We might see these two dudes a lot tonight.  (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

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We might see these two dudes a lot tonight. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

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Finally, a real home game! The Phoenix Suns play the Utah Jazz tonight at US Airways Arena in downtown Phoenix with a 7pm tipoff.

Unfortunately, it's not scheduled to be on anyone's television set, despite the fact that the Suns would almost certainly get a high number of viewers. Let's all gather 'round the transistors tonight and listen to Al's silky voice tell us how wonderful the Suns' full court press is ruining Utah's best laid plans.

Seth should be at the game, as will other local reporters and maybe even some of you season ticketholders. (I, for one, will not. I get partial-season tix via a friend, and tonight's game is not one of those I "drafted" last weekend. My preseason game is the Golden State matchup next week.)

I'm sure the players are geeked up for the first home crowd they've heard in 4 months. I hope the arena is rocking, but likey it won't be. Fans are just like players. Preseason has no comparison to early regular season, which has no comparison to post-all-star games, which has no comparison to any round of the playoffs.

In fact, our game thread might have more "umph" than anywhere else. BSotS rocks.

So, what should we expect tonight?

Jazz notes

Word is that Utah will play something akin to a regular season rotation. No idea whether that will include regular-season intensity. 

The Jazz (2-0 this preseason, both against Portland) are still trying to incorporate new C Big Al Jefferson into the lineup. Tweets from Jazz reporters indicate that the transition has not been 100% easy yet, noting things like spacing and offensive flow as areas on which they need to work.

The Jazz also has Raja Bell as their new starting SG. He has not played regular basketball since the 08-09 season in which he was traded midseason from Phoenix to Charlotte.

In their first preseason game, they had 14 different players put points on the board, led by Deron Williams and Paul Millsap. Jefferson and Bell combined for only 11 points.

In their second game, also a win over Portland, they used 15 players (14 of whom scored), this time led by Fesenko and Williams. Jefferson was better (14 pts, 6 rebs) this time.

In both games, Portland seemed to play an only-slightly elongated rotation but still lost.

 

Suns notes

For their part, the Suns are on opponent #4 and game #4 overall and, for the first time, are playing in the friendly confines of US Airways Arena.

According to coach Gentry, expect the Suns to play harder than they have in any preseason game to date. The home crowd should certainly have some kind of effect on this effort as well, so I doubt we will be disappointed.

It's even possible the Suns will start making shots - like maybe more than 20% of their 3-pt attempts. I'd point out who's started cold this preseason, but the list is too long. Don't be surprised if the Suns sink 50+% of their 3s tonight. The lid can only stay on the hoop for so long. A flood's a comin'.

Seth has written a few articles (on Hedo and Childress) in the last couple days - check them out on BSotS and SB Nation AZ.

Hedo is still trying to fit in, as are Warrick and Childress. And Hill, Nash et al are already playing the "its going to take us a long time to gel" card.

Apparently, what appears to be schoolyard bball with no plays and the PG magically creating every shot attempt off his own dribble is in reality a lot more complicated than that.

It took Raja Bell more than a month to take open shots without a conscience. Same for Channing Frye. Jason Richardson took even longer, as did Shaq (in his own way). Heck, Dudley, Dragic and Lopez didn't even find their niche for months after coming to the Suns.

So give Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick some time to fit in.

In the meantime, if the team just comes out and plays harder than the other team every night, the Suns should still be able to rack up a lot of wins.

Something I noticed during the Mavs game (on TNT last weekend) was that the Suns were aggressive in the passing lanes, getting deflections and steals at a high rate. And since then, Gentry has said that he wants active defense to be a hallmark of this squad.

I am excited to see this development, because I think it's a great way to offset the rebounding problem. In fact, take a look at this article I wrote over the summer on the topic as well as this one three days later.

Excerpt here (for data to support this, click the links above):

There seem to be 2 parts of overall Defensive Efficiency: initial defense (resulting in a shot attempt, shooting foul or turnover) and second-chance defense (otherwise known as defensive rebounding).

A team can be good at defensive rebounding, but that doesn't matter if the opponent makes a lot of shots. In other words, you can't rebound a shot that goes through the hoop. Conversely, a team can mitigate their rebounding deficiency by playing better defense before the shot even goes up.

Initial Defense is the 'Pts/Play' column in the above table. As you can see, the Suns were tied for worst in Points Per Play among playoff teams. But being middle of the pack (15th) overall in the entire league helped them make the playoffs, despite being the second-worst defensive rebounding team in the NBA.

Second-chance defense is the prevention of offensive rebounds to extend the play. The Suns were very bad at preventing these, proven in their 29th-ranked 'defensive rebound rate'.

Defensive Efficiency - the 'Pts/Poss' column in the above table - takes both initial defense and second-chance defense into account.

The Suns initial defense ranked 15th, second-chance defense ranked 29th, resulting in an overall defensive efficiency (pts/poss) of 19th. Being the second-worst defensive rebounding team hurt the Suns, but not as much as you might expect.

Take a look at OKC and Portland. Portland was a much better defensive rebounding team than OKC (4th vs. 16th), yet finished with a worse overall Defensive Efficiency (13th vs. 8th) because Portland's initial defense was poor by comparison to OKC (15th vs. 1st).

So what does this mean to the Suns?

This: If our favorite team is going to struggle to rebound the ball, they can offset some of that with better initial defense.

Looks like the Suns feel the same way.

So get 'em, guys!

[Note by Seth Pollack, 10/12/10 2:39 PM MST ]

 

Phoenix Suns Preseason Home Opener Tonight, Jazz Time At 7 P.M. AZ - SB Nation Arizona
Gentry says we can expect the Suns starters to play in the low- to mid-20 minute range. The Suns face the Jazz again on Wednesday in Utah and then on October 28 in the second game of the regular season. Three times in two weeks is a lot of Jazz for Gentry.

"They beat you up pretty good so there's no reason to get all beaten up in the preseason. I'll limit Steve (Nash) and some of the other guys' minutes some what and be able to take a look at some of these other guys in those situations," Gentry said after this morning's shoot around.


The other day we asked you to share your Suns related photos (or just pictures of your pets) on the Bright Side of the Sun Facebook page

You did and here's some of the best.

We will do this throughout the season so please do post your pictures from the game, from after the game at the bar, from the bathroom at the bar where you've passed out and any spy shots you might have of Scott Howard (I'm not convinced he's a real person).

 

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This photo is from Jennifer who says, "This was the greatest day of my life. I WAS 3 FEET AWAY FROM GORAN DRAGIC!"

I understand, Jennifer, since I spend a lot of time just feet from Goran and can confirm that the experience is in fact magical.

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This picture was posted by Brigit, one of the three lovely ladies shown giving hugs to a bearded Suns fan which just goes to show that chicks dig the beard (and Suns fans).

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This game photo was taken by Trisha at the Suns - Warriors game which, as she put is, "The last game I saw Amare destroy someone (ahem...Tolliver) with a dunk."

 

These next two photos are of a couple of our regular contributors.

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grainy photo that claims to depict a big, hairy Suns fan ... and the Gorilla. This is Eutychus (aka Leiland)

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And here's our mystery fan. 10 internet points if you can guess who this is. Hint: He's dreaming about Lou and he's a not-so-loyal subject of The Queen (and probably a huge fan of the band Queen)

Thanks everyone, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook. We Like you so it's only fair ... and keep posting those pictures! 


The Goran Dragic to Josh Childress Connection

A look at how these two back court buddies might just turn out to be pretty darn explosive and a solid defensive pair.

Also hear from Josh about his troubles adjusting to the Suns system and Goran talking about the differences playing w/ Josh versus LB.

No afro discussion included. Sorry.


We’ve been scrutinizing all summer how the Suns will replace Amare Stoudemire in their vaunted pick-and-roll attack. It’s still the most salient question yet to be answered about this...

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"There's an old saying about those who forget history. I don't remember it, but it's good."

- Stephen Colbert

 

Ed Note: This is the first in a five-part preview series we will be running over the next few weeks. 

Roller Coasters

Give yourself a nice high five if you predicted the Phoenix Suns would win 54 games and reach the Western Conference finals. If you also predicted in that playoff run the Suns would sweep the San Antonio Spurs, give yourself a chest or fist bump. If you predicted the Suns would face the Lakers in the WC finals, and take 2 games from the defending world champions, well then leave work now and start your happy hour early, you did real well at calling the shots right!

look back at us BSOTS staff writers, site editors, and editors in chief did NOT predict such a season for the Suns. One of us was close, but the rest of us didn't believe. Perhaps we had no reason to believe. Nevertheless, the Phoenix Suns squad made believers out of all of us during an improbable run that raised eyebrows and expectations all over the NBA nation.

 

 

And Now a Look Back at the Phoenix Suns' Season by Month

Oct & Nov, (14-3)

The Suns began the season with an impressive run of victories including 17 straight games of 100+ points per game en route to an October and November combined 14-3 record. ESPN.com put the Suns on the front NBA page with a photo of Steve Nash and some predictably overused cliche like "Suns Rising." Thanks for throwing Phoenix a bone, guys.

The first leg of the season was arguably not too difficult. There were plenty of opponents who were not very good teams. Beginning the season versus the Clips, Warriors and T-Wolves wasn't too challenging. The victory in Miami over the Heat was as impressive as a 22 point loss against Orlando in Orlando was unimpressive, but predictable. 2 nights later the Suns were back on track in downing Boston, again on the road.

Alvin Gentry warned us all not to get too high, the season was long and it would be a rollercoaster ride for everyone. It's the safe bet to assume so in an 82 game season. And after drubbing the Pistons, Grizzlies, T-Wolves and Raptors by an average of 21 points, the Roller Coaster took that twisting free fall that makes men like me pray to God to make it stop.

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(Dec), 7-9

A visit to New York in the so-called infamous "hang-over" game resulted in a 27 point loss to the Knicks which was followed up by a 17 point loss to the Cavaliers. It was clearly time to go home and get some rest. The good news was the Kings were in town, but the bad news was that there were a host of Western Conference powerhouses to contend with afterwards. After downing the Kings, the Suns went back on the road, were bludgeoned by the Lakers by 20, lost a heartbreaker in Dallas, then returned home to avenge an early season loss to the Magic.Then it was more of the up and down-loss to Denver, victory over San Antonio, loss at Portland, victory against the Wiz and consecutive losses to the Cavs and Thunder, along with a preposterous loss to the 7-21 Warriors in which Amare scored 9 and Magette and and Ellis dropped 33 a piece in a contest that saw both teams hoist up a combined 172 field goal attempts, with the Suns hitting 14 of 31 three pointers.

(Jan), 7-9

The Suns rang in the new year with more uneven play with a 25 point home defeat against the Grizzlies, along with losses to the Heat, Pacers, and Hawks. The new trend in those stretch of games was the loss of focus and killer instinct: the Suns gave up a 16 point first half lead and 70 second half points to the Pacers. Against the Bucks the Suns reeled off 36 first quarter points followed up with 18 second quarter points. the Bucks outscore the Suns 61-43 in the middle quarters and what should have been a blow out turned into a nail biter, Suns 105-101. The Bobcats dropped 43 points on the Suns in the first quarter a few nights later followed by the Grizzlies dropping 34. The lowest of the low arrived in two straight games at the Jazz and then against the Bobcats again. At Utah, the Suns snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory as they were outscored by 20 in the second half, thus negating a Goran Dragic coming out party (32 points). Phoenix Sun turned Bobcat Boris Diaw went for 24/11/5 while Jackson, Felton and Wallace combined for 68 points while the Suns scored 15 points in the fourth quarter to lose in overtime 114-109.

At 26-21, the Suns appeared at a crossroads. The Amare trade talk erupted and it was clear that after two sub .500 months that the Suns were not that 14-3 team that had once again returned as darlings of the NBA. Who exactly the Suns were was a question mark that no one had any idea solve.

(Feb), 9-3

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In February, Amare Stoudemire fired up his mass media campaign to gain votes as a Western Conference All Star center. The bad news for us was that these efforts included the use of David Spade. The good news was that Amare began ramping up his game. The points were always expected from Amare, but the defense and rebounding had been inconsistent. In 16 January games, Amare totalled 127 rebounds (7.9 pg). In February, Amare snagged 121 in 12 games (10.0). Jason Richardson also pulled it together, scoring in double figures in 10 of the Suns February games and pulling down 5 or more boards in 10 out of 12. Robin Lopez began his resurgence in February, scoring in double figures in 9 of 12 games while gathering up 5 or more rebounds in 10 of 12, including 30 points and 12 rebounds in a monster game against the Clippers. If I may remind you, this was the game

in which Chris Kaman grew so annoyed with Lopez's defensive presence he got himself booted 20 seconds into the half. Ah good times.

(March), 12-2

The Suns built on their February momentum in March, busting out a ten game winning streak which including impressive victories over the Nuggets, Jazz, Blazers, a 36 point vengeance defeat over the Knicks, and a nice W in Chicago over the Bulls. With 49 wins, the aroma of postseason was eddying about U.S. Airways Arena. And while the jockeying for post season position had only just begun, the Suns were exuding a certain poise and confidence about them that had many of us considering who the Suns would match up with in the first round of the postseason as opposed to whether the postseason would happen at all. Still, there were some vital Western Conference match-ups to be played over the final 7 games of the season

(April), 5-2

The stretch run was on, and the Suns would have to finish strong despite the absence of Robin Lopez with his back injury. The loss was minimized by Gentry and Co in public. There was no choice but to continue on without the big man, and while Jarron Collins' presence on the floor made many of us nervous, 10 minutes a game wasn't too much to derail the Suns playoff hopes. 

There is a certain special sweetness that accompanies a victory over the San Antonio Spurs. The players and coaches have changed over the years, but we fans have not, and a 112-101 victory over the Spurs was especially sweet and a sign of things to come in the post season. Following a loss to the Thunder, the Suns won three straight, including a 22 point destruction of the Nuggets and 14 point win over the Jazz, that may have been Jerry Sloan calling off the dogs, thus angling for the 5 seed and a first round match-up with the downward spiraling Nuggets.

Post Season

The Suns mark of 17-4 to close the season solidified the belief of many that it's not how you start but how you finish in the NBA (or sports in general). The Suns had time to sort out the December and January debacles and players like Goran Dragic, Jason Richardson, and Amare Stoudemire closed the season in top form, while Steve Nash and Grant Hill, hampered by injuries at various times of the season, got healthy while continuing their solid play. The second unit completely jelled, and at times played well enough to close out games while keeping the starters on the pine for some much needed rest.

Round 1 Vs. Portland

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This matchup separated the men from the boys. While the Suns played hard nosed basketball and Jason Richardson went out of his mind for 42 points off of 8 three pointers in game 3, the Blazers and their fans could do nothing but whine about dirty play and the lack of decent officiating. Game 3 was the back breaker for Portland as the Suns trounced the Blazers in front of their hime crowd. The Suns shot only 43% and 6 of 23 from beyond the arc in game 4 and were out rebounded 45-39 by the Blazers as Brandon Roy returned to action. But Roy was a shell of himself, still attempting to return from a knee injury. The Suns shook off the loss and Channing Frye shook off his shooting woes to bolster a bench effort that outscored Portland's 55-23. In game 6 Grant Hill picked up 12 rebounds and broke the spirit of Portland with two devastating blocks on Jerryd Bayless. Again Brandon Roy was a non factor, shooting 4-16. Jason Richardson drained 5 three-pointers en route to 28 points while Amare Stoudemire chipped in 22 of his own.

Round 2 Vs. San Antonio

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One had to feel that the Suns were a very special squad heading into the San Antonio Spurs series. The experts gave the Suns no chance at all to win, however, this group of Phoenix Suns refused to believe in history or any curse against San Antonio. Many of the players were not around for the heart wrenching defeats of the D'Antoni era. Not many recalled the Horry "check" against Nash or the infamous Duncan 3 pointer that iced a series in game 1. It was a new year, new era, and new attitude for the Suns who were running on the momentum left over from 2 straight wins against Portland. Not many anticipated a sweep, but breaking out the brooms against a gassed Spurs squad was the sort of justice that left us fans and players alike that something wonderful was happening. In game 1 Stoudemire, Nash and Richardson teamed for 83 points on 36-52 shooting. The Suns out rebounded San Antonio 44-38 en route to a 111-102 win. In game 2 the Suns big three again did their thing, but the bench outscored Tony Parker 31-24. It was clear that San Antonio was too slow to stop the Suns starters and didn't have the depth to compete with the Suns second unit. Game 3 was pivotal in the series. Amare Stoudemire struggled with 3 of 10 shooting but Grant Hill and Goran Dragic picked up the scoring load. Dragic stunned the San Antonio crowd and most of the national media with 23 4th quarter points. There was no answer for the Dragon. He was too fast for the Spurs, everything he put up found a home through the net. This was the back breaker for the Spurs.

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Let us not forget this either.

Western Conference Finals Vs. Los Angeles Lakers

We all knew the road to the NBA World Championship went through Staples Center. I'm not going to lie, it's still pretty painful to think about. In game 1 Kobe went for 40, Odom yanked down 19 rebounds. In game 2, Gasol hit for 29 while Kobe got his teammates involved with 13 assists. In Game 3 Amare went insane for 42 points while Steve Nash hit for 17 and 15 with only one turnover. The Lakers would not sweep the Suns. That in itself was a small victory. The Suns evened things up in game 4 with 54 points from the second unit. The series dagger though, came in the form of a last second put back by Ron Artest.

Channing Frye: "I knew he was going to make it." 

Jared Dudley: "Once it went in, it was deflating. It stung. It hurt.

Steve Nash: "I was just determined to try to win," (who at one point scored 9 of the team's 11 points) 

Amare Stoudemire: "We got to swallow this one."

Game 6 was the nail in the coffin on the Suns 2009-2010 season and there is no use rehashing it.  Instead, why not end on a high note? Here's to the Phoenix Suns, version 2009-10. An amazing team that never quit, proved the naysayers wrong, and played an unforgettable season none of us will ever forget:

Phoenix Suns 2009-2010 Season Highlights (via SunsDynastyXcom)

 

This piece is the beginning of a 6 part Phoenix Suns 2010-11 Preview.

In the Coming Days, Don't Forget to Check out Our Previews Which Will Include the Following:

  • Assessing the Off Season by Mike Lisboa
  • The Roster-PG's and Wings by P-Sun
  • The Roster-Bigs-Watdogg
  • The Competition-Trevor Paxston
  • Summary and Forecast-Alex Laugan


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