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Center of the Sun: Will the Suns come out strong after the All-Star break?

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The playoffs may be out of reach but pride isn’t... and that’s always worth playing for.

NBA: All Star Game-Team Lebron at Team Giannis Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns @ LA Lakers L (125-100) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Golden State Warriors W (112-106) Full Recap

For the first time in a very long time, the All-Star weekend was a big weekend for me.

I would have loved to see Deandre Ayton play in the Rising Stars Challenge game but I’m also glad he decided to sit it out and let his bum ankle continue to heal. I like to think that the final score would have been at least a little closer than it was if Deandre had been on the court for Team World though.

In the Three-Point contest, Devin Booker actually surprised me a little as he didn’t have much time to prepare to compete in it. If you missed it, I feel sorry for you. Even though Book came up just short in the finals and finished second, it was a great contest with an exciting finish and Devin became the first contestant to ever hit both of the new looooong distance 3-point shots in the opening round.

The big event of the week was, of course, the All-Star game itself. Devin Booker’s first and the first time any Suns player had made to the AS game since Steve Nash’s 2012 appearance. Seeing Book out there and scoring his first points in the All-Star game was pretty cool but his second score - a slam dunk off an offensive rebound - was really great!

And from close up.

For the game, Booker’s stat line was 6 points, 4 rebounds and 1 block in 19 minutes (according to ESPN, I don’t believe he actually got that much court time though). He was 3 of 8 from the field and missed all 4 of his 3-point attempts. He only played in the 2nd and 4th quarters and was on the bench at end of the 4th... a place he’s not used to being at that point in a game. I think he could have done more with more time but hopefully he will get that chance next year.

Oh yeah, Booker’s team - Team LeBron - won 157-155 in what was one of the better All-Star games I’ve watched.

Now it’s time to head back to Phoenix and get ready to move onward with the rest of the Suns’ 2019-20 season.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - What are your first impressions of the Suns’ new addition, Jonah Bolden?

GuarGuar: He brought great energy against the Warriors and was an overall positive on the floor for the game. If he continues to compete and make a good impact defensively he should get another contract. Can’t really analyze too much because it’s only been one game. Hopefully Baynes and Ayton are ready to go post all-star break. I’m kind of upset James Jones didn’t make this type of move when Ayton got suspended initially and Baynes got hurt.

Sun-Arc: He’s got a pretty big body to put out on the court. Not too big, but enough to work out at either big position against other mediocre bigs. He does seem to work hard and can collect rebounds too . But that’s about as much as I can say for him so far.

SDKyle: I think Bolden is a fringe NBA player with some skills that still make him potentially an alright addition. He doesn’t really do anything that stands out as a strength, but he’s a pretty smooth athlete with an alright looking stroke. He looks like a twig so I’m not really expecting he’s going to bang all that hard, but he’s worth a look when the situation calls for someone with length who can guard stretch 4s and 5s.

SouthernSun: I think we are all looking at Jonah right now through rose-tinted glasses, because every single big man on the Suns roster except for their third string PF is injured. However, that being said, Jonah looked pretty decent in his first game with the Suns. He led the team in +/-, and gave maximum effort (as most players on 10 day contracts do) for the full time he was on the court. Then, in the fourth, he even gave us a little pizzazz. So, at the moment, I think pretty highly of him.

Alex S: Jonah was a name I was intrigued by when I found out he was released from Philly. He’s not a great player but he provides skills that this team could use. He’s an athletic big, active hands (shoutout Jared Dudley), and a floor spacer to an extent. He’s undersized and he gets in foul trouble easily but that’s completely fine!

I think Jonah deserves to stick around for the rest of the season. With the lack of health in the rotation, specifically our bigs I’d like to see if Bolden can find a way in the long-term plans for Phoenix.

Q2 - Do you think that finally getting to the All-Star game is going to have an effect on how Booker performs on the court when the regular season starts back up?

GuarGuar: I think long-term it’s a great thing for the franchise that Book finally got in the All-Star game. I could see him becoming even more frustrated down the road because of the lack of national exposure. He has been an All-Star caliber player for 3 years now, but now he finally is getting his shot. I don’t know how many more seasons he could take without being recognized. Now that isn’t really a question to worry about anymore. I think he’s going to be more relaxed and focused on winning games post-All-Star break. He has goals he wants to meet for this team. Should be fun to watch.

Sun-Arc: Booker has done just about all he can on the court this season. But he did have a bit of a lull in the few games prior to the break after Kobe’s passing and being passed over as an all star initially, so I could see being included in the ASG could snap him out of that and give him more strength.

SDKyle: It might put a little extra pep in his step, but he was already playing really well overall so I don’t think it will have some huge impact. I think it may have more of an impact on his demeanor, at least I’m hoping it will, and he’ll assume a leadership role and not spend so much time looking annoyed.

SouthernSun: Oh boy. So, I actually have a lot of thoughts on this. I 100% believe that Booker and the Suns are treated differently by officials than certain other players and teams. Whether by design, or as the byproduct of a design that isn’t meant for their benefit. Meaning, I think certain players and teams get better calls. When a foul could go either way, and it’s essentially at the discretion of the referee, I believe that Booker and the Suns are at a disadvantage, because usually, those calls will go to the player or team that the league “likes” more, or feels fans “want” to win. There’s no other explanation.

The Suns have been one of the least successful teams when it comes to coaching challenges. And the post-game review of controversial calls have many times shown that a call that adversely affected the Suns near the end of a game should have gone the other way. Kelly Oubre being fouled on a late game tying three, and somehow being called for a foul himself, for example. Or Booker getting more offensive fouls than others with more “star power” when doing the exact same moves. And the only way to get that to stop happening, is to show the league that there is money to be made off Booker. There is money to be made off the Suns.

I think it will be interesting to watch the remainder of the season, and see whether the Suns, and Booker in particular, get treated a little differently after this, and see whether there aren’t quite as many blatant blown calls that adversely affect the Suns.

Alex S: Absolutely. Although Devin will never admit it up front, becoming an All-Star is a huge deal to him. He’s been quoted with how important league recognition is from his peers and the way this all played out will be quite motivating for Book going forward.

The rest of the season post ASB isn’t going to be that long and I’m sure Monty and the gang are going to do a good job emphasizing how important this stretch of basketball is for the franchise to continue towards their goals they want to achieve. Devin specifically will probably be gunning for an All-NBA selection so I have high expectations for him.

Q3 - After 55 games, how would you grade Monty Williams as our head coach?

GuarGuar: I think overall he’s been solid. I’d give him a B. He’s clearly a leader and a great voice, something this team has been lacking for years. I thought he was really great early on when we were rolling, making a ton of right decisions. As the team slid, so did he with a lot of decisions. His commitment to starting Frank was very weird and a huge negative. We weren’t running enough stuff for Book at one point in the year. His substitutions are still questionable at times, but better than December. I like the offensive scheme with ball movement. Our base defense got absolutely exposed after starting 7-4. Teams realized we give up a ton of open 3s the moment you drive to the paint. We’ve had horrible 3 point defense. Hopefully everyone is healthy and ready to go post-All-Star break so we can truly see what we have.

Sun-Arc: Boy - that’s kind of a tough one. On one hand I really like what he says as a coach and that he has the long-view approach. I haven’t been too impressed with the schemes and rotations, though. And sometimes the players just do not seem prepared for games- something Monty has blamed himself for on occasion. While I haven’t been really impressed with the roster Jones put together for this season, I had hoped Williams could have the players performing better than they have. The injuries definitely have taken their toll, but some players like Saric, Tyler Johnson, and Kaminsky have really underperformed when they’ve played. I also think he’s really under-utilizing Rubio on offense.

Having said all that, I have been impressed with some aspects of the team. Okobo and Carter have been better than expected. Cam has been better as a rookie than I thought possible. And Ayton has really taken leaps defensively. So something good is going on in the young-player development side of the coaching staff. I have also been very happy with the giant up-tick in the number of assists per game from the past few seasons. Especially given how lousy the overall perimeter shooting has been. The team does want to share the ball more often than not, which makes the team more watchable.

The big Monty question for me is how much he will grow as a coach with the team through his 5 year contract. Will he be able to implement more complex schemes season to season, and ultimately produce more wins and get to the playoffs? I can only hope and watch.

SDKyle: Hot take I know, but I have to just go ahead and give Monty a C. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt on his sometimes odd substitution patterns that were prevalent especially in the early part of the year, and I don’t really buy into the Bridges/Oubre scandal enough to hold it against Monty.

Maybe my opinion will change in time, hopefully for the better. But I’m currently inclined to feel like Monty has been more of a steady hand than a transformative presence for either good or ill.

SouthernSun: I think Monty is a good head coach. He is better than anybody we have had since Alvin Gentry. He knows the X’s and O’s, and also has an ability to connect with his players that many other coaches don’t have. He builds up their confidence in themselves. Not inflating their ego, but their confidence inspiring them to work harder, try even harder, and get to that success that is, as Monty says, is on “the other side of hard.”

Alex S: Monty deserves a lot of credit for the progress the Suns have made this season, as there have been other coaches hired in the past who haven’t sniffed the success the Suns are accomplishing now. However, at the same time that isn’t saying too much. Monty is a professional and a players coach. He’s kept guys in line this year and is a presence this franchise can lean on for the upcoming years.

Only thing I’d like to continue to see improvements on are the rotations. Early on this year were questionable and more than likely lead to a couple of the losses the Suns suffered after the hot 7-4 start. But he seems to be doing a much better job of late.

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


Key Stats

40.5%

That is Deandre Ayton’s Defended Field Goal Percentage for this season. That means that opponents are making only 40.5% of the field goal attempts that he defends. Among players to play at least 15 games and defend at least 10 FG attempts per game, he is tied for 5th with Jrue Holiday. Only Giannis Antetokounmpo (36.9%), Anthony Davis (38.1%), Kawhi Leonard (39.6%) and Rudy Gobert (40.2%) have better DFGPs.

Random Stats: Deandre Ayton leads the Suns in double-doubles this season with 15 in just 23 games played. Ricky Rubio has 14 DDs, Kelly Oubre Jr. has 9, Dario Saric has 8, Devin Booker has 6, Aron Baynes has 2 and Cheick Diallo and Frank Kaminsky have 1 each.

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


Game Highlights

Phoenix Suns vs LA Lakers - Full Game Highlights | February 10, 2020

Phoenix Suns vs Golden State Warriors - Full Game Highlights | February 12, 2020


Quotes of the Week

”Cam (Johnson) tries to make the right plays. You’ll see him out there boxing out, you’ll see him contesting shots, you see him keeping guys in front of him. So I believe he comes into the game locked in and ready to play, and that’s rare for a young guy.” - Monty Williams


Rookie Report

Cameron Johnson - 19.8 mpg, 7.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.6 TO, 1.4 PF, 39.0 3PT%

  • This week - 19.7 mpg, 8.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.5 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.0 TO, 1.5 PF, 50.0 3PT%

Ty Jerome - 11.8 mpg, 4.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.7 TO, 1.1 PF, 31.4 3PT%

  • This week - 14.1 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.5 TO, 0.5 PF, 0.0 3PT%

Jalen Lecque - 6.6 mpg, 2.5 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.3 TO, 0.5 PF, 0.0 3PT%

Tariq Owens - 5.1 mpg, 1.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.3 PF, 0.0 3PT%

Jared Harper - 2.6 mpg, 0.7 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 0.0 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.0 PF, 0.0 3PT%

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Injury Status Report

Deandre Ayton (ankle) - Game time decision.

Aron Baynes (hip) - Game time decision.

Dario Saric (ankle) - Game time decision.

Frank Kaminsky (kneecap) - Expected to be out until at least March 1.


News & Notes

Will the Suns’ draft reach for Cameron Johnson actually pay off? Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back

Frank Vogel compares Devin Booker to Klay Thompson. Clutch Points

Prescott, Phoenix, Prescott, Phoenix: Suns’ Lecque logs miles as he chases dream. Cronkite News

Phoenix Suns Center Deandre Ayton Has Become One Of The Best Rebounders In The NBA — What’s Next? Brendon Kleen/Forbes


This Week in Suns History

On February 22, 1977, Alvan Adams recorded a triple-double with 47 points, 18 rebounds and 12 assists against the Buffalo Braves. He is one of five players in NBA history (along with Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Russell Westbrook and Vince Carter) to have as many as 46 points and 16 rebounds in a triple-double performance.


Suns Trivia

Devin Booker is shooting 92.0% from the free throw line and averaging 6.7 made FTs per game. This is the highest FT% in NBA history by a player making at least 6 per game. The previous high is 91.8% on 6.7 makes per game by Reggie Miller in 1990-91.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Friday, February 21 - Phoenix Suns @ Toronto Raptors, 5:30 pm AZT

Saturday, February 22 - Phoenix Suns @ Chicago Bulls, 6:00 pm AZT

There are just two games this week... or more accurately, this weekend. It’s a good thing the Suns have had some time off due to the All-Star break because they’re jumping back into the regular season schedule with a back-to-back on the road.

On Friday night the Suns head north of the boarder for the first time this season to face the 40-15 Toronto Raptors. Even if everyone returns from the injured list, I don’t see the Suns getting a win. The more healthy bodies that the Suns have, the better the game though and the better the chance that the Suns keep it close and maybe steal a win on the road. Don’t count on it though.

After a thankfully short overnight flight, the Suns will take on the 19-36 Bulls in Chicago. The Bulls have also suffered from the injury bug this season and may not be up to full strength for this game either. If Deandre Ayton is back and healthy, I think the Suns get a win in this one.

I’m predicting the Suns go 1-1 this week.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

March 1 - Playoff Eligibility Waiver Deadline.

  • Players waived after this date are ineligible for the playoffs.

April 15 — Regular Season ends.


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Which bench player will likely make the biggest difference on the court when he returns from injury?”

57.5% - Aron Baynes.

13.5% - Dario Saric.

12.0% - Frank Kaminsky.

17.0% - None of them will make much of a difference when they return.

There were 200 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

I believe that the Suns will...

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    Win a higher percentage of their remaining games than before the AS break.
    (192 votes)
  • 7%
    Win a lower percentage of their remaining games than before the AS break.
    (26 votes)
  • 34%
    Win about the same percentage of their remaining games as before the AS break.
    (115 votes)
333 votes total Vote Now