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Center of the Sun: Phoenix depth being tested as starter injuries mount

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

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Orlando Magic Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Current Record: 8-4

Offensive Rating: 115.6 (5th)

Defensive Rating: 108.4 (3rd)

Net Rating: +7.2 (2nd)

Power Ranking:

  • NBA: 3rd (↓1)
  • ESPN: 3rd (↓1)
  • CBS: 10th (↓7)
  • NBC: 3rd (↓1)

We begin this week by reminding ourselves that the sky is not falling like the FTX exchange. Just think, the Heat play at FTX Arena. Imagine having that issue right about now…

Despite a 1-2 record on the road this past week, the team remains 8-4 and atop the Pacific Division in the Western Conference. They carry with them the number #5 seed overall, and while we are always frustrated by outcomes that result in a loss, in the grand scheme of things this is just another stop in our journey that is the 2022-23 season. It’s still so early.

It was a rocky start to the week beginning with a 12-point loss at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers. Rocky. Philly. Get it?

Joel Embiid reminded us how potent he can be, especially from the line. The Suns were 18-of-22 from the stripe that night; Embiid alone was 16-of-16. Philly was +18 from beyond the arc and Chris Paul exited with a foot injury. Hard to reach the top of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art with that much working against you.

The Suns flew into Minneapolis and beat the Timberwolves for the second time this season, led by a spectacular Cameron Payne performance. The Suns put up 129 points in their win, a season high.

Payne’s fast paced approach to the game, something that you would think would benefit the hyperactive Wolves, was a welcomed change as it increased the effectiveness of the Suns offense.

From Minnesota to…Tampa?

Hurricane Nicole rolled through the Florida peninsula prior to the Suns’ game against the Magic, and in an effort to avoid flying directly into Nicole’s teeth, the team landed in Tampa Bay. From there they chartered a bus for the 90 mile drive into Orlando.

Phoenix looked flat against the Magic. That, and undersized. Despite having an injured list longer than Bol Bol’s wingspan, the Magic worked Phoenix to the tune of a 17-point victory.

So what did we learn this week?

We learned the value of depth, or lack thereof. As fans of the team, we affectionately fall for different members of the bench. It’s what separates the casual fan from the engaged fan. The engaged bunch can recite who make sup the second team unit, how they came to wear the purple and orange, and what attributes they bring that are beneficial to the team.

We may love some of these players, but in reality, there is a reason many of these players reside on the bench. The primary reason is their inconsistency. We are seeing this from many of our “favorites” this past week. Jock Landale should never shoot a three again (he’s 13% on the year), Point Shamet isn’t a thing (1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio this season), and Dario has a long way to go.

The Suns’ depth is being tested.

Chris Paul was gone for 2 ½ games this week and Cameron Johnson remains out following surgery on his right meniscus. Essentially, two-fifths of the Phoenix starting five aren’t playing. Depth is needed to stay afloat. The best ability is availability, and right now Phoenix is struggling with that.

Add to the mix the Suns are without Jae Crowder, and you’re gonna have highs and lows because you are lacking the consistent talent necessary to be successful. The rumor mill began once again around what James Jones will do with Jae Crowder. Max Strus from the Heat is somebody who has recently been linked to Phoenix.

What will James Jones do to address the fact that the Suns are playing without a $10M player? And when?

Every day that passes a day closer to December 15, the date in which the majority of the league becomes available via trade. Any player who signed a new contract this past offseason can be traded effective that date. The goal fo the Suns right now is to continue to stay afloat, to continue to ride the tide, to continue to avoid the hurricanes. Get to December 15, see where you are at, and trade Crowder at that time.

Player of the Week

Cameron Payne

19.7 points, 5.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds

47.8 FG%, 43.5 3PT%, 83.3 FT%

This honor could always go to Devin Booker — and he was great again this week with 25.7 points, 7 assists, and 6.3 rebounds — but Cameron Payne reminded us that he has some gas left in the tank. He had to step up following an injury to Chris Paul in Philly, and started the next two games for the Suns.

As a starter his week, Payne went for 22.5 points and 6 assists, turning the ball over a grand total of 4 times. While he most likely isn’t someone you want starting every game for you, his ability to spell CP3 is a welcomed sight.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs. @ Philadelphia 76ers (L, 100-88) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns @ Minnesota Timberwolves (W, 129-117) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns @ Orlando Magic (L, 114-97) FULL RECAP

Highlights/Post Game Podcasts

SUNS at 76ERS | NBA FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | November 7, 2022:

375. Suns (7-3) @ 76ers Post Game Pod:


376. Suns (8-3) @ Timberwolves Post Game Pod:


377. Suns (8-4) @ Magic Post Game Pod:

News & Notes

Bleacher Report: Suns Eyeing Max Strus in Jae Crowder Talks with Heat

Burn City Sports: LeBron James to Phoenix Suns is a Possibility

Fan Nation: Monty Williams Says Suns Need Rest After Road Trip Struggles

Fan Nation: Suns Made Right Decision Letting JaVale McGee Walk

CBS Sports: NBA City Edition jersey rankings: Breaking down every team’s 2022-23 Nike uniform, from worst to first

AZ Central: 5 takeaways from Phoenix Suns worst defeat this season in Friday’s loss to sub .500 Orlando Magic

Quotes of the Week

“Didn’t have the juice.” — Monty Williams on their performance against the 76ers

“He talks because he’s mean and wants to destroy you.” — Doc Rivers on Devin Booker’s trash talking

“We play team basketball, we share the ball!” — Devin Booker yelling at the Timberwolves bench

“This was a big game for us. Weird to say that early in the season, but when you don’t have Chris, coming off of a loss and playing against a team in your conference that you want to play well against, to me, it was a big game.” — Monty Williams after beating Minnesota

“I try to set the tone for the 2nd unit.” — Landry Shamet

“They’ve got a lot of length out there man.” — Cameron Payne

“DA doesn’t get the benefit of the contact. He’s getting beat up down there.” — Monty Williams

“When I’m able and ready to play, I’ll be out there.” — Chris Paul

Key Stat


The second team unit shot 39% from the field this past week, 26th best in the league during that timeframe. Their 27 points-per-game was also 26th and their 25.7% shooting from deep was 25th.

The depth is being tested, indeed.

Injury Status Report

Cameron Johnson (right meniscus) is NO TIME TABLE FOR RETURN

Jae Crowder (popping up in trade rumors) is NOT WITH TEAM

Landry Shamet (concussion protocol) is OUT

This Week in Suns History

November 14, 1968

Back in 1968, the inaugural season for the Phoenix Suns, the team actually played a game in Tucson, Arizona. I still can’t find out why this occurred, but they played down in U of A country. Something must’ve happened down the I-10, because their loss in Tucson set off the first great losing streak in Suns’ history.

It was the first game that Phoenix played at a neutral site in the history of the franchise, losing the game 111-109 to the Detroit Pistons. It dropped their record to 5-6 on the season, a season that would see them finish seventh in the NBA’s Western Division at a record of 16-66 under head coach Red Kerr.

The Pistons had led by 16 points at half time, but saw that lead dwindle down to a tie before holding on to beat the Suns by 2. Phoenix was led in scoring by Gail Goodrich with 25 points and Dick Van Arsdale with 21, whereas the Pistons had a trio of 20+ points scorers in Happy Hairston, Dave Bing – not to be confused with the one and only Dave King – and Dave DeBusschere.

The loss began a 12-game losing streak for the Phoenix Suns as the team would not win again until December 4, 1968. Yikes.

Suns Trivia

Speaking of losing streaks, what is the longest in the history of the Suns? Many of you might remember, as it wasn’t too long ago.

The Suns lost 17 consecutive games between January 15, 2017 and February 25, 2017.

Upcoming Games

Monday, November 14 — Phoenix Suns @ Miami Heat

Wednesday, November 16 — Phoenix Suns vs. Golden State Warriors

Friday, November 18 — Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz

Sunday, November 20 — Phoenix Suns vs. New York Knicks

The road trip ends in Miami against a Heat team that has stumbled out of the gate, posting a record of 6-7 entering their matchup with the Suns. They have won back-to-back games against the Charlotte Hornets, being led in scoring in their second game by none other than Max Strus. So much for the Suns cashing in on him, eh?

Round 2 with Golden State is next Wednesday, and they too are a team that has been underwhelming thus far this season. The defending champions have sputtered to start as their defense has been struggling to support their offensive attack. The team is 6th in the NBA in scoring (116.3 points-per-game) but 30th in opposing scoring (119.0 points).

The game against the Warriors will be the debut of the new City Edition uniforms.

The former City Edition’s, the “Valley” uniforms, were beautifully designed and will forever live in Suns’ lore. We will see how these look when they hit the court, but the story behind them is beautiful. Woven throughout are homages to the Native American tribes, including how to say the word “Suns” in all 22 native languages.

It will be interesting to see how we refer to them as time passes. We all remember the Statement Edition uniforms, the “Orange Friday” set. What will these be referred to as? The turquoise unis? The cyan city’s? The blue magic? Time will tell.

Sorry about the jersey sidebar, as I know I’m one of the few who care this much about the threads. Back to the weekly preview...

Phoenix then has a quick stop up in Salt Lake City as they take on the surprising Utah Jazz. Danny Ainge and Utah dealt their two All-Stars this past offseason, sending Rudy Gobert to Minnesota and Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Everyone believed that they were in deconstruction mode, collecting as many draft assets as possible. And perhaps they are.

But don’t tell that to Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson, and the Jazz. They have stormed out of the gate, leading the Western Conference with a 10-5 record, losing last night to Joel Embiid and his 59-point performance.

The week ends with a mid-Sunday game at home against the New York Knickerbockers. Tom Thibodeau’s team is staying afloat in the Atlantic Division, but they just lost to the SGA’s 37 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder and are 6-7. The edition of Jalen Brunson, who is scoring 17 points and 7 assists, has yet to make the winning impact everyone in the Big Apple hoped for.

Weekly Prediction: 3-1

Four games in one week. Suns country, let’s ride!

It’s a back-and-forth type of week for the Suns as they end the road trip, come home for a game, pop up to Utah for a game, and return home. The matchups are interesting and again, I believe it all comes down to depth. Miami, Golden State, and New York have had issues with depth as well thus far this season.

Here is how their benches have performed thus far, with NBA ranks:

  • Miami: 42.2 FG% (28), 33.5 3PT% (33.5), -17 plus/minus (21)
  • Golden State: 44.9 FG% (19), 30.1 3PT% (28), -85 plus/minus (30)
  • New York: 43.3 FG% (23), 32.8 3PT% (21), -+5 plus/minus (9)

For context, the Suns are 42.9 FG% (24), 32.1 3PT% (25), +15 plus/minus (7).

One of the primary X factors to the success of the Suns this week is the availability of Chris Paul. While he might not bring the same offensive threat that he has in the past for Phoenix, his availability in the lineup sets the tone for every aspect of the Suns game.

When Paul starts, there is balance to The Force. Cameron Payne returns to the second team unit. Both do a stellar job and lead the team in their respective roles. When Paul is out of the lineup, there is no yin to the yang.

If CP3 returns, this is a 3-1 week for the Phoenix Suns. I’ll be sitting right here at my computer writing next week’s Center of the Sun with the Phoenix Suns posting at 11-5 record. And I’m good with that. If there is no CP3, however, I can see this being a 1-3 week. 9-8? Ewww.

Last week the Suns went 1-2, and of the 155 votes cast in our weekly poll, only 16 predicted a 1-2 week. 10%. Ho will y’all fare this week? What do you think will happen to the Suns this week?


What will the Suns record be this week?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    (7 votes)
  • 28%
    (24 votes)
  • 57%
    (48 votes)
  • 4%
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    (1 vote)
84 votes total Vote Now

It was a painful week, in more ways than one. I’ve been dealing with some sciatic nerve issues in my left leg for the past three months, and this past Wednesday I finally received a spinal injection in an effort to release some of the pain from a herniated disc in my L5 S1.

Holy hell.

For those of you have never had a spinal injection, consider yourself lucky. No amount of anesthesia could negate the sharp pinching pain in my lower back when the needle was inserted. I dropped a few f-bombs, let out manly howl, and probably scared everybody in the waiting room who was up Next.

I will say that the doctor conducting the procedure had a Suns bandanna on. We shared pleasantries right before he stabbed me. Afterwards he subscribed to the Suns JAM Session Podcast. So I guess that’s a win.

Phoenix, losing two of their three games during the first quarter of their season hurts. It’s all relative my friends, it’s all relative.

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