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Center of the Sun: Suns finish Week 1 at 1-1 after winning season opener

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They now face a tough Week 2 schedule with four games in seven days.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

vs Dallas Mavericks W (121-100) Full Recap

@ Denver Nuggets L (119-91) Full Recap

Last week I said that this season might turn into a bumpy roller coaster ride and I think there’s still no better description than that for their first week of regular season play. A 21 point win followed by a 28 point loss and a full 30 point difference between the points scored by the Suns in the two games is a ride I’d rather not be on but such has been the life of a Suns fan for far too long.

But this season still just feels different. The big loss to the Nuggets was unpleasant but not totally unexpected. The win against the Mavericks was somewhat unexpected though as many considered the Mavs to be at least a slightly better team. ESPN’s preseason power rankings had Dallas ranked 19th and the Suns way down at 28th. The Suns are still not good but I believe they are better than expected and certainly headed in the right direction.

I’ll admit that I’ve secretly hoped for another Cinderella season like 2013-14 and in my wildest dreams have even hoped for a rebirth of the “Sunderella Suns” of 1975-76. I don’t expect either to happen this year but dreams - both large and small - are probably all that have kept us following the Suns in recent years.

This season, the Suns seem to have a good mix of talented vets and youngsters in addition to a well respected - although unproven - new head coach. No one seems to be “gifted” minutes as they were in the past. ”Potential” no longer gets you into games, performance does.

As this season goes on, hopefully we will see a corner turned at some point. Things will finally start to come together and the lows will be fewer and farther apart and the high points will become expectations rather than surprises.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Three questions for the Fantable this week and a slightly different format for their responses.

1. Were you surprised at how well Devin Booker played in his first game back?

GuarGuar: I’m not surprised at how well Book played in his first game back. It’s who he is and he shows up every time the odds are against him. So no, it doesn’t surprise me he dominated when nobody expected him too. It is pretty wild though that his most efficient game of his career came after rushing himself back from surgery on his SHOOTING HAND. But that’s Book. And even though it doesn’t surprise me, I find myself enjoying his incredible games more and more each time.

Sun-Arc: Not really. There were a few games last season that convinced me that Booker is just plain elite on offense. Also seeing how he was practicing with the brace during training camp made me think he was ready. Lastly, based on what he said at the end of last season I think he’s really driven to do everything he can to win every game he can.

And what a great example for Deandre Ayton to work with. Between Trevor Ariza in his ear all game long, Booker’s determination, and Ayton’s amazing skill level out of the gate, these guys just might make some noise.

SDKyle: Nothing Devin Booker achieves can surprise me at this point. I was pleased at how well he came out of the gate, but he’s shown time and again that he’s got the skills and competitiveness to get the job done.

What did surprise me a bit is how often he looked to attack the basket rather than shoot jumpshots. Given his skills as a shooter I think its a fine line for him to walk at times, but he’s doing it well right now.

SouthernSun: I was not surprised. Devin Booker is a killer and when he’s focused and locked in he can be an amazing player. As we saw on Saturday night he can be pretty lackluster on defense though... hopefully Igor Kokoskov can turn that around.

Alex Sylvester: Yes and no. Yes for the fact that he hadn’t even gotten a preseason game in so to come off an injury and immediately show out was incredibly impressive.

No because Devin Booker is very good at the sport of basketball.

2. What are your first impressions of Igor Kokoskov’s player rotations and substitution patterns?

GuarGuar: I think Igor’s rotations were pretty solid opening night. We didn’t get a full look because Devin got in foul trouble in the 3rd quarter. But it seems like Ayton will play multiple shorter stints to keep a high energy level from him. Book’s minutes have seemed fine. Closing out games with Book/JJ/Ariza/Anderson/Ayton is optimal and I’m very happy with it. As long as Josh Jackson stays within himself that lineup should be lethal most nights. I’m not surprised Bridges didn’t see any time because we have such a log jam at the wing position. If this team is truly about winning now, it’s probably more optimal to let TJ and JJ go 25-28 minutes (especially if they are playing well) rather than low 20s to get Mikal Bridges a little playing time. The only way I can see us getting Bridges solid minutes is if we start JJ and make Isaiah Canaan the backup pg.

Sun-Arc: I haven’t seen enough to really know how I feel about rotations and substitutions. Though I did like how he rested Ayton by playing him in short stints and then pulling him out. I was surprised how well playing TJ and JJ together worked out - but not convinced it will look good every game. I also liked the closing line up of Booker, JJ, Ariza, Anderson, and Ayton - even though Ryan wasn’t having a good game - he at least understood the sets.

SDKyle: It definitely seems that the rotations are a work in progress, which is to be expected for a coach through two games. He seems to be using a lot of his bench, as we’ve seen guys come in to spell starters for short bursts and we’ve seen some fairly significant minutes for Tyson Chandler.

I think it’s hard to judge the rotations and subs too much at this point, though, because neither game so far was close in the closing minutes. Some of these moves were just garbage time stuff.

SouthernSun: I enjoyed Igor’s rotations in the first game. Not as much in the second game. But then again I guess it’s kind of hard to like your rotations when every one of your lineups is getting killed. Igor put his best lineup out there from the other night and they got massacred Saturday night. Apparently Bridges deserves more minutes. He looked good. He’s probably lucky that Troy Daniels had a concussion so he could come in and show what he can do. Ariza was fine Saturday. He had an off shooting game. Not worried about him. I still think he plays 30 mpg this season. I’m still waiting for Ryan Anderson’s break out game.

Alex Sylvester: Its similar to what I thought it’d look like! Jackson and Warren still got a healthy amount of minutes off the bench, Anderson started but didn’t play a lot of minutes, and a good amount of SF minutes being used. I appreciate Ayton and Booker not playing a crazy amount of minutes, it should be important to keep them healthy throughout the year.

3. If the Suns were in the Eastern Conference instead of the West, how would that change the number of expected wins this team could get this season and could they make the playoffs in the East?

GuarGuar: Playing the Magic, Hawks, Nets, Knicks, and Bulls 4 times a year sounds like a luxury. I would honestly EXPECT us to make the playoffs and hover around .500 if we were in the East. I feel like every team in the West except Sacramento would be a playoff contender in the eastern conference. Their “mediocre” teams are like Charlotte while ours are the Spurs. The overall talent level in the West is just so much better. There’s 14 legit teams in this conference. It’s a blood bath and every win is so valuable. It’s a shame 1-16 playoff seeding won’t happen anytime soon.

Sun-Arc: Too early to tell with this team. After one game against the Mavs, who looked worse than I thought they would (also missing a pretty good player in Harrison Barnes) is not an adequate test. And I think the Suns will improve as time goes on and the young guys get the schemes. So I don’t feel comfortable answering this question. But, uncomfortably, I’d say, HELL YEAH! We’d make the playoffs in the L’eastern conference, and probably a 4th seed! Lol

SDKyle: I actually think the narrative of the East and West being SO FAR APART gets overblown. The Celtics and Sixers are pretty good. The Raptors are pretty decent. The Bucks are good. Detroit, Indiana...none of these teams are pushovers until you get to the very bottom.

I think the Suns might be good for a couple of extra wins in the East...maybe around five. I don’t know yet how good this team is. Are they a 30 win team in the West? 35? 25? I’m not sure. I think their chances of making the playoffs would probably be a bit improved in the East, but I wouldn’t bet my house on it the morning after a blowout loss to the Nuggets.

SouthernSun: I think if the Suns were in the East they’d win around 40-45 games and be a 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs this season. Yay West. God the West is brutal.

Alex Sylvester: I truly believe this group of talent is a 7 seed in the East.

The two common teams I see pinned to the 7/8 seed this year in the East are Detroit and Charlotte.

Are the Suns more talented than those squads? I’d say so.

I think you’d be looking at a 43-45 win team based off the decrease in quality teams the Suns would have to play.

I don’t think it’s too bold of a take to say that the Suns could sniff 40 wins this year if they continue to display the type of ball movement and floor spacing they showed Wednesday night.

As always, many thanks to our Fantable - GuarGuar, SDKyle, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex Sylvester - for all their input!


Key Stats

54.3% vs 37.7% FG% and 55.9% vs 28.2% 3P%

The difference in those percentages pretty much tells the story of why the Suns won their first game against Dallas by 21 points and then lost their second against Denver by 28. While virtually no one thought that the high percentages (especially in three point shooting) from the Dallas game would persist, the large drops in game 2 are very disappointing.

Weekly Book Report

34.9 mpg, 30.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 7.0 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 4.5 TO, 3.5 PF

50% FG%, 43.8% 3P%, 82.6 FT%

Two games into the season, Booker is 6th in the NBA in points per game (30), 2nd in free throw attempts per game (11.5) and tied for 13th in assists per game (7). On the down side, he’s also 6th in turnovers (4.5).

Random Stats: T.J. Warren leads the Suns in three point percentage at 55.6% on 4.5 three point attempts per game. The Suns lead the NBA in Assist Percentage (75.3%), are 2nd in Assist Ratio (20.4) and 10th in Assist to Turnover Ratio (1.77). The Suns are 29th in Pace (99.25).

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and/or Basketball-Reference.com.


Game Highlights

Dallas Mavericks vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 10.17.2018, NBA Season

Devin Booker & Deandre Ayton 53 Pts Combined 2018.10.17 vs Mavs - 35 For D-Book!

Phoenix Suns vs Denver Nuggets Full Game Highlights | 10.20.2018, NBA Season


Quotes of the Week

”Sometimes we judge about a player’s performance whether they make shots or miss shots, but he (Mikal Bridges) did more. I think the whole staff was pleased that he showed presence on the court and made some shots.” - Igor Kokoskov after the Denver game

”We talked earlier in (the) preseason about protecting our home court this year and I think our fans deserve that. So every time we play at home I feel like it’s going to be a show and we’re going to try to protect our home ground.” - Devin Booker


Rookie Report

Deandre Ayron - 29.5 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.0 TO, 3.5 PF

Mikal Bridges - 7.5 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 PF

Elie Okobo - 5.6 mpg, 1.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.5 TO, 1.0 PF

De’Anthony Melton - DNP - Inactive

George King - DNP - Inactive

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


News & Notes

Mikal Bridges is Bright Spot in Suns Loss to Nuggets. Suns.com

Phoenix Suns rookie Deandre Ayton scores and rebounds, but more importantly he entertains. Brinkwire

Suns’ Devin Booker: There’s new energy in locker room, arena. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

Phoenix Suns: 3 goals for Devin Booker in 2018-19. Gerald Bourguet/Hoops Habit

Can Josh Jackson Make The Leap? The Ringer (Video below)


This Week in Suns History

On October 22, 1976, twin brothers Tom and Dick Van Arsdale played together in a game for the Phoenix Suns, becoming the first pair of twins to play for the same NBA club. The Suns ended up losing the game 111-98 to the New Orleans Jazz.


Interesting Suns Stuff


Previewing the Week Ahead

October 22 - Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors, 7:30 pm AZT

October 24 - Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers, 7:00 pm AZT

October 27 - Phoenix Suns @ Memphis Grizzlies, 5:00 pm AZT

October 28 - Phoenix Suns @ Oklahoma City Thunder, 4:00 pm AZT

Four games this week with three on the road including the Suns’ first back-to-back of the season.

Tonight the Suns will try to recreate whatever magic they had two weeks ago in their preseason win against the Warriors. I doubt that happens and I’m calling this game a loss for the Suns.

On Wednesday, the Suns face off with the Lakers in their lone home game of the week. The Lakers have lost their first two games of the season but those losses were to Portland and Houston, two of the West’s top tier teams. As much as I would like to predict a win for the Suns, I can’t. If Rondo and Ingram wind up with suspensions that include this game, then I like the Suns’ odds a little better but there’s been no word yet from the NBA on the consequences from the brawl in the Lakers/Rockets game.

The Suns get two days off before heading east to Memphis for the first of their back-to-back games. This one looks like a pretty even match. The 1-1 Grizzlies lost one game by 28 points to a superior Pacers squad and then got a 14 point win against a weak Hawks team. They lost starting PF JaMychal Green who suffered a fractured jaw in the 3rd quarter of the Hawks game but rookie backup Jaren Jackson Jr is playing very well and could pose more of a problem for the Suns. I’m still giving the edge to the Suns and calling this one a win.

After what should be a thankfully short flight, the Suns take on the Thunder in OKC on the following day. Russell Westbrook sat out the Thunder’s first two losses to the Warriors and the Clippers following offseason knee surgery but will be back before this game. As this is the second night of a back-to-back for the Suns and the Thunder will have two days off before this game, I don’t think the Suns have much of a chance.

This week I think the Suns will go 1-3... with another possible win against LA (depending largely on the possible suspensions of Rondo and Ingram).

What’s your prediction?


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was “Signing Jamal Crawford would be...”

37% - A good move.

16% - A bad move.

47% - Just rearranging deck chairs.

There were a total of 312 votes cast.


This week’s poll is about Mikal Bridges.

In just 15 minutes against Denver, his stats were 10 pts, 4 rebs, 2 assists and 2 steals while shooting 50% (2/4) from three. It was just one game but...

Poll

How many rotation minutes should Bridges be getting?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    He needs more than one good game to prove himself. 10-15 minutes a game is good for now.
    (162 votes)
  • 37%
    He should be getting at least 20 minutes a game.
    (96 votes)
258 votes total Vote Now