The Good Guys: The Phoenix Suns, last seen counting down the days until summer vacation
The Bad Guys: The Los Angeles Lakers, last seen counting down the days until summer vacation
Where: The Staples Center, which is home to two professional basketball teams with water-themed names
When: 7:30 PM Arizona Time
The Tube: Fox Sports AZ
The Suns reminded us of two things last night: concerns that the tank had been prematurely ended were greatly exaggerated, and this team is still historically bad at basketball. Oh, and Devin Booker is the youngest player in the NBA. And Brandon Knight is perhaps the streakiest player in the NBA. And Chase Budinger at this stage in his career is worth exactly 7 minutes and 23 seconds of playing time on a bottom-feeding team. And the attendance in Utah was 18,784.
Okay, so I skipped the game last night and am just now reading the box score. But it's probably safe to glean that since Devin wasn't even the highest-scoring Booker of the game (that would be Trevor with 8 points to Devin's 7), it might be prudent for us all to treat him more like a 19-year-old kid and not task him with putting the entire organization on his back just yet.
As for his backcourt-mate, Knight's explosion in Oakland last weekend has been followed by a pair of equally emphatic duds as he has shot 9-34 in his last two games. Also troubling, he has shot a grand total of 7 freethrows in his 4 games since returning from injury.
The good news is that with 892 points versus 791 field goal attempts on the season, he isn't in any danger of going full Beasley and registering fewer points than shots from the field -- but it's close enough for me to mention it and it's still jarring how inefficiently he has scored as a Sun given Ryan McDonough's fading reputation as an analytics guru.
We all saw what Knight is capable of during the early stages of the season, when he was putting up trip dubs and 30-point games every other night. It remains imperative for the Suns to figure out how to coax those performances out of him again.
While Los Angeles' other team has mainly been known for devoting an entire season to letting ancient relic Kobe Bryant do whatever he wants one last time, there is a nucleus of youth here that could do some serious damage once the Blackened Mamba finally exits stage left and takes Bumbling Byron Scott with him.
D'Angelo Russell will ostensibly be leading the charge from next year on out unless the brass puts some other Byron Scott-shaped obstruction in his path, and while he has struggled with consistency (because he's a rookie), the kid has some serious basketball chops and has put up at least 20 points in 7 of his last 12 outings since being reinstated into the starting lineup (yes, Scott actually removed him from the starting lineup), including a 39-point outburst* that gets tagged with an asterisk for coming against the Nets.
He has shot only a combined 7-25 for 20 points in his two matchups with Phoenix, but they haven't seen him since January 3.
|Phoenix Suns||Los Angeles Lakers|
|G||Brandon Knight||D'Angelo Russell|
|G||Devin Booker||Jordan Clarkson|
|F||P.J. Tucker||Kobe Bryant (questionable)|
|F||Alex Len||Julius Randle|
|C||Tyson Chandler||Roy Hibbert|
If Bryant can't go, expect Metta World Peace to take his spot. No, really.
Look for a big game from Len as he goes up against a much smaller Randle, but also beware of a big game from Randle as he goes up against a much slower Len.
Bryant plays and Booker drops 30 on him. Please let this happen.