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Center of the Sun: Suns break seven game losing streak and go 1-2 in Week 3

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The Suns looked good in the last two games but can they continue to improve?

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

vs San Antonio Spurs L (120-90) Full Recap

vs Toronto Raptors L (107-98) Full Recap

vs Memphis Grizzlies W (102-100) Full Recap

Thankfully, Devin Booker has returned from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for three games. That had an immediate impact on the team play. Even though the Toronto game was a loss, it was much more competitive than many of the previous losses. And Sunday night the Suns broke their seven game losing streak with a thrilling two point win against Memphis.

This team is looking like they may be starting to put it all together but it’s still too soon to say for sure. Hopefully, in Week 4 they will continue this upward trajectory.

The Suns also made some changes during the past week including moving T.J. Warren into the starting lineup for Ryan Anderson and buying out Tyson Chandler’s contract. Most fans applauded Warren’s move back into the starting five but it was almost a necessity with Booker out and Josh Jackson’s erratic play in his stead... not to mention Ryan Anderson’s lack of production. I’m happy for T.J. but also wondering if it will last.

Warren played very well as the Suns’ 6th man and moving him out of that role leaves an already weak bench even weaker in the scoring department. More minutes for Mikal Bridges could be the answer. So far his shooting has been somewhat inconsistent but he seems to be growing more comfortable on the court game by game. Elie Okobo also seems to be coming along and did an admirable job as a starter in the OKC game.

This team still has some obvious weaknesses though and I doubt that any amount of roster juggling by Igor Kokoskov will do solve those problems. A lot of fans - myself included - were hoping that Igor would work some magic with this team but, unfortunately, magic isn’t real. In order to pull a rabbit out of your hat, even the best of magicians have to already have a rabbit to make the trick work. Hard work and time will have to suffice for now.

Speaking of weaknesses, Chandler’s buyout creates an open roster spot that hopefully the Suns can use to bolster the team. I don’t really expect anything to happen quickly but it does allow the Suns to take back at least one more player than they send out in a trade (without having to waive someone) or they now have the option to pick up a player that might be waived/bought out by another team.

While much of this young season has been a disappointment, at least the Suns finished up this week on a high note. Let’s hope that there will be many more in the weeks to come.


Fantable Questions of the Week

1. Other than their win/loss record, what is the most disappointing thing about the Suns so far?

GuarGuar: The defensive effort was been really poor through the first 6 games. We didn’t compete in any of games 2-6 this season. It was nice to finally see some fight Friday against Toronto. Without Book it’s pretty clear we are the worst team in the league. But when Book was out last year we still fought and competed almost every game. What’s really wild is our young players are better defenders than our veterans. Tyson, Jamal, and Ryno have been absolutely atrocious on defense. Nice to see Jamal and Tyson benched in favor of Holmes and Mikal. It’s one thing when another team has more talent or is more experienced. It’s another when they outwork you in every aspect of the game.

Sun-Arc: A spirit of losing resulting in a lack of effort. Though, I’d say the vets underperforming is a close second.

SDKyle: The loss to the Raptors was better, but by far the most disappointing thing this season has been how many times the Suns were basically out of the game by halftime. I can mostly (for now) live with losses like the Raptors game where the Suns fought hard and just fell short against a better team. But these games like the losses to the Spurs and Nuggets are extremely disheartening to see out of a team that is supposedly finished tanking and now working their way back to the upper echelon of the league. At times this season it felt like the tank was back on.

SouthernSun: I know this is me beating the decayed carcass of a long dead horse, but the team not getting a legitimate starting point guard is still what I’m most disappointed in. This team has good complementary players. Ariza, Warren, even Anderson if he had a real point guard setting him up. But nobody on the team can truly orchestrate an offense and bring out the best in these guys. Nobody on the team can consistently get the ball to Ayton. He took ten shots against the Raptors. Ten. Because nobody is capable of getting him the ball. Anderson can be decent if he’s spoon fed open looks. Ariza would look better. Booker would look better. Warren would look better. Even Jackson would look better. A trade needs to happen. John Wall is almost certainly available, and while his contract is awful... it’s not really as bad as it appears. That’s the kind of contract players of his caliber are going to be on for the foreseeable future. Nobody we could presumably use that cap space on next summer is as good as John Wall is. He’s still only 28 years and two months old. He could be our answer at point guard for the next half decade. He’s locked up on a contract. Most of our “core” players are on cheap rookie deals. He would make everyone on this team better.

Go get him.

Alex Sylvester: The fact the Kings are what the Suns are supposed to be. A young, talented group of players who play hard and compete every night while accumulating some good wins once in a while.

2. Some people are already doubting Igor Kokoskov. How do you feel about his coaching so far?

GuarGuar: It’s way too early to judge Igor. This roster isn’t constructed to win to begin with. WE DON’T HAVE A POINT GUARD. That’s a huge position in the NBA, and we don’t have one. It’s really hard to judge our system given we don’t have the right players. The one thing that stands out is his rotations. They were pretty bad the first two weeks, but the past couple games they have improved drastically. We just need to compete and get better. If we show progress throughout the season then Igor’s job is safe.

Sun-Arc: I’m seriously beginning to doubt Igor’s coaching ability. Look at it this way... Last season the Bucks were barely a .500 win team. Budenholzer comes along and they have the best record (7-0 as of Thursday) in the NBA. They’ve blown out three quality opponents along the way too. They have the best record in the NBA, we have the worst (shared).

I watched the Knicks play the Pacers on Halloween and as low as their talent level is at the moment, they were really competitive. Their record stinks- but they appear well coached and motivated under Fizdale.

Dave Joerger has the Kings at 5-2 and 6th in the west (as of Thursday). The F’ing KANGZ! And that is with Bagley having been unimpressive off the bench thus far.

I, for one, believe we have more talent than either of those last two teams. And yet we’ve been blown out in 5 of 7 games thus far. We have the worst differential in the league at -14.7, the second worst points per game at 103.4, and 28th in defensive rating at 115.5 (with the Bulls and Cavs bringing up the rear). We are also 29th in giving up points in the paint. Our transition defense has been atrocious. But our half court defense has also been awful.

All that is to say that for a team with a good coach we sure seem really terrible at the game.

SDKyle: I’ve been as frustrated as anyone by Kokoskov’s weird insistence on giving heavy minutes to the team’s worst players (except Bender), but I still think it’s a bit early to be calling for his head to roll. The way he’s allotted playing time has improved somewhat, and Chandler’s departure can only help that situation further.

I think Kokoskov does have a lot of work to do, though, and I’ll be watching closely for signs of improvement. It’s frustrating that the Suns can’t execute screens effectively and often look completely disorganized and apathetic on defense. But how much of that is just the result of having no real floor general? I suppose...I HOPE time will tell.

SouthernSun: I think he’s still trying to figure out the players on his team and he’s experimenting with rotations. The problem is, most of the players seem to be underperforming, so he’s unable to use some lineups that were assumed to be heavy usage lineups going into the season. He’s trying to implement a motion offense where everybody has to handle the ball a little. Unfortunately our vets are complementary guys who don’t excel at handling the ball, we don’t have a good point guard, and our best ball handlers are a G League quality player and rookies. Yay. Igor is in a tough spot.

It’s pretty funny that some people were pegging this team for 40 wins as is. Perhaps they see what we were talking about now?

Alex Sylvester: It’s hard to coach when your veterans are playing like hot garbage, your star player can’t stay healthy, and you’re playing one of the hardest SOS right out of the gate. I can’t judge Igor for a while.

3. Do you still have any faith/belief that this season will get better as it goes on?

GuarGuar: I absolutely have faith this season will be much better soon. Our schedule to start the season is absolutely brutal. Add onto the fact our best player missed 3 games and this horrible start is expected. What wasn’t expected was the way we lost a bunch of these games, with many of them ending before the 1st half. You look at a team like Sacramento, who started out 6-3, and look at their schedule. They’ve already had an east coast road trip where they played Orlando, Atlanta, Miami, etc. The one bad team we played (Dallas), we dominated. What’s concerning was our lack of effort when Booker was out. That’s what makes a bad team into a horrible one. When healthy this team is too talented to be that horrible. If we keep fighting on both ends of the court I absolutely still think we can be one of the most improved teams. One game at a time. You can’t look at our schedule the next two weeks at once, or you’ll get angina.

Sun-Arc: When we predicted the first half of the season during the summer, I thought we’d be 1-7 for our first eight games and that it would take a little while for us to get our legs under us. But I did not think we’d be this awful. Given what I’ve seen- no I have no faith we’ll get to 30 wins at this point. Booker will make things more watchable, which is better in a way- but not really what I expected.

With Sarver ultimately at the helm, I see no opening for this suck-fest. James Jones is likely the next patsy in a long line of Jack Ruby’s.

(After watching the Toronto game on Friday, and seeing the team play with fight all game long, I am somewhat more hopeful in both Igor’s ability to fire up the players and in the team’s season in general. Too early to tell at the moment, but if they play with that much effort each game they will win significantly more games than with what we saw in games 2-7.)

SDKyle: I have to. I have to. I won’t lie, I’m scared. I’m scared I might be in for 70-something more games of overwhelmingly ugly defeat where we’re forced to pick apart minor bright spots as our only solace. I’m not sure I can last through that again.

SouthernSun: The season will get a little better. I expect the team to trade for a point guard at some point. They have to... right? I think it’s obvious that this team isn’t cutting it, and a change is necessary. The most important and effective change would simply be trading for a starting caliber point guard.

I have faith. Sort of. Please... I can’t take another full season of this.

Alex Sylvester: It has to get better, I know I’m not supposed to say “it can’t get worse”…but seriously, can it? It’s already been incredibly disappointing. I’ve seen a good amount of prideful Suns fans say they’re considering becoming casual fans. To be honest, I can’t blame them one bit. I just want to see them compete. That’s how low the bar is set for me right now.

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


Key Stats

114.0 vs 108.4

That first number is the Suns defensive rating for the season (27th). The second number is their defensive rating for the last two games. That would rank the Suns 15th in the NBA if it were for the entire season.

Weekly Book Report

34.7 mpg, 25.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 6.7 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.2 bpg, 4.8 TO, 3.5 PF

47.2% FG%, 34.8% 3P%, 81.8 FT%

Welcome back, Devin Booker! Book’s FG and 3pt percentages fell in his first two games back from injury but so did his turnovers. In his first 4 games he was averaging 5.5 per game but in the last two that dropped to 3.5.

Random Stats: Isaiah Canaan hit 55.6% of his three point attempts in the last three games on 4.5 attempts per game. His FG percentage for those games is 63.2% on 9.5 attempts per game.

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


Game Highlights

San Antonio Spurs vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | Oct 31, 2018

Toronto Raptors vs Phoenix Suns Full Game Highlights | 11.02.2018

Phoenix Suns vs Memphis Grizzlies Full Game Highlights | Nov 4, 2018


Quotes of the Week

”It’s a little bit of a lot. It’s a combination of things. No one’s out here purposely trying to do or make mistakes. There’s a few things you can do. Watch film, get out on the court and slow down and try to perfect what we’re doing. Once everything becomes second nature, the turnovers will come down as well.” - Trevor Ariza

”It’s a fact we’re trying to play the right way, trying to move the ball. We have to be more precise, more concrete and more efficient.” - Igor Kokoskov


Rookie Report

Deandre Ayron - 32.1 mpg, 16.0 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 3.4 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.9 bpg, 1.8 TO, 2.8 PF

Mikal Bridges - 17.2 mpg, 7.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.9 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.8 TO, 1.8 PF

Elie Okobo - 16.9 mpg, 7.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.1 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.3 TO, 2.7 PF

De’Anthony Melton - 11.2 mpg, 3.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.5 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.0 TO, 2.5 PF

  • NAZ stats - 44 mpg, 16 ppg, 8 rpg, 5 apg, 2 spg, 0 bpg, 3 TO, 4 PF, 14.3% 3PT

George King - Assigned to NAZ Suns

  • NAZ stats - 43 mpg, 22 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 apg, 0 spg, 1 bpg, 5 TO, 4 PF, 40% 3PT

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Bright Side Night Returns!

We are proud to announce the FOURTH annual Bright Side Night, where our community sends deserving and underprivileged children from the Valley to a Phoenix Suns game!

It’s $9 per ticket. No extra fees or charges.

Fill out the one-page form to select the number of tickets you want to donate, and how you’re going to pay.

You will get a confirmation email directly from the Suns about the ticket donation

Click this link to donate: Suns.com/Brightside

And there’s something in it for you too... in addition to the good feeling you’ll get for helping out some deserving kids! For more details, just click on the link above.


News & Notes

Devin Booker’s return means the Phoenix Suns still have a chance to be special. Duane Rankin/Arizona Republic

Suns rookie Deandre Ayton is already one of NBA’s best post scorers. Hoops Hype

Suns release ‘City Edition’ uniform for the 2018-19 season. Danny Shapiro/Arizona Sports

Suns rookies Elie Okobo, Mikal Bridges earning more opportunities. Brinkwire

For Phoenix Suns, more passes don’t mean more production. Kevin Zimmerman/Arizona Sports


This Week in Suns History

On November 10, 1990, the Phoenix Suns routed the Denver Nuggets 173-143 to tie a record held by the 1959 Boston Celtics for the most points scored in a non-overtime game. The Suns had 107 points in the first half, breaking the mark of 90 set by the Nuggets three days earlier in a 161-153 loss to San Antonio. Suns Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons also picked up his 700th career coaching victory, becoming only the seventh coach in the history of the league to reach that mark.


Suns Trivia

Back in 1968, the Suns played their first ever preseason game in Miami, Arizona, a small copper-mining town 80 miles east of Phoenix. The Suns played the Seattle SuperSonics before 2,000 spectators in the town’s high school gym and won 104-99... following a bench-clearing brawl in the game’s final moments.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, November 6 - Phoenix Suns vs Brooklyn Nets, 7:00 pm AZT

Thursday, November 8 - Phoenix Suns vs Boston Celtics, 7:00 pm AZT

Saturday, November 10 - Phoenix Suns @ New Orleans Pelicans, 5:00 pm AZT

Another three games this week with the first two at home before the Suns hit the road again.

First up is a Tuesday night match with the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets are 4-6 with their biggest win so far coming against the 6-5 Philadelphia 76ers. Defensively, the Nets aren’t much better than the Suns (24th vs 28th in DefRtg) but are significantly better offensively (15th vs 29th in OffRtg). This should be a competitive game and - with a healthy Devin Booker - I’m predicting a win for the Suns.

On Thursday, the 6-3 Boston Celtics come to town. The Celtics are the best defensive team in the NBA and allow their opponents an average of only 99.8 points per game. Their offense, however, has not been that good. They are 27th in OffRtg and only average scoring 103.9 ppg which is just slightly above the Suns’ 102.8 ppg average. I expect their defense to just be too much for the Suns regardless of their offensive woes and am marking this one as a loss.

In the final game of the week the Suns head down to the Big Easy for their first meeting on the season with the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pels started off the season hot with 4 straight wins but followed that up with 5 straight losses. You can chalk most of those losses up to injuries, especially to star Anthony Davis who missed 3 of those 5 games. He should be in their lineup for this game though and I’m calling it another loss for the Suns.

This week, I think the Suns will go 1-2.

What’s your prediction?


Last Week’s Poll Results

The poll was “Should the Suns offer their 2019 1st round draft pick in a trade for a starting point guard?”

11.0% - No.

24.0% - Only if it’s lottery protected.

41.5% - Only for a star player.

23.5% - Yes, whatever it takes to get a good PG.

There were a total of 382 votes cast.


This week’s poll is the same as the 3rd question I asked of the Fantable this week.

Poll

Do you still have any faith/belief that this season will get better as it goes on?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    Yes.
    (203 votes)
  • 30%
    Some but I’m still skeptical.
    (96 votes)
  • 6%
    No.
    (21 votes)
320 votes total Vote Now