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Center of the Sun: The clock is ticking on Dec. 22 start for the Suns

Could the 8-0 bubble run be enough to get the Suns back on the NBA’s Christmas Day schedule? The Fantable gives their opinions on that and other topics.

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

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Yes, Virginia, there will be NBA basketball for Christmas this year.

While the NBA still has some details to iron out, they and the NBPA have agreed to a Dec. 22 start to a 72-game season for 2020-21. While team schedules are likely far from completed, we do have some idea as to what they could look like.

Teams will possibly play either conference heavy or conference only schedules this year. In order to cut down on travel, teams will likely be scheduled to play each other in two games sets - in the same city - over a 2 to 3 day period. This combined with the tight schedule to finish the season before the Olympics begin will result in a lot of back-to-backs, perhaps as much as three times the number scheduled in 2019-20.

While that makes for something of a grueling schedule, the NBA is also planning on a two week break at mid-season. There will not be an All-Star game this year but there will still be a break to give teams some time to rest up and make up any games that might have been postponed earlier in the season. With the pandemic still going full-bore, there will eventually be games that will get postponed and need to be rescheduled.

All this makes good sense in light of the pandemic but it’s also going to create a season like none seen before. For the Suns, it has it’s pluses and minuses.

On the plus side, it means that the Suns will be getting back on the court with the memory of that 8-0 streak in the bubble still fairly fresh in their minds. Attitude and confidence means a lot in any form of competition and they left Orlando with buckets full of those. While playoff teams will worry about the quick start following the Finals, that shouldn’t concern the Suns. Their last game was on Aug. 13, which was three months ago.

If training camps begin around Dec. 1, that means they would have had an offseason of 3.5 months. Their mostly young legs should be well rested and that youth could be an asset on the second nights of the many more than usual back-to-backs they will play. And as it’s almost a certainty that that all those back-to-backs will be played against the same team they played against the night before, none of those second nights will be played against teams that will have the advantage of being more rested.

On the minus side, there will be less time to plan, prep and practice between games during the season. Every team will be facing this challenge but older, more experienced teams could have an edge here. Teams with more continuity going into the season certainly will also have a bit of an edge as they will have more players already knowledgeable of their team’s systems and their teammates.

Just how much continuity the Suns will have at the beginning of the season is still in question but having a good head coach in Monty Williams going into his second season at the helm should be a plus. The big question is going to be how much turnover the roster is going to have. A short training camp is not likely to do any favors to new players as they try to adjust to their new teams. Despite all of the rumors that are par for the course during an offseason, James Jones has not tipped his hand and given us any real clues as to what his plans are. The Suns could see a lot of turnover or very little. Jones’ task is to figure out all this and I don’t envy him.

With the Draft coming in just 9 days, we’re going to see his first moves very soon. When the transaction moratorium is lifted - likely sometime this week - we should see some pre-draft trades go down. Will the Suns join that party or stand pat before draft day? We’ll soon know and we should expect a flurry of league-wide activity shortly afterward.

The West is going to continue to be tough this season. Although the Suns made significant improvement in 2019-20, there’s still plenty of improvement left to be made before they can be considered more than just an “up-and-coming” team. What offseason moves James Jones makes will soon let us know just how high he’s set the team’s bar for this season.

Set it high, James.

Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - The NBA will start the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22. According to The Ringer: ”Teams are expected to play about three times as many back-to-backs in order to squeeze in 72 games during a shorter span, but they’ll likely travel less than before as the NBA structures its season around baseball-style series with a run of games between the same two teams in the same market.” Teams aren’t going to like all the back-to-backs but do you think it might actually be a slight benefit to younger teams like the Suns?

GuarGuar: I think it could benefit the Suns given our youth. At the same time it could be a disadvantage as it’s easier for veteran teams to make more adjustments. Playoff teams probably have a strategic edge compared to perennial lotto teams like us.

Sun-Arc: More back-to-backs are bad for everyone, really. I was sorry to hear about that aspect. Less travel will be good - but the travel isn’t as much wear and tear as the games on consecutive days. One could argue that younger teams will have the advantage, but likely not so much for the Suns. This team will be (or at least ought to be) giving its all every game, whereas the top teams and tanking teams can rest players. The Suns’ players will potentially have more miles on their legs than the Lakers and Clippers when (really if) they make the playoffs.

SDKyle: I think this is a SLIGHT benefit to younger teams like the Suns. There’s no doubt it’s easier to recover at age 24 than at age 32.

But the Suns were only 5-7 on zero days rest last season, which was pretty much the same as the rest of the time. There’s no reason to think it’s any kind of meaningful edge when viewed in the macro.

SouthernSun: I actually do think that those style of series will benefit teams that need to fight every night to have a chance at the playoffs. The Lakers and Clippers might sleepwalk through some of those series to keep their players healthy and fresh, especially since they both were deep in the playoffs just like a month or two ago. Maybe the Warriors too.

I also like that this kind of thing might create some rivalries, or even reignite some old ones (Beat LA! Beat LA!).

Alex S: I can see it being beneficial but it’s going to ultimately come down to injuries and proper load management. I can’t say outright what type of impact this is going to have on teams as it’s going to be a learning process on the go. However, it should benefit younger teams and maybe even those who didn’t have deep playoff runs.

Q2 - The NBA is considering a four-team playoff play-in tournament among the Nos. 7, 8, 9 and 10 seeds for the final two playoff spots in each conference this year. The tournament would begin with No. 7 hosting No. 8, and the winner locking into the No. 7 spot. The No. 9 would face No. 10, with the winner advancing to play the loser of the 7-versus-8 matchup for the No. 8 seed. What do you think of this idea?

GuarGuar: I think it’s always exciting to have an end of season playoff race. A play in tournament sounds really fun and I’m all for it. The league could use a little spice. And it increases our chance of making the playoffs this year!

Sun-Arc: Everyone loves a play-in tourney, right? I know I do. I love this idea, actually. Though I do think the first round series should be shorter than 7 games because of it. Five games seems about right.

SDKyle: Well it’s a cool idea for the Suns because it means all you have to do is finish in 10th place to essentially make the playoffs. That’s something I think pretty much all of us believe is achievable.

But as I said last week... I’m a traditionalist. I don’t like changes to things that aren’t broken. The NBA already has one of the easiest to qualify for postseasons in all of sports, with literally more than half the teams making it each year. Now we’re going to expand it to 20 of 30 teams essentially playing in the postseason. I think it’s kinda gratuitous.

SouthernSun: What do I think? Well that depends on whether the Suns are in 7th or 8th when the season ends, or in 9 or 10. Because my opinion will 100% change depending on where they are then.

Right now... I’d say I’m for it, because it gives them more chances to get in maybe, in case they have a slow start after adding some new additions this offseason. But actually the other half of me is saying no, you’ll be so mad if they mess up during a play in game.

Alex S: I think that’d be great for the Suns but also very intimidating if the first time the Suns make it to the playoffs in 11 years involves a one-game play-in situation. In terms of league interest and competition it’s great but I’d be insanely stressed if the Suns finished between 7-10 next season (which I believe they will).

Q3 - The last Christmas Day appearance for the Suns was in 2009 (124-93 win against the Clippers). After their 8-0 run in the bubble, do you think that the Suns should get at least a little consideration to be one of the teams playing on Christmas Day (normally they have 5 games)?

GuarGuar: I can’t say we deserve a Christmas game. But they have given games to some non deserving teams the past couple years so who knows. We are fun and young and exciting and have a budding superstar in Devin Booker. The bubble definitely helped our cause though. If not this year hopefully we play on Christmas soon!

Sun-Arc: Of course the Suns should be considered. Particularly with the season being so new when Christmas games happen. Though I will not be bitter or upset if they aren’t playing that day.

SDKyle: I’m obviously biased, but I definitely think the NBA should consider featuring the Suns on Christmas day. The Suns are young and have a little buzz around them and Phoenix is a market the NBA wants to keep captured. Why not?

SouthernSun: As a Suns fans I do. But as of now, if the Suns make no more exciting moves this offseason than adding D.J. Augustin and a rookie, I don’t they have the national excitement around them to justify it. I’d settle for them just having more than a handful of nationally televised games.

Now... if they add Chris Paul and a starting PF... that’s a horse of a different color. They’d probably be likely to have a Christmas game, and there would 100% be a State Farm Chris Paul and Devin Booker Christmas commercial.

Alex S: Not quite yet but that being said the Knicks, Bulls, and other bad teams have been on Christmas Day recently from what I can remember. We have enough star power (Booker specifically) where casual fans wouldn’t mind watching but I’m sure there’s other teams that the national audience would prefer over Phoenix. I’d enjoy it personally, especially if they rocked The Valley jerseys.

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

2019-20 Season Highlights

Devin Booker 35 Pts, 9 Ast, 12 Reb Highlights | Suns vs Timberwolves | November 23, 2019

Devin Booker 35 Pts 4 Rebs 10 Asts Highlights vs San Antonio Spurs | 24.01.2020

Devin Booker 32 Pts, 10 Asts Full Highlights | Suns vs Kings | December 28, 2019

Quotes of the Week

“He has the right attitude. He has the right competitive spirit.” - Kobe Bryant on Devin Booker

“He already has that mentality of being a killer.” - Kyrie Irving on Devin Booker

“Deandre’s (Ayton) a special player, and he has so much talent. It’s just about getting him to lock in and focus on every possession, and when he does that, he goes out there and really dominates.” - Aron Baynes

News & Notes

Could DeAndre Ayton Be Next AD? One Analyst Thinks So! Landon Buford

Aron Baynes is waiting to see what’s cooking for his NBA and international career. ESPN

Suns’ Deandre Ayton confuses the hell out of the internet with new tattoo. Clutch Points

Talking Stick Resort’s naming agreement for Suns arena concludes. Arizona Sports

Source: Devin Booker doesn’t want out of Phoenix. Hoops Hype

Consensus Mock Draft: Ball leaps Edwards as likely top pick.

Draft & Free Agency Videos

Who Signs Jerami Grant?

PBT Extra: Who the Phoenix Suns should target with the 10th pick in draft | NBC Sports

2020 NBA Free Agent Scouting Reports: D.J. Augustin

This Week in Suns History

On November 10, 1990, the Suns routed the Denver Nuggets 173-143 at home to tie the 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 at that time.

On November 14, 1997, the Suns’ 140-139 quadruple overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers was the eighth quadruple OT game in NBA history and the first since Golden State defeated New Jersey 150-147 February 1, 1987.

Interesting Suns stuff

“Breakthrough” Episode 5 : Devin Booker

Will The Phoenix Suns Be A Team To Beat In The 2021 NBA Season?

Suns Trivia

Former Suns head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons spent 8 season as HC for Phoenix in three separate stints covering three decades (70’s, 80’s & 90’s). His career W/L percentage as Phoenix’s head coach was .621 (341-208) during the regular season and .500 in the playoffs (22-22). Cotton spent a total of 21 seasons as an NBA head coach in Phoenix, Atlanta, Buffalo, New York and San Antonio. His career coaching record is 832-775 (.525) which places him 15th on the list of most career wins ever by an NBA coach.

Cotton is second only to John MacLeod (579 wins in 14 seasons) in total wins as a Suns HC and in total years as HC of the Suns. In W/L percentage, he is third behind Paul Westphal (.685) and Mike D’Antoni (.650).

Important Future Dates*

November 18 - NBA Draft.

November 19/20 - Free agency begins.

November 23-26 - Moratorium ends .

December 1 (ish) - Training camps open.

December 22 - Opening night for 2020-21 NBA season!

* Author’s Note: All dates except the Draft date and the opening night date are my own approximations based upon the previous tentative schedule supplied by the NBA and/or recent information from various sources.

Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll #1 was “If the price was the same, which player would you prefer the Suns sign in free agency?”

50% - Jerami Grant.

50% - Christian Wood.

A total of 134 votes were cast.

Last week’s poll #2 was “Which of the following 4 players do you think the Suns are most likely to retain for the 2020-21 season?”

01% - Aron Baynes (UFA).

31% - Dario Saric (RFA).

40% - Jevon Carter (RFA).

28% - Cameron Payne (non-guaranteed).

A total of 152 votes were cast.

This week’s poll is...


If the Suns’ schedule is all or mostly against other Western Conference teams this year...

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    It hurts their chances to make it to the playoffs.
    (88 votes)
  • 5%
    It helps their chances to make it to the playoffs.
    (7 votes)
  • 30%
    It makes little or no difference in their chances to make it to the playoffs.
    (41 votes)
136 votes total Vote Now

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