The Phoenix Suns are playing terrible basketball over the past month, going 2-13 since mid-December after a middling-to-promising start. And now they face a growing number of injuries killing any chance of recovery, with Eric Bledsoe (knee), Alex Len (hand) and Ronnie Price (toe) all missing time.
But the Ridiculous Revenge Tour trucks on to Boston, where the Suns face yet another one of last year's patsies in Isaiah Thomas. Thomas will once again want to prove to Suns brass and coaches that he deserved better than being dumped, just like Marcus Morris, Goran Dragic and Gerald Green did.
Doesn't it seem like nearly every NBA team has a former Sun that wants to stick it to the owner?
For today, let's just focus on LAST YEAR'S Suns players who want revenge. We won't harp on Ish Smith becoming a triple-double threat every time he sees the Suns, or anyone else from prior seasons. I don't have the time to cover all that today.
Luckily, some of last year's Suns are out of the league or at the very least out of their new team's playing rotation, so they won't get a chance to drop 20 on the Suns. That ignominious list includes Earl Barron, Reggie Bullock, Seth Curry, Zoran Dragic, Tyler Ennis, Jerel McNeal, Miles Plumlee, A.J. Price and Shavlik Randolph (boy, that's a poo-poo platter isn't it?). Another is injured (Brandan Wright). Others are just barely hanging on (Marcus Thornton, Anthony Tolliver).
But at least four core players from last year's Suns team alone have had their way with their former franchise in head-to-head matchups.
Last week, Goran came back to Phoenix for the first time since the Big Meltdown, and he did not disappoint.
Coming into the game against the Suns, Dragic had scored 20 or more points in a game just twice this season. He was shooting less than 50% overall, including 29% on threes and had season averages of 11 points per game and 6 assists. Several articles have been written about Goran not yet finding his comfort level with the Heat, and his statistics bear that concern out.
But against the Suns last Friday, he made 53% of his shots, including 60% of his threes and finished with 22 points and 7 assists.
Since that game, he has scored 30 total points in two Heat losses, then strained his calf and will miss some time.
In that same game, Gerald Green made his return to the Suns. Green had a roller-coaster experience with the Suns, first lauding the team for giving him his career back and his coach for letting him shine brighter than he ever had in the NBA. Then just a year later, his inconsistency and antics got him sent to the bench and eventually left him begging for another NBA job last summer.
He hooked on with Miami and has reprised his scorer-off-the-bench role, putting up uncannily identical numbers to last season - 41% shooting overall, 35% on threes, 11.9 points per game, 2.7 rebounds, jacking up 10 shots a game on 27 minutes. The only difference being in Phoenix he got his 10 shots per game up in 8 fewer minutes. He still has not approached his performance in 2013-14 for the Suns.
Coming into the game against the Suns, Green had made only 4 of his last 14 shots for 12 points across two games.
But Green was ready for Phoenix. He stared down either the Suns coaches or the Suns owner, depending on which side of the floor he was on when he made a shot.
Against the Suns, he made 7 of 11 shots, including 2 of 5 threes, for 21 big points.
Note: Miami has gone 0-3 since the Suns game.
Marcus Morris has been the ringleader of the circus atmosphere around the Suns from a national perspective, and I'm sure he couldn't be happier about that. He's like the heart broken lover who bombards his friends with constant "I don't miss her! I didn't even like her!" while they agree with him to his face but roll their eyes and laugh behind his back.
Marcus is playing big minutes in Detroit - good for him! - as Stan Van Gundy basically runs his best five players out there as many minutes as possible. While Morris is putting career-high per-game numbers across the board, he's actually playing worse per-minute than he ever did for the Suns. So when he says the Suns held him back, I guess he's only referring to minutes rather than efficiency and effectiveness.
For Detroit this season, Marcus is making 41% of his shots, including 31% of his threes for 13.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in a whopping 36 minutes per game.
But like Green and Goran, against the Suns he's been at his best. He made 60% of his shots, 565% on threes for averages of 22 points and 11 rebounds in two Detroit wins.
Tonight, Isaiah Thomas gets to extract revenge on his own court in Boston, where they love the pint-sized point guard and he loves them back. "All I want is to be wanted".
Of all of last year's former Suns, IT is the ONE who is playing better for his new team than he ever played for the Suns or any former employer. I bolded Dragic, Green and Morris' numbers to show that they've not been as good since leaving Phoenix but were able to lay the wood to the Suns.
But Thomas is the one who's been phenomenal. And frankly, if you ask me whether the Suns should consider trading their late first-round pick to Boston to grab a 21/7 guy to run the team the rest of this season and beyond, and then you tell me he's only 26 and on a great contract, I'd have to say "sign me up!".
But alas, Thomas is exactly what we thought he was, and that was pretty damn good. Sure, he was a bad fit coming off the bench in Phoenix behind two guy who needed 35+ minutes per game on their own. And sure, he griped and grumbled a little much to national writers about it. And sure, he didn't give the Suns time to figure it all out.
But ultimately, Thomas was and is a very good player. Brandon Knight might have a higher NBA ceiling, but Thomas has already reached a ceiling that is current higher than Knight's.
Thomas is the Celtics' starting point guard this year, and putting up career highs in points (21.6 per game), assists (6.7) and steals (1.3). His shooting percentages are down (47% overall, 33% on threes) as he carries the offensive load for the Celts, but he's their leader and has them in playoff position once again.
Thomas has already had a chance to avenge his demise in Phoenix, putting up 21 points and 7 assists in just 27 minutes off the bench in a Boston win in February where he made the game-winner (after flubbing some end-of-games for the Suns earlier in the year).
The Suns will continue to face spurned players the rest of this year. They see the Sixers again soon as Ish Smith tries to got 4-0 against the Suns this year alone. They see Robin Lopez's Knick soon too. They get Marcus Thornton's Rockets a couple of times in early February, as well as the Suns-west Warriors.
Then there's Matt Barnes' Grizzlies and another game against the Heat right after the trade deadline. By then, who knows how many more spurned former Suns will be licking their chops at a chance to avenge their ouster. Markieff Morris? Archie Goodwin? Who else?
But that's a story for another day.
For tonight, give Isaiah Thomas a bit of virtual love as he bites back at the Suns to try to lead his Celtics to victory.