Somehow the Phoenix Suns got down 36-9 in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game. The Kings had never led any game in the first quarter by 27 points since moving to Sacramento in 1985. Until now.
For the Suns, it’s only the fourth time in the last decade that ANY team has been down by 27 or more in the first quarter.
“I can’t remember, at any level that I coach and I played, that I lost first quarter by thirty,” Suns coach Igor Kokoskov — a former top level basketball player, NBA coach for 20 years and international coach for 10 — said after the game. “Just completely unprepared mentally.”
Kokoskov and his assistants, as well as owner Robert Sarver across the floor from them, could be seen losing their minds while the young Suns shellshocked their way to mind-numbing ineptitude.
“I don’t know,” rookie center Deandre Ayton repeated, three times in succession, of how that happened. “This is my first time in this situation, being down by so much in the first quarter.”
The Suns started the game with four 22-or-unders and Trevor Ariza, but that’s no excuse for poor effort.
“In the first two minutes, I felt like we struggling,” second year guard/forward Josh Jackson said simply.
“Obviously, we started the game kind of slow,” rookie De’Anthony Melton said.
Third-string shooting guard Troy Daniels has been through a year and a half now of the Suns trotting out under-age lineups and hoping for the best. He said there’s no excuse for how poorly they played to start the game.
I stupidly asked if he’d been on a team that started four guys 22 or under, including three rookies.
“I think last year,” he said.
The Suns have indeed been setting league records for youngest-ever lineups the last two seasons. Remember that Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and Derrick Jones Jr. lineup? Not a single player over 21, with three of them still teenagers!
Last year, the Suns regularly started Booker, Chriss and Ulis together on the way to 21 wins, with 24-year old T.J. Warren and old man Tyson Chandler or Greg Monroe as the vets.
Then by the spring, it was Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson joining Booker as the 21-and-unders with Troy Daniels being the vet in the starting lineup while Chriss and Ulis came off the bench.
So this is nothing new. Just a different cast of characters.
Over the past year, DJJ, Chandler, Monroe and Ulis have all been cut. Chriss was dumped on Houston (hardly plays) and Bender has been stapled to the end of the Suns bench.
“It’s the NBA,” Daniels said. “Teams are not going to say hey you have young guys on the team so we’re going to take it easy.”
On Tuesday night, it was rookies Elie Okobo (21 years old), Mikal Bridges (22) and Deandre Ayton (20) with Trevor Ariza (33) playing the role of grizzled vet. Josh Jackson (22) is the only returnee in that group from last year.
They combined to play the worst quarter of basketball I’ve ever seen at Talking Stick Resort Arena, and that’s saying a LOT.
Ayton accepts blame for his awful effort
“I guess I didn’t step up,” Ayton said of his own performance. “I put it on myself.”
He said he felt one or two guys on him every time he tried to post up, that without Devin Booker and T.J. Warren the Kings didn’t have to respect the Suns shooting.
But that’s no excuse for their play. He didn’t offer any excuses, or any explanations for that matter. But he did admit that once the truck hit them, he mentally checked out like all the other guys.
“This is the NBA,” he concluded. “You’re down by that much, especially that early, there’s no way to get back in the game.”
Ummm... just two days ago, the Suns were up 25 on the Lakers in the first quarter, in case you forgot, and the Lakers came back to take the lead in the second quarter and win in a blowout.
Don’t be surprised if the Suns sign somebody from the G League to join the point guard ranks or that they finally make a trade of some sort.
Coach Kokoskov hasn’t seemed enamored with Melton as his starting point guard. Kokoskov expects a lot from his lead ball handler, knowing where guys are supposed to be and WHY they are supposed to be there. The 20-year-old Melton is just out there playing and free wheeling at this point.
Booker might not be back for days or weeks. Who knows about Warren.
Let’s see if last night’s blowout finally forces the Suns to act. And quickly.