In the second quarter, the crowd broke into a roaring cheer after a timeout. That was because, for the first time since February 12th, the Phoenix Suns played Shannon Brown in a game. He was on a run of 28 days and 10 games of non-action.

The result was insignificant as the Suns fell to 22-42 on the year with the 108-93 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

This game was reminiscent of nearly every game since the All-Star break, as they hung tough nearly all game and it came down to which team was going to make plays down the stretch. He came in and hit his first jump shot, but did nothing else to impact the game in any way. But hey, the fans won.

Early on, the ball funneled through Kosta Koufos as he rattled off 11 straight points and 15 in the first quarter. He and Hamed Haddadi teetered with a career-highs in points all night. Late in the fourth, Koufos found his 22nd point at the free-throw line and Haddadi topped his previous career best in points with 13 points on an offensive rebound early in the fourth.

When a team is entrenched in a season like this, those are the types of factors that are available to keep the fans engaged.

Each quarter, the Nuggets added a few points to the lead until it was insurmountable. Marcus Morris and Wesley Johnson led the way with 16 and 18 points respectively, pacing the Suns throughout the game. Marcus had 10 of those early in the first quarter as he was the team's only scorer out of the game.


"I don't think anything you do can actually prepare you to see the emotions of a child, your child, going into surgery."

That was the world of Phoenix Suns center and 17-year veteran Jermaine O'Neal for the past week, as he was bedside with his daughter as she went through heart surgery to repair a "leaky valve." The emotions and stakes are a lot higher there, at her bedside, than they have ever been for O'Neal sitting court-side.

O'Neal took time away from the team to be with his 13-year old daughter Asjia as she spent four days in the hospital and two days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), before being released and sent home.

She is walking now and rehabbing to get back on the court as doctors were very impressed with the rapid improvement she has gone through over the past two days before her release. Being away from the game she loved took more of a toll on her than the surgery itself, at least mentally, as she wanted to be on the court as her team went out and won a major tournament in her name.


Thankfully, volleyball will be in her future. She will be able to step out on the court again and play the sport she loves thanks to the successful surgery, as well as some physical rehabilitation.

Now that is what the elder O'Neal is trying to do now.

He came back into Phoenix yesterday and had what he described as, "probably one of the top 5 worst workouts in NBA history, it was pretty bad." Getting back into physical shape after not lifting, running, or having any basketball activity will be the easy part. Being with his teammates is therapeutic, as he talked about getting back on the court with his teammates.

"Trying to emotionally get your mind right and physically get your body right, you expect that," said O'Neal about getting back into a basketball rhythm. "Coming off of a six hour flight from Boston back to Phoenix, to basically put your bags down and come here, you expect to be winded."

Having that veteran leadership and toughness, to go from a hospital bed back to basketball, that is the type of person that can help mold the younger big men.

Living that life and the grind of being in the hospital for 23 hours a day, only to run to the house for a shower and then run back, is something unfortunate to deal with. You do not watch basketball or follow the news wire. O'Neal was told two days ago of Marcin Gortat's injury and the play of Hamed Haddadi.

"I didn't even know he went down until two days ago. When you are living that life, when you are in the hospital, you are not watching sports."

Those things are trivial under the circumstances. The support and outcry that O'Neal and his family received was emotionally overwhelming.

"I wasn't thinking of basketball to be honest. I had great support. I really have to compliment the Boston Celtics for their support, they showed a lot of support in so many different ways. Phone calls, care packages, Kevin Garnett and those guys sending flowers. The Phoenix Suns, Lon Babby, Lance Blanks, Robert Sarver and those guys showed a lot of support."

The NBA truly is an exclusive community that takes care of their own with the best FMLA package possible when these situations occur. O'Neal reaped those benefits while tending to what matters most in life, his family, while his other family tended to him from afar.


The Denver Nuggets are 44-22 on the season, but only 14-19 on the road.

The Phoenix Suns are 22-41 on the season, but at least they are 15-16 at home.

Yet, it's difficult to imagine anything but a blowout in favor of the Nuggets tonight. Denver has topped 100 points in 22 of their last 23 games for an average of 104. The Suns average about 10 points less than that on the season.

Even factoring in the Suns' improved D (keeping opponents to 4 points below their season average of late), you've still got a clean victory for the Nuggets.

Add in the fact the Suns topped 100 points on Saturday night for the first time at home in 2013 (the hadn't scored 100+ points at home since before Christmas), the outlook looks even bleaker.

Not to be a pessimist, but...the Nuggets have won 9 consecutive games (18 of their last 22), while the Suns are feeling pretty about a 5-5 record since the All-Star break (9 of of their last 22).

Key Matchups

Kenneth Faried vs. the Morri

In a part-time matchup of 2011 draft picks, the Suns trot out Markieff and Marcus Morris ("the Morri") - who were drafted #13 and #14 overall - opposite the Nuggets' Kenneth Faried who went #22 overall.

It's easy - and proper - to bash the Suns' front office for this oversight, but don't forget to throw 20 other teams into the same fire. Faried has exceeded pre-draft expectations of pundits, scouts and front office personnel alike.

Faried starts at PF for a winning team, bringing the kind of fire and energy that new Suns coach Lindsey Hunter absolutely craves. He grabs 9.6 rebounds a night despite being only 6'8", and drops 11 points in the bucket each night as well.

Marcus and Markieff Morris bring less to the table - about 9 points and 4 rebounds per game, each.

Don't expect the Morri to outplay Faried, but it will be interesting to see how they fare.

Ty Lawson vs. Goran Dragic

Here is a better matchup to watch. Both point guards will dominate the ball, trying to score first and pass second.

Lawson's stats (17 points, 7 assists on the season, but 23 and 7 over his last 10 games) are gaudier than Dragic's.

Dragic has season averages of 14 and 7, with 15 and 9.8 in his last 10 games.

Expect one of these guys to set the tone, while the other takes a back seat in comparison. Could be either of them.

Andre Miller vs. Kendall Marshall

Some have looked at Marshall's physique and skills and tried to peg his ceiling as Andre Miller. Well, Suns fans get to see a first-hand comparison tonight when each steps into his team's second unit, even pairing with the starter for stretches at a time.

My guess is that you won't see a lot of similarities once you see them facing off.

Marshall is a better passer and even slightly better at shooting open 3s (33% now on the season). Marshall sees the floor better, but as a rookie he struggles to predict the speed of the NBA game at times.

Andre Miller is a good passer and a pretty good defender, but still a terrible shooter after more than a decade to work on it. Miller defends better than Marshall ever will.

Neither is good at creating their own shot anywhere on the court, so there's that.

Good wings vs. average wings

Both teams play a lot of wings. It's just that Denver's are better. Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala start, with Wilson Chandler backing them up along with Corey Brewer.

Phoenix counters with Jared Dudley, P.J. Tucker, Wesley Johnson, Marcus Morris and Michael Beasley. The most engaged players that night play the most minutes.

No superstars

Denver is the poster child of winning without a superstar. They have a lot of pretty good players, but no one guy who can carry the team. Not one guy made the All-Star game this year, even.

Can they win a championship without a superstar? Probably not. But they are a darn good team regardless.


The Suns did beat Denver at home earlier this season. It was Phoenix's first win of the year against a winning team (only 4-3 at the time).

So take that for what it's worth.

I wish I could say the Suns will win this game, but don't count on it.

Time: 7 p.m. MST TV: FSAZ When the Phoenix Suns lost center Marcin Gortat to a foot sprain against the Toronto Raptors two games ago, the offense sputtered. To be fair, expecting a refurbished...

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The Michael Beasley experiment has not gone well but I refuse to blame the Suns for taking the risk. It was always going to be a gamble but with the position the Suns were in, why not roll the dice? The upside was great, the risk low.

For any rebuilding team, the number one question is: how to acquire superstar talent.

It's up to Beasley now

The Suns have given Beasley every chance he could ask for. It's on him to deliver.

The answers generally come down to the draft, trades, or free agency. Michael Beasley represents a fourth way. You sign a guy whose value is diminished, but clearly maybe has tremendous upside potential.

The most obvious example of this working is the Memphis Grizzlies who traded for Zach Randolph in July 2009. The fact that the Grizz traded Quentin Richardson for Z-Bo instead of signing him as a free agent, as the Suns did with Beasley, is irrelevant. They moved an expiring $8.7m contract for the two years/ $33m-owed Randolph.

At the time of the deal, Clips Nation was thrilled, calling it: "[...]about as good as the Clippers could have hoped for."

Noted Grizzlies admirer and NBA hyperbole meister, Matt Moore, said this about the deal from a Memphis perspective:

It Would Take A Room Of MIT Mathematicians With Calculators Working 18 Hours A Day 7,000 Years To Determine Just Exactly How Stupid The Memphis Grizzlies Are | Hardwood Paroxysm
Two years, $33 million. That’s what they’re paying. Think about this. They could have gotten four years of Charlie V. for that.

I won't bore you with Randolph's sordid history prior to arriving in Memphis and (FINALLY) finding a home for his prodigious and heretofore under-realized potential. Suffice it to say, things worked out well for the Grizzlies (and the Clippers for that matter).

Memphis understood that they needed more talent and they took a giant risk -- to the tune of a net $25m over two years -- to see if they could be the ones to strap a team to Z-Bo's big backside and ride him to the playoffs.

The Suns did exactly the same thing with Beasley...only it hasn't worked. Failure isn't always about missing the shot. If it's the right shot at the right time, you don't blame the player if the ball doesn't go through the net.

First, to be clear on the details, we talk about Michael's three-year/$18m deal, but it's actually a two-year/ $15m deal since that third year isn't fully guaranteed. The Suns are now on the hook for one more year at $9m.

That's a lot of money both in the real world AND even in the fantasy world of NBA finance. But the real point is the opportunity cost. Does or will Michael Beasley's contract prevent the Suns from having enough money to jump on other opportunities in the marketplace of free agency?

The answer is, no.

Phoenix Suns' payroll this year is at or near the bottom of the league. Going into this offseason, they will have plenty of money available to take advantage of what's basically a lame free agent class. And if by some miracle they identify a true max-worthy player and don't have the cap space to sign him outright, they could easily do a sign-and-trade to move a few minor contracts to make room.

The Lakers certainly didn't have cap space when they got Dwight. The Knicks didn't have cap space when they got Melo. The Rockets didn't use cap space to get Harden. Even the Heat, who had a ton of cap space, used sign-and-trades with both Bosh and LeBron.

In fact, when was the last time a max player was signed completely using cap space?

So, someone needs to explain to me how the Suns have hurt their flexibility by having Beasley's contract on the books. I don't see it.

Worst case, Beasley costs Robert Sarver some extra money, which is not something I lose sleep over.

I also find it ironic that the Suns still get slammed for being "cheap" for draft picks sold over half a decade ago (2007 was the last pick sold and it was for a guy now getting beat up by fans in Europe). The team easily could have signed some low risk player on a one-year deal instead of taking the Beasley Gamble. That would have been the frugal thing to do.

The one critique I'm more sympathetic to about the Beasley signing was the process.

Some folks point out that the Suns went after Michael immediately when free agency opened and made him a big offer before other teams proved their interest. They essentially "bid against the themselves".

This might be true. We don't really know what other teams were willing to pay Beasley at the time. Just because no rumors surfaced about a competitive offer from someone else doesn't mean it wasn't made.

More importantly, who cares? All that argument is saying is that the Suns could have gotten Michael for less money. They could have played hardball and squeezed every last dime out of the negotiation. Instead, they seemingly did everything in their power to make Beasley feel wanted and valued in the hopes that would improve the chances for his success in a Suns uniform.

At this point, I agreed with most people that Beasley is a bust. But worst case, he costs Robert Sarver some extra money, which is not something I lose sleep over.

Were the Suns wrong to take a gamble on signing Michael Beasley?

  299 votes | Results

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