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Center of the Sun: Suns overcome adversity and have a WINNING RECORD!

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This is what a real NBA team plays like.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings W (124-95) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets L/OT (108-107) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs LA Clippers W (130-122) Full Recap

Like just about every other fan, I was excited over the Suns’ opening night win against Sacramento. Getting the win was just part of it though. It was the way the Suns won that was exciting. Unselfish, team play and... defense?!? Yes, great hustle, effort and execution on defense. It was a wondrous sight to see and it made me quite hopeful for the future.

Less than 24 hours later, the news of Deandre Ayton’s 25-game suspension came out and that hope was smashed like a bug on a windshield.

That was my initial reaction and one I’m sure that many others shared but it passed as I began to ponder how this new version of the Suns might react to losing one of their best players. We didn’t have a long wait to find that out as, instead of folding up like a cheap lawn chair, the Suns (minus Ayton) went at the Denver Nuggets like a team possessed and almost pulled out a win in their house.

As most of you already know, Denver has a strong team and is one of the favorites to win the Western Conference race to the Finals this season so taking them to overtime and losing by only one point without one of the team’s best players was no small feat. I was impressed by the Suns’ tenacity and resilience and feeling good about them once again.

I did wonder if they would be up for another big challenge when they played the LA Clippers - another Western Conference favorite - on the following night. Without a day off to fully rest and without another key starter (Ricky Rubio), how would they perform?

To say that they surpassed my expectations is an understatement. Everyone stepped up their games, stood toe-to-toe with the Clippers and came away winners.

This team isn’t just a collection of players any more. They are a real team. They have a winning attitude, good chemistry, good coaching and a front office that actually seems to know how to build a roster rather than just collect “assets”.

I’d love to be able to proclaim the Suns playoff contenders right now but there’s still a long season to go and many hurdles left to jump along the way. Every game they play will tell us more and more about just who the are and how far they might go.

I can hardly wait to see how it all plays out as the season goes on.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - What are your thoughts on Deandre Ayton’s suspension and its possible effects on the team?

GuarGuar: I’m extremely disappointed with DA. It’s so rare to see a drug suspension in the NBA, so to see this happen to our star center is extremely discouraging. It’s going to cause trust issues between him and the team early on for sure. There’s a common theme of DA undermining a system now. He got caught accepting money under the table in college. And now he’s gotten caught with a diuretic in his system, most likely being used to mask something else. The team has still fought really hard and Baynes has played well in his absence, but missing an exceptional offensive big man still hurts.

Sun-Arc: Ugh. So depressing. I’m holding out hope the league will cut it down to five games or maybe even none. But I won’t hold my breath. I really hope he was not juicing. Because there is no evidence of that, I refuse to think the worst. Though part of me wonders if this has anything to do with the new fitness crew the team hired this summer.

It will definitely affect the team somewhat. I believe Williams will have the players stepping up to the plate. I think the players will not hold this incident against Ayton. Ultimately they need him in the long run, and teammates generally stick together.

I believe the rest of the team will do what they can to take up the slack if he’s suspended. But not having Ayton will definitely make wins harder to come by.

SDKyle: It’s unfortunate. He needs to be smarter about what he’s putting into his body. I don’t think it will be that big a distraction though. The other guys know they have a job to do.

SouthernSun: Well I obviously hate it. I’m upset. I want the Suns to win as many games as possible, and this hinders their ability to do that. I don’t really care that he did what he did. I’m sure many many many other players do it. I’m pissed that he got caught. It seems they try hard not to catch people, so either he was dumb enough to get caught, or they were trying to find something on the Suns... either way, results the same. Now we just hope it gets reduced or thrown out (I won’t hold my breath).

Alex Sylvester: The suspension obviously is a massive disappointment and incredibly inconvenient in terms of the development of Deandre. His progression as a player is probably the most important factor in terms of the overall ceiling this franchise can hit.

However, I don’t see his suspension as something that completely derails the entire season. The Aron Baynes acquisition is looking more and more favorable as the days go...and he can immediately step in and fill part of the void. Frank should go to his best position as a backup 5 and fill up the majority of the available minutes. The real question is going to be how Monty decides to stagger the rotation and who will be filling the backup 4 position. I can see Cam Johnson benefiting from this the most in terms of playing time.

It sucks not having a go to guy down low for an easy bucket but this team still has offensive firepower. It’s going to be all about how these guys respond to adversity and who can step up in Ayton’s absence.

Q2 - Aron Baynes is likely going to have to play a much bigger role (and more minutes) than previously anticipated. At almost 33 (B-day is Dec. 9), do you think he will be up to the task for the next 25 games?

GuarGuar: Baynes has been fantastic so far against the Nuggets and Clippers. Our starters do become a better defensive team with him starting over Ayton. However, we lose quite a bit on the offensive end. I definitely think Baynes will continue to be up for the task though. This dude started for playoff teams recently and has all the experience in the world. He bring a great sense of toughness to this squad.

Sun-Arc: Baynes played the starting center role in Boston quite a bit. He started 67 games in 2017-18 and 18 games last season. And he played well while he did it. He looks and plays like a guy in his 20s. He seems super solid, so I’m not worried about his role here EXCEPT that he had that strained groin this summer. So my only worry is that the groin issue resurfaces.

SDKyle: He can’t replace Ayton, but he can play a solid 25 minutes a game for that stretch if need be. So far he’s been good, though the offensive drop off from Ayton is noticeable. Let’s see how he looks 10 games from now, but I think he can last.

SouthernSun: I think Baynes will be a decent placeholder for Ayton until he returns. He actually does a lot of the things that Ayton’s detractors complain about Ayton not doing, so that’s good. But he definitely doesn’t ease the offensive load for Book like Ayton does (see: Nuggets loss). Baynes is a capable defender, an efficient scorer, and can hit threes. However, he’s not a force of nature around the basket on offense and on the boards like Ayton is.

Alex Sylvester: For sure, but not at 30 MPG. His sweet spot is in the 20-24 minute range. Frank can occupy another 20 of those minutes and it’ll interesting to see if Diallo or even Saric get the rest of the available minutes at the 5.

Q3 - Who else do you think really needs to step up their games during Ayton’s absence?

GuarGuar: Dario Saric is the guy that sticks out on who really needs to step up for us. He really struggled offensively the first couple games, but Saturday night he was really great against the Clippers. His defense and team game have been solid all season though. We really need him to shoot well and get big on the boards with DA out. Having a good power forward is extremely important for us.

Sun-Arc: Everyone will need to step it up. Specifically the rest of the “core four” plus Baynes. Really, though, its everyone if we are going to ever sniff .500 ball this season.

Post Clippers game update: We are potentially seeing a very resilient team that is buying into Williams’ coaching and schemes. Everyone IS stepping up thus far, and its working. Keep it up, guys!

SDKyle: Kelly Oubre Jr. needs to continue to provide scoring punch, and Saric and Kaminsky also need to be all they can be. As much flak as Ayton catches, he’s a high-level rebounder and scorer and it will definitely take a village to keep successfully filling in for him.

SouthernSun: Kaminsky will be huge for them. Him playing extended minutes will do a couple of things. He will help mitigate the loss of Ayton’s scoring, and he will allow the Suns to play a 5 out offense with him at center, which should be fun to watch. Kaminsky is a lot better than many gave him credit for when he signed here, and he’s proving it. I think he and Baynes will be the ones who do the most to replace Ayton’s contributions. Oubre will probably need to continue scoring 20+ per game as well during this stretch, if the Suns want any chance of winning games. Against the nuggets we saw the Suns almost win with their defense. They will need to do a lot more of that over the next 24 games.

I would also like to point out again that I called Frank Kaminsky being good, and Jevon Carter being a fan favorite.

Alex Sylvester: This was alluded to in the first question, but I want to see Cameron Johnson step up once his number is called. If the Suns aren’t going to be able to consistently bully teams down low, they’re going to need to step it up from the arch as well as defensively. Can Johnson provide both off the bench? We better hope so.

Dario needs to step up as well. You want a good contract from the Suns this summer? This is your chance to prove yourself.

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


Key Stats

ALL of them

While looking over the Suns’ team stats, it was virtually impossible to pick any one thing that really stood out (positively) more than another. They’re almost all very good. The Suns are 1st in net rating (4th in offense and 12th in defense), 1st in assists (29.3 per game), 3rd in FT percentage, 7th in points per game, 8th in rebounds per game, 8th in steals per game, 10th in FG percentage and 13th in turnovers per game. Their 3-point percentage is even at a fairly respectable 16th. The single stat that stands out as bad is that they are 29th in personal fouls (31.2 per game).

Random Stats: Ricky Rubio and Devin Booker have combined to average 18.3 assists per game. Only Houston’s backcourt duo of Russell Westbrook and James Harden have averaged more combined assists per game (19.5). Jevon Carter is leading the Suns in 3-point percentage at 53.8% while also being tied for 2nd in 3-point attempts per game (4.3).

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Rookie Report

Cameron Johnson - 8.6 mpg, 4.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.0 TO, 2.0 PF, 33.3 3PT%, 2 DNP -Injured

Ty Jerome - DNP - Injured

Jalen Lecque - DNP - Inactive

Jared Harper - 2.0 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 PF, 0.0 3PT%, 2 DNP - CD

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Game Highlights

Sacramento Kings vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | October 23, 2019

Denver Nuggets vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | October 25, 2019-20

Los Angeles Clippers vs Phoenix Suns - Full Game Highlights | October 26, 2019


Quotes of the Week

”It’s great, I think this whole ‘Valley Boyz’ thing is really kind of taking us all over. I mean, you see it, we had the pop up shop, everyone is wearing the gear, everyone is really close. We just have a really great team. A lot of good people. No bad people in here, nobody that is trying to dominate anything, just everyone wants to get better and play well.” - Frank Kaminsky

”I think this team can do great things and I think it’s just beginning for us.” - Dario Saric


News & Notes

Bow Down Before The Mighty Devin Booker And His Unstoppable Phoenix Suns. Deadspin

Suns Grind Out 130-122 Victory Over Clippers, Improve to 2-1 on Season. Suns.com

Analyzing Deandre Ayton’s Suspension and How He Will Fight It. Sports Illustrated

Jevon Carter: The Bulldog Brings Defensive Tenacity to the Suns. Suns.com

Frank Kaminsky looks to exceed expectations with the Suns. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back


This Week in Suns History

On October 30, 1972, new head coach “Butch” van Breda Kolff was fired after coaching just seven games for the Suns (3-4). General Manager Jerry Colangelo took over as head coach for the remainder of the season.

On November 2, 1990, the Phoenix Suns defeated the Utah Jazz 119-96 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in Japan in the first regular season game played outside North America by any major professional sports league. The teams also met the next night in Tokyo, with the Jazz winning 102-101.


Suns Trivia

Following the opening night home win against the Kings, the Suns are now 36-17 all-time in home openers.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Monday, October 28 - Phoenix Suns vs Utah Jazz, 7:00 pm AZT

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

Saturday, November 2 - Phoenix Suns @ Memphis Grizzlies, 5:00 pm AZT

Tonight, Ricky Rubio’s former team, the Utah Jazz, comes to Phoenix. The Jazz haven’t quite gotten their offense running on all cylinders yet (23rd/101.7 OffRtg) but their defense (1st/91.9 DefRtg) has carried them to a 2-1 record. Their two wins were against Sacramento (0-3) and OKC (1-2) with a loss to the 2-1 Lakers squeezed in between. Rubio will likely return for tonight’s game and I believe that the Suns will overcome Utah’s D to get another win at home.

On Wednesday, the Suns hit the road for their first game in the Warriors brand new Chase Center arena. These aren’t the same Warriors that went to the Finals for five straight seasons and won 3 championships. They’re 0-2 and have lost not only to a very good Clippers squad by 19 but also to the previously winless OKC Thunder by 28... after being down by as much as 40 at one point! But taking them lightly would be a mistake, especially in their house. I think that Monty Williams will have the team up for this game though and they should bring home another win from the bay area.

The Suns will get a couple of days off before heading back out on the road to play the Grizzlies in Memphis on Saturday night. Memphis is 1-2 so far following their 134-133 overtime win against the Nets on Sunday. If you were thinking this should be a fairly easy win for the Suns... don’t. Never assume an easy win and I hope that the Suns will never look at any game that way either. As long as the Suns don’t drop their guard and play their best, they should bring home another W.

I’m predicting that the Suns finish this week going at least 2-1 with a very good chance of going 3-0.

What’s your prediction for this week?


Important Future Dates

October 31 - Last day that teams can exercise team options on the rookie scale contracts of former first-round picks.

December 15 - First day that players signed to new contracts can be traded.

  • The Suns cannot trade Frank Kaminsky, Cheick Diallo, Ricky Rubio or Jalen Lecque until 12/15/19 and Kelly Oubre Jr. cannot be traded until 1/15/20.

January 5 - First day that teams can sign players to 10-day contracts.

January 15 - Last day to sign players to Two-Way contracts.

February 6 - NBA Trade Deadline (3 pm ET).

February 14-19 - NBA All-Star break


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Did the preseason games alter your expectations for the Suns this season?”

27% - Yes, I have higher expectations now.

67% - No.

06% - Yes, I have lower expectations now.

There were 256 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Do you think Deandre Ayton will win the appeal of his 25-game suspension?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Yes.
    (71 votes)
  • 24%
    No.
    (115 votes)
  • 59%
    No but the suspension will be reduced by a few games.
    (278 votes)
464 votes total Vote Now