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Center of the Sun: Will it be December before we can watch Suns games again?

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That’s a strong possibility even if the rest of this season is canceled.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

In case you haven’t heard, restrictions put into place due to the pandemic are starting to ease in many areas. Whether this is a good thing or not won’t be known for a while but if it does prove to not be a premature move, it would be a good sign that the return of pro sports might not be too far behind.

While I tend to believe it may be premature, I sincerely hope that I am wrong. Basketball has always been my favorite sport but I would love to watch just about anything that qualified as a competitive sport right now. If the NBA can re-start their season sometime in the near future, I would be ecstatic.

I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up though. Consider the loosening of restrictions in some areas as a test... and it’s going to be a pass/fail test.

Regardless of how that all turns out, things will not suddenly go back to normal one day. I doubt things will ever completely return to the way they were but, if it proves to be safe, any move in that direction will be welcomed.

There have been a myriad of suggestions/ideas as to how the NBA could re-start the 2019-20 season and the financial ramifications of just cancelling it will keep that option at bay until all other options are exhausted. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA board of governors are strongly considering a December start to the 2020-21 season regardless of whether the 2019-20 resumes or is canceled.

I hope this season doesn’t wind up already over because I really want to see the Suns play at least a few more games with this roster at full strength. With all the injuries plus Deandre Ayton’s 25 game suspension, I don’t believe we have really had much of a chance to see the full potential of this team. Other than the opening night game against the Kings, I don’t think we’ve often seen all of the players in the roles they were originally envisioned to play. We’ve gotten glimpses of what could be but little more than that.

At 26-39, the Suns’ winning percentage stands at .400 but I think this team is better than that. It’s certainly better than the teams they’ve fielded during the previous 4 years which all won less than 30% of their games. If the season is ultimately canceled, just how good they really could have been might never come to light and become one of those ‘what if’s’ we talk about in the future.

I’m certain that the Suns will do whatever possible during the offseason (whenever that finally rolls around) to improve the roster. Depending on how the NBA’s salary cap situation finally works out, the changes James Jones makes might turn out to be underwhelming to many though. Instead of attempting to make a big splash, he might just make smaller moves to bolster the Suns’ depth and wait for the much stronger 2021 free agent market to attempt any big signings or trades.

If he also thinks that the present roster is better than a .400 team, that might be the case... unless an unforeseen trade opportunity presents itself.

All we can do is speculate for now as we await news on how this season will ultimately conclude. Somehow I believe we’ll have a better idea of what the NBA will do by the end of this month. I don’t know that for certain or have any ‘source’ that has insinuated such a thing. I just believe that the results of the easing of restrictions in some areas which I mentioned earlier will in time give everyone - including the NBA - a better idea of how to move forward.


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Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - In a recent interview, Devin Booker said, “We definitely showed we’re not going to be a walkover team...” when asked about changing the perception of the Suns around the league and starting to gain more respect. Do you agree with his statement?

GuarGuar: I do agree with Booker. We had so many more blowout losses last year. We’ve been competitive in the majority of our games this season. Tons of coaches have said in pre/post game interviews that we don’t quit and aren’t an easy team to face. The next step is coming out with more wins in close game scenarios.

Sun-Arc: I’d say they showed they were not going to be as EASY as a walkover team. Until the shows consistency in knowing they have to play for 48 minutes per game they’ll still be more likely to lose more than they win. And we saw that all season long and with every last player.

SDKyle: Booker is correct in saying the Suns proved they are not a “walkover” team. Compared to previous years the Suns won more often and got blown out less often, and even in the shortened season had already won the most games they had since the 2014/2015 season.

So while the Suns were still bad, they’re no longer laughingstock bad... just routine losing team bad. Not sure that’s a thing to brag about, but Booker isn’t wrong.

SouthernSun: I think that yes, in the eyes of opposing NBA players, they aren’t a walkover team anymore. Good teams have to give effort for the whole game most nights to beat them. However, for fans and NBA media, they are still a bottom feeder, and that’s the perception that is the most prevalent. Adding another piece or two this offseason will go a long way towards helping them at least be a .500 team, which is the next reasonable step in their development, and the point at which they will universally no longer be viewed the way they are now.

Alex S: Yes, 100%.

I did a quick search of 20+ losses comparing the 19-20 season to the 18-19 season. The Suns lost 5 games in the 19-20 season by 20 or more. 18-19? 23. That entirely backs up his statement where teams weren’t bound to roll over the Suns. 7.6% of the time the Suns were losing this year by 20+ as opposed to 28% of the time in 18-19. The +/- from this season is at -1.1. Last year? -9.3. That’s an 8.2+ improvement.

Q2 - Mikal Bridges rarely makes the headlines for the Suns but I believe he’s going to be a very important part of the team’s success in the future. What’s your opinion?

GuarGuar: Mikal is the 3rd most important player on this team in my opinion. His impact on our team defense is absolutely insane. His shot mechanics started looking a lot better in 2020 before the season was halted. He had a great late-February/March stretch that looked like he was really growing as a player. His impact on winning basketball is immense.

Sun-Arc: I was impressed with how Bridges started to come around in the last 15 games or so on the offensive end. His defense is very good, which is something we desperately need, and it’s the combination that will make him really important to the team. I see him as having the potential to be a Shawn Marion type player, though I don’t see him reaching those levels.

And that troubles me a bit about how important he will end up being. Marion was, basically, essential to the team’s SSOL success (whose role was eventually replaced by Grant Hill). Right now, I feel the team is going to need a couple of people at Bridge’s potential level to have real success, like they did with Marion (and to a somewhat lesser degree with the special but aging Hill).

Another example would be Thunder Dan, who- like Marion and (hopefully)Bridges, was a good defender that figured out his offensive game. But Dan also was not the all-around player Marion was, and needed other high-level players around KJ and Chambers such as Hornecek, West, and less important but capable role players. Will Bridges be more like Dan or Shawn? Time will tell.

SDKyle: I tend to agree. I don’t see the star potential that some people seem to see in Bridges, but every team could use a great wing defender. The development of his offensive game will determine whether he becomes truly indispensable to the team’s future. He’s got to be more consistent and prolific as a scorer, eventually.

SouthernSun: I don’t think we can have any idea what the Suns future holds right now. If Mikal is still here in a couple years, yes, I believe he will be an important player on the team. However, if the Suns make a deal for a true star at some point, I could see Mikal being part of the asking price, especially if he continues his offensive development.

Alex S: He’s the second biggest factor for the Suns future IMO, Deandre Ayton being #1. Mikal’s development as an overall offensive threat is crucial in determining the future of Kelly Oubre as well as his own importance to this core.

He has shown he’s not your standard 3/D player. His slashing ability has improved dramatically since his rookie season and his individual defense is amazing. If he can improve his catch and shoot ability as well as put on a little size, he could be a tremendous piece to build around long-term.

Q3 - Cameron Johnson made 39.7% of his 3-point attempts (4.7 per game) this season. We knew he could shoot from long range when he was drafted but...

  • A. What else do you like about his game?
  • B. What do you dislike/want to see him improve on?

GuarGuar: A. Cam has a good feel for the game. His defense isn’t that bad considering his physical limitations. He understands positioning on both ends of the floor.

B. I don’t like his injury history and I don’t like his finishing ability. It’s really surprising to me how bad his finishing is. He shot 15% this year on shots 3-10 feet. So many missed layups it was really confusing. Could be a timing thing and adjusting to NBA speed. This team has quite a few guys who have struggled with layups. Cam is certainly one of them.

Sun-Arc: A. Cam is a smart player, and as he got more relaxed with the speed of the NBA game as the season wore on, you could see him showcasing a couple of other skills such as driving to the rim (and dunking!) and occasionally the drive and dish. He knows where to put his body on defense. The trouble, as I saw it, was he wasn’t always able to get his body to where it needed to be. He fits into a team’s defense decently, though, which is a lot better than I thought he’d be on that end.

B. He needs to get stronger and learn how to get defensive rebounds better- though I’ll give him a pass on the offensive boards because he really ought to be patrolling the perimeter as much as possible. Hopefully his body gets better and more agile through the right training to be a better overall player so he can be a more versatile defender. I actually think there is a chance he will actually do that.

SDKyle: A. Cam’s defense is better than I anticipated, at least in the roles hes been deployed in. And he’s a pretty effective finisher around the rim.

B. I’m not really holding out for Cam to develop much, but if he could develop a bit more ability to create his own shot it would make him more versatile. If I’m not mistaken something like 99% of his threes were assisted. But he’s already fairly effective at what he does.

SouthernSun: A. I love the intensity he sometimes flashes. One put back dunk in particular comes to mind. He also seemed a bit better at defense than I expected him to be prior to the season.

B. I would love to see him work on his ball handling, as well as get in the weight room and add some muscle so he can contend with players down low a little more. He has the height and length, but he needs a bit more mass if the Suns hope to have him rotate between SF/PF, which I believe they do.

Alex S: A. His athleticism is way better than I thought it was going to be heading into the league. That dunk he had on Javale McGee is the only thing I needed to see this year to back that statement up. Yes we knew about his shooting, but he’s such a trustworthy catch and shoot threat which is something this team needed desperately.

B. In terms of what I dislike, I think he has a lot of room for improvement on his individual shot creating. I’d like to see him mold his offensive game entirely around Klay Thompson. Klay is known for C/S but he’s able to take two dribble pull-ups, post-up a little, and even slash a bit. I don’t expect Johnson to turn into Devin Booker in terms of isolation O but I’d like to see some improvement. Additionally, get stronger and on-ball D.

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

Dario Saric 24 Points Full Highlights (3/6/2020)

Frank Kaminsky 24 Points Full Highlights (12/11/2019)

Cheick Diallo 22 Points Full Highlights (11/24/2019)

Elie Okobo 17 Points Highlights vs Houston Rockets | 22.12.2019

Ty Jerome 15 Points Full Highlights (12/21/2019)


Quote of the Week

“I think the game has transformed to positionless basketball, you see a lot of smaller lineups, so I think everyone is trying to learn how to play the game in every aspect and not get caught being known as one thing.” - Devin Booker


News & Notes

Devin Booker On The Suns, Geeking Out On ‘The Last Dance,’ And Being The NBA’s Best Gamer. UPROXX

Devin Booker Talks Call of Duty, His Improved Efficiency, If He Would Ever Become an Analyst, and More. The Big Lead

Sources: NBA discusses delaying start of 2020-21 season until December. Woj/ESPN

Most heartbreaking moments in Phoenix Suns history. Clutch Points

Charles Barkley looks back on premier talent of former Suns F Richard Dumas. Kellan Olson/Arizona Sports

The Whiteboard: 10 players who would have thrived in today’s NBA. Gerald Bourguet/The Step Back


This Week in Suns History

On May 4, 1994, Charles Barkley hit 23-of-31 field goal attempts and finished with 56 points, leading the visiting Suns to a 140-133 win over Golden State and a three-game sweep of their Western Conference First Round series. Barkley’s 56 points tied for the third-highest total ever in an NBA Playoff game, and his 38 points in the first half set a record.

On May 5, 2010, the Suns made national headlines when they donned jerseys emblazoned with “Los Suns.” They are worn “to celebrate diversity on Cinco de Mayo,” according to team owner Robert Sarver, but also to protest a controversial immigration law that had been recently signed by Arizona’s governor. Los Suns beat the San Antonio Spurs, 110-102 in a conference semi-final contest.

On May 6, 1968, the Suns acquired their first player during the NBA Expansion Draft, selecting 6-5 guard Dick Van Arsdale from New York. Van Arsdale is still affectionately known as “The Original Sun.”


Classic Suns Highlights

90s - Richard Dumas Mix

Penny Hardaway & Jason Kidd

Tony Delk’s 53 point game

Unfamiliar with Tony Delk? Read all about him and this game in the Bright Side TBT article, Throwback Thursday: Tony Delk drops 53 on the Kings by former staffer Rollin J. Mason.


Suns Trivia

Back in 1977 - the night before a road game in Buffalo - Suns legend and ROH member Alvan Adams ate 47 chicken wings for his evening meal. The following evening he scored 47 points (with a side of 18 rebounds, 12 assists and 5 blocks) against the Braves in a 115-114 loss.

Only been six times in NBA history has a player recorded at least 45 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. The other four were Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird and James Harden (twice). Of these, Adams is the only player since blocks became a stat (1971) to also record five blocks.

It’s likely that he is also the only player to eat 47 hot wings the night before.


Previewing the Weeks Ahead


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “James Jones has stated that playmaking, defense and shooting were what they would be looking for in this year’s draft. Which one do you consider most important for the Suns to add?”

27.5% - Playmaking.

35.0% - Defense.

37.5% - Shooting.

There were 120 votes cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

If the next NBA season starts in December, would you prefer the later start to be a temporary move or a permanent one?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Temporary.
    (38 votes)
  • 15%
    Permanent.
    (14 votes)
  • 44%
    I don’t care. Either is fine with me.
    (41 votes)
93 votes total Vote Now