October 2009 - Posts
The Phoenix Suns entered a new era on Wednesday night some would say... lowered expecations era. While the team is still exciting to watch and can play with virtually any team on a given night, many NBA analysts are writing the Suns off as a likely playoff team, but nothing more. That's all fine & dandy, but the season is long, players get traded and really, anything is possible. I'm not writing this team off until they're a) out of playoff contention or b) eliminated in the playoffs. I expect good things out of the new squad and believe the Western Conference is open for opportunity (save for San Antonio & the Lakers).
Facing the LA Clippers in the season opener, the Suns got a chance to compete (for real) against a pretty decent team. This was no exhibition or match-up where the teams would rest their best players; this was the real deal & PHX came to play. Trailing for much of the game, the Suns needed a valiant 4th quarter to pull out the victory, led by their clutch shots and surprisingly effective defense down the stretch. Final score - 109-107
Coming into the game, I expected the Clippers to dominate Phoenix on the boards, but the Suns were close at half and finished w/ a 36-35 advantage over a formidable front line for L.A. (Camby & Kaman). Grant Hill led all players w/ 13 rebounds, while Jared Dudley grabbed 7 & rookie Earl Clark 5 for the Suns.
Steve Nash was his reserved through most of the game, but came on when it counted (typical Nash). Without Shaq in the paint clogging up his path, Steve was more free to dribble penetrate and keep the Clippers' on their toes. His amazing under-hand scoop layup to clinch the game was superb & vintage Nash, but his previous shots were just as important as the clincher.
Amare Stoudemire made a great play defensively to close out the game (yes, read it again) on Eric Gordon. While the play was somewhat questionable, STAT really did what he needed to disrupt the shot w/out causing the foul and giving Gordon 3 FT's. Stoudemire didn't dominate the game, but anytime you're going up against Camby/Kaman, I think that's to be expected a little bit. They are tough challenge in the post.
And while Nash excelled and probably saved the game, it was another NBA veteran who I think deserves the game ball - Grant Hill. Grant helped set the pace early by getting on the boards, scoring and showing hustle to inspire his team.
Highlights from the Suns annual outdoor preseason game:
Just a preseason game, but the highlights don't show Phoenix too favorably. They are regularly out of position and being caught off guard on defense. I would hope we're better than Golden State overall at season's end, but we couldn't take care of this one. They probably could have one easily, had Steve Nash (1-6 FG), Earl Clark (4-16 FG), Leandro Barbosa (2-8 FG) and others just hit their shots. The Suns shot 40.4% FG on the game - that's not going to win many. Golden State only shot 42.2%, but was 43.8% 3FG shooting and 84.4% from the stripe (PHX shot 69.2%).
Solid outing from Suns' rookie Earl Clark, although a 25% FG shooting game is not going get him a lot of minutes come the regular season. He finished w/ 10 pts and 6 rbs off the bench, including 2-2 on his FT's.
Looks like the Warriors starters dominated the glass, w/ Anthony Randolph and Andris Biedrins pulling down 13 & 15 rebounds, respectively. This compares to the Suns entire starting frontcourt of Hill, Frye and Stoudemire (19 total rebounds). Warriors guard (& rookie) Stephen Curry almost out-rebounded every starter for PHX (Curry had 7) - to be fair, he did play the 2nd most minutes of anyone in the game (Anthony Morrow played 2 more minutes).
The Warriors are a team in semi-friction mode. G/F Stephen Jackson is being a royal pain in the a**, demanding a trade and otherwise backstabbing his own team during games. After racking up 5 fouls and quite a few turnovers in only 10 minutes of action the other night, the team has suspended him for conduct detrimental to the team.
The Phoenix Suns, already short on reliable players in the post, will lose 2nd year center Robin Lopez for 6-8 weeks due to a foot injury.
Lopez broke his fifth metatarsal—the long bone on the outside of his foot
that connects to the little toe—in the second half of the team’s intrasquad
scrimmage Saturday in San Diego. Team officials say the procedure to insert a screw in Lopez’s foot will be
performed Tuesday at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix. Source: Yahoo Sports (AP)
The loss of Lopez may force the Suns to play Amare Stoudemire more at center, despite the ongoing feeling (from Amare) that he's a power forward. He is best suited as a center though - that is where he's had the most success due to the mismatches in speed & athleticism he possesses. Additionally, the Suns latest acquisition, Channing Frye, will likely see the most increased playing time w/ Lopez out. Still, the Suns may opt to start Amare at the 5 & Frye at the 4. Suns' rookie Earl Clark may also be required to contribute more from the get-go, instead of coming into the rotation slowly like Phoenix would prefer.
Not to suggest "releasers" remorse, but considering they paid Ben Wallace anyway, they probably should've hung on to him as an emergency (at the very least). Not sure which big men are available at the moment, but Phoenix should look to shore up that position sooner rather than later.