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Center of the Sun: Suns still under .500 after Week Two

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

Cleveland Cavaliers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Sacramento Kings L (110-107) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Cleveland Cavaliers W (101-92) Full Recap

Everyone knows that the Suns’ three-point shooting has been bad so far this season (31.0%, 27th) and their three-point defense has also been bad as opponents have collectively connected on 40.0% (28th) of their attempts from beyond the arc. Also, whether it’s through instructions from Monty or just plain gun-shyness, they’ve also begun to attempt less threes per game... while their opponents shoot more.

In their first two games against Denver and LAL, the Suns attempted 37 and 32 threes (respectively) and in both of those games both opponents attempted only 2 more threes than the Suns. In their next three games, the Suns attempts started to dwindle to a low of only 22 attempts against Sacramento and just 26 against Cleveland while those two teams fired up 38 and 44 attempts. In Portland, the Suns took 22 fewer three-point attempts than the Blazers. When you add it all up, in the last three games the Suns have attempted 56 fewer threes than their opponents.

If the low number of attempts is by design and part of the game plan, I suppose I can live with that but if it’s because players are beginning to second guess themselves and pass or drive instead of shooting threes they would normally take, that’s not good... especially if the team is behind and playing catch-up. If your confidence in your shot is already down, being behind puts even more pressure on shooters.

Upping their shooting percentages is something each player will have to work out for himself but defending better at the arc would ease the pressure on the entire team to perform better offensively and we know this team can play very good defense when they put their minds to it.

Defending better at the three-point line should be the first step in righting this ship.


Game Highlights

KINGS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | October 27, 2021

Deandre Ayton 21 PTS 21 REB: All Possessions

Devin Booker Full Highlights vs Kings ● 31 POINTS!

CAVALIERS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | October 30, 2021

Devin Booker leads Suns to win vs. Cavaliers on his birthday


Key Stats

22.2 FT Attempts per game (5th), 69.4% FT percentage (28th)

Sometimes it’s just maddening how things turn out. During the 2020-21 season, the Suns were 29th in getting to the free throw line (18.7 attempts per game) but the 2nd best FT shooting team (83.4%). So far this season they have done a 180 on both stats by becoming one of the best teams at getting to the FT line but also one of the worst at converting those opportunities into points.

CP3 is averaging 4.4 FTAs but is hitting only 77.3%. Not a terrible stat for many other players but for CP3 it’s pretty bad considering he made 93.4% of his FTs last season (best in the NBA) and has a career FT average of 87.2% (27th All-Time best). Book (4.8 FTA, 87.5%) is actually making FTs at a slightly higher rate than last season (86.7%) and his career number of 87.0%. Cam Payne, the only other Suns player to be averaging at least 4 FTAs per game, is at 62.5% which is well below his 89.3% from last season and 81.3% career average. On lower volume, DA is at 61.5%, Cam J, Shamet, Elf and Bridges are all at 50% and McGee is only at 40%.

One good piece of news is that the Suns are 3rd in opponents’ FT attempts (15.4), much improved over their 13th place ranking in 2020-21.

Random stats: Deandre Ayton (25.0%) is presently hitting a higher percentage from three than Jae Crowder (22.2%), Abdel Nader (20.0%) and Cam Payne (16.7%). Devin Booker (9th) needs just 57 points to pass Paul Westphal (8th) on the Suns’ All-Time Points Leaders list.


Quotes of the Week

“We have young guys that are leaders and everybody leads in their own different ways. We communicate, we talk. It’s a real family over here.” - Chris Paul

“You keep your head down, keep pushing, keep trying to get better, keep trying to get back to high level championship basketball. “ - Cam Johnson

“We’ve got to take every game like it’s our last because there’s definately a target on our backs from being in the Finals last year.” - JaVale McGee


Injury Status Report

Deandre Ayton (Leg) Game time decision.

Cameron Payne (Hamstring) Expected to be out until at least Nov. 4.

Dario Saric (Knee) Expected to be out until at least April 1.


News & Notes

Suns And Deandre Ayton In Weird Spot As Season Begins. Yardbarker

Phoenix Suns: Is their slow start a Finals hangover or cause for concern? Sir Charles In Charge

“I can’t do anything without him” - Chris Paul highlights Deandre Ayton’s importance in Phoenix Suns’ pick-and-roll gameplay. Sportskeeda

Suns HC Monty Williams takes accountable on Deandre Ayton contract issue. TalkBasket.net

Who is Robert Sarver? Background and history of Suns majority owner. Sporting News

Chris Paul’s bold revelation might rub LeBron James, James Harden, Blake Griffin the wrong way. Clutch Points

‘The Voice of the Suns’ gives the play-by-play on his career in broadcasting. Fronteras Desk (7:18 minute AUDIO interview)


This Week in Suns History

On November 1, 1996, 8-time All-Star Steve Nash made his NBA debut for the Phoenix Suns in a 96-82 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. On the following night (Nov. 2), Nash recorded the first assist and basket of his Hall of Fame career in a 110-95 loss to the Houston Rockets. Nash played 12 minutes scoring 9 points along with 1 assist, 1 rebound and 1 steal. Although Steve played the fewest minutes of any Sun in this game, he led the team in getting to the free throw line and shot 6 of 7 for the night.

On November 2, 1999, 4-time All-Star Shawn Marion made his NBA debut for the Phoenix Suns in a 107-102 loss to the Denver Nuggets. Marion recorded his first NBA double-double in the game with 14 points and 14 rebounds. He would get 6 more double-doubles during the rest of his rookie season plus 1 more in the first round of the playoffs.

On November 2, 1990, the Suns defeated the Utah Jazz 119-96 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in Japan in the first regular season game played outside North America by any major professional sports league. Tom Chambers led the Suns with 38 points and 10 rebounds while Kevin Johnson scored 29 with 10 assists. 1-time All-Star Cedric Ceballos made his NBA debut in this game scoring 2 points and grabbing 1 rebound in just 2 minutes of court time.

On November 7, 1992, the Suns celebrated their 30th Anniversary season by moving into the America West Arena where they opened their season with a 111-105 win over the LA Clippers. Charles Barkley (acquired by trade after the end of the previous season) wowed the Phoenix home crowd with a near triple-double (37 points, 21 rebounds and 8 assists) in his first regular season game as a Sun.


Suns Trivia

Steve Nash (6,997) and Kevin Johnson (6,518) are first and second on the list of All-Time Assists Leaders for the Suns. Nash holds 6 of the top-10 records for Single Regular Season Total Assists for the Suns. The other four are held by KJ.

Former Sun Shawn Marion is one of only five NBA players to record more than 1,500 steals (1,759) and 1,000 blocks (1,233) in his NBA career. The other four are Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, Kevin Garnett and Julius Erving.

Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor member Tom Chambers is one of only two former NBA players to have scored over 20,000 career points (20,049) without being elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. (The other is Antawn Jamison.)


Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, Nov. 2 - Phoenix Suns vs New Orleans Pelicans 7:00 pm AZT (TNT)

Thursday, Nov. 4 - Phoenix Suns vs Houston Rockets 7:00 pm AZT (NBA TV)

Saturday, Nov. 6 - Phoenix Suns vs Atlanta Hawks 7:00 pm AZT

Three home games and no back-to-backs with two against teams at or near the bottom of the Western Conference standings and the other against a team playing it’s 3rd game in four days normally might sound like a relatively easy week for the Suns. Well, the Suns are presently also in the bottom half of the WC and not playing well enough for any segment of their schedule to be considered “easy”.

First up, the still Zionless Pelicans (1-6), now coached by former Suns assistant coach Willie Green, come to town. Both teams should be well rested after having two days off before this game. On paper this game looks to be close as the Suns and Pels are almost dead even in Net Rating (Suns 24th/minus-6.0, Pels 25th/minus-6.4). Offensively, the Pels (19th) have a bit of an edge on the Suns (22nd) but defensively Phoenix (22nd) has the advantage over NO (25th). Although they’ve lost 6 of their 7 games, their last three losses were by a total of 13 points so the Pels are not getting blown out. I think the Suns will win this one although it could be a very close game.

Next are the Houston Rockets (1-5) on Thursday. So far the Rockets have won only 1 game (against OKC) and lost all their other games by at least 10 points. John Wall has yet to play this season (out for personal reasons) and 10 of their other 16 players have 2 years or less of NBA experience and 4 more with 4 or 5 years under their belts. Subs Eric Gordon and DJ Augustin are the only long-time vets on their active roster. Houston doesn’t do a lot well but they are pretty good at making threes (36.0%, 9th) which the Suns have so far been terrible at defending (opponents average 40.0% from three against Phoenix, 30th) so expect them to bomb away Thursday night. Houston also turns the ball over a lot (17.8 TO per game, 29th), give up a lot of fast break points (17.2 per game, 29th) and are dead last in opponents’ points off turnovers (22.8 per game) and opponents’ steals (10.8 per game). If the Suns play under control and push the pace on Rocket turnovers, they should be able to withstand their 3-point barrage and get the win.

Finally, the Atlanta Hawks (3-3) bring their 13th ranked offense and 16th ranked defense to Phoenix. Those numbers aren’t great but they’re certainly better than those of the Suns at the moment. The Hawks’ young star - Trae Young - got his bag this offseason but so far has underperformed in Atlanta’s 3-3 start. The sharp-shooting PG is averaging 22.3 ppg to go with his 10.0 assists but his shooting efficiency has been sub-par at 42.9% from the field and 29.0% from three. I think the Suns can get a win in this one but only if they are playing at or near their peak 2020-21 form... which we’ve rarely seen so far in 2021-22. I’m calling this one a loss for Phoenix.

This week I’m predicting that the Suns will go 2-1.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

December 15 - Most players signed during offseason can be traded.

December 25 - Phoenix Suns vs Golden State Warriors 3:00 PM AZT (ABC)

January 5 - 10-day contracts may now be signed.

January 10 - All Standard NBA contracts are guaranteed for the remainder of the season.

January 15 - All players signed during offseason can be traded.

January 20 - All Two-Way Contracts are guaranteed for the remainder of the season.

February 10 - NBA Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET).

February 18-23 - NBA All-Star break.

February 20 - NBA All-Star Game.

March 1 - Playoff Eligibility Waiver Deadline.

April 10 - Regular season ends.

April 12-15 - Play-In Tournament.

April 16 - Playoffs begin.

May 17 - NBA Draft Lottery.

June 23 - NBA Draft.