Hakim Warrick battles for a loose ball against Gilbert Arenas. DE-FENSE! (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

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Hakim Warrick battles for a loose ball against Gilbert Arenas. DE-FENSE! (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

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In the midst of a third quarter run that effectively killed the Wizards' hopes at a win, Eddie Johnson said, "And here I thought this was going to be a game decided in the fourth quarter." I thought the same thing, especially after a nearly-defense lacking first half that had the Suns leading 64-61. However, to start the second half, the Suns, would have none of that.

Orchestrated by the near-perfect Steve Nash, the Suns came out firing. Two lob feeds for dunks within the first two minutes of the quarter indicated that we may have been in store for a track meet. However, on the defensive end, the Suns tightened up. Players rotated defensively. They got their hands in the passing lanes. They contested every shot from the Wizards, and the defensive intensity led to a 27-13 run that allowed Nash to leave the game.

It wasn't until a stretch of sloppy play by the Suns reserves that prompted Alvin Gentry to call a time out and put the starters back in. Once that happened, it was game over. Adios. Sayonara, Washington. This was a quality win over a team the Suns should have beaten.

And there was this...

The Suns are finally looking like the team we know they could be. An unconventional, yet efficient team defensively, and a well oiled machine on the offensive end. Things aren't perfect. In fact, they're far from perfect. But improvement is improvement, and this is the first time the Suns have really taken a slumping team out back and given them an old fashioned beating.

Things That Impressed Me

  • Two words: Steve Nash. I'll let his stats do some of the talking, which I'll post below. But even more than the gaudy and near-perfect stats, he was every bit of the leader we know him to be. He made perfect pass after perfect pass to set up the second half run. He stepped in front of players. Defended. Gave a pep talk to Dragic in between quarters. There are times when you see someone play and simply appreciate everything that they do. This was one of those games for me. Aside from the two turnovers, it doesn't get any better than that.


  • Hakim Warrick's overall play. Yeah, I know he had the amazing dunk. I know he scored 26 points in 27 minutes off the bench. But aside from all the offense, it was the way Warrick conducted himself on the court. The lack of playing time given in the previous two games must have rung true with him. He came out energized, crashed the boards (he picked up 6 tonight) and looked more committed on the defensive end.
  • Beating handily a team we should have beaten handily. The Wizards are slumping and John Wall is rusty since returning from an injured knee. Prior to the injection of defense, that wouldn't have meant anything to the Suns. The fact that this game ended like it did showed me that the team is stepping it up when they need to. They're developing that killer instinct. They're beginning to play as if the games mean something.
Major props go out to Alvin Gentry, who has always found a way to make it work. Since inputting the widely unknown and late signee Earl Barron into the starting lineup, the Suns are 3-0. He has consistently shown that he is able to adjust on the fly and roll with the players that are succeeding. He has also shown the tenacity that it takes to coach an unlikely group of players into a successful, winning team. All in all, it was a great win for the team. These are the type of games that separate a bad team from a playoff team, and the Suns are beginning to play like they actually believe they deserve in the playoffs.

Now let us all shout in jubilee!



[Note by Seth Pollack, 12/05/10 8:59 PM MST ]




Steve Nash Leads Phoenix Suns To Schooling Of John Wall's Washington Wizards, 125-108 - SB Nation Arizona
Nash's 17 assists and perfect shooting night was only the fifth time since the 1976 NBA-ABA merger that a player has accomplished that feat. Nash has done it twice now along with John Stockton (Feb. 1994), Mark Jackson (Mar. 1987), and Magic Johnson (Nov. 1983). 


Game Notes

1st Qtr

  • Frye jumping the tip just a sign of how vertically challenged Earl Barron really is
  • Suns testing their jumpers early. Frye miss, Hill miss
  • Nash draws a foul on Wall, he does that to all the rookies
  • JRich goes into the paint against Heinrich. Suns are going to abuse the Wiz guards in the paint
  • It's really kind of difficult to describe how sneaky / crafty Nash is. He's just Nash-like in his Nashtyness
  • And Earl Barron misses the dunk and tip-back. Once again, that's why he's Earl Barron and not LaMarcu Aldridge
  • If the Wizards have a pick and roll defense strategy it is far beyond my ability to comprehend. Basically they are just hoping Nash will miss open shots. Good luck with that
  • I need to bear down and force myself to pay more attention to the Wizards offense...but it's painful
  • Oop, Wall just hot his revenge on Nash. Steve turned his head for a split second and Wall as in 12 feet past him
  • I seriously think that's 8 shots Barron has missed from within 3 feet...It's kind of funny really
  • Suns down 21-14, not so funny
  • Warrick in for Barron, Gentry looking for some offense here
  • Suns go w/ Warrick and Hedo together on the front line. Blatche goes right at Warrick in the paint and draws foul
  • Gilbert hits a three, Nash responds w/ a pick and roll dunk for Warrick. Barron can't do that
  • Hedo steal and leads the break, JRich three but Nash gets credit for the assist b/c of his quick swing pass. That should have been Hedo's assist
  • Suns on a nice little run here to close the quarter. 31-28, Wiz

2nd Qtr

  • Suns start w/ a Hedo/Warrick pick and roll. Warrick to the line
  • Yi posting up Hedo, that's sad
  • Earl Barron had 5 offensive rebounds and no second chance points
  • Warrick looking fly
  • Josh doing a good job staying in front of Arenas, not that Arenas is all that quick any more
  • Suns not shooting the ball but there are at least getting into the paint and getting to the line. Fairly bleh game so far. Not the kind of game we are going to remember in two month...or tomorrow
  • Fun to see Dragic try and attack Wall. Didn't work but still fun
  • Nice steal from Hedo on McGee
  • Suns production peeps trying so hard to get this "Heeeedooooo" thing to catch on after each of his threes. Not working
  • Golden Grannies on the court. Time for me to make a little golden stream. Brb
  • JaVale McGee found someone he can post up - Hakim Warrick. But Wiz can't stop Suns
  • 49-48, 4:55. Nash back in. Very nice stretch for Dragic/Hedo/Warrick they are plus something
  • Wow, that looked like an actual play from the Wizards. Highly unusual
  • Nash uses various Wizards as screens to shake Wall and get an open shot
  • Meanwhile, Wizards like Nick Young and Ji can't miss from outside. Defense!!
  • Both sides scoring but I have to think the Suns are more sustainable..they are at least getting into the paint and getting to the line. Wiz just hitting from outside...open shots but still from outside
  • OOOOOHHH Warrick Mega Slam end of half. Looks back at Suns bench like "Earl Barron who"
  • 64-61, Suns

3rd Qtr

  • Suns 20 FTAs. Wizards 5. Wiz 4-8 from three. Suns 2-6. Suns 22-19 TReb
  • Nash to Frye lob dunk...wow. Frye has seriously increased his hops this year. Whatever exercise he's doing, Jared needs to do twice as many
  • Time for the Suns to pull away, need some stops
  • Even Earl Barron couldn't miss that wide open dunk Steve created for him
  • 78-67, Suns
  • For some reason JaVale McGee thought he could jump over Grant Hill. Who does he think he is, Blake Griffin?
  • Those open outside shots the Wiz were hitting are no longer falling
  • JRich / Barron pick and roll. That's new
  • Suns crowd now groans when Frye misses a three b/c they expect him to make all of them
  • And that's why Warrick can't rebound...he had position on Blatche and jumped straight up but couldn't secure the ball over the bigger dude. He at least tipped it out of bounds though
  • Suns are now just toying with Wizards....lob passes galore. If Dudley gets a lob dunk the fans will much just storm the court
  • 91-75, Suns
  • Goran in, Nash out. 1:13 to go in the 3rd. Suns have 93 points. I think tacos will happen
  • Warrick just leveled Nick Young with that screen...lol

4th Qtr

  • Suns won the 3rd qtr 31-17
  • Hedo flies in for the tip-in. Both he and Warrick got the message that Gentry was sending
  • Refs tired of sending Warrick to the line, but it doesn't matter -- he's just jumping into guys and still finishing
  • Hedo is pissed that Ji jumped over him for a tip-in put back. That's good that he's pissed about it
  • Sorry, I spaced out there a bit. Did I miss anything? I guess someone called Trevor Booker did something nice
  • 102-85, 8:08 to go. Bench on the floor
  • Arenas trying to go into hero mode, kind of working to be honest
  • Hmmmm, wonder if the Wizards know who Goran Dragic is and that he can shoot if they leave him wide open?
  • I wish there was something more profound to say about this game
  • A couple of sloppy possessions for the Suns, lead down to 107-95. Gentry time out. 5:13 to go
  • Starters back in except Warrick instead of Barron....and there's the reason why as Nash dumps the ball off to Hak and he explodes to the rim w/ a no-step jam
  • And that fast, Suns back up by 20. Bench coming back in now with 3:00 to go
  • Frye had a goal tend, can't imagine he's had many of those in his life
  • Grant Hill with the double fist pump after taking the charge
  • Siler in!!
  • If Siler's in, I think we can call this one over. Later peeps
  • Unlike Earl Barron, Siler can finish around the rim. Too bad his feet are made of concrete blocks

Let's keep the momentum rolling! (and moar Hakim dunks, plz. kthxbai)

Phoenix Suns 125, Washington Wizards 108 PHOENIX — After that brutal start to the season, the schedule has significantly eased up for the Phoenix Suns. Counting the last two wins over the...

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You dunk that ball, Earl! Yeah! (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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You dunk that ball, Earl! Yeah! (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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After what many considered to be one of the worst stretches of defensive basketball ever played by the Phoenix Suns, Alvin Gentry had had enough. He was "pissed off" at the team's lack of effort and concentration on defense, and it was time for a change. The team held consecutive practices for the first time in around three weeks, and there were two words were tossed around more than a Magikarp card at a Pokémon convention in 1997. These two words were, of course, defense and rebounding.

With the first game back from their duo of grueling practices, the Suns faced a team that would challenge both of those areas: the Golden State Warriors. With Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis being two capable dribble pentration slashers and Andris Biedrins and David Lee known for their rebounding prowess, the Suns had quite the progress test ahead of them. What did the Suns do? They went and outrebounded the Warriors en route to a much needed victory. On the road. Monta Ellis still went off, but the defensive pressure was there.

The very next night, the Suns returned home and faced a Pacers team with multiple quality wins in the early season. The Suns went on to fight their tired legs and put away the Pacers in a fourth quarter push that put them on top. Oh, and they held Danny Granger to 2-13 shooting and held Granger and Roy Hibbert to a combined 16 points. Not bad, considering where they had come from.

Tonight, the Suns will face yet another challenge, this time in the form of a potential Rookie of the Year candidate: John Wall.

John Wall. Two words that have been on everyone's tongues for years. Wall has been one of the most highly touted prospects entering the draft since LeBron James, and for good reason. The dougie-dancing player has already put up some incredible highlights in his young NBA career. Fortunately for the Suns, Wall is just shaking the rust off a couple injuries that kept him sidelined for 6 of the past 10 games.

Wall started and played 40 minutes in a win over the Blazers a few nights ago, but shot only 3-13 from the field with 4 rebounds and a season-low 2 assists. While the 40 minutes were an encouraging sign for the Wizards, the Suns need to look to take advantage of the possibly-ailing youngster. The Wizards are another team like Golden State. John Wall can drive and dish (or finish) better than most. Nick Young, while inconsistent, is an explosive athlete who can go off for 20 on any given night...or give you a complete dud. Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee are athletic rebounders with a hard nose for the ball - the type of players that usually give the Suns fits.

However, with the Suns needing to shake off their early season struggles and the Wizards wanting to try and forget about last year's drama, these are both teams that will be hungry for a win. Hold on to your seats, folks; we could be in for a wild ride.

Starting Lineups and Matchups

PG: Steve Nash / John Wall

SG: Jason Richardson / Kirk Hinrich

SF: Grant Hill / Al Thornton

PF: Earl Barron / Andray Blatche

C: Channing Frye / JaVale McGee

The matchups I'm looking forward to most are between the big men. Channing Frye is hot off his highest scoring output of the season against the Pacers, and Earl Barron is making the case for himself with his hustle, rebounding and overall aggressive play. Meanwhile, on the Washington side of things, Andray Blatche is coming off one of his better performances of the season and JaVale McGee is battling a back injury.

Neither of the Suns players are really going to punish the Wizards bigs on offense. Channing might get hot with the semi-hobbled (but still productive) McGee covering him, but what I'm looking at is playing big on the defensive end. Frye has been quietly solid on the defensive/rebounding side of things and Barron, well, that's the whole reason he's in the starting lineup. Both McGee and Blatche have the possibility of exploding if left unguarded, so it will be up to the Suns big men to stay out of foul trouble and do work defensively.

What To Expect

  • The Wizards have lost 4 of their last 5 games and the Suns, while making steps of improvement, are still not a great defensive team. Both teams are struggling but both teams want this game. Expect tonight's game to be rough one.
  • Expect Earl Clark to get a few minutes as some of the matchups (Al Thornton, Cartier Martin, Yi Jianlian) are favorable for him. Plus, after a head scratching entrance to the game against Indiana, he put together a few solid possessions in the middle of the Suns game-winning second half run.
  • Expect Frye to get looks early to see if he can continue his hot streak. If he's unable to get a few early baskets, Jason Richardson and Grant Hill will likely be the favored targets from Nash.

Overall, I'm looking for the Suns to continue their solid defensive effort. If the trend can continue, the Suns should be able to continue winning. The Wizards, though they have talent, are still a sub-.500 team that should be beaten by a veteran team like the Suns. Then again, we've seen what taking a slumping team not seriously can do. Anyone remember the Bobcats game?

Game Links

Wizards vs Suns coverage

Wizards vs Suns preview

Bullets Forever



Phoenix Suns Welcome John Wall's Washington Wizards , 6:00 P.M. AZT - SB Nation Arizona
The Suns could opt to play Goran Dragic more in tandem with Steve Nash to counter the Wizards two-point guard line up when Arenas and Wall are on the floor together, but Gentry didn't seem inclined to do that


Phoenix Suns 12-Man Rotation Testing The Limits Of Gentry's Creativity - Desert Dirt - SB Nation Arizona
In the NBA it is normal for most teams to play with an eight-man rotation. Some teams play with nine or ten but it is very unusual to see a situation like the Phoenix Suns have with 11 or even 12 guys who the coach feels like he can and should be playing on a regular basis. This was a potential challenge for the Suns going into the season but has only gotten more confusing with the addition of Earl Barron to the starting lineup.

Even as the Suns struggle to begin this season, we should be encouraged by the notion that the their success last year is attributable to team chemistry, more so than individual success.  The potential to redevelop and improve that chemistry is more available than a superstar player. Obviously, both chemistry and star players are needed in order to succeed in the NBA (and chemistry creates stars just as stars create chemistry), but it is rare that a contender leans more on cohesiveness and synergy than on the play of big name players as the suns did last year.  As the maxim goes, the NBA is a superstar’s league. 

On the court, teams need superstars as their go-to in pressure situations; off the court, teams and the league need superstars, for while winning may make a team popular in their home city, fans overseas buy jerseys for the name on the back, and it is hard to sell shoes with team chemistry.  These needs combine to create a feedback loop which perpetuates the trend toward superstarism, resulting in the “big three” paradigm which is so en vogue.

However, teams that adopt the superstarism cannon as a blueprint for success expose themselves to a high risk of backfire, as demonstrated by Miami’s early season struggles and New Jersey’s disappointing summer.  In the case of Miami, the problem lies in a lack of accountability.  Accountability is essential to developing a team concept;  Miami’s players and brass are too immature to immediately replicate the success of Boston or San Antonio big threes.  There is no lack of accountability on those teams, neither within their roster nor their management.

This summer, we joked that Miami wasn’t the only team to get a big three.  The Suns added Babby and Blanks to Gentry, forming a big three that made the losses of Steve Kerr and Amar’e Stoudemire that much easier to bear, right?  (Yeah, right) But personally, while a piece of me died when we Amar’e departed, and losing Kerr was as baffling as it was unnerving, I was intrigued by Sarver’s initiative to develop a new management structure, and mildly impressed by the roster moves he made.  However, as the day of a potential mid-season roster move approaches, I worry that the FO big three will suffer from the same issue of accountability facing Miami, but with less talent on the floor to compensate for it.

For fans, it is understandably easy to scapegoat Sarver for any FO move that is made this season.  His reputation as a basketball layperson will forever stick, and, in the offseason he decided to try and fix a team that wasn’t actually broken.  He made the roster moves and signings he made, and there is nobody else to hold accountable for that (though Babby seemed to be a silent partner).  But Sarver owns the team, and is not going anywhere.  He still wields the veto power, but he will rely on Babby, Blanks, and to some degree Gentry to develop a strategy to improve this team.  The FO have to work with what they inherited: decent personnel and contracts. They have the flexibility to make a move if one is called for.

But who will take the lead, and upon whom will the blame fall if a bad move is made?  With this management structure, there is much less accountability and transparency than when Kerr was the guy.  From the day he accepted the job, Steve was under tremendous pressure, unfairly because he was tethered to Sarver’s short leash.  He took risks, made mistakes, learned from them, and improved.  Kerr kept honest and open relationships with the players and the coaching staff with whom he collaborated, and he was usually accessible to the fans media.  Trust is essential to the team chemistry the Suns had last year.  Chemistry was essential to their late season surge and Western Conference Playoff Berth.  And it all starts from the top.

Now, the only person in the Suns hired brass that I believe has the trust of the players is Gentry.  The other two heads of state have been lurking beneath the surface of this team all season.  Babby resembles a shrewd politician.  His answers to the few questions he’s been asked are polite, tactful, and predictable.  He has been a powerful figure in Washington.  He’s defended attacks on former presidents. He is under the thumb of a banker. “Team President” really is the appropriate title for this guy.

Blanks, him I don’t know much about except that he is coming in from one of the more dysfunctional front offices in the league.  I can’t help but wonder if he has the title of GM only to give this team some semblance of the normal front office structure.  Blanks is a specialist in talent scouting and communicating with players, we are told.  Babby is a CBA expert and has been on the other side of the negotiations for much of his career.  We are told that together, they will be able to have more of an impact than one GM, as they can draw from their expertise.

I hope that this experiment works, and that the Suns will emerge with a competitive advantage after the new CBA, given that is a reason for the change in FO structure.  But because the Suns are a team without the superstar talent it takes to compete at a high level in the absence of the type of cohesion they had last year, it is all the more essential that this FO can hold themselves accountable.  If they aren’t, the players, coaches, and fans will lost trust in them, and it is in those instances that teams panic and mistakes are made.

It will be interesting to see what this rookie front office does within the next few months.  Of course, it could be said about any period since Shawn Marion’s contract year, but this season is a pivotal juncture for this franchise.  They aren’t yet rebuilding, but they are thinking about the long-duree more than in recent years.  If the Suns remain a middling team, the fans will demand a superstar.  Their immediate needs are interior defense and and rebounding, but above all that the Suns need improved chemistry, which without a superstar available is their brightest prospect for becoming a great team.

What I’m most worried about is this front office feeling that they need to adopt the superstarism mentality in order to win and sell tickets.  Remember, they weren’t in place when Sarver let Amar’e walk; had they been, maybe Amar’e would still be donning orange.  The free agent market is stagnant, which will inflate the value of players at its top.  The Suns have dispensable pieces, but those are not the pieces that other teams will want in exchange for a star big man.  To improve this team, the obvious (but wrong) answer is to obtain a superstar player as fast as possible.  That player will have to have a bigger impact than Amar’e, which is NOT realistic.

What is realistic, though, is that the Suns use their greatest asset- chemistry- to improve and become high seed playoff team, maybe with a non-blockbuster move that improves the team in the areas they need.  The front office will be responsible for valuing this asset as high as I think the fans and coaches do, and as much as Kerr did last year. This is indeed a superstar’s league, and the superstar is as much a creation of the fan’s imagine as it is the creation of those in the board rooms.  Chemistry is the creation of the team alone, not marketing execs, and it cannot be achieved without the dedication of every significant party in the organization.  I don’t really know who these front office guys are, but I hope they individually hold themselves accountable for what happens this season.  If they don’t, Babby’s underlings (Blanks, Gentry, or the players) could become fall guys for President Babby’s rookie mistakes.

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