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Center of the Sun: Phoenix Suns win 1 of 4 in a very tough schedule week

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The Suns are now 10-24 for the season but there are signs that it may still be a Happy New Year.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Happy New Year!

And welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

@ Houston Rockets - L (131-115) Full Recap

@ San Antonio Spurs - L (119-98) Full Recap

vs Toronto Raptors - W (99-91) Full Recap

@ Utah Jazz - L (91-86) Full Recap

Well, I didn't think that the Suns would win a single game last week but they surprised me (and perhaps almost every other Suns fan) with a win over the Raptors at home. And the close loss to the Jazz was a little surprising to. The losses to the Rockets and Spurs surprised no one. But probably the biggest surprise of the week was all the court time that Dragan Bender got. It's too bad that Jared Dudley seemed to give up all those minutes for him though as Duds got four DNP-CDs this week.

Not only has Bender been getting more minutes but fellow rookie Tyler Ulis has been seeing a little more time on the court as well. I had thought that around 30 games into the season that Earl Watson might change directions with the team and start to focus on developing the youngsters if the heavy minutes that he had been giving to the vets wasn't paying off in wins and it looks like that is what he's starting to do. It could also be a sign that some trades may be on the way.

Key Stats

21.5 mpg, 7.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 0.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.0 bpg, FG percentage - 54.5%, 3 point percentage - 46.2%

Yes, those are Dragan Bender's averages over the last four games. In those four games Dragan played a total of 86 minutes which works out to be 25.9% of his total minutes played for this season. His FG and 3pt percentages are what are really impressive to me. The kid may need to work on his free throws though. He's only 1-6 for the season (16.7%) and missing 2 of 3 free throws in the Jazz game after being fouled on a three point attempt really made me cringe. It’s a very small sample size but it’s still a little worrisome.

All stats courtesy of ESPN.com and Real GM.

Quote of the Week

"Oh, man, Pop and R.C. and Scott Layden, that group kind of took me in at a time when I was very fragile in my life. My brother had just been murdered. I went to his funeral on a Saturday and came here to meet with the Spurs on Monday. Three days. In the time I was here I could feel it was a special place. I guess you could say I got lucky because I ended up in a place that wasn't about basketball; it was about family and love. And through that entire time I was here they were very supporting of me and my entire family. Very interactive and making sure it was fun being around basketball and the rest is pretty much history. They kind of took me and planted me somewhere else to be a coach. I'm very, very grateful." - Suns coach Earl Watson on his brief time working in the Spurs organization.

Rookie Watch

Marquese Chriss - 17.1 mpg, 7.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg

Dragan Bender - 12.3 mpg, 3.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.5 bpg

Tyler Ulis - 9.2 mpg, 3.2 ppg, 0.6 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.8 spg

All stats courtesy of Real GM.

News & Notes

The Phoenix Suns' young core is on there way to a bright future. Heat Waved/Fansided

Six teams that could use Brandon Knight more than the Suns. CBS Sports

Prospect Calibration: Free Dragan Bender. The Step Back/Fansided

We Are PHX Season of Giving.

Earl Watson is pleased with what he sees in Dragan Bender. Arizona Sports

Ten Questions: Let's Talk About Tanking. Sport Illustrated

This article doesn't actually say anything about the Suns but I thought it was a good one to read for fans of tanking.

Suns Trivia

Here's a statistic that the Suns really have no control over but still ranks them 29th in the NBA. It's opponent free throw percentage. Opposing teams average hitting 78.8% of their free throws against the Suns. Only Portland's opponents average a higher FT percentage (79.6%). Have we just angered the basketball gods in some way?

This Week in Suns History

On January 5, 2004 the Suns traded Penny Hardaway, Stephon Marbury and Cezary Trybanski to the New York Knicks for Howard Eisley, Maciej Lampe, Antonio McDyess, Charlie Ward, the rights to Milos Vujanic and first round draft picks in 2004 and 2010. The Suns later traded away both of the first round picks to Utah which eventually used the 2010 pick to draft Gordon Hayward. Yes, the Suns could have drafted Hayward if they hadn’t traded away that draft pick... or they could have drafted Paul George who the Pacers took one pick later in that draft.

On December 30, 1992 the Suns blasted the Houston Rockets 133-110, going 14-0 for the month (the Suns' best month ever) and improved their record to an NBA-best 21-4. (This one belonged in Last week's CotS but I discovered it just a little too late.)

Previewing the Week Ahead

Monday, January 2nd @ LA Clippers (22-14)

Tuesday, January 3rd vs Miami Heat (10-24)

Thursday, January 5th @ Dallas Mavericks (10-24)

Sunday January 8th vs Cleveland Cavaliers (25-7)

Another four games this week - two on the road and two at home - with two winnable games sandwiched between one probable loss and one certain loss.

On Monday the Suns take on the Clippers in LaLa land. The Clips have been having more than their share of injury problems lately so the Suns might actually have a shot at a win in this one depending on who is still out on game night. Blake Griffin is definitely out after having arthroscopic surgery on his knee a couple of weeks ago and Chris Paul missed their Saturday night loss to OKC. If they both are out for this game too then I give the Suns a 50-50 chance at a win.

On Tuesday the Suns come home for a game against the equally woeful Miami Heat. The Heat, like the Suns, are 10-24 on the season and are just not playing good basketball. Hassan Whiteside is having a great season though (17.3 ppg, 14.4 rpg, 2.3 bpg) and former Suns Goran Dragic is also having a very good season (18.8 ppg, 6.7 apg, 40.8% 3 point shooting) so the Suns can't take them lightly... well, the Suns can't afford to take any team lightly but especially not a team that they have a good chance at beating on their home court. I give the Suns a 60% chance of winning this game.

Thursday night the Suns head to Dallas to play a Mavericks team that also presently shares a 10-24 record with the Suns. They finally have Dirk Nowitzki back in the lineup and the Mavs have gone 2-2 in the four games that he's played in. He hasn't played a lot of minutes in any of those games but just having him back in the rotation makes the Mavs a more dangerous team to play. I give the suns only a 40% chance of winning this one since it's in Dallas.

And then after a couple of days off the Suns will face the Cleveland Cavaliers at home. Unless the Cavs decide to rest everyone that night and bring in their D-league affiliate team the Canton Charge to play for them it's safe to assume that this one will be a loss.

It might sound crazy but I think that the Suns have a fairly good shot at winning 3 of the 4 games this week and I would be disappointed if they don't get at least 2 wins.

How do you think the Suns will fare this week... or this new year?