Through seven games the Phoenix Suns are clearly in a transitional phase as they adjust to the new dynamic of a third quasi-star in the backcourt along with a reshaped frontcourt. The freewheeling fun factory of frenetic scoring on opening night seemed like it was eons ago before they were finally able to take advantage of a fatigued Golden State team, who weren't playing with a #fullsquad.
Between opening night and the second half of the Warriors game, the season has been a frustrating assortment of fleeting moments of cohesion mixed with prolonged periods of stagnation, resulting in the Suns only managing to break even against their Western foes. Right as they look to be finding their mojo, they suddenly become frozen in time while all momentum swings away from them.
By golly, they almost look like a basketball team going through some adjustments.
The 2013/14 team started out similarly. Both Dragic and Bledsoe missed games with minor injuries, and when they were both healthy they struggled through the nuances of sharing the backcourt with eachother. Luckily, the supporting cast led by P.J. Tucker showed enough grit and hustle to squeeze out enough wins through the first 20 games to stay afloat.
Despite being burdened with newfound expectations, they'll need to achieve the same feat this year. Jeff Hornacek has been given an assortment of shot-creators on offense and so far has ridden whatever hot hand he can find, but during cold spells there's no telling what kind of lineup you might see wearing the orange.
Dragic has been noticeably uncomfortable with finding his role and has yet to lead the team in scoring for a single game. The bench duo of Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green has often been more productive than the original Slash Bros duo. The Suns still don't quite know what they have in the young Alex Len. The Morris twins, while consistent, probably have yet to find their best roles for this team. The play of Tucker is quickly creating a demand for more minutes than might be available.
These things will take time to sort out.
In the meantime, gutting out a too-close-for-comfort win on the road against the clueless Lakers and taking advantage of the #fullsquaders on a back-to-back might not be the kind of victories that define a team, but they're every bit as necessary.
Roundup (click the links for full recaps)
The Suns fired on every cylinder and Kobe had a typical Kobe game (31 points on 25 shots, a technical foul, plus one opposing player's lip bloodied).
Some clutch play plus 23 points in 29 minutes for Isaiah Thomas led to an ugly win over the Spurs, who failed to inbound the ball in time on a potential game-tying possession.
The Suns were straight mollywhopped in their first road game, as the Jazz outscored them by 23 in the second half. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors combined for more points (56) than the entire starting lineup for Phoenix (51).
Markieff Morris led the way in another win against the Lakers in the friendly confines of the Staples Center. Kobe scored 39 but took 37 shots to get there, despite his claim that his ball-dominating tendencies are an "urban legend".
The Grizzlies continued to play Mike Tyson to Phoenix's Peter McNeely, dominating the second half with ease. The only good news -- the two teams will only meet three times this season as opposed to four last year.
The second straight loss at home came in miserable fashion. The good guys squandered leads in the fourth quarter plus both overtimes before the Kings finally edged out the win. Is 11 fourth-quarter points bad? It sounds bad.
A potentially embarrassing third straight loss at home was averted by the heroics of Thomas and Green, as both went nuclear and combined for 31 points in the 4th quarter.
The Shark Tank
The shark is always circling. Who has stayed afloat so far, and who has been bitten?
"Faster than sharks, so it's no big deal": Isaiah Thomas has been dazzling so far, posting a ridiculous .610 TS% and a 25.6 PER before his stellar performance versus Golden State. While the other guards have been struggling to pick their spots, Thomas' game is always the same -- he just produces. Don't bet on that shark to catch up anytime soon.
"We're gonna need a bigger boat": Anthony Tolliver is the unfortunate victim of the shark so far this season. While he has hit 40% of his threes, they have come on only 12 attempts due to his inability thus far to leave an impact on the court, culminating in a DNP-CD against Sacramento. With the depth on this roster, he'll have to find a groove quickly if he wants to steal a rotation spot. Plus we all know that the shark's favorite meal is stretch 4's.
Keep swimming, Anthony.
On The Horizon
- Wednesday 11/12 vs. Brooklyn
- Friday 11/14 vs. Charlotte
- Saturday 11/15 @ LA Clippers
The Suns will get their first reprieve from the rugged Western Conference with a pair of home games versus Brooklyn and Charlotte before kicking off a six-game roadie in LA with a matchup against the Clippers.
Last year they dropped both games to the Nets including a heartbreaker at home via a last-second breakaway floater by Joe Johnson. On the flipside they won both games over Charlotte rather comfortably. This will be a good chance to get a bit of swagger going at home before hitting the road for nine days.
The Clippers are going through some early-season sputters of their own, and these two teams always seem to battle hard against eachother. Obviously kicking off the road trip with a win over a division rival would be quite the feather in the cap.