November 2008 - Posts
The Phoenix Suns played Friday night without their starting point guard, Steve Nash, who was a game-time decision w/ a bruised thigh. Despite Nash's struggles early in the season, he has been playing better as of late and is desperately needed if the Suns expect to compete in the Western Conference. PHX's record w/out Nash speaks for itself, so it is imperative that he be a contributor and facilitator on the court for the Suns.
The Suns need the other PG/SG on the team to step up, including Leandro Barbosa, Dragic and Singletary.
The Phoenix Suns have continued to beat up on the teams they are supposed to win against, but have struggled a bit in regards to dominating those teams. A recent victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder required a lucky miss by the Thunder and a failure (by them) to foul Steve Nash or Raja Bell w/ 9 seconds left in the game.
Following the win over Oklahoma City, the Suns went to Minnesota on the 2nd of back-to-back road games, to face the Timberwolves, who they've struggled against the past few years. Once again, Al Jefferson dominated Amare Stoudemire (mostly) and Shaquille O'Neal. Fortunately for the Suns, Nash was back to his pre-2008 self and helped keep the team afloat enroute to the win.
Tonight, the Suns get ready to face the Miami Heat, a struggling franchise that is now home to a former Suns player & fan favorite - Shawn Marion. Shawn spent his entire NBA career in PHX before being shipped to Miami in the Shaq trade. While Marion was hustling and wowing the fans in PHX, he was disgruntled as the 3rd option for the run 'n gun Suns under Mike D'Antoni. Now in Miami, Marion is roughly doing the same thing behind Dwyane Wade and rookie Michael Beasley. He is a free agent after this year, so he'll likely be joining his 3rd team in less than 2 yrs during the offseason or before if the Heat can setup a sign & trade deal w/ another team.
Phoenix is currently 11-5 on the season, enough for a B+ rating from this sports blogger. They haven't won every game they should've, but they have experienced some challenging times already this season w/ Barbosa's Mom passing away, Barnes suspension and Nash's adjustment to the "Terry Porter way". Considering all of this, they aren't doing too bad. They still need to improve, however, so that when the Lakers, Celtics and Hornets of the league come around they don't get blown out.
The Phoenix Suns face off against a suddenly resurgent Sacramento Kings team in California tonight, but they do it without three of their top players.
- Steve Nash (1 game) and Matt Barnes (2 games) are missing tonight's game due to suspensions handed down by the NBA, resulting from their role in the (I wouldn't call it a fight) scuffle earlier this week w/ the Houston Rockets.
- Speedy guard Leandro Barbosa has joined his family in Brazil following the death of his 66-yr old mother, who has been battling pneumonia for the past few weeks.
Of course, the suspension of Nash is questionable considering he didn't really push or punch anyone; he certainly got pushed and manhandled by Rafer Alston (see Nash's neck?). Barnes started the whole thing, so it isn't really surprising to see him missing a couple games, but coupled w/ LB's departure to Brazil, the Suns are suddenly short-handed this evening. We'll see what missing two starters and the 6th man does to a team who is averaging the 4th most points in the league - will they suffer?
So far, Shaq has handled the scoring load for the Suns and they are competing well against the Kings, who have rattled off a string of recent victories since the return of Brad Miller (suspension). While the Kings are certainly no threat in the Pacific Division, they are a hungry basketball team and could take advantage of the Suns small roster.
Amare Stoudemire has struggled in the 1st half, getting in early foul trouble (from a couple dumb plays). Although he has contributed, his minutes will be down on the night, at least until the 4th quarter. Suns fill-in PG Dragic has struggled to find his shot, but is doing a decent job distributing the ball and on defense.
The 6-2 Phoenix Suns looked to establish themselves against another Western Conference power Wednesday night in their match-up w/ the Houston Rockets. The Suns certainly got a handful from the Rockets, who seemed to attempt to "bully" Phoenix in a showing of dominance.
With several minutes left in the 3rd quarter, Matt Barnes set a hard (shoulder) screen on Rafer Alston, to which Alston responded by confronting Barnes at half-court. Chests up, fists cocked, but no punches thrown. Steve Nash attempted to come and split up the pair, but was shoved to the ground by Tracy McGrady. Shaquille O'Neal was quick to the rescue, however, pushing every Rockets player within site including both McGrady and Alston. Surprisingly, the Rockets' Ron Artest was not involved in the scuffle...good choice buddy.
Watch the mini-fight between the Suns & Rockets:
It did not appear that any Suns players left the bench, so I would not expect any suspensions that route, but Shaq could get a game or two for his pushing & shoving. Since Matt Barnes and Alston did not throw any punches at each other, I would be surprised to see any kind of suspension - at most 1 game for each player. If Shaq is punished, the league would also need to put McGrady out one game, since he did virtually the same thing O'Neal did (just pushing).
Nash is a little dinged up after the game, due primarily to some rough picks and screens that he was unable to get through (or around).
Amare Stoudemire, Matt Barnes and Raja Bell all had a bad shooting night, which contributed mightily to the Rockets apparent dominance (and victory). Both Stoudemire and Barnes were 5-13 FG and finished w/ 11 pts. Amare also added 9 rebounds, but he seemed out of sorts on the night, turning the ball over 5 times as well. Raja shot 0-6 in the loss, while Nash finished 4-10. The team just didn't seem to have their "A" game at home on this night.
An interesting stat provided during the 4th quarter (4:29 remaining): 0 fast break points for the Suns (at home nonetheless)
Phoenix Suns exit their 9th game with a 6-3 record, which keeps them 2nd in the Pacific Division behind the Lakers.
In what is easily the most surprising news in the NBA this season, the Denver Nuggets are reportedly trading Allen Iverson to the Detroit Pistons for Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess.
The Nuggets weren't going to be very good w/ Iverson and Anthony together, so it made sense for them, but I have no idea what the Pistons are thinking here. Sure, Iverson will help sell tickets, but I wouldn't even necessarily consider him an upgrade over Billups.
Both Billups and McDyess have played in Denver before, so I'm sure they know what they're getting from both players. Billups is a Finals MVP and NBA Champion, while McDyess has had a pretty good career after almost being written off after micro-fracture knee surgery.
It will be interesting to see how the Denver lineup shakes up now w/ Billups at the point.
Phoenix is looking pretty decent after 3 games so far, including 2 victories over the Spurs and Blazers, respectively. Their only loss to-date, is against the New Orleans Hornets, who already look like a serious contender in the Western Conference.
The Suns start a 4-game road trip on Election Tuesday, beginning in New Jersey. Their travels will then take them to Indiana, Chicago and Milwaukee before returning home for a match-up w/ the Grizzlies. The next big game is Nov. 12th against the Houston Rockets in PHX.
Early Suns Evaluation
The Suns don't necessarily look like a different team to start the 08-09 season, but they have displayed some new game plans already. Led by head coach Terry Porter, Phoenix is certainly a lot more deliberate, both on offense and defense. It looks like they practice defense vs. the quick run-thru's that D'Antoni did when he was here. Guys are rotating on defense and staying on the ball-handler better than they have in the past. Tony Parker burned them on occassion, as did Brandon Roy, but they were able to contain the teams' effectively.
Turnovers are still a problem, which is unexpected considering the team's age and experience level. Players tend to struggle in new systems, however, so I would hope that the turnovers slowly reduce throughout the season. Sure, they will have lapses and bad games, but they need to get under 20 per game to compete effectively.
Several players that D'Antoni hand-picked for the team are struggling w/ their new roles. Leandro Barbosa, for instance, still thinks he's supposed to run and score as fast as possible. Several times, this has led to trouble and turnovers (charges, missed shots, etc.). Dan Bickley and other local radio guys are already suggesting that Barbosa be traded (to the Knicks, nonetheless), which is most definitely just a knee-jerk reaction to a couple bad plays. Give Leandro some time to adjust and he should be fine. Let's not forget that he missed training camp and the pre-season due to his Mom's illness in Brazil. He's really not played w/ the team or the coaches for very long, so he doesn't know any better. I think its also going to be a problem, that his buddy "Dan D'Antoni" is no longer w/ the team.
Amare Stoudemire looks good, even w/ the the fancy eyewear/goggles he's wearing after suffering a torn iris in the pre-season. He is easily the Suns best player at this point and has helped in the 2 victories - scoring in the paint against the Spurs and cleaning the boards against the Blazers.
Raja Bell seems to be the only player complaining about his role right now, which is a shame, because he's come from defensive-minded teams in the past. His complaints/statements recently that "I'm going to shoot when I'm open" stink of selfishness (ala Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, etc.). Let's hope the statements were just out of frustration after the Hornets loss and then he's going to continue being the team's best defender and one of our top 3-point shooters.
Steve Nash looks ok, although it looks at times like he's handling the ball too much. His shot is still there, as is his tendency to push the ball on the break - something Suns fans are no doubt loving.
Shaq looks terrific to start the season - scoring in the paint, rebounding and generally helping on defense. Worth $20+ million?? Probably not, but at the same time, quality centers are hard to come by and O'Neal can still play. He looks pretty good running up & down the court.
Playing time and bench management appear to be a constant strategy for Porter - he's playing the starters less and using the bench more. When the starters come out, however, the 2nd team has failed to protect the lead so Terry has been quick to get 1-2 starters back in the game. In the game against the Trail Blazers, Amare was the one who Porter left in - he's the youngest, so there shouldn't be any harm in playing extra minutes. The time management is also helpful on the back-to-back games, when the team will need the extra energy in the 2nd game.
Overall rating so far - B+