After eleven games, I believe it is pertinent to discuss who might be in the running for the first annual Gomer Pyle Award. So to see who or what is the biggest "surprise, surprise, surprise!" so far this season, I give you the leading candidates.
But first, some other early award updates:
The NEO BULLET DODGING AWARD:
Currently leans toward Lon Babby for dodging the Eric Gordon signing. Not only did Babby accidentally avoid maxing out a salary to a player that makes Kevin Johnson look durable, but he also avoided having to give up anything else in a sign and trade deal. He is "the one!"
The NATHAN THURM "I KNEW THAT. IT'S SO FUNNY THAT YOU THINK I DON'T KNOW THAT" AWARD:
Is headed to Minnesota and their fans for obviously knowing the obvious about Wes Johnson. It was said on many a blog that Johnson will never outplay anyone to get on the court. ‘Sota fans stated that other than his great smile, the Suns won't ever reap any benefits of having Wes on their team. Many speculated that he was a throw in that would be dumped fairly quickly.
I knew that! It's so funny that you think that I didn't know that. I mean the guy's option was not renewed and he hasn't seen the court. I knew that.
The AMELIA EARHART AWARD:
If we could find him, Jared Dudley would get it. Does he still play for the Suns?
The AMAZING KRESKIN AWARD:
We already know who wins this, you know what I mean? It is going to the BSOTS followers for predicting a wholly mediocre season and below .500 record. We are certainly on pace. Or could it be we are as flawed as Kreskin himself?
The KE$HA "WE ARE WHO WE ARE!" AWARD:
This one is currently a four way tie between Michael Beasley, Shannon Brown, Wes Johnson and Luis Scola. If you were asked prior to the beginning of the season to describe each players future contributions in detail, that description would be a word for word review of how each has contributed so far. Scola has been the cagey veteran that can't play D, tires out quickly, gives the occasional crafty move and is useless in crunch time. Johnson hasn't seen the floor [see above]. Brown has enticed with flashes of brilliant, albeit lucky play only to reveal his true inefficient self. And Beasley has confounded us with stretches of quality promise, only to see equal stretches of baffling lack of focus and intensity and being relegated to the bench in fourth quarters.
And now, your GOMER PYLE AWARDS candidates:
We loved his hustle and enthusiasm during Summer League, enough so that his signing was resoundingly approved. Yet none of us realistically thought he would get too much run, let alone be a factor in any games. The most we expected of him was the occasional "Lou" moment. Yet Tucker has shown that if you are willing to dedicate yourself to defending, rebounding and being active, all while abandoning any idea that you might have to provide anything offensively, you can stay on the court in crunch time.
The jury is still out on Tucker's sustainability, especially in light of Gentry's lack of enthusiasm for inserting Tucker into the starting lineup. Yet the fact that he has forced Gentry to sit guys that clearly were a priority for the Suns future in the fourth quarter so early in the season has surprised everyone.
In a complete reversal of everything we have ever known about Dudley, at present, Jared seems he can do no right. We can all accept missing shots - it happens. In fact, if you polled all of us here in Orangania [?], my guess is that we would overwhelmingly vote that eventually Dudley's shot will return to form with no worries.
The most surprising issue with Dudley is his apparent lack of energy and effort. While he has always been slow footed, he made up for it in sheer hustle by sticking with plays, always making sure he is a factor on the defensive end. Whether being in the right help position, or trailing his man and ultimately getting a hand in on the play, we all loved Dudley for his effort, IQ and consistent impact on the game.
So far this season, Dudley has been 100% AWOL. PJ Tucker is the living embodiment of what Dudley used to be [yeah, we know PJ is more athletic]. Having Tucker only illustrates the loss of Dudley as we knew him. We can only hope for a zombie apocalypse and have Dudley rise from the dead - but one of those super-fast zombies from "I am Legend", not walkers from Walking Dead. They are slow and un-athletic.
B-EASY ON HIM
Counter to what everyone thinks, and even counter to what I think, after thinking about it, I am more confused as ever. Huh?
Yes, we all knew about Michael Beasley. He of the pot smoking. One who never passed up a hit or a shot. The guy who was drafted #2 overall but plays like a second round pick. They describe him as the Carmelo Anthony-like, just not as talented. He was said to be a bigger drag to his team than the monster on the wing of that airplane!
Yet after watching Beasley so far, I am not sure that is all true. Well, it is true that Beasley is not as talented as Carmelo. Yet from what I see of Michael Beasley, ha also is not a malcontent chucker. While I will delve into this matter in more detail in another article, I think Michael Beasley is misunderstood and misused. He has shown a surprisingly concerted effort to pass the ball. He has done so while passing up shots. In fact, he has made some of the nicest assists so far this season. I really think that he is not so much a malcontent who selfishly wants to put up numbers, but simply is a guy that doesn't really understand the game, is very soft, and is unfocused.
So the surprise here is that I don't actually dislike Beasley for what I thought I would. If used correctly, I believe he is of some use.
TEL-GOOD, NOT JUST FAIR
In drafting Kendall Marshall, the Suns clearly sent a message to fans that we are moving out of the Nameless Player Era and into our future. Marshall was clearly thought of as a future [down the road] cornerstone piece of the franchise. Even with the Dragic signing, it was thought that this would help Marshall come along without the pressure of having the team on his back.
So far he has played eleven minutes in three blowout losses. Surprising as that is, what is even more shocking is the reason why Marshall is pining away - Sebastian Telfair.
Yes, we all loved how Bassy played last season. He adequately supplied backup minutes [although not enough in my view] to rest Nameless. We loved his hustle and determination to show that he indeed belongs in the NBA.
Yet this season, Bassy has not only supplied quality minutes, but has actually impacted this team in a dramatic way. While his numbers are not dramatically different, what has been noticeable is his intensity and effort defensively, and his ability to spark runs. Telfair has even taken over a few games and been invaluable in his effort this year. He has impressed Gentry so much that Gentry hasn't even thought about giving Marshall any run.
This is great news. It is great for Telfair as his hard work is being awarded. But it is equally good for Marshall, because he is getting a great lesson in how to be a professional basketball player. Marshall is learning that he better work hard this offseason or some journeyman scrub throw away will take his job.
While it is not surprising to hear Marcin Gortat bitching about his role, it certainly seems a bit early in the season for it. Gortat waited a whole 11/82nd of the season to start questioning his coach and calling out his teammates for sticky hands. While we all expected him to implode at some point, we certainly didn't think so soon. And to think we all thought Beasley was the malcontent.
What is even more surprising is Alvin Gentry's response. Typically when confronted by a media onslaught perpetrated by players, coaches pull out Roget's Clicheasaurus. They claim that they understand their player and that the player is somewhat right. They coddle and soothe that player so as to calm the situation. Basically they lie, hoping said player thinks the coach is on their side, only with the hopes to manipulate said player into changing his attitude.
Gentry was having none of that. In a response any parent can take note of [as a model to how to tell your kid they aren't as keen as they think they are], Gentry basically told Gortat to stick it where the sun don't shine. Calling out Gortat's lackluster play in the post and telling everyone point blank that nothing will change, Gentry slammed down the tough love on Gortat. It was exactly what Marcin needed to hear, and in fact, was exactly what every kid in the nation playing basketball needed to see. You aren't getting touches because you simply aren't playing hard enough, and I am not rearranging our philosophy around your play because you aren't good enough. Is that what you hoped to hear Marcin?
Maybe not, but it is what you needed to hear.
And that is the most surprising thing I have seen in the NBA for 20 years!