The new look Phoenix Suns win their season opener in a tight contest against their nemesis, the San Antonio Spurs. Phoenix looked good going into the 4th quarter and survived an onslaught by Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, who both finished w/ 32 pts for the Spurs.
San Antonio opened the game w/ the "hack a Shaq" routine, w/ Michael Finley wrapping up Shaquille O'Neal as he crossed halfcourt after the tip. In this instance, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was simply making light of Shaq's early comments that the practice was cowardly. Both coach and player shared a quick laugh, but the Spurs resorted to the hacking later in the first half in an attempt to keep the Suns from getting too far in front. At one point, Shaquille shot 8 straight free throws for the Suns (he made 5), helping Phoenix keep it close. It seemed that after each foul, the Spurs were able to run straight down and get 2 pts, so the strategy worked partially. I was really surprised to see them not take the same strategy late in the 4th quarter, w/ the Suns leading by a few points.
New Suns coach Terry Porter displayed quite a few differences in his first game, as compared to previous coach Mike D'Antoni (who won is debut w/ the Knicks):
The Suns bench played a critical role in the game, playing a pretty high number of minutes. The highest Suns starter only played 33 minutes, so it would seem that Porter intends to keep his players fresh throughout the game.
The Suns played some defense. Sure, there were some mistakes throughout the game, but beating a Spurs team on their homecourt is a great accomplishment, regardless of the situation.
The opening game win is certainly a confidence booster for the Suns, who faced a lot of question marks coming into the season. Phoenix plays New Orleans tomorrow night at home, so they will not get time to rest and enjoy the victory. The Hornets are a much younger & faster team, so it will be interesting to see another side of this Suns team. The Spurs are slow and deliberate, while the Hornets more resemble the previous Suns (running & scoring at will).
Congratulations to the Suns for the victory... we need to keep it up!
As the 2008-2009 NBA season approaches, the Phoenix Suns have a familiar look going into a do or die year for the franchise. Having been eliminated rather quickly by San Antonio in last year's playoffs, the Suns have something to prove. Their task is going to be extremely difficult, considering how much the Hornets and Lakers have improved the past 2 yrs. If Phoenix fails to make it to the Finals (again) this season, there's virtually no shot at a title without making some big moves for next season.
The Phoenix Suns welcome a new Head Coach this season in Terry Porter, a former player & coach in the NBA. Porter's strategies and game plans will be drastically different than Mike D'Antoni had in place through last season. Terry Porter is more of a defensive minded, slow-paced coach, so the run & gun Suns could be a thing of the past. Make no mistake, this team can still get up & down the court and will do so when the opportunity presents itself, but overall, they will look a lot more like a half-court team.
The 2008-09 Phoenix Suns roster looks very familiar to Suns' fans, considering that the bulk of the lineup is returning from last year. The team's age is certainly has to be taken into consideration this season, but the acquisition of Matt Barnes in the off-season should help the team's athleticism and defense.
Returning Suns Players
- Steve Nash, G
- Raja Bell, G
- Grant Hill, F
- Amare Stoudemire, F
- Shaquille O'Neal, C
- Boris Diaw, F
- Leandro Barbosa, G
- Alando Tucker, F
- Robin Lopez, C (Rookie)
- Goran Dragic, G
- Sean Singletary, G
- Matt Barnes, F
- Louis Amundson, F
Suns Record & Evaluation
My prediction for the Suns is a 53-29 record, a two game downgrade from last season's 55-27 record. Assuming the team can stay healthy, they should still be right there in the playoff push, but they will not challenge for homecourt advantage - that will end up going to Utah, New Orleans, LA (Lakers) and Houston.
Within the division, the Lakers will obviously dominate unless Kobe Bryant or Andrew Bynum goes down for a significant portion of the season. The Clippers and Warriors have made a lot of personnel changes over the off-season, but the Clippers will improve the most. Golden State should stay about the same or lose a bit
Amare Stoudemire will continue his improvement on the offensive end, but will also improve his defensive statistics in Porter's new system. I expect a marginal increase in his Blocks, but a higher improvement in his Steals.
The addition of Robin Lopez via the NBA Draft and the free agent signing of Matt Barnes, I expect the Suns to have a little more energy on defense. Barnes is supposed to get the starting nod over Grant Hill, so having Bell, Barnes, Stoudemire & O'neal on the court, should allow the Suns to contain other teams a bit better than last year. Shaq & Amare still have defensive weaknesses, as does Nash, but their team defense should be improved.
I'm not sure about the defense of PG Goran Dragic or Sean Singletary, but from what I've seen so far, both players should fill in well for Nash when he's resting on the bench. I am hoping to see more minutes for Alando Tucker, but with the addition of Barnes, he could be the odd man out.
The Suns bench is probably one of the best in the NBA, considering they will have Grant Hill, Leandro Barbosa, Boris Diaw and Robin Lopez subbing for the starters. The first three mentioned, could easily start on most NBA teams - Barbosa could even be the star on a 2nd level team (Bobcats, Grizzles, Kings, etc.). Starting several minutes into the 1st quarter, the Suns will be able to rotate players in throughout the game without hardly missing a beat. This will certainly be a different approach that D'Antoni's 7 to 8 man rotation that broke down each year in the playoffs.
If you have any comments or predictions of your own, be sure to leave a comment.
Here are some other Phoenix Suns previews from our fellow Suns bloggers:
A lot of you are finding this page looking for the latest injury to Amare Stoudemire.
Here's the skinny... On 2/20/09, Stoudemire had surgery to repair a retina in the same eye that Diaw poked back in October. The surgery puts him out 8 weeks or more. Despite the injury, the Suns scored 140 points again (3rd time in a row), despite Amare's absence. It will be interesting to see how the team plays without him, since that could impact this offseason's trade market (for Amare).
Original Post 10/6/08
The Suns Amare Stoudemire injured his eye in a scrimmage earlier this week and will now miss the next 2 weeks of training camp and preseason games. The injury is serious enough that Stoudemire is not even allowed to exercise, since the blood rush could go to his eye and cause further damage or discomfort.
Amare has stated that he may even choose to wear protective eye goggles for the rest of his career; something I doubt very much. Sure, Kareem got away with it for awhile, but this is 2008... no self-respecting baller is gonna wear goggles right? LOL.
The injury sets back the Suns adjustment to new head coach Terry Porter and a different style of offense, but Amare will likely study during his off time and come back ready to go. Conditioning will be an issue as the preseason ends and the season starts, but he'll quickly adapt & be the beast he's predicted to be this year.