Recapping the week that was, reviewing the news & notes, taking a look at Suns history, updating the 2014 NBA Draft Watch, and previewing the week ahead... Welcome to the Center of the Sun.

This week the Phoenix Suns said "Hello" to three exes in Marcin Gortat, Amare Stoudemire, and Mike D'Antoni. In two out of those three encounters they came out on top, looking better over time ellapsed since they were together. Then there was round three, and, well the Suns were a hot mess around their flamboyant thin mustached ex that was a catalyst in making them who they were...

Game Recaps

@ Washington Wizards - W (99-93) Full Recap

vs. New York Knicks - W (112-88) Full Recap

@ Los Angeles Lakers - L (99-115) Full Recap

It is easy to look back at last week as being a bit of a letdown after that clunker of a loss to the Lakers who are in the midst of one of their worst seasons every, but it was another winning week.

Don't forget that.

The Suns continued their winning streak taking it to six games and like everything else it came to an end. They beat the Knicks about as badly as one could beat another while handling the playoff bound Wizards as well. Eric Bledsoe is back and playing well. The defense is improving and when things were bleak the team rallied to turn things around. One loss, no matter how apathetic and brutal it was, does not define the week. Focus on the positives.

At this point the Suns in a three-way tie for the seventh seed in the Western Conference and are on the cusp of winning 20 more games this year than last year. Focus on the positives. The team has a rough road ahead, but they are on the road this year driving with the best teams in the NBA.

The loss to the Lakers was just a pit stop after a flat tire with eight more laps to go. It is time to... Look on the Bright Side.

P.S.

Bright Side, are you as sick of Chris Kaman's mug on the homepage as I am? I figured...

Key Stat

359-233 (61.7%)

That is the winning percentage (and overall record) for the final opponents on the Suns schedule. Not a walk down the Red Carpet. It does not help that three out of the next four opponents are also the best three teams in the NBA today record wise and the fourth is the fifth team in the Western Conference. The Suns did what they were supposed to going 6-1 in a stretch of winnable games against bad teams and now they have to go out there and win games.

As they say, anything worth having is worth fighting for. A playoff spot is worth fighting for.

Quote of the Week

"We didn't know how to stop them. Our intensity was really bad. I don't know why but it's like nobody wants to play playoffs. It seems like that."

"Our schedule gets a lot harder after this. Play all the top teams now in the next six or seven games, so that's why this game was so important. I mean, if this happens against Oklahoma City or the Clippers, then fine. But this team is not a playoff team, so that's why it's disappointing."

Goran Dragic after the loss to the Lakers

2014 NBA Draft Update

Surrogate Watch continues and the Suns have three first round picks with the current projections, with their own pick landing in the lottery. Sort of what most thought in the pre-season, but not quite the pace from those projections. Here is the update on how the three picks look right now:

Minnesota Timberwolves (36-37) -- No. 13 Overall (Pick stays in Minnesota based on Protections) - Rondae Hollis Jefferson, Freshman Wing Arizona

Phoenix Suns (44-30) -- No. 14 Overall (Pick stays in Phoenix based on Protections) - Jerami Grant, Sophomore Forward Syracuse

Washington Wizards (38-36) -- No. 17 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) - Clint Capela, Swiss Forward

Indiana Pacers (52-23) -- No. 26 Overall (Pick goes to Phoenix based on Protections) - Jabari Bird, Freshman Wing California

Keep following along here to get updates and information on the 2014 NBA Draft Class and more.

News & Notes

  • The six game winning streak was the longest since a nine game winning streak in the 2009-2010 season.
  • Since coming back from injury Eric Bledsoe is averaging 16 PPG 5.6 RPG 5.3 APG 1.5 SPG and the team is 6-3 with him. In the nine games before his return the Suns were struggling going 3-6 in that span.
  • Oh, and Chris Kaman is still in the NBA after a brief run in the WWE under the pseudonym "Erick Rowan"

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Suns History Lesson

This Week in Suns History: April 6th, 1995 -- Once upon a time there were only three players in NBA History to have made 1,000 three-point field goals. Dale Ellis, Reggie Miller, and... The Suns Danny Ainge. Since then 70 more players reached that mark, all surpassing Ainge (1,002, 73rd All-Time). Mike Dunleavy, Ron Artest, and Mo Petterson all have more threes than Ainge for their career. Yup.

Previewing the Week Ahead:

Wednesday, April 2nd vs. Los Angeles Clippers (53-22)

Friday, April 4th @ Portland Trail Blazers (48-27)

Sunday, April 6th vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (54-19)

Deep breath........ Now exhale.

This is going to be a tough week where winning games equals earning them. The Spurs have won a franchise best 18 games in a row. The Thunder are right on their heels with the MVP Front Runner, Kevin Durant. The Blazers are getting back on track after a tough stretch where they really struggled.

Silver Lining? The Suns have beaten all three of them this season.

So far they are 2-1 against Portland, 1-1 against Oklahoma City, and 1-2 against San Antonio giving, at the very least, hope that they can go out there and earn wins. Because they have done it before.

This week I am going with a 2-1 week for the Suns. Not necessarily because I think it will happen, but because it needs to happen. Good Luck.

When you make the playoffs, you don't get the high draft picks. Instead, you have to find your future stars in places that no one else is looking. The Phoenix Suns appear to be doing just that.

The Phoenix Suns may be close to the playoffs, but they are also getting closer to finding gems in the next draft despite no projected 2014 pick being higher than 17, depending on how Washington finishes the season.

Just like the Suns found Leandro Barbosa in 2002 and Goran Dragic in 2008, the front office is combing the world to find the hidden gem outside the borders of the U.S.

General Manager Ryan McDonough, Assistant GM Pat Connelly, super scout Ronnie Lester and draft guru John Treloar have traveled all over the world in the past year, watching players in gyms as hot as Phoenix in the summer to as cold as Siberia at any time of year.

McDonough first saw Suns rookie Alex Len as a 16 year old playing in a stifling hot gym. He watches every player live, and stores video and notes of every one of them.

Greek rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo burst onto the NBA draftosphere last spring. He was ultimately taken at #17 overall, but has clearly shown the talent to have gone in the top 5 if the scouts would have just had more time to evaluate him.

Will 2014 have a similar player skyrocket onto the stage? And if so, which GM will snap him up?

According to sources, one such player being targeted by the Phoenix Suns is Boromir Barac of Bosnia, a cousin of Boris Barac who is considering making himself available for this year's draft.

"The kid is huge," an scout told me in confidence, of Boromir. "But he's just so smooth, athletic and naturally talented at the same time."

Very few NBA scouts have hit on this young man because until two weeks ago he was completely "off the grid", having not played organized basketball until he joined a local team last month and word spread like wildfire.

Former Suns center Marcin Gortat did not play basketball until he was 17, and was barely drafted by the NBA before being stashed overseas for a couple years and then joining Orlando. He was a steal.

Gregg Popovich reportedly thought Tony Parker, a little-known Frenchman, would never hold up in the NBA after watching him work out before the 2003 draft. Eventually, the Spurs took Parker at #28 overall. That was a steal.

And we all know the story of the Phoenix Suns spiriting little-known Goran Dragic to Phoenix before the draft, and ultimately being able to draft him at #45 overall. That was a steal.

Now, this super-strong, fleet-footed behemoth from Bosnia might be a guy who rises to the second half of the first round this June as scouts flock to Bosnia to watch him play. Reportedly, the kid is 7'0" tall, weighs 270 pounds, but is able to run like a deer while splitting logs with a mere hatchet.

He is head and shoulders above his current competition, which consists of ragtag players who were given permission from their parents to keep coming back despite getting bumps and bruises every time they play.

Boromir Baric, 18, always eschewed basketball for a promising Olympic-level career in pairs figure skating and ice dancing. Alas, Boromir kept unintentionally injuring his partners just before big competitions and, most recently, was disqualified from the 2014 Olympics in Sochi due to a mysterious head injury to his partner as they practiced the Iron Cross before traveling to Sochi.

Baric retired from international figure skating soon after, turning instead to a soft round leather ball in place of his razor-sharp blades.

Baric is fluent in six languages and is apparently a major Phoenix Suns fan. When an independent scout saw Baric last week, he was wearing an orange suit and had painted his skin to match. And that was just to run down the street to get milk for his mother.

Another scout reported seeing Baric in deep purple, covered head to toe in purple sweat bands.

Asked if he was sending a message, Baric said, "I like the heat. After years of figure skating and ice dancing, wearing gloves and hats and tight body suits, I really want to live the hot desert and wear cargo shorts for a change of pace."

Welcome to the Madhouse! Bright Side of the Sun is an amazing and diverse community and it deserves a place where the tyranny of topicality does not rule. And that's what The Madhouse is. It's Bright Side of the Sun's place to talk about whatever you want, whenever you want: favorite TV shows, news from around the league or how you're now building your own personal ark after going to the movies this weekend. It's all fair game here. Get crazy, y'all.

Recapping the Western Conference action in the Suns chase for the playoffs

Remember when you were a kid and the worst possible thing your mother could say to you was "I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed."

Well for me personally that doubles as my emotion from last night.  Our plucky band of underdogs have been so impressive, so fun, and so engaged all season that seeing them collapse against a terrible team at the most inopportune time was just one enormous disappointment.

Anyway - they say the best way to get past disappointment is to read a basketball results summary full of throwaway jokes so lucky for you I've made one for you.

Sunday March 30th Key Western Conference Results:

Los Angeles Lakers 115 Phoenix Suns 99 (Recap) - Woof.  The Lakers were on their 3rd game in 4 nights, coming off a road trip that featured a loss to the Bucks and giving up 143 points to the T'Wolves, and without Pau Gasol and pretty much every other player that made them relevant - yet they routed the Suns.  Chris Kaman scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds - something he had literally never accomplished in an NBA game before.  But he did it last night - at the age of 31. Against a Suns team that was playing for their playoff lives.  For the Suns, everyone missed every shot and they all took naps or drank mimosas on the defensive end while day dreaming of a summer beach vacation (depending on the possession of course).

New York Knicks 89 Golden State Warriors 84 (Recap) - The Suns were really the only thing that saved the Full Squaders from the most embarrassing loss of the night.  New York was fresh off getting smoked in Phoenix but managed to come into Full Squad State and defeat the Warriors despite a 7/21 shooting performance from Carmelo Anthony.  The Dubs were without David Lee and Andrew Bogut - a fact no Warriors fan will tell you because they hate excuses but outside of Steph Curry's 32 points (6/12 from three) they got very little production from anyone.  The Knicks used a dominate 34-12 second quarter to take a 12 point halftime lead but in typical NBA fashion this one came down to the wire.  Trailing by 3 with 5 seconds remaining, Curry attempted to pass to Draymond Green but had his pass stolen by Suns legend Shannon Brown - sealing the win for the Knicks.  Yes that's right folks - we're at the point of the season where Shannon Brown is helping our playoff hopes.

Portland Trail Blazers 105 Memphis Grizzlies 98 (Recap) -  3 games ago the Blazers seemed like they were a mess.  3 games ago it seemed like Portland could quite easily free fall their way out of the Western Conference playoff race and into the annals of collapsing legend.  Then they beat Atlanta on the road, then dominated Chicago on the road, and finished it out by pretty much dominating Memphis.  Portland is now 3.5 games clear of falling out of the race with the Lakers, Pelicans, Jazz, and Kings still remaining on their schedule.  I think that means we're done here.  Memphis on the other hand is quite the different story.  After falling to Portland the Grizz have now lost two of those "swing" games in a row (what I'm calling any game between the 5-9 spots in the West) but have Denver and Minnesota on the schedule next.

Current Western Conference Standings:

TEAM W L PCT GB L10 STREAK
1.San Antonio
57 16 .781 - 10-0 WON 17
2. Oklahoma City
54 19 .740 3
8-2 WON 2
3. LA Clippers
52 22 .703 5.5 8-2 WON 2
4. Houston 49 23 .681 7.5 6-4 LOST 1
5. Portland
48 27 .635 10 6-4 WON 3
6. Golden State
45 28 .616 12 6-4 LOST 1
7. SUNS
44 30 .595 13.5 8-2 LOST 1
8. Dallas
44 30 .595 13.5
6-4 WON 1
- Dallas
43 30 .589 14 6-4 LOST 2

Monday March 31st Western Conference Games of Significance:

Grizzlies @ Nuggets -  This is the only one tonight.  The Nuggets have been playing respectable ball since Ty Lawson returned from injury (7-7 with wins over the Clippers and Mavericks) but you've got to think they're hitting the point of their season when various key players will be resting with maladies such as scurvy or legionnaires disease.  Denver is better at home and I think it would be pretty swell if they were to hold off Memphis tonight but road game or not playoff teams usually win games like this, right?  Too soon?  With a win Memphis can force and three way tie with the Suns and Mavs for 7th.


Worst loss of the season.

The Phoenix Suns, riding high on a six game winning streak, crashed back down to earth with a brutal loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, 115-99. This game was just a beatdown from the beginning and the Suns never really got close after the initial few minutes, save for a brief moment early in the second quarter.

The Suns looked completely out of sorts and it often appeared as if they were sleepwalking through game. Therefore, I decided it was only fitting I write this recap under the heavy influence of NyQuil (my medicine of choice to deal with a flu-like illness as well as Suns-induced symptoms of disgust and nausea.

This game sucked.

First Quarter

In my preview for the game, I poked fun at Chris Kaman pretending to nap on the Lakers' bench during a game several weeks ago. Well, he decided to go ahead and have his best game of the season today. Right from the start, Kaman looked active and energized, firing shot after shot early in the game and simply taking Miles Plumlee to school. In fact, it was the Suns who looked like they were laying down early, as they just couldn't get into an offensive rhythm and made matters worse by playing putrid defense against the juggernauts on LA's roster.

Goran Dragic was the only Sun that played anything that resembled the sport of basketball in the early going--while The Dragon went 3-5 in the first, the non-Slovenian players on the Suns shot 17%. Phoenix shot just 25% as a whole against the second-worst defense in the NBA and they found themselves trailing 26-15 after one.

Second Quarter

The Suns began the second period on a better note and managed to cut the Lakers lead to just three after a three-pointer from Marcus Morris.

With Phoenix trailing 31-28, I decided to head to the pharmacy to purchase some NyQuil because I don't like being sick. As I was checking out, I pulled up the score on my phone and saw the Suns were trailing by 18. I contemplated purchasing some Crown Royal as well to destroy my memories of this game enjoy its great, smooth taste. But alas, I just bought extra NyQuil to prepare for the second half. I have no idea what happened in the second quarter but I imagine it went something like this:

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Third Quarter

One would expect the Phoenix Suns (who have shown the ability to adjust and come back from setbacks all season) to come out angry and aggressive in the second half to try and attack the Lakers and their 18 point lead. One would also expect Jordan Hill's hair to be a physical impossibility...but one would be wrong in both these instances.

The following stretch at the start of the third quarter tragically sums up the entire game:

On the first possession of the second half, the Suns committed a 24 second shot clock violation (because, you know, when one of the worst teams in the NBA outscores you by 18 in one half and you spend halftime reviewing what went wrong and where to make adjustments, failing to even put up a shot on the very first possession of the second half is a wonderfully sound strategy).

Then Chris Kaman scored again.

Then Channing Frye missed a contested jumpshot.

Then Kendall Marshall made an extremely awkward jump-layup in typical Kendall Marshall format.

Then PJ Tucker missed a wide open three pointer.

Then PJ Tucker fouled Kent Bazemore on a three point attempt. Kent Bazemore.

Then I realized I couldn't breathe out of my nose so I took some NyQuil--also, I wanted to get a better sense of what it felt like to be as loopy as the Phoenix Suns looked to be tonight.

Fourth Quarter

After winning the third period 31-28, the Suns faced a 15 point deficit heading into the fourth. They managed to cut the lead to 10 or so at one point, but never really made it interesting. Chris Kaman (28 points and 17 rebounds!!!!!!), Jodie Meeks (22 points) and Kendall Marshall (13 points and 11 assists) were just too much for the Suns to overcome.*

*Writing that last sentence made me want to throw up.

Notes

  • This was probably Eric Bledsoe's worst game since returning from injury. He looked totally out of sync with the offense, often pressed too much and his shot was as off as I've ever seen it. He finished with 10 points and 4 assists (thanks to an 8-11 effort from the free throw line) but shot just 1-9 from the field and turned the ball over 4 times.
  • Goran Dragic, Gerald Green, the Morris twins and Ish Smith were the only Suns players that had better-than-terrible games tonight, and even most of them had below-average nights. The rest of the team was pretty much awful.
  • The Suns shot 38.5% from the field and 22.2% from three, while giving up a 53% shooting night to LA. Ugly.
  • The Suns let Ryan Kelly get an and-one dunk today. UGLY.
  • This is a photoshop I made before the game of Miles Plumlee and Jordan Hill with their hairstyles swapped. I probably spent more effort on this than the Suns exerted in a 48 minute NBA game, and I spent very minimal effort on this:
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This was just an all-around awful effort from the Suns tonight, one that was reminiscent of last year's team. Fortunately for Phoenix, the Grizzlies lost to Portland and the Warriors dropped a game at home to the lowly Knicks, so the Suns were able to maintain their #7 position in the Western Conference.

But a loss to this Lakers team, especially in the manner this game was played in, is worrisome for a Suns squad that has a tough 8 games remaining. In the end though, this was just one game.

They're going to have to forget this game quickly  and come out with a much better performance at home against the Clippers on Wednesday. Oh, and by the way, those Clippers beat the Lakers by 48 points earlier in March.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go pass the **** out.

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