Preview: Phoenix Suns vs Minnesota Timberwolves (Sensei Amare is Focused)

It's OK. Go ahead and call this a "Must Win" game for the Suns. The team certainly considers it that way and absolutely feels they need to win games like this against teams "we are supposed to beat" - which is polite code for "teams that suck".

When a team is 14-53 you are allowed to say they "suck" without having to worry about offending anyone. Here's how Canis Hoopus breaks down the Wolves level of "suckitude":

In terms of overall suckitude, there are two golden standards for Wolvesdom: the 94/95 team led by Isaiah Rider and the 92/93 team led by Doug West and coached by Jimmy Rodgers and Sidney Lowe.  Unfortunately for current fans of the team, this year's squad is making a strong claim to the 2nd worst Wolves roster of all time and it may even have a chance to end the season as the lowest of low in Wolves history. 

What makes this year's team so historically bad is its efficiency score relation to the rest of the league.  Were it not for the New Jersey Nets, the Wolves would have a legitimate shot at having the league's worst offensive and defensive ratings along with a league-low SRS and Pythagorean W-L record.  They are also pushing the 94/95 squad for the worst efficiency differential in team history, which is primarily aided by a franchise low in eFG% differential.  

The driving force in this year's low results is the team's awful offense.  It is the worst offense in team history.  That's not exactly a resounding endorsement of Kurt Rambis' new system and no matter how long it may take for the players to adjust to a new way of playing ball, there simply isn't much in the way of saying that whatever they are doing on that end of the court, they aren't doing it well and it is a significant drop-off from last year's campaign (101.4 from 106.1).  Did I mention that this year's team has a franchise record eFG% differential?

So yeah, they suck and the Suns better beat them tonight. Fortunately, I don't see that being a problem despite Al Jefferson's domination of Amare.

Al Jeff in their last 8 meetings has averaged 26.6 pts and 12.9 rebounds compared to 20.3 and 6.5 for Amare. But the Suns won 5 of those 8 so...scoreboard.

But a focused and determined-sounding Amare is prepared, "My approach to the game is more of a serious approach than ever. More of a Sensei-type approach where I really try and study the type of offense they're trying to implement...It is always different per team so I do a lot of studying before games and make sure that my mind is clear. Make sure my body is well-nourished and go out there and play." 

Amare reports that he's lost 28 pounds since training camp and is down to 242 and 5% body fat. He was about 270 at the start of training camp. Now he says he's in great shape and at his normal playing weigh and ready for the playoffs.

"Every second half of the year, I turn it up a notch making that playoff push. It's been every year. You guys should be used to it by now."

Sensei STAT said that the Suns chances in the playoffs are "great," but that every team in the West is good so it doesn't matter who the match-up is, the series will be tough.

Keeping with his clear mind approach, Amare said that he's not worried about the off-season and doesn't want any distractions right now so he's putting aside any talk about extensions or contracts.

You have to admire Amare's approach and maturity. He's working hard off the court to prepare. He's physically in peak form and he's got a great attitude.

As for his nemesis, Big Al, Amare shared his game plan, "He has about a 20 inch pump fake. Most of the time he raises you up on the pump fake but if you stay solid and not go for the pump fakes and get off his hot spots and post up positions you have a pretty good chance. A lot of times, if you're not prepared for it, then he's going to get you. He's such a good shooter, you've got to respect the jumper. You just have to stay down. I don't know too many players that can block a jump shot. If you just stay down and put your hands up, you have a better chance of defending him."

 

Tonight marks the not-so-triumphant return of locker room favorite, Alando Tucker.

Alando has only played 12 minutes in 2 games for the Timberwolves. Guess that whole "more opportunities" thing hasn't worked out so well for him.

It is a shame though, Tucker is a great guy and still has never had an opportunity to play consistent minutes. It's one thing for a guy to not make it in the league after showing that he can't compete at this level. It's another thing entirely for a player like Alando to never even get a chance to prove that he can't make it. Here's to hoping that someone will give him an opportunity at some point...soon.

He's clearly frustrated by the situation as well. Tucker said this to Paul Coro of the AZ Republic yesterday, "I'm still trying to figure it out, honestly. It's a tough business."

Grant Hill and Leandro Barbosa will play tonight.

REMINDER:

If you've not signed up for our March Madness Bracket Contest, there's still time! But not much...Prize = Suns Jersey!

 

The Robin Lopez Live Chat has been moved to Thursday to accommodate his hair appointment a change in the Suns practice schedule. Be sure to make it your mission to be here on Thursday at about noon.

 

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