This only matters on October 28.  (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

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This only matters on October 28. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

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I know, I know, it's frustrating.

We want to see the Suns winning games. We are frustrated by our inability to watch, to form our own opinions from seeing the guys on the court. All we get are gamecasts and boxscores and occcassional online feeds featuring opponents' announcers.

So when someone who's seen the game says "don't worry about it", we are unable to simply accept that as golden. We can't take our eyes off the rebounding deficit, the point differentials, the turnovers and the 1-5 record.

But all in all, here's what we have actually learned this preseason: A lineup including 3 or more of Lawal, Clark, Janning, Siler, Jones, Atkins and Dowdell will lose a LOT of games.

Fortunately, Alvin won't be playing that lineup starting next week. In fact, we may never see it again with the exception of the occassional blowout.

So why did Alvin Gentry spend so much time playing those guys?

I have some guesses...

These guesses are with no particular knowledge or inside information. They are just based on logic of the hindsight variety. Given that Gentry has repeatedly filled the second-half lineups with scrubs who've lost leads by the barrelful, there has to be a reason right?

Here's my top 10 reasons we have seen what we've seen:

  1. Fewer minutes = less wear and tear. Hill is 38, Nash 36, Turkoglu 31 and Richardson 30. Lopez is young, but injury-prone.
  2. The games don't matter.
  3. Dudley and the starters (including Turkoglu) are known quantities. Alvin has watched the starters earn leads whenever they've played together. He knows what he has with them.
  4. 5 out of 6 games have been on the road. When you really, really don't care about the end result, it's easier to play your deep scrubs when the game is on the road. No one in the building cares.
  5. The games don't matter.
  6. Two of the six games have been against Utah, the Suns' opponent in Game 2 of the regular season. Just like in the NFL, you don't give your opponent anything to chew on if you can avoid it and the Jazz have seen very little of the Suns team they will play on Oct 28 when it counts.
  7. Two of the six games have been in Canada. Games with fans less interested in basketball than they are in cheering/booing particular players.
  8. The games don't matter.
  9. In case of mass injuries, would ANY of the deep scrubs step up as leaders on that third unit? Would any surpass expectations? Unfortunately, that's a no. Most disappointing is Earl Clark.
  10. The games don't matter.

Of course, we've seen some worrying trends.

Rebounding deficits and 110 points-allowed fly in the face of kool-aid drinkers who have convinced themselves the Suns will survive in those areas.

But don't use the preseason as a barometer for the upcoming regular season. Those are two different animals. Regular season matters. Preseason doesn't.

The Suns team you see next week will not resemble the one you've seen so far. Sure, the warning signs are there.

But the biggest thing we have to worry about is if Gentry will play Janning, Clark, Lawal and Siler/Jones together in a tie game in the third quarter. My hunch is no.

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Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic, top, drives to the hoop past Raptors guard Sonny Weems (24) during first-half NBA basketball game action in Toronto on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

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7 days ago: Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic, top, drives to the hoop past Raptors guard Sonny Weems (24) during first-half NBA basketball game action in Toronto on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

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It's kind of become old hat now. The Suns starters start strong and from there things go south in a hurry. But it's all good. Or at least it's all excusable.

With the majority of second half minutes played by guys who will either not be on the roster at all or will be in a deep bench role come regular season, I'm going to pretend it didn't happen. It certainly doesn't matter much.

Those minutes do matter a heck-of-a-lot to Matt Janning (18 min., 6 points); Gani Lawal (12 min., 7 points) and Zabian Dowdell (12 min., 0 points) and mostly to Earl Clark (7:40 min., 2 points) but for the Suns season overall, they are non-critical. 

And with the game not on TV, it's hard to say much about those guys other than that Al McCoy calls Matt Janning, "Matt Channing". But he's Al McCoy so he can do whatever he wants. No complaints here.

The portion of the game that was most troubling was the 2nd quarter.

The starters got out to a nice 33-22 lead after one and turned it over to the Suns Super Subs: Dudley, Warrick, Frye, Childress and Dragic -- the unit that's supposed to be great defensively and lift this team to great heights.

That unit was on the floor together for 4 minutes before Siler came in for Frye. They were outscored 9-6 in that period which isn't horrible by any means. Channing had no points, 2 turnovers and a foul in that stretch.

Gentry then went with that unit (second unit plus Siler, minus Frye) for another 3 1/2 minutes and they were +1 in that stretch. Still, not that bad.

Then Gentry brought back Nash, Hill, Richardson and Clark and left Warrick on the floor. Who's the center in that group? No matter, they were +4 over the next 3 minutes before Turkoglu came in for Warrick.

Turkoglu, Nash, Hill, Clark and Richardson. That unit went -7 over the final 2:26 of the quarter.

So on second thought, I'm not concerned about the 2nd quarter at all but if I'm Earl Clark's agent I might be worried.

4 minutes from Frye. 2:30 from Siler. No Lopez and oh, the Suns were +1 on the offensive glass. The problem was scoring (22 pts on 38% FG for the Suns) and giving up 20 points in the paint to the Raptors leading to their 31 points on 52% shooting.

It wasn't pretty but it was Gentry experimenting.

So overall, the Suns played legit regular season ball for 1 quarter and looked good. Panic button stowed ... for now.

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