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The Pendulum Revisited: Phoenix Suns Apologetics 101

When I say Apologetics, I don't mean to say I can apologize for how crappy the Suns have looked as of late, because we all can admit it without feeling a dip in our Phoenix fan-hood... this last week especially they have been on that absolute-garbage-hard-to-watch train. 

So if you're looking for some kind of team apology, Jared Dudley (who bless his soul is suffering from phat-contract-itis) said it best after the loss against Miami last Wednesday,

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Well said Mr.Dudley619.  BS indeed.  "Good thing about the NBA is we have another game tomorrow.."  Correct again.   Fellow Bright Siders, forget the fact that the next game he was talking about was another bad blowout with an abysmal Suns showing... and so was the game after that, and focus on the concept he's alluding to here.  Improvement and adjustments are part of the basketball season. 

Derek Definition says, "Apologetics (from Greek απολογία, "speaking in defense") is the discipline of defending a position through the systematic use of reason."

That's the kind of apology I'm talking about here.  Jared Dudley may say there are no excuses - but for an apologetic of a cause there is almost always an excuse, reasonably legitimate or not.  Hear me out.

Look - I like stats.  I'm a stats-guy as much as the next, I can see the numbers.  I read the box scores, I make Excel spreadsheets of random stats when I'm bored.  I also feel the same guttural cramp and dry-heave when the Suns play like they did last week, it's hard to watch.    Easily I could retreat my emotions and go to a dark place - EASILY.  That's the key word.  It's easy to give up.  It's easy to give in.  It's hard to stand by something when times are tough.  It's hard to support a team when they continually prove they can't move the ball down the field and hit wide-open receivers... wait... disregard - we were talking about the Suns right?  Investing (whether it's emotions or money) is always the same, it's stressful, it's usually risky, it could pay dividends or it can make you go broke. 

Don't go broke my friends.   Keep your monies and your emotions intact.

I will stand by my preseason prediction:  This team will finish in the top 4 of the West AND make a deep playoff push.

Call me a 'homer' or overly optimistic but I haven't jumped on the Scott Howard bandwagon yet,

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(Gotta love Twitter)

Here's my reasoning.

It all goes back to the Pendulum Theory.

You see,  when I first joined this beautiful blog over a year ago - my first post took a look at this Suns team with a year by year evaluation and an explanation as to why the Suns had been so up-and-down since the 7SOL era through the Terry Porter experiment and how the deletion of Shaq was actually addition by subtraction and that the Suns would find a balance last year that would push them to 'amazingness'.  Let's just air this out there,  I was right -  don't be surprised, I'm kind of a big deal.  Nearly finding a way to beat the Lakers in the WCF when almost nobody predicted them to even be in the playoff picture was pretty golly gosh darn amazing.

My expert analysis on the big-picture level of team and style development was all based on a theory I have developed called the Pendulum Theory.  If you are too lazy to read my original post linked above, here's a short blurb as to what it entails.  *Will Ferrel voice: "Let me blow your mind"

"we as humans are caught in struggles for equilibrium constantly.  Generally, we are always moving from one extreme end of a spectrum to the opposite, seeking what is acceptable, or what is comfortable.  This process occurs on many levels, be it an ideological, physiological, or a practical level, etc. "Pendulum Adjustment" is a broad term that I've coined which refers to this natural tendency or phenomenon, the back and forth, from extreme to extreme, until equilibrium is met."  

In my scholastic adventures I have applied this idea of "pendulum adjustment" to historical events and sociological principles, and here in my recreational endeavors I have applied that same kind of 'back-and-forth' adjustment scheme to our Phoenix Suns.

They went from emphasis on too much offense not enough defense (D'Antoni) to too much change and forced focus on defense (Terry Porter) to a nice comfortable equilibrium (Alvin Gentry) where they were great on offense and maybe mediocre or less than that on defense.  But that was enough to shoot them from being out of the playoffs a year before to being a title contender in the WCF the next.  

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Things can change, and it's not always done through a change in personnel or coaching.  Constant pendulum adjustments happen on smaller levels all day every day, you don't have to rely solely on my season-to-season application of the idea.   We can move from that 'macro' version to a 'micro', or smaller version of the same and see that those adjustments can be applied during a season on a a game to game basis. 

Again going back to what Jared Dudley said, "Good thing about the NBA is we have another game tomorrow..".  Well obviously he's familiar with my theory - he knows that there are adjustments to be made.  Maybe he's trying to hard to showcase his off-season work by pump-faking on the three and stepping in or driving too much and that is throwing his game off.  Maybe it's Channing Frye going through one of his shooting dry spells as he takes the court the next day he changes his release point to compensate for something he saw in film.  Maybe it's Goran Dragic trying too hard to force passes and make something happen because he knows that the offense has been stagnant.  Maybe it's Grant Hill changing his pregame routine to better prepare physically for back-to-backs.  My point is - these things happen during a season.  There are ups and downs - extremes to extremes are reached as teams search and fight to maintain an equilibrium of their playing skills.   

Why did the Suns hit 22 threes against the Lakers and then miss their next 875 attempts?  

Let's go deeper - game by game.  Half by Half.  Quarter by quarter.

Just take a look at what Alex wrote last night after the Houston win  -

Phoenix's defense effort was there this game, but to no avail. After holding Houston to 43% shooting and 45 points in the first half, the Rockets exploded (err, matched a usual Suns opponent) by scoring 71 second-half points. 71 points in one half?!?!?! They had 31 assists on 49 made field goals. They had only 14 turnovers. They shot 49% for the game.

Is that not exactly what I'm talking about?  There are MAJOR adjustments going on all the time with this and every team in the NBA.  

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Did you expect the team this year to go 14-3 again to start?  Did you think adjusting to having Nash out of the line-up would be easy?   Did you expect Goran Dragic to come in with the starters and gel immediately?  Having Nash out is a huge deal.  It messes up everything, given the goal is to establish some sort of equilibrium and he is now THE focal point of the offense.  

Though the questions are a rhetorical "of course not" from my point of view - you might have answered them in the positive.  If that's the case you might want to reevaluate your emotional investment portfolio.  Your expectations for short-term gain from a long term (at least 82 games) investment are unreasonable given the type of stock you have invested in.  Let me remind you what that 'type of stock' is - it's a team that let their #1 offensive scorer go and acquired 3 new major players in the rotation and a team that struggles to rebound and play defense.

Is all hope lost?   Heck nah.

We lost our #1 scorer...  well this team has proven already over this short season that scoring isn't the problem. 

Rebounding and Defense?  Wow, that sounds familiar.  Let me remind everyone that these are the same two concerns that last years 'lottery-doomed' team was destined to suffer as well.   Guess what?  We found a way to rebound sufficiently and we established a style of defense that worked with the talent we had and produced our desired results -> Defenseive mediocrity at best, which coupled with our explosive offense was all it took to vault us deep into the playoffs.  But it all didn't come in an instant.  It took a whole season of assuaging the schemes and balancing the skill-sets and ups-and-downs of all the players on the team.

My friends - the concerns are the same this year. Rebounding and Defense.  The schedule has been grueling for the first part of this season and the adjustments aren't being made as smoothly as everyone could optimistically hope for but get this - the pendulum is in motion. 

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[Eutychus putting the stats down and waxing philosophical]

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