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Filling the Glass: Weekly Suns Checkup for 11/08/2007

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With the Suns' season now seven days old, it's time for the first edition of what I am hoping will be a weekly feature, time and schedule permitting. It may not always be posted on Thursdays--in fact, this report will probably move to the weekends after I'm done traveling in a couple of weeks. But I will try to keep it reasonably close to regular, nonetheless. So, without further ado...

Introducing Bright Side of the Sun's weekly review of the roller-coaster ride that is shaping up to be (so far) a typical Phoenix Suns season. What's that you say? Didn't the Suns just lose in awful fashion to (of all teams) the Lakers in their second game of the season? Didn't they put forth another subpar showing last night against (of all teams) the Hawks? Didn't even Steve Nash say after the Cleveland game that the Suns had only played four of their first twelve quarters well? What do you mean this is "a typical season"?

Well, given the Suns' recent history of slow starts, I would say that makes a lot of what we've seen so far pretty typical. Perhaps even slightly better than typical if you choose to ignore the egregious manner in which they lost to the Lakers and only pay attention to the record. After all, this time last year the Suns were looking at a 1-4 start, and would go on to lose yet another game before they finally started to right the ship. However, even given that the Suns are still two games ahead of last year's pace (albeit with an easier schedule this time), it's fairly obvious that they are struggling to find their way in the early going. In fact, with the exception of the Charlotte game, it seems like the real Phoenix Suns have yet to make an appearance, even though they're still winning slightly more often than not. There are several ways of interpreting this, both from a "glass half empty" and "glass half full" perspective:

Glass Half Empty:

  • All any team has to do to beat the Suns is harass Steve Nash with physical, Bruce Bowen-style defense, pound the ball inside on offense, and grab rebounds which are freely available since the Suns are undersized. After three years, the league has finally figured this out. That's why the Suns can't get their running game going, and are struggling even against young lottery teams like Atlanta.
  • Age is finally catching up to several of the Suns players who are at or pushing the wrong side of 30. Steve Nash's assists are down and his turnovers are up. Raja Bell can't hit the broad side of a barn and has ankle tendonitis to boot. Grant Hill is an injury waiting to happen, and in any case doesn't fit into the Suns' system because he can't hit a three-point shot if his life depended on it. To top it off, Mike D'Antoni is playing these guys to death, and once again leaving promising bench players like Brian Skinner sitting around gathering dust (see last night's game for Exhibit A). It's little wonder these old geezers are struggling against young lottery teams like Atlanta.
  • By giving away two first round picks to get rid of Kurt Thomas' contract, Murphy's Law practically guarantees that the Suns will be a lottery team for at least one of those years. Regardless, the Suns have no inside defensive presence whatsoever without KT, so they are doomed to postseason failure even if they do get it right in the regular season. With a front office bent on using draft picks like an ATM machine, expect many more years of watching old geezers struggle against young lottery teams like Atlanta.
Glass Half Full:
  • Are you kidding me? It's the first week of the season! The Suns' record is a full two games ahead of where it was last season, and they are in the middle of an absolutely brutal seven games in ten days stretch! Give them at least a month before you write them off for crying out loud!
  • The Suns have Amare Stoudemire sitting out with knee stiffness, Boris Diaw playing on two recently-sprained ankles (the left one particularly sore, apparently), and Raja Bell dealing with ankle tendonitis. Brian Skinner and Leandro Barbosa also started the season with injuries.
  • Maybe the Lakers and Hawks are just better teams than advertised? After all, Dallas got beat by the Hawks too, and the Lakers have played tough in every game so far. In any case, both of these teams have a lot more motivation to win these early regular season matchups than a "been there, done that" group like the Suns. Perhaps the Suns are simply doing what the Spurs have done successfully year after year--saving their best work for the playoffs. The good news is the Suns won't be facing any young lottery teams in June.
So which is it? Glass half empty or glass half full? Here's my take: It's way too early to make a determination one way or the other on what this team will look like once everyone is healthy and back in sync. Sure, there are certainly a few troubling signs, like not just losing to a team like the Lakers, but getting outright hammered by them. It's also less-than-encouraging to see rotations like last night's where six players combined for all but 15 of the game's 240 available minutes, and the Suns still lost to Atlanta. Finally, watching a game where it seems like the team is not putting forth its best effort is, to steal a phrase from Kobe Bryant, "beyond frustrating". However, before we officially write the epitaph for the 2007-08 Suns, let's get Amare healthy and reintegrated back in the lineup. Let's see how Boris does when he's not hobbling around on one foot. Let's see if Raja can reclaim his shot like he has in every other season thus far, and let's give Grant Hill some time--he's new here. As for Steve Nash, the guy is still capable of putting up 34 point / 11 assist nights and shooting 7-of-10 from three. I'll worry about him when he can't do that anymore. For now, I'm going with the "glass half full" viewpoint. But half full won't be good enough come playoff time.

Poll

How do you feel about the Suns' season so far?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    It's a product of injuries and a typical slow Suns start
    (25 votes)
  • 41%
    There are troubling signs, but give it some time
    (23 votes)
  • 7%
    Blow it up! These guys aren't championship material now, and won't be five months from now either.
    (4 votes)
  • 5%
    What are you talking about? The Suns are doing just fine, thank you!
    (3 votes)
55 votes total Vote Now