(Photo by Max Simbron)
With the season now just under 10% of the way complete (stupid 82 getting in the way of my round numbers!), I figured it's as good a time as any for a little progress report. In a nutshell, I think it's pretty safe to say, "Progress has been made."
Coach Gentry has set the 25 game mark as a his point for when he'll know what he's really got with this squad and I think that's a pretty level-headed decision on his part. However, I'll be checking in every 8 games with and odd fraction in the title to let you know what I think of the team.
Now, please raise your hand if you thought the Suns were going to be 7-1 at this point in the season? You may notice my hand is down along with everyone praying to a portrait of Cotton Fitzsimmons above their mantle. This team exceeding expectations so far. But let's not get too crazy. Here's some fun fact bullet points to get you pumped/un-pumped as you see fit.
- The Suns are 5-1 on the road so far! That's great! I thought this was totally awesome until I realized they haven't done that since... last season. Yup, last season's epic fail started off with the Suns winning 5 of their first 6 on the road before going 13-22 the rest of the way.
- That said, I wrote back when the schedule came out that if the Suns were at or above .500 after Thursday night's game with the Lakers they should get a parade and an automatic playoff berth. Well, mission accomplished, regardless of how they do in that back-to-back.
- At no point this season has any observer thought to themselves, "You know, the Suns could sure use Shaquille O'Neal right about now."
- Brother, can you spare a dime? Steve Nash has a mind-boggling 103 assists over 8 games. 2 20-assist games will do that for ya. He also has a league-leading 37 turnovers, but that assist-to-turnover ratio ain't too shabby.
- Between assists and scoring himself, Steve Nash has accounted for at least 352 of the Suns' 887 points. That's almost 40% of their offense. And that's assuming all those assists went for 2 instead of 3. Amazing.
- The Suns are one Steve Nash injury away from the longest season in NBA history.
- It's always somebody: In his first 3 games, Jason Richardson went 6-16 from 3-point range while Channing Frye when 16-20. In the last 3 games, Channing Frye has gone 7-21 from 3-point range while J-Rich has shot 16-22. Darwin likes offensive diversity.
- Brother, can you spare some charity? Steve Nash cannot. He's carrying the Suns with his .926 free throw shooting percentage. Despite that, the Suns are shooting less than 70% on gimmes. And winning.
- He still spooks under pressure defense, but Goran Dragic has been giving the Suns a not-embarrassing 14 minutes per game. I'd like to see him initiating more of the offense (use them hops, young man!), but I'll take it. How you feeling about your bet, Dog of Watt?
- Speaking of Goran, how about that bench? With at least 4 players cracking the 14-minute mark, that's a lot of rest for our starters.
- Except Amar'e. 36.9 minutes a game. Pretty good for a guy who wasn't allowed to move athletically until pretty much training camp.
- Also, about Amar'e. I don't think we've even begun to see him yet this season. That 25 game mark Alvin was talking about? As smart as he's been playing, he could be downright scary by then.
- Jared Dudley. Jared Freaking Dudley. If Barbosa provides a spark off the bench then Dudley provides the fire. He's like Dan Majerle before Dan Majerle discovered the 3-ball.
- Which reminds me: Hustle Dan and 3-Ball Dan were never on the court at the same time. Let's hope the same doesn't hold true for 3-Ball Jared and Hustle Jared.
- Again with the 25 game thing. That 25th game? San Antonio. In Phoenix. On 2 days rest. No excuses.
- It totally sucks to be Robin Lopez right now. The team is deep and rolling without him. How exactly does Gentry work him into the line-up?
- 8 games in and the Suns and their opponents are both averaging exactly 41.8 rebounds a game. Whodathunk?
- The Suns have yet to play a top 10 team from the Western Conference. There's a lot left to prove.
- Best. Record. In. The. NBA. Enjoy it while you can.