Bryant played 36 minutes Sunday night against Detroit.
The Phoenix Suns try to go two games over .500 tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers at Talking Stick Resort Arena without having to face Suns-killer Kobe Bryant.
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena: Phoenix, AZ
When: 7:00 PM Arizona Time / 9:00 PM Eastern
Watch: Fox Sports AZ (Locally) / League Pass
Listen: 98.7 FM
The Phoenix Suns host the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night in a battle of Pacific Division foes. The Lakers have one of the worst records in the league and just played last night, beating the Pistons at home for their second win of the season (2-8 overall). Yeah, those Pistons who beat the Suns just over a week ago and have come on hard times since with four consecutive losses.
Kobe Bryant is shooting 34% this season but of course leads the team in field goal attempts at more than 16 per game. He's not only taking all the shots, but he's taking minutes and touches away from their future star D'Angelo Russell. Jordan Clarkson is the other guard and he's not giving anything to Russell either.
Tonight, though, Kobe won't play against the Suns.
Kobe hates the Suns so much he's willingly sitting out tomorrow to give the Lakers a better shot at a win. https://t.co/JWzV4lhNgm— sreekar (@sreekyshooter) November 16, 2015
With or without Kobe, no one on the Lakers is a great distributor with their assist leader being backup 32-year old Marcelo Huertas (3.2 per game), while five other players make at least 2 assists per game. The Lakers are pretty bad on offense overall, despite the distribution of playmaking.
The Lakers do have some nice youth, though. Guard Jordan Clarkson was a second round steal, though he's no point guard with just 2 assists per game to his credit. Power forward Julius Randle and rookie D'Angelo Russell are offensively talented, and Larry Nance Jr. has occasional bursts of good play.
On defense, the Lakers aren't any good though they're ranked better on D than on O. Huertas, Bryant and the kids - Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle and Clarkson and Russell - are net negatives. Metta World Peace has come out of retirement and was immediately labeled - along with Kobe who has the team's worst D-rating - their best defender by coach Byron Scott. He didn't mention former Defensive Player of the Year candidate Roy Hibbert.
That's all I have to say about that.
No word yet on whether Markieff Morris returns tonight, but the Suns likely won't need him to beat the Lakers. Expect Jon Leuer to get another start for the Suns.
For the Lakers, when Kobe sits it's been Metta taking his place in the lineup. Because Lakers.
The Suns win this one. They really, really should. Though, the Lakers will be better without Kobe probably.
Welcome to the Top 10 Boxscore of the Week, a weekly segment on the Boxscore Geeks where we break down our favorite boxscores of the week. While we do use statistical criteria to guide our choices, this list is subjective. With that said, here's our list!
I kind of consider this a tie for the last place on this week's list. Okafor put up the worst scoring night of the week when we account for shot attempts and efficiency. Another fun note? Six of his eighteen shots were blocked!
Payton was neck and neck with Jahlil for the worst shooting performance of the week. The rest of his game was solid, which saved him from the last place on the list. Regardless, a 1-13 shooting night is terrible to say the least.
Mudiay is still struggling early, particularly with turnovers. With nine, he was "top of the list" this week. His shooting was also rough, but on the bright side, he was able to hand out eleven assists!
Rondo's passing has come back this season with a vengeance. He's put up a few triple doubles, but in this one he was able to shoot relatively well (for Rondo). It's good to see Rondo "back", but it'd be nice if he had better people to defer to.
Bledsoe has been on an absolute tear his last three games with a True Shooting % in the 80s! His last game against the Nuggets was an exclamation point on the week; sadly it resulted in a pretty big blowout for the Nuggets.
Dirk and the Mavericks did a pretty decent number on the Clippers. Perhaps they have some pent up aggression against DeAndre Jordan? Dirk looked like his 2007 self with a wild shooting night and a great rebounding night (in a game with both DeAndre Jordan AND Blake Griffin). Dirk has been ignoring father time this season, much to my surprise.
With Rudy Gobert out, Derrick Favors put up a great game leading the week with seven blocks. The rest of his stat line was also great while he did just about everything his team needed in a very close game.
Noah is the first player with a horrible True Shooting % to make this list for good reasons. I despise the word "role player", but Noah may very well be the epitome of it. He came off the bench, played limited minutes, and didn't shoot the ball. That said, he pulled down 18 boards and dished the ball six times! Per-minute wise, that's absurd performance.
In unsurprising fashion, Curry returns to the list with the best shooting performance of the week. His absurd MVP start continues. Fun note, Curry is currently shooting over half his shots from three...and connecting! Will he keep it up?
Draymond Green completely filled out the box score and almost put up a triple-double while doing it. Draymond Green has the wingspan and weight of a center in the body of a small forward. The result is a player that can do anything, and in this game, he did!
That's our list! Did we miss someone? Are any players too high? Well don't worry, we'll be back next week with another one. If you see any boxscores you think deserve consideration, leave them in the comments or tweet at myself (@nerdnumbers), Patrick (@nbageek), or Brian (@boxscorebrian) with hashtag #BSGTop10. Seeya next time!
Your recap of the week that was, as well as a look ahead.
There has been quite a bumpy set of circumstances surrounding Eric Bledsoe since he was traded to the Suns on July 10, 2013 for Jared Dudley and a second-round pick that eventually became Johnny O'Bryant. When he arrived in Phoenix, he was a athletically gifted point guard blessed with a high motor, but was quite raw when it came to running an offense. He was also entering what was essentially a contract year, further complicated by the presence of incumbent point guard Goran Dragic, who was only a year into his own free agent contract signed during the summer of 2012.
It was in neither the Suns' nor Bledsoe's best interest to agree to an early contract extension, as the 2013 deadline came just one game into his career in Phoenix, so the wheels were set in motion for what would become an infamously stagnant negotiation process, which languished through the entirety of the 2014 summer.
Suspicion was rampant that Bledsoe wasn't comfortable playing in Phoenix, leading to comically melodramatic reports of "ominous developments" and "express lanes to ruin". Bledsoe himself said nothing but a clumsy, off-the-cuff statement about the Suns "using a restricted free agent against me, but I understand that", yet many Suns fans had already made up their minds that he did not want to be a Phoenix Sun, using advanced metrics such as "Smiles per 48" to make their case.
The Tristan Thompson saga in Cleveland has taught us that the Bledsoe stalemate was actually quite tenable for a Rich Paul-fueled situation, but this being a year earlier, it was still difficult for fans to accept a contract negotiation languishing until late September.
By the time Bledsoe and the Suns finally met in the middle, there was now a third point guard added to the mix with Isaiah Thomas, the glowing embodiment of basketball's Napolean Complex. While the Suns stayed in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference, Dragic and Thomas both struggled to get comfortable, and both groused a bit about the crowded situation in the backcourt.
Bledsoe's oft-criticized taciturn tendencies were a blessing during this period, as he uttered nary a single complaint. Of course he had just scored big in free agency (which Dragic was hoping to do), settling on a near-max contract (which Thomas didn't even come close to when signing with the Suns just months earlier) so an easy argument can be made that he had the least cause for disharmony.
Still, the Suns needed a chef, as their kitchen was bustling with grumbling cooks. Bledsoe was an above-average starting point guard but, like his teammates, he never looked completely comfortable and his production dipped. He was the obvious choice to be the long-term floor general, since he was younger than Dragic and a much better defender than Thomas, so Ryan McDonough scorched the earth at the trade deadline and found Bledsoe a more compatible backcourt partner in Brandon Knight.
To recap in easy-to-digest bullet points, since Bledsoe has arrived in Phoenix, he has dealt with the following:
Heading into the 2015/16 season, Bledsoe had finally been given the opportunity to lead a Phoenix Suns team, unencumbered by any complicating circumstances or problematic roster redundancies. Knight was a better shooter than Dragic and had expressed clear enthusiasm for playing off the ball alongside Bledsoe -- leaving no doubt when he quickly re-signed with the Suns without even meeting with other teams.
Ronnie Price, always eager to accept any role he is given, was added for point guard depth and serves as the antithesis to Thomas.
Tyson Chandler was the Suns' first major unrestricted free-agent signing in a decade, and aside from forming a formidable defensive duo with Bledsoe, also gives him a veteran co-captain in the locker room.
Surely it is no coincidence that Bledsoe is on his way to having the best season of his career.
Through the season's first nine games, Bledsoe is posting career highs in PPG (23.2), APG (6.2), SPG (2.1), FTA (6.2), FT% (80.4), FG%(49.7), 3P% (40.0), TS% (59.5), PER (25.6) and USG% (27.9). He has been remarkably consistent, scoring at least 20 points in 6 of his first 9 games after accomplishing the same feat in only 26 of his 81 games in 2014/15.
He has developed into a deadly scorer from midrange, shooting 9/11 (81.8%) from 10-16 feet out and 18/39 (46.2%) from 16 feet to the three-point line.
While some of these numbers are probably not sustainable, the leadership he has shown on the court is another story altogether. During the second quarter of the Suns' blowout win on Saturday night over the Nuggets, Archie Goodwin was preparing to swing the ball on the perimeter to Bledsoe, who hollered and pointed to P.J. Tucker. Tucker had a mismatch in the post, and scored easily when Goodwin complied with Bledsoe's directive.
Later, with the game already well out of hand, Tucker chose to stay spotted up in the corner rather than take advantage of a wide-open backdoor cut. Bledsoe, while play was still going, angrily spiked the ball and admonished his teammate (the two were seen laughing together just moments later).
With no real competition anymore for point guard duties, Bledsoe is appearing more confident and decisive with each passing game. The Suns are now first in the NBA in pace, and when a point guard can play as fast and loose as Bledsoe, well, things like this happen:
Eric Bledsoe just toying with the Nuggets pic.twitter.com/MmZ5wrqPEi— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) November 15, 2015
At the worst, the Suns now have a capable and focused floor general that can take over on either side of the court. But if his early numbers are indeed sustainable, they have finally found their next star player.
It's amazing what can happen when an organization decides to keep things simple.
Thursday, November 12 vs LA Clippers: W, 118-104
Saturday, November 14 vs Denver: W, 105-81
The Suns took full advantage of a couple road-weary, shorthanded teams last week. The Clippers were on the second night of a back-to-back and without Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Blake Griffin, who was ejected in late in the first half for excessive bitching and whining. The Suns blew the doors off the game shortly after, and entered the fourth with a cushy 20-point lead. They shot 14-30 from beyond the arc and 53.0% for the game.
The Nuggets also came into town on a back-to-back, and the Suns decided this time to just put this one away immediately, going on a 17-0 in the first quarter and leading by 32 points at halftime. Denver simply couldn't hit the broad side of the barn, shooting 6/35 from beyond the arc and 34.7% overall, and quickly decided to save their energy on defense as well. Frankly, no one in powder blue looked like they even wanted to be on the floor.
It's difficult to draw many conclusions from these games given the disadvantages of the opposing teams, but these are the games that you want to see the Suns leave no doubt about. Both contests were put away early, the starters were able to get some rest, and we even had a Cory Jefferson sighting (5 minutes on Saturday, 1/3 from the floor with 2 boards).
A good week by any measure.
Knight showed his full array of skills against the Clippers on Thursday night, blitzing them from downtown and also knifing in for a few nifty floaters. He also committed only an eighth the number of turnovers (one) than he did in his previous outing in Oklahoma City (eight), and his performance exemplified what a deadly scorer he can be when he plays under control and finds a groove.
While the presence of Tyson Chandler in the lineup means that the Suns don't need Len to develop into a starting caliber center right away, it would at least be nice to see him put up some numbers against a comatose Nuggets squad. The young big man was yanked quickly in the second quarter after a series of lackluster possessions, and couldn't even manage a field goal in the garbage-time second half.
Dios mio, que malo...
Monday, November 16 vs LA Lakers
Wednesday, November 18 vs Chicago Bulls
Friday, November 20 @ Denver Nuggets
Sunday, November 22 @ New Orleans Pelicans
The Suns wrap up the home-friendly start of their opening schedule against the floundering Lakers, who are basically acting as a Make-A-Wish foundation for ancient relic Kobe Bryant, before taking on the allegedly-revamped-but-not-really Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls transitioned from the slave-driving tendencies of Tom Thibodeau to the more modern approach of Fred Hoiberg, and while the likes of Pau Gasol are now playing less than 92 minutes per game, the offense is still stagnant (26th in ORtg) and the defense is still formidable (7th in DRtg). Eric Bledsoe versus Derrick Rose will probably not be as interesting as it sounds.
Denver will have a shot at revenge back in the Mile High City, and be wary of this game since the Nuggets still have the ability to embarrass teams in the high altitude, putting a 25-point beatdown on the Suns just last season.
The week will be wrapped up on Sunday (because here on Center of the Sun the calendar week starts on Monday) with a visit to our old friend Alvin Gentry, who is overseeing a nuclear meltdown in New Orleans, replete with a rash of injuries and the worst defense in the NBA (111.6 DRtg).
The Pelicans (1-8) were thought to be a key adversary to the Suns' hopes of returning to the playoffs, but perhaps they'll do us a favor soon and just take a mulligan on the season.