Blog Entry

Checking in with the Suns

Posted on: November 11, 2009 11:50 am
Edited on: November 11, 2009 2:01 pm
 
The Suns have risen again -- there, I said it, I couldn't help myself -- by matching the franchise's best-ever start at 7-1. It's early, but they've gone from being a dysfunctional team on the verge of blowing up to one of the best stories early in the 2009-10 season.

GM Steve Kerr readily admits that he's to blame for the failed Shaq experiment, but he's erased that mistake and reinvigorated the roster faster than many thought possible. He resisted the temptation to blow it up and start over, something that would've clinched Steve Nash's departure and devastated the organization's ability to remain financially viable. With a meddling owner, Robert Sarver, whose proverbial eggs are in the ruinous banking and real estate baskets of the economy, this was no time for a rebuilding project. So Kerr signed Alvin Gentry, a Mike D’Antoni disciple, to a three-year deal, re-signed 37-year-old Grant Hill, and signed Nash to a two-year, $22 million extension.

"The most important thing to us was that we had good leadership and good mentors for all our young guys," Kerr told me. "So re-signing Grant and signing Steve to the extension was by design. First, they're still really good players. In Steve’s case, he's still an All-Star and in Grant's case, he’s still close to it. So not only do we have two good players, but they're as professional as they come. So we feel like we're making this transition towards the future in a really healthy way."

Here's what else you need to know about the resurgent Suns:

The stars

At 37, Hill is averaging 13.2 points per game and a team-high 8.6 rebounds. He and Jason Richardson (5.2 rebounds per game from the two-guard spot) have answered Gentry's call for the wing players to make up for Phoenix's lack of front-line size by crashing the boards.

Amar'e Stoudemire is still feeling his way after offseason eye surgery, but he's averaging 19 points and 8.5 rebounds while vowing to commit himself on the defensive end. Nash is, well, Nash; he already has five games with a dozen or more assists, including the 20 he dished out against Philadelphia on Monday night.

The bench

One of the byproducts of a soul-searching, 46-win, non-playoff season was the development of some reliable depth. Leandro Barbosa, Goran Dragic, Louis Amundson, and Jared Dudley form a versatile and effective second unit. Dudley already has made 11 3-pointers, nearly a third of his total in 68 games last season with Charlotte and Phoenix. The Suns have high hopes for first-round pick Earl Clark, whose locker has been strategically placed next to Hill's.

The newcomer

After wandering aimlessly through the first four years of his career in New York and Portland, Channing Frye has been a revelation. The Suns knew he could shoot when they signed him to a two-year, $3.8 million deal. They didn’t know he'd shoot with this kind of range. Frye is 22 for 50 from 3-point range and says the Suns' coaches "get mad when I don’t shoot."

Kerr, not a bad marksman himself back in the day, recalls being blown away in August when Frye showed up for workouts and pickup games.

"His first couple of years in New York, he was great from 21, 22 feet," Kerr said. "That would've been fine for us, too. What happened was, he came in and started working out and playing pickup games and was draining 3s from the wing and the top. We were like, 'Wow, this is more than we bargained for.'"

Frye's hard work paid off. He was up at 5 a.m. for weeks at a time during the early part of the summer, working on ball-handling and mid-range shots on the move from 6-9 a.m. He was back in the gym from 5-6 p.m. to shoot "nothing but 3s." Now he’s hitting nothing but net.

The numbers

It’s way too early to draw conclusions, but through eight games, the Suns are back to playing the style that made them so entertaining and successful under D'Antoni. It's not exactly seven seconds or less, but Phoenix is getting 39 percent of its attempts in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, according to 82games.com. That's comparable to the 43 percent achieved in 2006-07, the last time they got past the first round.

The Suns are averaging a league-high 110.9 points per game -- 114 per 100 possessions -- which is virtually identical to the 110.2 and 114 in '06-'07. Yes, defense is still an issue. Phoenix is allowing 105.8 points per game, which is sixth-worst in the league and nearly three points more per game than in D'Antoni’s next-to-last season before bolting for New York.

What's next

After a 4-1 road trip that included wins over Miami and Boston, the Suns return home Wednesday night to face the struggling Hornets. Then, it's off to L.A. to face Kobe and the Lakers on the back-end of a back-to-back.

The Suns ultimately will struggle against teams with size, and their style still doesn't translate to playoff success. But given the cards Kerr dealt himself when he reached for Shaq, Phoenix's resurgence is nothing to scoff at. At least the Suns are relevant and fun again.

Having played for Phil Jackson, Kerr believes that basketball teams take on a certain "life force." After a lifeless 2008-09, the Suns have been resuscitated.

"We got panned by a lot of people for not going young and breaking it up and starting over," Kerr said. "But we've seen a lot of teams do that and fail, too. If you go too young in this league, then you’re rudderless. You have guys fighting over shots and minutes, no hierarchy, no totem pole, and that's a recipe for disaster."
Comments

Since: Apr 27, 2008
Posted on: November 13, 2009 1:29 pm
 

Checking in with the Suns

All your post says is that you think you know more about the Suns than their coaches, which is definitely wrong. Who cares why Alvin Gentry didn't get a job before this one, he has a winning record with the Suns and if the Terry Porter experiment hadn't failed so miserably they would have made the playoffs last year, which is a huge accomplishment in the West. I love the inconsistencies in your arguments though, keep it up.All my post(s) say is that I can think for myself, and I don't become mesmerized by one or two wins, or coach-speak, or player-speak, or live in an alternate reality. And please... Feel free to back-up your retort of my inconsistencies, by actually pointing any out you may find. I do believe you'll be searching for a while if you truly understand the notion of an "inconsistency". 

Now the score from last night... It kind of supports my contention. Although I'm sure you can come up with myriad excuses as to why the Lakers clocked the Suns... Without Pau Gasol?

And had the Suns a decent front-office, as do the Lakers, they would have never made the ill-fated trade for Shaquille O'Neal, or hired Terry Porter in the first place. But you were probably one of the fans slobbering all over yourself when Shaq was up in that Suns box holding up that still empty thumb, waiting for that title ring, weren't you.

I'm glad you live in Phoenix. Me too. I however stick with the team I've rooted for all my life. I've never adopted a contending team when I moved to a city. I'm a lifelong Rams and Dodgers fan also... And considering recent history, those two hurt.

Were you living here a few years back, after the Kobe Bryant - Shaq debacle? When all the local papers were slamming KB (of course they still do, but now it rings very hollow)? When all the local papers proclaimed that KB would never win a title without Shaq. Were you living here when the Suns were seemingly ascending, and the Laker struggling, and local fans were ecstatic about the chance to rub it in the Lakers faces? When the Only Kobe Bryant and Nobody Else-Lakers took the Suns to seven games. Were you here when the local papers started yakking it up about the Suns winning a title or two very soon? Were you here when those very same papers were falling all over themselves at the prospect of signing that very same Kobe Bryant? As if he'd ever leave the Lakers for the Suns. Well, I was... And I bet you were too.

And I wrote the papers over and over... And got slammed in print, over and over... Stating that Kobe Bryant and the Lakers would win at least one more title before the Suns ever tasted their first. Hmmmmmmmmmmm...

All your post says is that you think you know more about the Suns than their coaches, which is definitely wrong.Now I may not know more than the Suns coaches, although that may still be open to debate, but apparently I do know more than the local papers, and the majority of the still clinging Suns fans.

By the way... Does it always take you 3-4 posts to respond to another single post?

Sweet 16 in 2010... That'll be 16 for the Lakers before the Suns grab number one.

Peace



Since: Jul 3, 2007
Posted on: November 12, 2009 1:53 pm
 

Checking in with the Suns

If the Suns don't play well tonight you have to remember this is there 4th game in the last 5 days and it started on the east coast!  From a schedule position this is not good having to play the Lakers in LA as that 4th game.  Again, I'm not stating that a fresh Suns team would still not get blown out by LA but if it happens tonight, it might not be a true indicator of what ultimately would happen.  If the Suns found a way to win tonight, WOW!  I'm ecstatic the way the season has begun and hopefully a sign of things to come this year.



Since: Oct 18, 2009
Posted on: November 12, 2009 11:58 am
 

Checking in with the Suns

I agree 100%. Power rankings have no bearing on the season anyways, so I don't even pay attention to them. The Suns-Lakers game is still an early season matchup so it's certainly not going to be a guarantee of anything postseason-wise. I'm a Suns fan by default (living in Phx right now), and I'm happy to see them doing well, but it's a long season and plenty can happen. In other words, I'm not buying Finals tickets just yet.



Since: Oct 18, 2009
Posted on: November 12, 2009 11:51 am
 

Checking in with the Suns

All your post says is that you think you know more about the Suns than their coaches, which is definitely wrong. Who cares why Alvin Gentry didn't get a job before this one, he has a winning record with the Suns and if the Terry Porter experiment hadn't failed so miserably they would have made the playoffs last year, which is a huge accomplishment in the West. I love the inconsistencies in your arguments though, keep it up.



Since: Oct 18, 2009
Posted on: November 12, 2009 11:50 am
 

Checking in with the Suns

All your post says is that you think you know more about the Suns than their coaches, which is definitely wrong. Who cares why Alvin Gentry didn't get a job before this one, he has a winning record with the Suns and if the Terry Porter experiment hadn't failed so miserably they would have made the playoffs last year, which is a huge accomplishment in the West. I love the inconsistencies in your arguments though, keep it up.



Since: Oct 18, 2009
Posted on: November 12, 2009 11:46 am
 

Checking in with the Suns

"and if they're as good as Suns fans are beginning to tout"

Yeah, why would they think their team is good when they're only 8-1 with wins over Miami, Boston, Philly, NO, and Washington? What a bunch of fools!



Since: Apr 27, 2008
Posted on: November 12, 2009 2:20 am
 

Checking in with the Suns

They got a great coach who knows this team better than anyone elseBrother, I'd never take anything away from any NBA coach (god knows Phil Jackson still gets dissed after 10 rings, while guys like Red Auerbach get all kinds of credit), but if Alvin Gentry is so great, and been around as long as he has, why'd it take so long to get his 4th coaching gig? There have been plenty of openings since his last head coaching job.

Yes, he can tell us about the Suns. But we as fans can come up with our own deductions. Me? I say this Suns team is not as good as the one that also fielded Shawn Marion. Therefore, while they may look good early, I don't think they can win the west.

Now that's my opinion, and I don't need a coach to tell me different. They all think they're one or two players away from contending anyway. Maybe Thursday night's game will change that opinion some, maybe not.

Peace



Since: Sep 1, 2006
Posted on: November 12, 2009 1:16 am
 

Checking in with the Suns

They got a great coach who knows this team better than anyone else



Since: Apr 27, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2009 9:34 pm
 

Checking in with the Suns

I don't think anybody knows how good either team is at this point, way too early in the season to see who is the best in the west right now. Power rankings mean nothing this early on as you know that any player can be injured which can devastate any teams chemistry no matter how deep their bench is. This is a good start for the Suns and the Lakers and don't think by playing one game this week will make much of a difference at this point in the season as I think they will meet in the playoffs.Well smoke125, it does matter. Because early in the season, with both teams playing well, it gives an indication of where they are comparatively. I never said this was the be-all-end-all game. Simply that it might be an indicator of how good they are... Right now. I'm certainly not saying, and never said, whoever wins is going to win the west. Regardless, do you really think the Suns will leapfrog three or four other teams in the west to a top spot compared to last year? I don't. But I do believe they are better than many expected. Which is exactly what I posted.

It's interesting that you think this game doesn't mean much of anything, but you're already prognosticating that they'll meet in the playoffs? What... 8-1, 7-2... Western Conference Finals? That would be a huge leap for one team, but not the other. 

I think this game means much more to the Suns than the Lakers. But should the Lakers lose, I won't automatically elevate this Suns team that is not as good as the Suns team from three years ago, to contender status.

And yes, it goes without saying that an injury can impact either teams' chances. But come on, that can be said about 30 teams. Good health is an advantage to any team facing another team not at 100%.

Peace



Since: May 24, 2009
Posted on: November 11, 2009 6:58 pm
 

Checking in with the Suns

I don't think anybody knows how good either team is at this point, way too early in the season to see who is the best in the west right now. Power rankings mean nothing this early on as you know that any player can be injured which can devastate any teams chemistry no matter how deep their bench is. This is a good start for the Suns and the Lakers and don't think by playing one game this week will make much of a difference at this point in the season as I think they will meet in the playoffs.


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