Remember when the Phoenix Suns were a good team? You might get a glimpse of that tonight against New York Knicks, who appear to be embracing the tank mode more than most teams east or west of Philly.
The Knicks were pasted last night by Golden State, who scored 85 points in the second and third quarters alone. But at least Suns fans will get a chance to "Louuuuuuuuuu" tonight when bike-riding favorite sun Louis Amundson returns to the valley as a... you're not going to believe this... STARTER for the lowly Knicks. Good for Lou! And good for Suns fans who will get a great chance to "louuuuuu" when the starting lineups are announced.
Meanwhile, the Suns need to take care of business and get the win before seeing 12 of their final 14 opponents with a winning record on the season, with one of the other two games against surging Utah. Could be an ugly season finish.
- What: Phoenix Suns vs. New York Knicks
- Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona
- When: 6:00 PM - on hour earlier than usual
- TV: FoxSports Arizona, NBA-TV
- Radio: ArizonaSports 98.7 FM
Besides Louuuuuu, who on the Knicks is interesting for a Suns fan? Carmelo Anthony took his All-Star jersey and is out for the year with a knee issue. Kid-n-Play's Iman Shumpert and kray-kray J.R. Smith were traded to Cleveland for a bad of beans. Amare Stoudemire was sent to Dallas.
This team is bad, just like they want to be. Well, at least what they've wanted to be since they started the year playing so bad. Now, it's on to the off season.
"We know what the first-round pick is going to mean for us, but we also know we're going to build our team with free agents," Jackson said Thursday morning after the Knicks held shootaround at UCLA before their 101-94 win against the Los Angeles Lakers. "A hundred and ninety players or so are going to be free agents. Not half the league, but like a third of the league is going to be free agents. So that's where our priority stands."
Yep, because when you're starting Langston Galloway and Alexey Shved in the back court, there are several dozens of NBA players that are better options who will be available for the right money this summer.
Jackson doesn't want a rebuild through the draft because that could take years. But a rebuild solely through free agency is a road that's just as hard to sustain. You're paying free agents the market rate, while kids are cheap.
The league's two biggest markets - Knicks and Lakers - will have top draft picks this summer (while the Lakers also have Randle) and money to spend. The key is, of course, getting players to sign.
"It's not about who is going to have to have the most money anymore," Jackson said. "That playing field has pretty much evened out, especially with the amount of money that's coming into the league. It's going to be whose attractive enough to get the people they want to play their style of play. The way they're doing it. So establishing how you want to play basketball is important. And there's only a few teams in this league that can say this is our definitive way that we want to play. We want to be one of those teams. So we have eyesight on who can play in our system and who wants to play."
New York and Los Angeles have the real estate part down - location, location, location - but what system are they running that players will love? The Knicks are trying the triangle, which is not in vogue in the least. And the Lakers are running whatever Byron Scott calls an offense. Will players flock to that?
Check out more on the Knicks at our SB Nation brother site Posting and Toasting
Speaking of having an identity, the Suns appear to have lost theirs just as quickly as they gained it. The Suns feature one of the league's more efficient offensive schemes, but are mired in the muck of vanilla/ugly execution by inexperienced playmakers. Their recent struggles hide a scheme that free agents should flock to join. But what is the Suns plan? How exactly are the Suns going to move forward? That's the question.
Unfortunately, two of the Suns better players are out for this game with ankle injuries - Alex Len and Brandon Knight.
In their place, we should see more of the Suns young players getting action. Archie Goodwin had his best pro game, IMO, on Friday night and T.J. Warren had his own best last Wednesday. I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do against the lowly Knicks.
Another positive development is that the Suns will wear their kick-ass gray uniforms tonight. They are 1-0 this season in those unis (the other a win two weeks ago over the Thunder), so they should be able to remain undefeated in them tonight.
This is a total guess. With Len out, the Suns could start Barron, but they could also shift Markieff to center, Marcus to power forward, leave P.J. at small forward and give someone else a start.
Out on a limb
I suggest you watch this game tonight, as it might be the last time this season you see a comfortable win at home.
Suns by 20.