Wow. Having heard Phoenix Suns point guard Ricky Rubio in the postgame locker room all season as quiet, self-effacing, supportive and kind, I was shocked at what came out of his mouth on Friday after the Suns second consecutive 18+ point loss.
Of the Suns 15 losses before Wednesday night, only four of them were by 10+ points and each was answered with a win or a much-closer loss to a good team. The first three games of this 5-game losing streak were by a grand TOTAL of 10 points.
Now, the Suns have reached the bottom of the barrel. Back to back 18+-point losses have teammates suddenly pointing fingers at each other.
Rubio says his teammates didn’t play with heart in an 18 point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“We’re in a tough stretch where we got to regroup and be the team we want to be,” Rubio said. “I said at the beginning of the season it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about building a culture and we kind of slipped out the last couple of games. We can blame it on a lot of things, (but) we didn’t play with heart tonight.
Here’s the real bombshell that he shared with the great Duane Rankin of azcentral.com and the Arizona Republic.
“Doesn’t matter who is on the court, you’ve got to believe and trust and you got to do what’s right for the team before yourself and it’s that time of the year,” Rubio said to Rankin. “Trade talk. You’re thinking, your agent calls you and say you got to put up more points or whatever it is. If we believe in this team and that we’re going to do something special, we’ve got to be unselfish like we have been.”
Check out Duane’s whole article and quotes here.
There’s no way Ricky says that without there being some kernel of truth to it. Otherwise, his teammates would all lose respect for him, pointing fingers like that. So, you’ve got to assume there’s at least one guy Ricky’s teammates would agree fits that description, right?
Who on this roster thinks they’re angling to get traded or at least wants to showcase themselves for teams to acquire them? Certainly not Ricky, who is signed to a three-year contract and is the one saying these things. Not Devin Booker. Or Kelly Oubre Jr. who just signed for two years and seems committed to Phoenix. Or the rookies. Or Mikal Bridges, even.
That leaves veterans Tyler Johnson, Dario Saric, Aron Baynes and maybe even Frank Kaminsky. All are on one-year contracts, and three of whom feel like they are playoff players. If they lose faith in the Suns, or in their role on the Suns, it’s possible they could check out for the season.
Tyler Johnson has been bad this year. As in, he’s in every bad plus-minus lineup this season. And now he’s not even playing at all while Monty Williams experiments with three-pint lineups of Jevon Carter, Elie Okobo and Ty Jerome all out there together. ?!!?! Who thought THAT would work? There’s something weird going on here that’s got the Suns lineups all cocked up and I don’t know what it is. Could Tyler be frustrated, knowing he’s a free agent this summer and needs a new contract? Or could it be he’s taking a back seat for a few weeks on a wink-wink with Monty so the team can showcase Okobo and Carter for possible trade inclusions? Stay tuned on this.
Dario Saric famously struggled in his season in Minnesota, and was happy when he got traded to a new environment. Could he be doing that again here in Phoenix for the stretch run before he hits restricted free agency this summer? It seems like this role with the Suns is as good as it gets for Dario, but could he already be pushing to get onto a team more likely to win games? I don’t think so. I don’t think Dario is the problem here.
Frank Kaminsky has a team option for next summer at $5 million, but with a completely bad free agent market it’s possible Frank could be seen as a total bargain next year. Maybe he wants to be traded to a better team so he can at least taste the playoffs while being a bargain? Nah. I don’t see that happening either. Frank might be frustrated but I don’t think he’s playing for a trade.
Aron Baynes is an interesting one. He’s on a one-year contract and has been in the playoffs most of his career as a happy backup center. So you’d think he’d be fine going back to the backup spot upon the return of Deandre Ayton after a great early-season run as the starter. But I can’t be the only one who is underwhelmed by Baynes’ production and body language since returning from injury. He was bad this week, especially in these two 18+ point losses (9 points, 9 rebounds in 42 total minutes). Is it possible teammates are noting Baynes being checked out?
And finally, there’s backup point guards Elie Okobo and Jevon Carter. You’ve got to imagine those guys wanting bigger roles, either here or somewhere else. It’s possible the Suns are allowing them the minutes to show what they’ve got, and it’s possible that guys like Ricky are noticing a stat-first mentality to increase their value.
Could be a combination of all of those things. The Suns have too many 10th-men who think they should be part of a rotation. And with the impending return of Deandre Ayton, they all know there’s even fewer minutes to go around soon.
Something to keep an eye on for sure.