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You have to admire the pluck of new Suns president Jason Rowley. Faced with the famously fickle fans of Phoenix (aliteration win!), the team is going to offer money back to those who buy a ticket to the Mavs game on the December 6.

Apparently, all you need to do is fill out an online form after the game and send it in with your ticket and Robert Sarver will personally deliver your refund along with a gift basket containing Groupons to his bank. (Details subject to verification.)

Balls.

Here's how Rowley explains it:

Phoenix Suns to offer fans money back fun guarantee - ESPN
"That's a big part of why we're doing this," Rowley said. "Just because our players don't have huge name recognition doesn't mean we're not fun to watch and can't compete. Sure, people relate to star power, but we believe in the team aspect and we're marketing this team as a team instead of a group of individuals."

Going to a sporting event has long been about more than the "game on the field". From the music to the mascots to the scantily clad dancers and free t-shirts, teams understand that they can't always count on the quality of play to be the main attraction.

Rowley is taking a bold stand against all that "other noise" and saying that the Suns, despite their losing record, are reason enough to buy a ticket and have a good time.

Balls.

Ed Note: So, a funny thing happened this morning. Both Dave King and I decided to write about the same story at the same time. For the record, I emailed him telling him I was "getting" this story and he didn't respond NOR did he email me saying he had it. Ergo, it's his fault. Obviously. Duh. Enjoy his story and this impromptu experiment at how two different people write about the same thing.

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Looking closely at the statistics related to the Suns defense this season vs. last season, the obvious things match the eyeball test. The Suns are generally okay (19th or better) at most aspects of defense except that opponents are making a ton of their jumpers. Where they fail as a team is on defending the spot-up and defending the Roll Man on the pick and roll.

But when you unravel the data even further, something new jumps out. Last year's best defender has become one of this year's worst.

Many of you think that Grant Hill was the Suns' best defender last year but the statistics say otherwise. In terms of pure success rate, Marcin Gortat allowed the fewest points per possession of any Phoenix Sun in 2011-12: 0.766 points per possession. Incredible, considering he defended in the highest conversion area on the floor.

Yet as Suns C Marcin Gortat makes headlines complaining about touches and his general role in the team's offense this season, he has inexplicably (and I'm sure to Suns head coach Alvin Gentry, inexcusably) allowed his defense to slip to awful levels.

Last year Gortat's defense ranked, per MySynergySports, in the 83rd percentile amongst NBA players in terms of "points per possession" allowed. He was rated as "excellent" overall and smartly was the Suns' most frequent defender. Of all plays executed against the Suns, Gortat was the defender of record on 768 of them (12%) - the highest rate on the team. It was mainly thanks to Gortat that the Suns finished 19th last season in points per possession allowed.

Flash forward to this season.

Still the Suns' most frequent defender of record, MySynergySports Gortat ranks Gortat as a "poor" defender overall. He is only in the 13th percentile amongst all NBA defenders, allowing more than a point per possession (1.023). Blech. As with last year, as Gortat goes so goes the defense.

Let's take a tabular look at the numbers. On the left are Gortat and Morris, year over year. On the right are their new wing men compared to a year ago (Frye vs. Scola, Lopez vs. O'Neal).

Synergy-big-men_medium

As you can see, Scola has actually been decent on defense. His results are comparable to Channing Frye, both being passable defenders next to Gortat. Same with swapping Lopez for O'Neal (O'Neal has not has enough defensive plays to rank in a couple of the categories yet).

Yet Markieff Morris's step backward is positively dwarfed by Gortat's giant leap into a chasm.

How do you go from excellent to poor in one season?

Has the defensive scheme changed so much that Gortat can put the blame there? I can't see how that's likely, but it's certainly possible I guess.

Now maybe you can see why Alvin Gentry brushed off Gortat's complaints about his role in the Suns' offense. He clearly stated over and over again that he wants Gortat to focus on his strengths first. Gortat needs to play strong defense before he can complain about expanding his role in other areas. He is the anchor in the Suns defense and needs to play like it.

And, you can see why Gentry benches Gortat in favor of O'Neal's excellent defense when the Suns need to get some stops to get back into a game or close out a game.

The good news is that Gortat clearly has the tools to do just that. He has been a quality defender for years. If he can revert to his normal form on defense, he will be in the game at crunch time and he will get his touches on offense.

It all has to start with defense. Just as Gentry said.


After a 40-point drubbing at the hands of a team that’s mediocre at best, it’s easy for fans to wistfully remember the good old days. It’s not as common for a head coach of a...

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For a really intelligent kid, the only description that applies to Kendall Marshall's self-awareness is the word "kid" at this point.

"They want me to keep up my conditioning, as well as getting game time," Marshall said to Paul Coro of azcentral.com, of what Suns General Manager Lance Blanks told him Wednesday night. "They think this will be good for me."

Let's remember the kid is only just 21 years old and has spent his entire basketball existence as the best playmaker on the court, all the way through leading North Carolina to a top seed in the NCAA tournament.

But success in high school and college does not guarantee success in the NBA. A point guard cannot just pass. He needs to run the offense, make the defense pay for their rotations by shooting when he's open and he needs to defend the other end of the court.

Concerns over those latter skills has resulted in Marshall playing the 13th man role. Before Wednesday night's 16 minutes of playing time, Marshall had only played 18 mop-up minutes in 14 games.

His 16 minutes last night started well when he made his first NBA shot - a smooth three-pointer from the angle right - but then eroded as time passed.

"After three minutes, I was gassed," Marshall said to azcentral.com's Paul Coro after the Pistons beatdown. "I hadn't played that long in a long time."

The Suns were outscored during Marshall's minutes 41-27. Those 41 Pistons points were largely scored by regular Pistons rotation players, who stayed on the court long after the Suns had gone to the end of the bench. Marshall scored 6 of the Suns' 27 points but had no assists. He had some nice passes but the Suns did not convert.

Now he gets his chance to play with the Bakersfield Jam. No word from the Suns how long his stint in Baskersfield will be, but it could (and should) be a long one that's only permeated by (a) a Telfair trade or (b) a swap with now-third-string PG Diante Garrett.

"Sebastian and Goran have been playing well so there won't be many minutes as of right now," Marshall said to Coro. "So to stay in game shape and get some reps, they thought that would be the best thing for me to do."

Neither Garrett nor Luke Zeller are going to Bakersfield at this time.

Garrett will now dress out each game in Marshall's place and take Marshall spot minutes when the game is either in hand or out of hand, or someone gets hurt.


There is no other way to put it. The Suns played their worst game of the season tonight in Detroit. They were absolutely crushed by the Pistons, 117-77. Phoenix is now 0-4 on the year in the second...

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