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Center of the Sun: Short handed Suns retain 2nd place in standings after .500 week

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 Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs Memphis Grizzlies L (114-113) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns vs Oklahoma City Thunder W (115-97) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Boston Celtics L (123-108) Full Recap

Phoenix Suns @ Charlotte Hornets W (133-99) Full Recap

It was an up and down week for the Suns as they were forced into making constant adjustments while adding new players on 10-day contracts to replace players - plus head coach Monty Williams - out on health and safety protocols. It all added an extra level of uncertainty to the games which I think they came through fairly well.

As we begin a new week, starters Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder are officially listed as game time decisions for the Suns final game on the road at New Orleans. Whenever they return, it will be a blessing for the team although their absences have provided valuable game time experience for others, especially Jalen “Stix” Smith as well as giving the Suns the opportunity to add veteran center Bismack Biyombo to the roster.

Stix has used the opportunity to show that he does belong in the NBA. Although the Suns declined his 3rd year option, I’m no longer certain whether they had given up on him or just decided that paying him the $4.67 million guaranteed to him next season was a little to much for what he provided. If the Suns do decide to bring him back next season, $4.67 mil is the max they can offer him but otherwise a new contract for him would be no different than for any other UFA. And if they decide not to bring him back, well he has upped his trade value quite a bit over the last few games and he may be on the move before the trade deadline.

Biyombo showed that he still has what it takes to play and could be in line for a rest of the year contract once his 10-day stint is up. The Suns still have an open roster spot and having another experienced big on the bench certainly couldn’t hurt.


Game Highlights

GRIZZLIES at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | December 27, 2021

THUNDER at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | December 29, 2021

Devin Booker (38 PTS) Ties Season-high in Points vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

SUNS at CELTICS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | December 31, 2021

SUNS at HORNETS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | January 2, 2022

Jalen Smith Steps up and posts a Double-Double vs. Hornets


Key Stats

117.5 OffRtg (5th), 108.0 DefRtg (9th), 9.3 NetRtg (4th)

Those are the Suns’ rankings for this week’s games. Their defense suffered the most from all the COVID absences (falling from 2nd for the season to 9th) but their offense curiously rose from 9th to 5th and their net rating barely moved down from 3rd to 4th.

16.3 points, 51.1% FG (11.3 FGA), 43.3% 3PT (7.5 3PTA)

These are Cam Johnson’s stats for the week. His scoring has improved by almost 5 ppg over his season average of 11.4 as he moved into the starting lineup and increased his minutes from 24.9 to 30.8 per game. His FG percentage increased significantly from 45.2% for the season as both his minutes and his FG attempts increased (up to 11.3 FGAs per game from 8.7 for the season). His 3-point shooting stayed consistently high (43.3% this week, 43.1% for the season) while averaging 2 more 3-point attempts per game (7.5 vs 5.6). He’s made the most out of his increased court time.

Random stats: As a starter (2 games), Jalen Smith has averaged 19.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and made 62.5% of his FG attempts in 25.2 minutes per game this season. As a reserve (13 games), he has averaged 4.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and made 43.8% of his FG attempts in 10.9 minutes per game.


Quotes of the Week

“I don’t miss games. I’ll only miss… if something was broken, or I really can’t get on the court. It’s just how I was raised.” - Mikal Bridges

“We feel as if he (Mikal Bridges) is in so many ways the glue of our team.” - Monty Williams

“At some point, you play for so long in the league, you just don’t want to be in the league to be in the league. You want to be in the league to play for something and watching the Suns from far away, they’re competing for something.” - Bismack Biyombo


Injury Status Report

Deandre Ayton (Covid-19) Game time decision.

Jae Crowder (Covid-19) Game time decision.

Abdel Nader (Knee) Expected to be out until at least January 4.

JaVale McGee (Covid-19) Expected to be out until at least January 6.

Frank Kaminsky (Knee) Expected to be out until at least January 10.

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


News & Notes

Cameron Johnson Emerging As Another Consistent Weapon For Phoenix Suns. Forbes

Suns star Devin Booker’s stern 5-word message after upset loss vs. Celtics. Clutch Points

Phoenix Suns Coach Monty Williams Is The Ace Of Self-Effacing. Sports Spectrum

3 Suns 2022 New Year’s Resolutions for Chris Paul and crew. Clutch Points

Draft began as made-for-TV story for Suns’ Mikal Bridges. Then came trade and ‘father figure’. USA Today

JaVale McGee signs Juan Toscano Anderson’s poster dunk picture. Sporting News


This Week in Suns History

On January 5, 1997, during a 109-102 loss at the Boston Celtics, an angry Robert Horry threw a towel at head coach Danny Ainge. Ainge said it was “no big deal” but team owner Jerry Colangelo was upset that the league and Player’s Association only allowed the Phoenix Suns to suspend Horry for two games. It would be Horry’s final game as a Sun as he was traded shortly afterward.

On January 9, 1972, the NBA’s 2,000,000th point occurred in either the Baltimore-Phoenix or Detroit-Buffalo game. At the time, NBA records were not detailed enough to determine in which game the 2 million point mark was reached or which player scored those points.


Suns Trivia

Devin Booker is the 7th youngest player in NBA history to reach 10,000 career points. Only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Tracy McGrady and Giannis Antetokounmpo reached that mark at a younger age. Book also has the highest career game high in points (70) of any active NBA player.

Devin Booker is 2nd - behind Steve Nash - on the Suns’ All-Time leaders’ list in 3-pointers made with 873. This season he is averaging 2.7 3-point makes per game. While it’s unlikely that he will pass Nash’s 1,051 record this season, it is possible that he could reach or pass the 1,000 3-point career makes mark.


Previewing the Week Ahead

Tuesday, Jan. 4 - Phoenix Suns @ New Orleans Pelicans 6:00 pm AZT

Thursday, Jan. 6 - Phoenix Suns vs LA Clippers 8:00 pm AZT (TNT)

Saturday, Jan. 8 - Phoenix Suns vs Miami Heat 7:00 pm AZT

The Suns have three games this week with the first on the road. The following two are at home before they begin another road trip next week.

With all the COVID related player absences on every team, I’m not making any predictions this week. With player availability changing dat by day, win/loss predictions are pretty much just a guessing game until right before tip off when you know for certain which players are actually going to be available to play.

With that said...

My best guess is that the Suns will still find a way to beat the lowly 13-23 Pelicans on the road. I will also call the two home games against the Clippers and Heat as 50/50 games and the Suns will likely win at least one of those with the home crowd cheering them on. I won’t hazard a guess at which game they are more likely to win though.

My prediction (best guess) for this week is that the Suns will go 2-1.

What’s your prediction?


Important Future Dates

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

January 15 - All players signed during offseason can be traded. Last day to apply for a disabled player exception.

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 - Last day a player can be waived by one team and remain eligible to appear in the postseason for another team.

March 10 - Last day to use a disabled player exception.

April 10 - Regular season ends. Last day players can sign contracts for 2021/22. Last day two-way contracts can be converted to standard NBA contracts.

April 11 - Playoff rosters set (3:00pm ET).

April 12-15 - Play-In Tournament.

April 16 - Playoffs begin.

May 17 - NBA Draft Lottery.

June 23 - NBA Draft.