What does F&B mean to you? Find and buy? Features and benefits?
To those who have spent any time in the service industry, “Food and Beverage” is the first option that pops into your mind. You know the importance of stabbing your tickets, you’ve smiled through an irate guest interaction, and you always tip at least 20%. Phrases such as “corner”, “hot pan”, and “86’d” are part of your daily vernacular. Perhaps you’ve even felt the anguish of having patrons walk in with 4 minutes left until closing time. Who am I kidding? There is no perhaps.
The term F&B, when referring to the 2020-21 Phoenix Suns, is not a reference to having someone send back their 3⁄4 eaten salad because the didn’t like it. No, it is a subtle nod to two teammates who’ve gelled over the past two seasons and enjoy playing with each other. Frank Kaminsky and Mikal Bridges.
Frank and Bridges.
An Unlikely Duo
Frank is a 7’0” forward/center who the Suns chose to not re-sign following one year in Phoenix. He had a solid December in 2019 (12.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 43.5 3PT%) in the absence of Deandre Ayton and Aron Baynes. Injury robbed him of progression in his 5th NBA season however, and his Orlando Bubble production was lackluster in 7 appearances (3.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 16.7 3PT%) following a return from a right patella fracture.
Bridges is in his third year, a fan favorite, and makes his name on defense. “Mikal Jail”, “The Warden”, “The Long Arm of the Law”; the nicknames keep coming as his displays his defensive prowess. 2020-21 has been a year of offensive growth for the young forward as he has increased the majority of his metrics.
Off the court both are known as funny, engaging teammates. They possess the archetype that every successful team needs: The “Glue Guys”. It would make sense if the two were seen off the court goofing around or playing pranks on their fellow Fellas.
You wouldn’t think that a big man and a defensive wizard would create continuity on offense. Yet they are dissecting defenses with precise passing and instinctive cutting.
Fans have been waiting for the Phoenix Suns to “gel”. The offense has stammered and sputtered like an engine with a dislodged spark plug. Devin Booker’s numbers are down and Deandre Ayton has been consistently inconsistent. Injuries have plagued the team and when Jae Crowder went down with a right foot issue, a change had to be made.
The Addition of Frank to the Starting 5
Monty Williams pulled the lever and made the decision prior to the game against the Detroit Pistons to start Frank Kaminsky at the power forward position rather than Cameron Johnson. The hope was Frank could add size to a depleted front line; the byproduct was a happy Mikal Bridges.
Mikal Bridges had been telling Frank Kaminsky he couldn't wait to play minutes with him in the second unit because he knows Kaminsky can find him on cuts and such.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) February 7, 2021
Kaminsky had been seeing an increase in minutes with Dario Saric out due to health and safety protocols and then injuries. He performed well in his role as the backup five. How shocked were you when, against the Golden State Warriors, he nearly posted a triple-double with his 12/13/8 game?
Despite an increase in playing time, Frank and Bridges had not played many minutes together. The F&B duo had played in 12 games together for a total of 75 minutes and posted a -6 +/- when sharing the court.
Compare that to the 87 minutes in the past 4 games and a +12. The increased time has allowed both to develop chemistry.
What makes their connection special is how efficient it is. They look for each other on offense; their court vision keys in on the other when opportunity allows:
You take a dive into the advanced statistics and it fortifies the connection that has been developed between the two.
Frank has dished out 39 assists thus far season. That equates to 2.2 per game. 14 of those have been delivered to Mikal Bridges (36%, 0.8 per game). If you extrapolate that further, using his performance against the Warriors as a starting point, Frank has 29 (3.6 apg) assists with 12 (1.5 apg) going to Bridges.
40 times he has passed the ball to Mikal which has lead to 22 field goal attempts. What is impressive is the efficiency: Mikal is 12-for-15 on passes coming from Frank inside the arc (80%) and 16-for-22 overall (72.7%).
Frank’s ability to find Bridges in high percentage situations is another wrinkle to the offense that is a result of his insertion into the offense.
Don’t think this is a one-sided affair. Bridges has been looking for Frank as well. Bridges has found Frank 6 times this season as well. Not a big number for you? Let’s put it into context:
- Bridges has played 639 minutes with Deandre Ayton and assisted him 7 times. That is an assist once every 91.3 minutes.
- Bridges has played 162 minutes with Frank and assisted him 6 times. That is am assist once every 27 minutes.
Not bad for a guy who isn’t expected to be a playmaker and has 53 assists on the year (11% of those going to The Tank). Their continued cohesion rapidly becoming another way that the Suns can beat you.
How much time will the two be allowed to blossom? As long as they continue winning, I expect. Since Frank’s insertion into the lineup the team is 4-0. The return of Dario Saric could effect Monty’s rotations as well. But until that time comes, as we view this team through midway through the season, it is working. The team is growing together and developing confidence. The are becoming the team we expected them to be.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t give credit where credit is due. The “F&B” moniker was created by one of Malaysia’s biggest Suns fans Nicholas Tan:
With @CP3 out can we have more of that F&B connection tonight? @FSKPart3 and @mikal_bridges. Frank and Bridges. Yes I know abbreviation isn't a thing yet cause I just made it up. Go @Suns— Nicholas Tan (@KhanweiTan) February 9, 2021
Elite teams don’t beat you one way. They beat you in numerous ways. The Suns have the CP3/Ayton pick-and-roll, the Booker isolation midrange jumpers, and the three-point shooting of off both.
Now they have the F&B Connection. Enjoy watching it mature and grow.
And don’t forget to let your server know if you want ranch with your tenders when you order versus when they drop your entrée. It’ll save them a trip.