneficiary of some questionable refereeing tonight. However, superstars get superstar calls and the Thunder had the two superstars in this game.
  • Miles Plumlee finally crashed back to earth. He picked up two early fouls, pulled in only five rebounds, played 24 scoreless minutes and forked the ball over three times.
  • The Suns may have lost, but they led for most of this game and had a chance late in the game. The Suns are a much-improved team and they appear to be very well coached. They are playing solid team defense. And they held on in the second half without their best player in Goran Dragic.
The Suns led at the end of every quarter except the one that mattered. Phoenix suffered its first loss of the year, falling 103-96 in Oklahoma City. Losing a very winnable game was made worse by the...

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