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Center of the Sun: This week’s Suns news, discussion and season highlights

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We’re still talking Suns basketball here!

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

NBA2K (on Twitch) Game Results

Phoenix Suns vs Minnesota Timberwolves W (93-63)

Phoenix Suns vs LA Clippers - L (102-59)

Phoenix Suns vs Dallas Mavericks - L (115-91)

It seems odd to think that just 14 days ago the NBA season was still going at full tilt.

That’s right, no matter how long it feels as though it’s been since the NBA - and pretty much every other sport - shut down, it’s only been 12 days since the first two games were ‘postponed’ right before tip off. The following day came the news many expected but hoped never to hear... the entire season was put on hold indefinitely.

It was necessary and for some of us it might have been the slap in the face that we needed to take the spreading COVID-19 virus seriously.

Some communities/areas have already been hit hard by this virus while in other areas it’s still just something you hear about on the nightly news. The postponement/cancellation of major sports as well as other mass gathering entertainment events has hammered home the severity to those in the least effected areas and done it in a way that the nightly news never could.

In this new world of social distancing, things that help us escape the reality of what is going on - sometimes just outside our doors - for even just a little while are important. That’s why the absence of sports makes life just a little bit harder for many.

While we would all prefer watching live Suns/NBA games, there are some alternatives to consider to help feed that hunger.

Fox Sports AZ has scheduled replays of selected Suns games between now and April 15.

The Suns have also committed to playing out the rest of this season’s scheduled games using NBA2K. Those will be airing on Twitch.

NBA League Pass is offering a Free Pass Preview through April 22. This gives fans access to full length and condensed replays of all games from the 2019-20 season plus an archive of 65 classic games including Charles Barkley’s triple-double game against the Sonics back on 6/1/93 and the Suns epic triple OT loss in the NBA finals to the Celtics back in 1976.

Until live sports return, I hope everyone can find some enjoyment in those.

For now though, the main thing is to stay safe, stay healthy and if possible offer some aid to those around you that may be having a more difficult time than you.

DONATE to help local people/businesses


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - Since the Suns’ season is currently shut down, Fox Sports AZ is airing replays of selected Suns games from this season. If possible, which past seasons would you rather see Suns game replays from?

GuarGuar: I would love to watch a full season of Sir Charles in MVP form and our finals run, so I’ll say 92-93. My earliest Suns fan memories are the SSOL era. All I’ve seen are highlights from that year, so it’s not nearly the same. Watching a full season of arguably our best year as a franchise would be pretty cool.

Sun-Arc: I moved here in 1993 during the magical playoff run, so I would really LOVE to see all those series again. I grew up in Hawaii, so you sort of pick your team. I started the 1993 playoffs as a Bulls fan as my dad was born in Chicago and was a fan of theirs. But series after series during that Suns run was what totally won me over to the Suns based on the heart they displayed in every single game.

I’d also really like to watch the SSOL era as well. Particularly 2004-5 when it was all brand new. That season was insane. No team was ready for what Nash and Mike D’Antoni unleashed. That’s why teams had to cheat to beat us in the playoffs. He he.

I’d definitely want to watch 2009-10 season and playoffs as well. I really loved that team. Nash, Stat, and Hill. Yeah, could definitely go for that right about now.

Lastly, I’d watch a good chunk of 2013-14. At least the games with the Slash Brothers were both playing. Those were fun games, where all the forgettables played way over their heads. Well worth it.

SDKyle: If I were to relive the best games from a particular Suns season, I think I’d choose 2007-2008. I really connected with that team somehow. Nash and Amare were still doing their thing, Barbosa was one of the league’s elite sixth men, Shaq was acquired and brought a fun if controversial element to the team, and there was a nice cast of veteran bench players.

I remember especially fondly the contributions of Grant Hill, who had a nice renaissance, breaking the 70 games played mark for the first time since 1999/2000. Another underrated contributor was the 30 yar-old Gordan Giricek, who came to the Suns in early March and proceeded to shoot 80% from downtown in part-time duty, adding to what was always a fun part of the Nash-era suns.

That season ended in a heartbreak as the Suns couldn’t overcome the hated Spurs in Round 1 (after a gut-wrenching game one loss), but I had a lot of fun that season.

SouthernSun: I wasn’t a fan during the Barkley years. I was one of the many people who were drawn to this team by Steve Nash and the 7SOL Suns, and stayed on the wagon for the horrifically bumpy 10 year ride that has come after. So the two bright points I have as a Suns fan are the Nash years, and that one Dragic and Bledsoe year. Games from 2005-2010, and games from the 2013/14 season. Like, how about that time Goran scored a career high 40 while injured? Or the game where Gerald Green threw it off the backboard to himself for a nasty slam? Or the game where Nash still dominated with one eye swollen shut? Or Dragic’s monster quarter, or sweeping the Spurs! STAT fathering Anthony Tolliver. So many amazing moments in amazing games. Those, please.

Alex S: Well, I’ve only been alive since the 90’s so I’ll keep my answer to anything after 1990. I wish I got a chance to see the 93 team more than I did! The talent on that team was ludicrous… Barkley/KJ/Majerle/Ainge/Chambers etc. would be a pleasure to watch night in/night out. The first Nash season of 04-05 would be great to watch to see the energy in the arena considering how big of a win total jump the team made from the previous season. The 09-10 team was such a fun group so that would certainly be my 3rd choice.

If I had to pick one playoff series to watch… I’d pick the Spurs/Suns series that we swept in 06. The Goran Dragic game might be my all-time favorite Phoenix Suns memory.

Q2 - The Suns have made a lot of mistakes since their last playoff appearance ten years ago. What do you consider to be the biggest mistakes they made during that time?

GuarGuar: 1. Not trading for James Harden: All the reports were the Suns were not willing to part with a “substantial player, another asset, and two first round picks”. It would have ended up being some combo of Gortat, Dudley, and Markieff with picks for Harden. This was the offer OKC wanted, and we denied it. Hindsight is 20/20 but my goodness what a drastic difference this decade would have been if we just said yes. Thanks Lon Babby!

2. The 2016 draft: Taking Bender at 4 and then consolidating most of our assets for Chriss at 8 is what really destroyed this rebuild in my opinion. Booker was growing and it was clear he would be a key piece for us moving forward. How big of a piece we didn’t know yet. But McDonough went 150% in on this draft and chose two absolute busts. We gave up Bogdan in the process. We also chose Tyler Ulis over Malcolm Brogdon because he was Book’s friend. Initially it looked like we made a good move on draft night. But it doesn’t really matter how it looks then, it matters what the result was. And the result was a complete disaster.

3. The 2017 draft: Booker has established himself as a rising star already and we know we need to build around him. McDonough pulls the stunt of not letting Josh Jackson workout for the Celtics. We end up taking JJ at 4 (which was a consensus pick). Josh flames out very quickly and the versatile wing who we thought would be a perfect fit next to Book ends up being Archie Goodwin 2.0 but with terrible off court decisions.

Sun-Arc: There are far too many mistakes to create an exhaustive list. I’ll just mention the first three that come to my mind- perhaps they are the biggest three for me. Not sure…

Sarver as owner. Not exactly a team mistake as a mistake on the team. But this rides over everything that has been wrong in the last 10 years+.

Many would probably mention Ryan McDonough, but he’s really just a symptom of Sarver’s ownership. Like Blanks before him, plus ALL the front office guys Sarver had to hire because Robert chased off the old guard who had done their jobs pretty well, Ryan never should have been hired in the first place. The lack of competency revolving around this team has definitely been a problem. A series of mistakes in hiring by the owner, which led to all the lousy coaches.

Lastly, I’ll mention the lack of building through young players - both in terms of the draft and development. The bad drafting started prior to Ryan McDonough too. And, in fact, no player drafted by the Suns during Sarver’s tenure ended up being any good for more than one season with the exception of three current players plus T.J. Warren. Markieff ended up being meh, for instance (and we didn’t draft Marcus). Earl Clark has a good season with the Lakers. Is Robin Lopez a good player? I’m thinking pretty meh. Same with Alex Len. Digging deeper into the development, though, Lopez, Kieff, and Len were the only players that were developed in-team to a decent degree. That’s really bad for any team- but particularly for a team that needed to rebuild.

SDKyle: In something approaching chronological order...

1. Hiring Ryan McDonough.

What can I say? McD arrived in May 2013 with an apparently sparkling resume as a “boy wonder,” only 32 years old and already having served a 10 year apprenticeship as an executive in the successful Celtics organization. He had some initial success in turning the Suns around from a 25 to a 48 win team in his very first year, but it later turned out that this was apparently an accident and that his plan had always been to rebuild through the draft in a slow process like the one being simultaneously embraced by Philadelphia GM Sam Hinkie.

Despite his obvious intelligence, McD proved to have almost no people skills, alienating players and blowing coaching hires (more on that later) on top of flubbing several draft picks (also more on that later). When he finally got the boot at the start of the 2018 season, he’d caused a decade worth of damage in his five years by transforming the Suns from a franchise known for warmly embracing its players to one known around the league for being hostile to its talent.

2. The 2013 draft

The Suns selected Alex Len at #5 overall in 2013. This wasn’t an outside the box pick, as Len was popularly projected anywhere from 1st to 6th in published mock drafts, but the fact remains that one would struggle to credibly rank Len as even one of the top 20 players from that draft. Players drafted after Len included not only surprises like Giannis Antetokounmpo, but also perfectly credible possible selections like CJ McCollum, Steven Adams, and Kelly Olynyk.

Perhaps even more notably, Len was the start of the Suns’ obsession with “upside” in the face of little apparent achievement. Len averaged an unimpressive 12/8/1 in his sophomore season at Maryland, failing to reach the tournament. Shockingly enough, he has been an unimpressive NBA player too.

3. Brandon Knight

The Suns invested heavily in Brandon Knight in 2015, trading for him and then inking him to a five-year $70 million deal that summer despite his poor performance after coming to the team from Milwaukee, where many considered the 23 year-old an emerging star. He never gelled with the Suns, and though he would have the occasional WOW game (such as a 30 point 15 assist 10 rebound showing in a blowout win over the Lakers in November 2015), his Suns career was a complete dud as he posted only a 51% TS in 2.3 seasons in the valley.

The opportunity cost in acquiring Knight was bigger than the actual cost in either dollars or picks, as the investment in making Knight the team’s apparent go-to bucket maker prevented the Suns from figuring out their identity for two years, even as Devin Booker emerged to overshadow him at the SG position. The frustration he caused fans earns him a place on the list regardless.

4. Hiring Earl Watson

Had to know this was coming. Earl was bafflingly given the head coaching job in early 2016 after having served as interim coach following Jeff Hornacek’s ouster during the previous season. Watson was only a couple of years into his coaching career, having only retired from basketball in 2014 and spending most of that coaching time as a development league assistant.

Despite his youthful enthusiasm and ties to great coaches like John Wooden, Jerry Sloan and Gregg Popovich, Watson was a complete joke as a head coach who appeared to think he was the inspirational coach character from a Disney sports movie. His rhetoric was long on “do your best” and “be a good person” and short on “win actual games,” and it showed as he gradually lost the locker room and a LOT of games. How he survived more than half a season is beyond me.

5. The 2016 draft.

Ugh. What can I even say? The Suns had two lottery picks and turned them into a grand total of zero useful NBA players. Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss are no longer Suns, and numerous players picked after at least Bender are emerging as stars or borderline stars.

SouthernSun: 1. Taking Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss in the draft when there were so many productive players available around them.

2. Taking Josh Jackson over guys like Lauri Markannen.

3. Not pouncing on opportunities to trade for players like Jimmy Butler or Paul George when they became available, or most recently, DLo.

4. The tanking culture the team built. Intentionally losing games down the stretch for years. Pissed off our own players, and created this awful losing culture the team is still trying to crawl out of today.

5. Trading Marion for Shaq.

6. Not paying what it took to keep Joe Johnson.

7. (Under my breath as I look away sheepishly) Passing up on Luka Doncic.

Alex S: The Suns three biggest mistakes since 2010… that’s tough. I’ll do my best.

#1: The 2016-2017 Draft classes

Pointing out one specific error from the past ten years is difficult, so I decided to choose back to back draft classes by Ryan McDonough.

When you have the 4th, 4th, 13th, 28th, 32nd, and 34th pick and cannot get ONE player to stay on your roster two years later? Yikes.

#2: Three PG Lineup

Okay, I’ll be honest… I was a fan of the Isaiah Thomas pickup at the time. Even now, that contract that Thomas was signed to was technically a massive steal considering his production for the years he was under that 4 year 28 million dollar deal.

However, this move was a clear representation that Ryan McDonough had no idea how to manage NBA personalities from a roster construction standpoint. NBA players (specifically good NBA players) have egos. Three starting level point guards at the peak of their powers were put together on the 2014-2015 Phoenix Suns with the mentality that each player (Dragic/Bledsoe/Thomas) would be understanding of their role. What could possibly go wrong with Goran Dragic playing SF minutes in crunch time?

This move was so bad because it created chaos for the next three seasons. Dragic, Bledsoe, and Thomas managed to ask for their way out while also creating one of the most infamous moments in NBA history with “I don’t want to be here”.

It took nearly 4 years since the Bledsoe departure to finally address the starting PG properly.

#3: The Earl Watson extension

This made my list because it was an accurate representation of the way things were handled for years as an organization. Take the cheap way out and minimize the amount of interviews so you can settle on an inexperience HC that you could fire a year later? Let’s do it!

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


2019-20 Season Highlights

Aron Baynes Erupted For A Career-High 37 PTS & 9 3PM

Devin Booker EPIC 44 Pts Full Highlights | Suns vs Pelicans | December 5, 2019

Ricky Rubio Full Play vs Milwaukee Bucks | 03/08/20 | 25 pts, 13 assists, 13 rebs!

Kelly Oubre Jr. scores a career-high 39 points in Rockets vs. Suns


Quote of the Week

“These are trying times that transcend basketball and I would like to call on everyone to be good teammates as we deal with this challenge together.” - Devin Booker


News & Notes

Devin Booker Donating $100,000 to Coronavirus Relief in Phoenix. Kentucky Sports Radio

Suns Play Out Season On Twitch To Bring Fans Together Virtually. Front Office Sports

Phoenix Suns Announce Ticket Policy For Postponed Games. Suns.com

Mock NBA expansion draft: Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Suns, Kings. Yahoo! Sports

Out of the shadow: Dasean Lecque chasing success of Suns’ Jalen Lecque. Nathan Hiatt/Cronkite News


This Week in Suns History

On March 24, 2017, in Boston, Booker, 20, becomes the youngest NBA player to score 70 points in a game.

On March 26, 1996, Phoenix’s A.C. Green plays in his 800th consecutive NBA game - then the third-longest streak in NBA history - scoring seven points and grabbing nine rebounds during the Suns’ 102-98 win over visiting Sacramento. Green went on to play in a total of 1,192 consecutive games which remains the longest streak in NBA history.


Suns Trivia

The Original Sun, Dick Van Arsdale, is 5th in All-Time points scored as a Sun with 12,060. Dick is the only player in the top 15 that played all of his career games before the NBA added the three-point line.


Previewing the Week Ahead

NBA2K Suns games on Twitch

Monday March 23 - Suns vs Indiana Pacers

Wednesday March 25 - Suns vs Washington Wizards

Friday March 27 - Suns vs Philadelphia 76ers

Saturday March 28 - Suns vs Miami Heat

  • Author’s Note - I’m not certain of the actual starting times on Twitch.

2019-20 season game replays on Fox Sports AZ


Important Future Dates

To Be Determined.


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “Do you believe that the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season will be completely canceled?”

51% - Yes.

49% - No.

There were 135 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Who wins a best of 7 games series if the 2004-05 Suns could play the 1992-93 Suns (both teams were 62-20)?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    2004-05 Suns
    (19 votes)
  • 75%
    1992-93 Suns
    (57 votes)
76 votes total Vote Now