This year's Phoenix Suns came into the season with a lot of questions, and a 2-3 start has done little to answer them.
The term fan is derived from fanatic, described by the World English Dictionary as "a person whose enthusiasm or zeal for something is extreme or beyond normal limits." As fans, it is our duty to overreact to each and every little thing that happens on the court. At this point in the season only a handful of games have been played and we have a very small sample size to draw from. Therefore, in our minds, what we see now is how it will be.
It is your right as a fan of this great organization to interpret events in whichever way you see fit. But sometimes a little outside perspective can be a good thing. That's what I'm here to do: provide some perspective on a few of the most-discussed topics around these parts in the hopes of increasing optimism and reducing the amount of DOooOOoMMmEEdd!!1!!! comments that have flooded our otherwise overly optimistic blog.
Hedo Turkoglu was the big addition over the summer, and as soon as he was introduced as a Sun he was fighting an uphill battle with the fans. He had received a long and high-paying contract the year before and had responded with a stinker of a season. He was also the guy chosen to fill the gaping hole left by all-star forward Amar'e Stoudemire's departure. Many that frequent BSOTS enjoyed playing with his name, calling him such names as "Hedon't" and "Turkeyglop" (clever, right?). He was going to have to do a lot to win this fanbase over.
The fears of the Hedo critics were seemingly realized when the Turkish forward came out and did virtually nothing in the first couple of games, posting a total of 34 points on 11-29 shooting in the first four games, hardly deserving of $10 million. He looked lost on the court offensively and was abused by opposing power forwards on the other end.
But last game against the Memphis Grizzlies was unquestionably Hedo's best as a Sun. He scored 18 points and connected on half of his ten three-point attempts. He was being aggressive for the first time and the ball was put into his hands more than ever.
Has Hedo finally (five games in) found his niche with this team? Has he figured it out? Will he replicate this performance against the Atlanta Hawks? The answer to these question is probably not.
Keep in mind that Hedo Turkoglu is still a small forward learning to play power forward, a position he has never played before. Keep in mind that he is still adjusting to a new team and system (one that isn't exactly a piece of cake to master). The truth is nobody knows as of yet what Hedo's role will be, or if he will ever be able to man down the power forward spot. That nobody includes me, you, Steve Nash, Alvin Gentry, and Hedo himself. It will take time and it will take game experience for all of these issues to be worked out. All I'm asking is to give Hedo and Alvin some time.
Hakim Warrick in the Starting Line-Up
Where Hedo Turkoglu has struggled early, Hakim Warrick has started the season on a tear, scoring double-figures in four of five games and putting down some monstrous slams. His play so far has even earned him the outstanding nickname "Warmachine" for many on this site. Hakim is more of a true PF and his high-flying dunks are reminiscent of another forward who used to call the Valley of the Sun home.
Hedo's slow start and Hakim's strong play have led many to question Alvin's rotations. "Start Hakim!" has become somewhat of a mantra for many on this site. He's actually a power forward and has been Steve Nash's best pick-and-roll partner thus far. So why wouldn't Alvin start the Warmachine?
There are a couple reasons actually.
The first one has nothing to do with Hakim. As of now, Hedo Turkoglu is the starting power forward. Alvin still hasn't quite gotten a feel for how best to use Hedo, and the beginning of the season is a time of experimentation for him. Will Hedo work out at the four? I don't know. But as I said above, please just give it time.
Hedo may be struggling a bit defensively against bigger post players, but Hakim isn't really any bigger than Hedo. Hakim hasn't really stopped anyone while he's been in. His poor defense is what got him into trouble when he was at Memphis, and he hasn't seemed to improve much in that department.
Beware the small sample size. We don't really know who Hakim Warrick is right now. Could he be the guy who posted a double-double against the Jazz? Or might he be the guy who scored a measly two points against the Lakers? The answer is both. Some nights he'll be spectacular, and others he won't do much of anything. Consistency is an important thing to have in the starting line-up, and that's something Hakim hasn't proven he's capable of yet (not that Hedo has faired much better in that category I admit).
The final reason for why Hakim isn't starting right now is this: Why does he have to start? What is the big difference between a starter and bench player on this team? If you look at the box scores, you'd notice that he has played over thirty minutes in his last two games, so he's not exactly getting scrub minutes. Hakim has done fairly well in my estimation as a back-up, and starting him doesn't guarantee a spike in production. Hakim seems comfortable coming off the bench to provide a little extra fire-power, so why shouldn't we be comfortable with it?
Last season, Channing Frye was the best long-range shooting big man in the league. He was rewarded with a long-term deal worth $30 million. With that new contract in hand, Channing has come out so far and stunk it up from deep to the tune of 4-19 shooting.
His performance this year has the fans chanting "Chandler," their pet name for him when he's not playing so hot, and lamenting the contract offered to him. While Channing has been quite bad offensively and much of the criticism has been well-deserved, he has still been a crucial piece of what the Suns have done so far.
Last season when Frye was shooting so well, all I remember seeing is people railing on him for being soft and not playing like a true center. What few people are acknowledging is how well Channing has done on the boards and in defending the paint this year. He worked hard over the summer to improve his all-around game, to play more like the "true center" everyone wanted him to be. Oh, the irony.
The best way for a shooter to break out of a slump is to shoot. A lot. And as we know, the only way you get benched on this team is to NOT shoot when you're open. So let's be patient with Frye's offense and let him find his stroke while appreciating the effort he's giving on the other side of the ball. Try not to be so quick to break out the Chandler jeers.
There is no other way to phrase it: Robin Lopez has straight-up sucked so far this season. Hard. He was expected to be an intimidating post presence for a team that lacks any other inside threats. He was expected to lock up his own man while also covering for Hedo Turkoglu. He was expected to be Steve Nash's new pick-and-roll partner and also to provide some low-post scoring.
So far, he has failed to live up to every one of those expectations. He has been in foul trouble defensively. He looks lost when rolling and he has fumbled the ball when it is passed to him. He has missed several point-blank shots around the rim.
The question is, how long will this continue? Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for you. But I can tell you that he will improve. We all saw what he is capable of last season. And from what I saw during the preseason he only got better during the summer.
Robin Lopez has shown that he has the ability to do what this team needs. He just hasn't done it thus far, and I don't know why. But I have to believe he will snap out of it and figure things out before too long. He's just too good of a basketball player to play like this all season.