The day is finally here. The new look Suns will take the court against the Heat and we'll have a chance to see what the new guys can do for us. Or maybe not. You see, sometimes we tend to forget that these are actual human beings playing and that the NBA is like a video game where your team's level just goes up (filling the bar almost to the top) after making a trade.
Truth is that it will take time for us to really see what these new players can do for the team. The good news is that it's still December and Steve Nash and the Suns have plenty of time to figure things out.
Initially, I didn't like the trade. I think I made that clear in Twitter and FB. The fact that I had to root for Vince Carter made me cringe. I've never been a fan of his game; I've always considered him soft. I guess I'm used to see players playing through pain, bleeding with cuts and stitches -eyes swollen shut and stuff- and leaving it all on the floor and -let's face it- that's not who Vince Carter is. But that doesn't mean he can't contribute.
The Suns were looking to get better defensively and they seem to have done it, at least on paper. Marcin Gortat will have a chance to show his skills and toughness. He seemed genuinely excited to come to Phoenix. There's nothing more frustrating than sitting on the bench when you feel you have the skills and mindset to play and help your team. When you are playing under restricted minutes there's only one thing on your mind: "How much time do I have left?" this causes two types of reactions on a player.
The first one is to try as hard as you can and take advantage of the time on the court and the second one is, after you try the first one, to lose focus because no matter what you do, you aren't getting any more minutes. Well, here's your chance Polish Hammer.
Gortat's presence will also help Robin. Both will be competing for the starting spot and that's a good thing for the team.
Let's not forget about Mickael Pietrus who can provide a good perimeter defense and 3 point shooting. He's defense will be needed in this game since I'm sure he'll have to deal with Lebron and D-Wade at some point.
The Heat are very good but they are still a work in progress. They have surrounded their three amigos with streaky three point shooters and when they are hitting their shots, they become almost un-guardable. The addition of Dampier gives them some size but they are still a relatively small team.
Bottom line is that the Heat go as far as Lebron, Wade and Bosh take them. On their first meeting with the Suns, Bosh was hitting from everywhere on the floor. He was in double figures in the first quarter after struggling in previous games. I'm sure he's licking his chops right now. The result was a blow out win for Miami as the game was out of reaching the third quarter.
Mike Miller is back from his injury but it's safe to say that he won't play many minutes.
It'll be interesting to see if Gentry goes to the Zone defense at some point of the game. Miami has been struggling against it.
Robin Lopez and Marcin Gortat can be huge for us in this game. If I was Gentry I would try to get either of them involved as soon as the game starts. The Suns need to take advantage of their size as Spoelstra is reluctant to play a center throughout the whole game.
On a separate note, it's funny how often the zone it's been used around the league. Last night I saw a confused Nuggets team against a Spurs zone defense. Yes, The Spurs were playing zone and running fast breaks with the lead and one minute to go. I guess our old friend Pop has been taking some notes from the Suns.
Keys to winning the game:
- Closing lanes: If the Suns let Lebron or Wade easily drive to the basket for lay ups or dunks, they'll be doomed. Both are great finishers and even if they don't make the basket they will surely go to the line.
- Close on three point shooters: Mario Chalmers has hit 11 three point shots in the last 4 games. We know James Jones can also hit threes. Last thing we want is these guys getting hot.
- Use size and strength in the paint: Give the ball to Gortat and Robin in the paint. If they are effective early in the game, we can establish an inside outside game surrounding them with shooters.
- Help Defense and rotations: It'll be difficult to contain Lebron and Wade in man to man situations. The key is help defense and rotating fast. Communication is key when guarding these great players.
- Transition defense: Miami likes to run, the Suns have to make sure they are back on defense in time or this game will be over in a heart beat.
This game is a good test for the new look Suns. Again, it's the first game with the new pieces so keep things in perspective. Winning this game will not make us contenders and losing it will not leave us out of the playoffs. This is the first step towards getting better. One of many steps to come.
[Note by Seth Pollack, 12/23/10 1:27 PM MST ]
Here's another cool Gortat story...
Phoenix Suns New Look Debuts Against Miami Heat, 8:30 P.M. AZT - SB Nation Arizona
Gortat even found a pair of appropriately-colored orange and purple shoes in the Suns closet left over from some guy named Amare Stoudemire. It might be a stretch to say that the "Polish Hammer" will fill Amare's shoes on the court, but he literally will be wearing Amare's shoes on his feet.
Also on the nickname thing, Marcin wears a black rubber wristband with "Polish Machine" on it. He said that's his nickname from his days playing in Europe and was given to him in honor of his energy and work rate. He got the "Hammer" nickname in summer league after a dunk. Being called a "hammer" in Polish is supposedly kind of a pejorative....it's like being called a "rock head". He said he doesn't mind "Polish Hammer" when I asked him about it, but maybe he was just being polite.
One thing for sure, he's thrilled to be here and talked a lot about the freedom that Coach Gentry allows versus Van Gundy and of course the chance to play big minutes.
And finally, in case you missed it, here's Marcin and Robin talking about playing together....and also here's Week 2 of the new Suns feature -- Player Thermometer.
Phoenix Suns Player Thermometer, Week 8: Post-Trade Mess - Desert Dirt - SB Nation Arizona
Without further ado, here is the Player Thermometer, in order of who's hottest to who's nottest. Last week's rating is in parentheses.
and more on the Suns size
Phoenix Suns Trade Gives Channing Frye Role Clarity - Desert Dirt - SB Nation Arizona
That's why Frye stayed in the lineup and slide over to the four when Lopez returned from his injury. This at least gave the Suns two guys who were at least average defenders and with their height could rebound the ball. It paid off as the Suns went from -4.9 rebounding differential with Frye at the five to +.25 with Frye starting at the four next to Robin over the last four games.