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Center of the Sun: Suns kicking it in first place, but lose vital cog in their rotation

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: Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Current Record: 7-2

Offensive Rating: 116.4 (3rd)

Defensive Rating: 105.1 (3rd)

Net Rating: +11.3 (3rd)

Power Ranking:

  • 2nd
  • ESPN: 2nd
  • Bleacher Report: 2nd

The team is 7-2 and currently sports the best record in the Western Conference. After a 2-1 performance in Week 3 by the Suns, you can’t help but have some concern for this team. Their bench has been a pleasant surprise thus far this season, and they currently rank 11th in total points (37.3) and 22nd in field-goal percentage (43.7%). They’re 8th in the league at +13 through their first 9 games.

You’d like to see that a little bit higher, but it is more than acceptable, especially considering our preseason expectations of the second team unit. Or at least mine. Per Power Ranking Guru, the Suns have had the 20th easiest schedule thus far this season. They should be 7-2. Heck, they should be 9-0! So why be concerned?

Cameron Johnson had a non-contact injury in the first game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night. That’s why. It’s last season all over again for the UNC alum, only worse.

He had his best offensive performance of his career against the New York Knicks last season, pushing and shoving his way into the feelings of the Knicks and scoring 38 points. He hit a magical buzzer beater to end the game and it was a beautiful moment, and one that fortified the draft capital James Jones spent on him.

And then he was gone.

He missed the next 13 games for the Suns and, when he did return, he wasn’t the same. In his final 6 games of the regular season, the sharpshooter shot 19.4% from deep.

Phoenix played the Minnesota Timberwolves last week and clearly took advantage of their “twin towers”. Karl-Anthony Towns couldn’t slip screens with ease, and Cameron Johnson is the one who benefited. He scored 29 points in their victory and our hopes were high that the future was bright.

And then five minutes into the next game, like Jenny Curran, he was gone.

James Jones has played it right up to this point as he did not extend Johnson prior to the season. It’s a “prove it” year for the fourth-year player and unfortunately, it appears that he will not have a chance to do so. Remember Kelly Oubre, Jr.? He suffered a torn meniscus, didn’t play in the Orlando Bubble, and missed the Valley movement.

So now the pressure shifts back to James Jones.

He’s like a poker player in a smoke-filled saloon, strategically playing his hand to prolong the chip count in front of him. Up to this point, he has generally played the right hand, astutely picking and choosing his spots to be aggressive and ultimately has set himself up for success. But with the Johnson injury, and the lack of Jae Crowder being present, Jones is in quite the predicament.

The time has come to play a hand.

An acquisition needs to occur for this team. The roster as constructed is not a championship roster. It’s time to go all in, James. Make a deal. Fortify this roster.

Player of the Week

Mikal Bridges

14.0 points, 2.7 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 1.7 steals

53.8 FG%, 57.1 3PT%, 90.9 FT%

Yeah, he “traveled” at the end of the Blazers game on Friday. But the ball was in his hands. It’s not something he is used to and, just like in the loss against the Blazers in which Deandre Ayton missed two free throws in OT, this is a growth opportunity for the young player.

It was a good development week in the career of Mikal Bridges. Knowing that his twin, Cameron Johnson, will be out for an extended period puts more pressure on Bridges. Someone has to assist Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton in carrying the offenses load. It isn’t going to be Chris Paul. It must be Mikal.

We’ve seen much more engagement from him this season, and with the new take foul rule in effect, players such as Bridges will benefit from fast break points. He’s so good in transition.

He was slashing, cutting, and finding his home in the mid-range this week. He shot 60% from the mid-range this week, 71.4% in the restricted area, and was 57.1% from beyond the arc in Week 3.

And he was a team best +45 throughout the week.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (W, 116-107) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns vs. Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trail Blazers (L, 108-106) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trail Blazers (W, 102-82) FULL RECAP

Highlights/Post Game Podcasts


372. Suns (6-1) vs. Timberwolves Post Game Pod:


373. Suns (6-2) vs. Blazers Post Game Pod:


374. Suns vs. Blazers Post Game Pod:

News & Notes

AZ Central: ‘It’s hard’: Suns’ Dario Saric battling through lack of playing time after missing last season

Burn City Sports: Jae Crowder Quick to Delete a Tweet Regarding Cam Johnson’s Performance

Fan Nation: Is Chris Paul’s Shooting Funk a Problem? B/R Says Yes

Clutch Points: ‘I don’t think like that’: Suns star Devin Booker sounds off on being in his ‘prime’

Arizona Sports: Phoenix Suns carry postseason burden that requires atonement

CBS Sports: Cam Johnson injury update: Suns forward will need surgery on torn meniscus, out indefinitely

Quotes of the Week

“It wasn’t going at each other, barking back and forth. It was literal, simple conversation. Like ‘what are y’all running?’ Not that he is going to tell me.” — Cameron Johnson on going back-and-forth with Karl-Anthony Towns

“Everybody’s involved right now. I’ve heard every type of name. It’s not really my main focus. I have a respect for the president. It was one of those things that was cool to hear.” — Devin Booker on Barack Obama ownership rumors

“I try to come into the gym every day, work hard. Keep my conditioning up and wait for my chance or come in and have some positive things on the court, but it’s not easy. I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy when it’s not.” — Dario Saric

“Having the franchise record last year and getting bumped in the 2nd round isn’t a good feeling We’re just focused on getting better. Wins and losses isn’t really a big thing as long as we have homecourt advantage and we’re in the playoffs.” — Devin Booker

“It’s unfortunate. Getting to know Cam and knowing how great of a guy he is, how hard he works. Getting into the starting lineup. It’s a big year for him. It’s not it. Just a hurdle he’s going to have to overcome and we’re going to be right there with him” — Chris Paul on Cameron Johnson

Key Stat

Who doesn’t love a good graph? The Suns have been offensive/defensive/net rating darlings.

Injury Status Report

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

Jae Crowder (making Tweets then deleting them) is NOT WITH TEAM

Ish Wainright (personal) is OUT

Cameron Payne (foot) is QUESTIONABLE

This Week in Suns History

November 11, 2009

It’s crazy to think that, before this past weekend, it’s been 13 years since the Suns and Trail Blazers held the top spots in the Western Conference. We’re talking Steve Nash versus Brandon Roy era.

Let’s go back to early November 2009, when Phoenix began the season and Portland was 8-3. Who else was on that Blazers team? How about a rookie Patty Mills, second-year players Greg Odom and Nicolas Batum, and fourth-year LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy.

The 2009-10 Suns were a fun team. Steve Nash was at the back end of the 7SOL era, and led a team of wily veterans. He was accompanied in the backcourt by Jason Richardson, and Grant Hill, Amare Stoudemire, and Channing Frye rounded out the starting five.

On Veterans Day 2009, the Suns found themselves playing against a 24 year-old Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets. CP3 had a night — he went for 25 points (4-of-7 from deep), 6 assists, and 4 steals — but it was wasn’t enough to stop the balanced attack of the Suns.

Eight members of the Suns scored in doubled figures (Nash, Richardson, Hill, Stoudemire, Frye, Dragic, Dudley, and Barbosa), with Nash leading the way with 21 and 10 assists.

The win pushed the Suns to an 8-1 start. That team, to this day, is one of the most beloved Suns’ team in their history.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Suns Trivia

Speaking of the 2009-10 Suns’ squad, here’s a fun trivia question for you and your buddies to ponder next time you’re bouncing statistics off of each other at your local watering hole: Who lead that team in total steals?

Think about it for a minute. Need a hint? While this player lead the team in steals, he was sixth in total minutes played.

Give up?

It was second-year forward Jared Dudley, who had 81 swipes that season. For perspective, last season’s Suns Steal King — Chris Paul — had 121. Bridges had 96 and Crowder had 95.

Upcoming Games

Monday, November 7 — Phoenix Suns @ Philadelphia 76ers

Wednesday, November 9 — Phoenix Suns @ Minnesota Timberwolves

Friday, November 11 — Phoenix Suns @ Orlando Magic

The Suns start next week on the east coast, visiting a Philly team that has had a choppy start to their season. The 76ers are 4-6 and have lost consecutive games against the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks.

The city that was flying high — the Philadelphia Eagles are 8-0 and the Philadelphia Phillies just lost to the Houston Astros in the World Series — can’t be happy with their beloved 76ers. Doc Rivers is holding tightly to his job and, if the team continues to struggle, expect him to become a free agent coach soon.

Joel Embiid will once again be tasked with carrying the team as his running mate, James Harden, is out and expected to miss at least a month with a right foot tendon strain.

Embiid, who lead the league in scoring last season, is averaging 27.2 points thus far this season, as well as 9.5 rebounds. In 10 games against the Suns in his career, Embiid averages 31.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. Philly is 4-6 in those games.

On Wednesday the Suns will fly into Minneapolis to face the Timberwolves for the second time this season. You may recall watching the KAT/Gobert experiment fall on it’s face last week as the Suns downed the Wolves 116-107. What made the Suns successful in that game was their ability to take advantage of Towns’ lack of defensive quickness. Cameron Johnson lit them up for 29 points.

There will be no Cam Johnson in this one to take advantage of KAT. And expect Anthony Edwards to hound Devin Booker like he did before. Book matched up against Edwards for 34.1 possessions last week. Booker only scored 7 points on 2-of-6 shooting.

The week rounds out next Friday in Orlando against the 2-8 Magic. They have a -4.3 net rating (24th in the league) and are one of the worst teams in the NBA. But I’ll tell you this: I love this Paolo Banchero kid. The #1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft is leading the team in scoring at 22.9 points and is grabbing 8.5 board.

Go ahead, watch the highlights. He’s good.

Weekly Prediction: 2-1

Talk about even. Last week, 100 Bright Siders predicted the Suns would go 3-0 in Week 3, 100 believed they’d go 2-1. 1 vote was cast for 0-3. Psshhh. I’d love to meet that guy. Always one dude, right?

Road trips can be tricky things, but the Suns were the best row team in the NBA last season. There’s something about staying in a hotel, and being in a foreign environment that this team embraces. I can see Phoenix winning in Philadelphia, losing in Minnesota, and then defeating the magic on Friday.

What do you think?


What will the Suns record be in Week 4of the NBA season?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    (59 votes)
  • 50%
    (78 votes)
  • 10%
    (16 votes)
  • 1%
    (2 votes)
155 votes total Vote Now

This is an important week that lies ahead of us, not just because of a road trip for the Suns, but because Tuesday is an opportunity for all of us to affect change in our communities. The midterm election is Tuesday. I am not an overly political person, and I don’t like to use a forum dedicated to sports as an opportunity to push any agendas. But I will say this: Go out and vote. Every one counts and this is your opportunity to make your voice heard.

This upcoming week is also Veterans Day, so to all of my fellow veterans, I tip my hat to you, and if you’re an officer, I’ll throw you a salute. I served this country because I love it. I love our democracy. I love our freedom. And I love our right to vote. Take advantage of the right that so many in the world simply just do not have.

Have a great week fam.

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