What: Phoenix Suns (19-51) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (15-55)
When: Tonight, March 23rd. 7:00pm AZ time
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, AZ
TV: Fox Sport Arizona/NBA TV
Radio: 98.7 FM ArizonaSports
The Phoenix Suns have been playing a little better lately, recently winning four of the last ten games, and narrowly losing their last game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.The Suns have been competitive recently due in part to the return of Brandon Knight, along with the continued development of Devin Booker (and sometimes Alex Len), plus the hot shooting of Mirza Teletovic. This could be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective.
The Suns are still neck-and-neck with the Brooklyn Nets for third/fourth pre-lottery slotting. And while they also have a chance of surpassing the Lakers who are currently four games behind them (three if the Suns lose tonight) for the second worst record in the league, the Minnesota Timberwolves who currently hold the fifth worst record are only three games ahead of the Suns with 12 games still to play, including a head-to-head match-up that could make things interesting.
With all of this in mind, I must admit that I myself am a bit conflicted about this game.
On the one hand, wins are ultimately meaningless for the Suns at this point in the season. Sure, you certainly want the young guys to compete and continue developing so that they will be better prepared to help the team in the future...when it will actually matter.
But on the other hand, you don't want the Suns to lessen their chances of getting one of the top-two picks in this year's draft, for reasons that Kellan and I have detailed prior. Even if they can't catch...err...fall to the Lakers, if they can at least keep the third slot, they will have a 31% chance of landing one of the top two picks. That drops to 25% if they land in the fourth slot, and only 19% if they fall to the fifth. So there is definite reason to hope for the best...which is actually the worst, right now.
Going back to the other hand though, this isn't just any game. This will be the Suns last match-up against one of the greatest nemeses in franchise history. This is Kobe Bryant's Phoenix farewell.
If you didn't know, Kobe reserves a special place in his cold, black heart for the Suns. As reported by Paul Coro, back in 2012 when the Lakers were on top and the Suns had already fallen from grace, Kobe still appeared to mark his calendar whenever a game against Phoenix showed up. "They used to whip us pretty good and used to let us know about it," he said, "and I. Will. Not. Forget. That".
So, if Kobe ends up playing, and he likely will since he played against Memphis last night, scoring 20 points...maybe they should try to send Mr. Bryant off with one more "L" courtesy of the good folks in Phoenix?
I mean, it's for a good cause, right?
Probable Starting Lineups
Brandon Knight vs. D'Angelo Russell / Lou Williams
Devin Booker vs. Jordan Clarkson
P.J. Tucker vs. Kobe Bryant
Alex Len vs. Julius Randle
Tyson Chandler vs. Roy Hibbert
*Tyson Chandler left the game at halftime versus Memphis on Monday night with back spasms. There has been no word yet on the severity or if he is going to play or not. If he can't go, expect either Jon Leur or Mirza to start at power forward while Alex Len slides over to center. As for the Lakers, D'Angelo Russell left last night's game with a shin bruise and is questionable for L.A. tonight.
There are so many variables going into tonight's game, that this is an especially tough one to call. This match-up features two of the league's worst teams who both have some promising young talent, along with a long-standing rivalry between both franchises and fans in the stands alike.
Add Kobe's farewell performance into the mix, and just about anything could happen.
Word on the street is that the Suns have a special sendoff planned for Kobe Bean Bryant that they will play on the big screen between the first and second quarter. And while I'm sure it won't be nearly as powerful or as emotional for the fans as the Nash tribute upon his return to the valley wearing the wrong colored jersey, I expect it will be moving, one way or another.
Tonight we will bid farewell to a player who is simultaneously one of the most hated and loved, while universally being recognized as one of the greats.
Either way it goes tonight, this should be a game to watch.
Suns win 105-93