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Center of the Sun: Suns ready to get back to business after a week of inaction due to COVID protocols

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Your weekly roundup of Suns news, rumors, notes and videos from the prior week plus a preview of the week to come.

Phoenix Suns v Indiana Pacers Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Washington Wizards L (128-107) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Atlanta Hawks - POSTPONED

Phoenix Suns vs Golden State Warriors - POSTPONED

Phoenix Suns vs Indiana Pacers - POSTPONED

One loss plus three postponed games added up to a very unsatisfying Week 4, especially due to the circumstances under which those games had to be postponed. Shortly after the Suns worst loss of the season to the lowly 3-8 Wizards, two Wizards players tested positive for COVID-19 which led to the Suns players being placed under the NBA’s health and safety protocols due to their close contact during the game. That game probably shouldn’t have even been played but I won’t dwell on that as BSotS’s Brendon Kleen covered that aspect in detail in an article published on Saturday.

Although the Suns have not yet officially released any info on the status of the players, it seems as though their quarantine is over and they’re going to be back on the court in time for today’s game against the Grizzlies in Memphis.

The bad news is that Dario Saric and Damian Jones will be out as they have been placed on health and safety protocols. Jalen Smith is also still out on H&SP and Cameron Payne is questionable due to an ankle sprain. That leaves the Suns with at least 12 available players but thin in the bigs department with only Deandre Ayton and Frank Kaminsky available to play.

But that’s not all. A new wrinkle has appeared that could still derail the Suns/Grizzlies game.

Yesterday the 76ers/Thunder game was postponed due to ongoing contact tracing for Philadelphia that put them below the league minimum of eight available players. That’s important because Philly played Memphis on Saturday and now Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas has also entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols. This means that it is quite possible - maybe even likely - that this game will also be postponed. As much as I want to see more Suns basketball, I think it should be postponed for safety’s sake.

With more and more players becoming exposed to COVID-19 and more and more games being postponed, I wonder if it isn’t time for the NBA to consider postponing all games for a while. I’m not suggesting that they suspend the season and try to reassemble the bubble just yet but what they’re doing now clearly isn’t working very well. Placing everything on pause for a week or two to allow teams and players a chance to get healthy before resuming play - with more stringent health protocols/restrictions in place - should be considered.


Fantable Questions of the Week

Q1 - If the Suns hadn’t made the trade for Chris Paul (which would also mean no Jae Crowder) and basically ran back last year’s squad with Ricky Rubio and Kelly Oubre Jr. starting, do you think they would have still gotten off to a 7-4 start?

GuarGuar: I do not think we would be 7-4 if we kept Rubio and Oubre. Both of them have gotten off to horrid starts this year. I doubt they would be as bad if they were in our system but it’s still quite alarming. We wouldn’t have beaten Dallas or Denver if not for Chris. And if we kept Kelly I don’t think we see this breakout from Mikal and Cam as much. And those two have been the powerhouse of this team so far.

Sun-Arc: This is really a conversation between continuity of the team versus working in three new (and better) players in Paul, Crowder, and Galloway. Everyone else is the same roster. The bubble-suns were potent, and the players who returned from that are even more potent (Bridges, Dario, & the Cams). With the issues the team has displayed with a short training camp and trying to integrate CP3’s style, it’s a close call to me. Eventually I expect the team as-constructed to go farther than the bubble team would have, but in terms of the first 11 games...

I think it is totally possible they could have the same record. They definitely could have defeated DAL, SAC, & NOP for 3-4 wins. They also could have defeated WAS & DET for two more. I think DEN is not up to snuff yet and we could have wont that game. That’s already 6-7 wins even if we lost to UTA, LAC, & IND.

SDKyle: Hard to say for sure, but I personally think Chris Paul has already been better for this team than Rubio would have been. Even with his shot not falling at expected rates, he’s still a better scorer. And his defense has been big for us too. The Suns are a better offense per 100 this year than last year, and Paul is part of that.

Oubre is having a bad year in San Francisco. Not sure if he’d be as bad here or not.

Hard to say how much any of this would have impacted the start, but I think the Suns are better off now.

SouthernSun: Absolutely not. Chris Paul’s leadership has been huge for this team. Jae’s defense has been very helpful as well. The entire team seems to have started to really bring it on the defensive end, and the Suns are winning games despite not really clicking offensively yet (which will come). Kelly was a joy to watch, and his antics were fun. Rubio was a complete professional and he did a good job helping to raise the floor of the Suns to even help them become a place where CP3 would even want to go, but they simply aren’t nearly as impactful a duo as CP3 and Jae (with CP3 doing a lot of the heavy lifting).

Last seasons team simply wouldn’t win games against two likely top end playoff teams on a back to back. No way.

Alex S: Actually, I don’t think so. I think Kelly coming back from injury and limiting the opportunities for Johnson/Bridges would’ve been a struggle early on. However, the team would still be competitive and more than likely around .500. The main component that’s been working so far is defense and I think the team would still be really good even if Crowder and CP3 were replaced with Rubio and Oubre. Maybe not at the very top like they’ve been but top 10 seems fair. CP3 hasn’t even made a massive impact yet so my guess would be the Suns would be 6-5, so not that big of a difference.

Q2 - After having 3 games (so far) postponed, do you expect the Suns to come out flat or motivated when they return to the court?

GuarGuar: I think we will come out motivated but how good we execute will be the real question. I don’t think we are able to practice much during this contact tracing time. That could have quite the effect on this team. It wouldn’t shock me if some guys who were hot (Mikal, Cam) cooled off a bit. On the flip side it could be beneficial for our “Big 3” to reflect on their play so far and get going.

Sun-Arc: My worry is the team returns after postponement with C-19 running through players on the team over time, with 1-3 players missing games moving along. That would suck. In terms of motivation vs flat on their return… I don’t know this team well enough yet to predict it. Hopefully we don’t see a return of the malaise we witness in Detroit and DC.

SDKyle: I honestly think some of them will come out kind of flat. I think it’s just hard to have the season interrupted like that and not get thrown off your rhythm a bit. That doesn’t mean I think they’ll lose necessarily, but I think it’ll probably be a little ugly at times.

SouthernSun: I expect them to maybe look a touch rusty in the first minutes of Mondays game, but they haven’t been off for too terribly long. I definitely expect plenty of energy and a very powerful will to win. Also, hopefully Ayton starts being aggressive offensively now.

Alex S: I think the Suns will be juiced to play but that might also lead to turnovers/shooting rust. I expect the Memphis game to be a grind. Also having the Wizards game being the last game they’ve played will have left a bad taste in their mouth so I expect the Suns to be able to pull out their next game.

Q3 - In last week’s CotS, the Weekly Poll asked if readers thought COVID-19 might cause another “suspension” of the season this year. 70% voted “No” but things have gotten worst since then. Do you think another season suspension - or at least a 1-2 week postponement of all games - could (or should) be on the way?

GuarGuar: I would be pretty surprised if there was a suspension of the season. The league made a 2 week window at the end of the year for makeup games so I don’t think they have an issue just stacking canceled games right now. Hopefully everything calms down soon though.

Sun-Arc: There may not be enough data yet to suspend all NBA play for any amount of time. It does sound like there should be some stricter protocols in place to protect the season. I don’t mean another break & bubble - though ultimately that might be necessary eventually. I hope each time can become its own bubble of sorts - and play it super safe on their own individually (staying at home, no partying, etc). But that’s easy for me to say.

If they split the conferences up, we might be in better shape now that Harden plays in the east and we wouldn’t have to play the Wizards again (zing! Or… too soon?)

SDKyle: I think another stoppage could well happen and SHOULD if it’s prudent. I’m not a proponent of endless shutdowns, but the safety of everyone involved is more important then getting the games in on schedule. One hears a lot of frightening stuff about more contagious COVID strains that will soon dominate worldwide. Let’s not mess around now until we can get everyone vaccinated.

SouthernSun: If things continue as they are, I could see a couple week postponement while they eventually administer the vaccine to all players (which I believe is something they should, and probably will, do). However, that may not even require a postponement. Kind of hard to predict since we aren’t involved in the discussion at all, and don’t know as much about the availability of vaccines as the big wig owners of teams/GMs probably do.

One thing I seriously doubt is a cancelation of the season. That’s the one thing I would probably rule out. Now, let me find some wood to knock on.

Alex S: I could see a world where the NBA creates a prolonged “all-star break” that involves players going home to family and easing of restrictions. Then they do multiple tests in order to be let back into their team’s facilities so in this scenario I could see a two week hiatus for the players. However, it might be business as usual and there doesn’t end up being any prolonged delay of any sort.

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


Game Highlights

SUNS at WIZARDS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | January 11, 2021

Devin Booker & Full Highlights vs Wizards - 11.01.2021 - 33 POINTS!

And just for fun, some classic highlights!

The Game Chris Paul BECAME POINT-GOD vs Steve Nash! EPIC Duel Highlights | February 6, 2008

CP3 42 Pts 9 Ast 8 Stl 5 Reb, Nash 32 Pts 10 Ast Full Game Highlights | New Orleans Hornets vs Phoenix Suns


Key Stats

25.6 1st quarter points per game

So far the Suns haven’t come out of the gate strong and their 25.6 points scoring average for 1st quarters is 27th in the NBA. This could be a symptom of something not quite right with the starting unit but the starting unit is also usually the first five players to take the floor in the 3rd quarter in which the Suns are averaging a league leading 30.8 ppg.

Random stats: Through 11 games, Devin Booker is leading the Suns in steals with 1.1 per game. During that same period of time, Mikal Bridges is leading the Suns in blocks with 1.2 per game.

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


Quotes of the Week

“We do have to figure it out. A lot of the games that we’ve won, we’ve been carried by our bench.” - Devin Booker

“We’ve gotta embrace the toughness where we saw slip-ups when we’re not playing our best, and take the tough criticism from our coaches and staff and prepare to be better.” - Mikal Bridges

“There’s no magic pill, there’s no magic button you press. It just comes with hard coaching and repetition.” - James Jones


Rookie Report

Jalen Smith - 10.2 mpg, 2.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.5 TO, 0.5 PF, 0.0 3PT%

  • This week - Did Not Play (Injured/Health & Safety Protocols)

Ty-Shon Alexander - 2.5 mpg, 0.0 ppg, 0.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.0 TO, 0.5 PF, 0.0 3PT%

  • This week - Did Not Play (Coach’s Decision)

Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.


Injury Status Report

Cameron Payne - Ankle/Game Time Decision.

Jalen Smith - Health and safety protocols/Expected to be out until at least Jan 20.

Dario Saric - Health and safety protocols/Expected to be out until at least Jan 20.

Damian Jones - Health and safety protocols/Expected to be out until at least Jan 20.


News & Notes

A Phoenix Sun rises: Mikal Bridges determined to be a complete player. Basketball News

Invest Everything In A Mikal Bridges Card Now. Clutch Points

Phoenix Suns: Mikal Bridges and the art of starring in your role. Hoops Habit

Suns GM: Deandre Ayton’s play has been ‘uneven’ to start season. Arizona Sports

Devin Booker critical of Suns’ starting five after blowout loss. Clutch Points

Ranking the NBA’s Top 10 Duos Under 25. Bleacher Report


This Week in Suns History

On January 18, 1971, Phoenix forward Paul Silas set a franchise record with 27 rebounds in a 118-99 win over the Cincinnati Royals.

On January 19, 2016, Devin Booker scored 32 points in a 97-94 loss to the Indiana Pacers. It was the first game in which he scored 30 or more points in his NBA career.

On January 20, 1970, Phoenix’s Dick Van Arsdale and Cincinnati’s Tom Van Arsdale became the first brothers to play in the same All-Star Game. Dick scored eight points for the West team, while Tom scored five for the East which won the game in Philadelphia 142-135.

On January 22, 1968, the NBA Board of Governors granted franchises to the cities of Milwaukee and Phoenix.


Suns Trivia

The Suns tied a franchise record for fewest turnovers in a game by committing just three in their Jan. 9 win over Indiana, matching the three turnovers they had on April 7, 2012 vs. the L.A. Lakers. In that game they also had 33 assists which is tied for the most ever by a team that also committed three or fewer turnovers in the same game. The only other team with 33 assists and only 3 turnovers in a game was Portland vs. the Suns on Feb. 22, 1991.

This year’s Suns roster has a combined 263 games of past playoff experience. New acquisitions Chris Paul (109) and Jae Crowder (72) alone have more playoff experience (181 games) than the entire 2019-20 Suns roster had (138).


Previewing the week ahead

Monday, January 18 - Phoenix Suns @ Memphis Grizzlies 3 pm AZT (TNT)

Wednesday, January 20 - Phoenix Suns @ Houston Rockets 7:30 pm AZT (ESPN)

Friday, January 22 - Phoenix Suns vs Denver Nuggets 8 pm AZT (ESPN)

Saturday, January 23 - Phoenix Suns vs Denver Nuggets 7 pm AZT

The Suns have another four games scheduled this week... and hopefully they’ll be able to play them all this time around.

Later today the Suns have an early afternoon match with the 6-6 Grizzlies in Memphis. The Griz got off to a bad start losing 6 of their first 8 but are presently on a 4-game winning streak. They also just got Ja Morant back from injury and may get Jaren Jackson Jr. back for this game as well. The Suns chances in this one will depend a lot on whether they’re at or near full strength after spending a week on health and safety protocols after the Wizards game. I’m betting that the Suns win a close one though.

On Wednesday the Suns will be in Houston to take on the 4-7 new look Rockets. After moving on from James Harden, it’s hard to tell how good this team is or how well all the new pieces will mesh together. Throw in several injured players that may or may not play (including John Wall) and there are just too many question marks on both sides to do more than guess at the outcome... but I’m guessing that the Suns will come out ahead and get the W.

Friday the Suns return to Phoenix for another back-to-back series with the 6-6 Denver Nuggets. The Suns have already beaten the Nuggets 106-103 in Denver earlier this season so they’ll be looking for some payback. They’re a very good team but still not quite as good as last year after losing Jerami Grant in free agency. I think that the Suns will go 1-1 in this series.

I believe that the Suns will go 3-1 this week.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

February 6 - Most free agents signed this offseason can be traded.

February 23 - First day that teams can sign players to 10-day contracts.

February 27 - Leaguewide salary guarantee date.

March 3 - All free agents signed this offseason can be traded.

March 5-10 - Mid-season break (no All-Star game).

March 25 - NBA Trade Deadline.

May 16 - Regular season ends.

May 17 to 21 - Play-in tournament for 7-to-10 seeds.

May 22 - First-round playoffs.

June 7 - Conference semifinals.

June 22 - Conference Finals.

July 8-22 - NBA Finals.


Last Week’s Poll Results

Last week’s poll was “More and more players have started to miss games due to the NBA’s health and safety (COVID-19) protocols. Do you believe this will ultimately lead to another season “suspension” at some point this year?”

30% - Yes.

70% - No.

A total of 182 votes were cast.


This week’s poll is...

Poll

Instead of allowing teams to sign a 3rd two-way contract player, should the NBA allow teams to start signing players to 10-day contracts to fill out rosters when players are out with COVID-19?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Yes.
    (25 votes)
  • 3%
    No.
    (3 votes)
  • 68%
    They should do both.
    (62 votes)
90 votes total Vote Now