Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
When: 2PM AZ time
TV: Fox Sports AZ, NBA League Pass
Radio: AZ Sports 98.7 FM featuring Al McCoy. Shazam!
After two months which were sponsored by the letter "L", our Suns are relatively hot now. If you shrink the sample size down to tiny, favorable levels, the Suns have won 2 of their last 4 games. More importantly, the youngsters who give us hope for the future, Devin Booker and Alex Len, have flashed star potential, each posting 30+ point games in the past week.
When these two teams last met, the Suns won 111-106 in Phoenix. This historically awful Suns team beat their frequent tormentors. Yeah, that really happened, as Len went for 22 and 16 on 7-11 shooting. The Grizz are missing leading scorer Marc Gasol, out for the season with a foot injury, but they're still a strong team at 37-24 and have gone 7-2 since Gasol went down. One of those losses was to the Suns.
What is required for another Suns win over the current 5 seed in the West? Well, a combination of Suns D and poor Grizz offense caused them to shoot 40% last time out, and the Suns outrebounded them 56-34 as twin towers Len and Tyson Chandler owned the boards with a combined 28. Maybe the Suns have cracked the Grizzlies code with two 7 footers in the lineup?
PG: Ronnie Price vs. Mike Conley
SG: Devin Booker vs. P.J. Hairston
SF: P.J. Tucker vs. Matt Barnes
PF: Alex Len vs. Zach Randolph
C: Tyson Chandler vs. Chris Andersen
The Grizzlies roster also includes former Suns fan favorites Brandan Wright (injured) and Vince Carter.
Wet Blanket Alert!
Alex Len has been putting up some gaudy numbers lately, culminating with a 31 point, 15 rebound performance in the Suns last outing, a win in Orlando. Far be it from me to rain on anybody's parade, but part of the reason for Len's huge increase in productivity is simply opportunity and usage.
The Suns don't have many offensive options, so are going to Len much more than usual. He's responded, but also posted games of 5-16, 5-15 and 4-14 shooting in his recent scoring outbursts. Teams don't win many games when a go-to scorer is that inefficient.
Good news is that Len is getting to the line more, showing a bit more consistency with his mid-range jumper, and rebounding like a madman. Plenty of reasons for hope, but let's tap the brakes on a player filling the stats sheet on a losing team.
The subject of tanking has been hot among Suns fans witnessing this season. Let's get it straight: This Suns team is NOT tanking. We can define tanking as either actively trying to lose, or putting forth less than full effort to win. Either way, these Suns don't fit the bill. They're genuinely this bad, a team hapless enough to finish third worst in the league without trying to be.
When the season began, the stated objective was to make the playoffs. Early on, this looked like a reasonable goal until they hit a rough patch. Then Eric Bledsoe went down to injury, then Brandon Knight, then T.J. Warren. The current Suns don't stand much chance to be competitive on a regular basis no matter who and how they play.
Interim coach Earl Watson is auditioning for the permanent head coaching job, or a gig coaching another team. Youngsters such as Len, Booker and Archie Goodwin are fighting to show they belong in the team's rotation going forward.
Fringe players are working to show they belong in the league. Vets like Tucker and Price are playing their asses off because they don't know any other way to be. You think any of them are trying to lose, or don't care about competing hard? Nope, false. No way.
Lack of effort isn't a problem. My sources even tell me the folks manning the nachos concession stands continue to work hard, and the cheese is as fresh and hot as it was during the Seven Seconds or Less days, despite Charles Barkley's claims otherwise.
Still, the team is sometimes painful to watch, regularly losing by double figures. Will they be relevant in the foreseeable future? Eh, maybe. I don't know.
But we are fans and they're our team, so here we are. Go, Suns!