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Center of the Sun: Mikal’s opportunity and holding on to hope

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

Phoenix Suns v Golden State Warriors Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Current Record: 21-23

Offensive Rating: 114.0 (11th)

Defensive Rating: 112.6 (12th)

Net Rating: +1.4 (10th)


Given the state of the Suns, it’s everywhere. It’s what you do with that opportunity that ultimately determines your success and your value to the team and the organization.

We’re seeing surprise performances from Damion Lee and Duane Washington, Jr., who are taking their opportunity and running with it. We’re seeing glimpses with Mikal Bridges. We’re frustrated that we don’t see more of it from Deandre Ayton.

Mikal Bridges is an interesting case.

He is not the team’s primary or even secondary scorer. At his best, he’s a tertiary scorer who focuses on containing the opposing team’s best offensive player. Mikal isn’t expected to be a consistent offensive threat.

We go back to opportunity, however.

With so many members of the Phoenix Suns currently in street clothes on the bench, the scoring must come from somewhere. Since Devin Booker’s injury on December 25, no one on the Suns has averaged 20+ points. Your top five scorers are as follows:

  • Deandre Ayton: 16.3 PPG, 15.7 FGA, 46.1 FG%
  • Chris Paul: 16.0 PPG, 12 FGA, 47.6 FG%
  • Mikal Bridges: 15.3 PPG, 12 FGA, 43.9 FG%
  • Landry Shamet: 14.6 PPG, 14.6 FGA, 47.5 FG%
  • Duane Washington, Jr.: 13.2 PPG, 13.2 FGA, 37.1 FG%

The Bridges line is the one I’m focusing on here. Prior to the Booker injury, here is how his line looked:

  • Mikal Bridges: 15.8 PPG, 12.8 FGA, 46.6 FG%

So, with Devin Booker out, with Chris Paul out, and with Deandre Ayton missing time, Bridges’ numbers have gone…down? It’s not that Mikal Bridges would become Scottie Pippen with this opportunity, although that would be nice, but he hasn’t even been Toni Kukoc.

Why is this important?

You hope you won’t have many opportunities to use Mikal Bridges as a primary or secondary option in your offense. You hope you’re healthier than that. You hope Mikal Bridges can contribute more offensively to the Phoenix Suns’ long-term success. While it isn’t his primary skill, it is valuable.

However, now is the time to capitalize on the fact that no one is healthy. It’s time to work on aspects of your game to improve your offensive effectiveness. We see hints of it with Mikal, but it’s nice to see it on a more regular basis.

In Week 13, we saw a much more offensively engaged Mikal Bridges:

  • Week 13 Mikal Bridges: 19.0 PPG, 14.0 FGA, 52.4 FG%

He had 26 points against the Warriors and 24 against the Timberwolves. In between those games was a 7-point game against the Nuggets. He remains an inconsistent contributor to the Phoenix offense.

Take advantage of the opportunity, Mikal.

Player of the Week

Damion Lee

21.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists

48.6 FG%, 53.3 3PT%, 100 FT%

Lee continues to be a bright spot during the dark days for the Suns. He surely will garner a nice paycheck from someone at the end of the season.

D L33 scored a career-high 31 points against Golden State and was instrumental in closing that game out. He was 14-of-14 from the stripe and helped the Suns close out the Warriors, handing them just their 5th loss at home on the season.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors (W, 125-113) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets (L, 126-97) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns @ Minnesota Timberwolves (L, 121-116) FULL RECAP

Highlights/Post Game Podcasts


407. Suns (21-21) @ Warriors Post Game Pod with Dave King:


408. Suns (21-22) @ Nuggets Post Game Pod:


409. Suns (21-23) @ Timberwolves Post Game Pod:

News & Notes

Burn City Sports: Devin Booker Hilariously Reacts To Postgame Interview After Upset Win Against the Warriors

Basketball Network: “Hopefully, they get it together, but there’s something going on” - Shaquille O’Neal speculates about locker room drama within the Phoenix Suns

Fan Nation: Report: Suns Most Likely Need Three-Team Deal to Trade Jae Crowder

Arizona Sports: Newly signed Suns guard Saben Lee wants to prove himself in the NBA

Clutch Points: Cameron Johnson reveals much-needed return timeline as Suns slump

Bleacher Report: NBA Insider Notebook: Jae Crowder ‘Confused and Hurt’ by Situation in Phoenix

Arizona Sports: Pelton picks a Suns move to improve: Deandre Ayton plays better

Quotes of the Week

“I am thankful my teammates appreciated my leadership. I’m confused and hurt my coaches didn’t appreciate the things I brought to our team and organization. And this has nothing to do with financial or contract differences.” — Jae Crowder

“When you have Chris and Book on the floor, those guys read those plays a lot better than D-Wash and Saben. That’s just the way it is.” — Monty Williams

“I just want to win. That’s it. Frustrating. Just want to win.” — Mikal Bridges

“It felt really good. I’m grateful to be here, grateful for every opportunity.” — Saben Lee

“We fought, which is good, I’ll take that. I’ll take us fighting no matter who we have, we got five guys, or we got 15 guys, I’ll take us fighting until the end.” — Damion Lee

“I was so thirsty to score the ball. I saw shots I normally hit, especially the midrange area. Just my hook shots. This is just my 1st game back.” — Deandre Ayton

Key Stat

31 FTA, 58 TRB

In the Suns win against the Warriors, they did two things they don’t do often: get to the line and rebound.

The Suns had 31 free throws for just the third time all season and snagged their second-highest rebound total, 58, in their only Week 13 victory.

Injury Status Report

Chris Paul (hip) is DAY TO DAY

Cameron Payne (right foot sprain) is DAY TO DAY

Landry Shamet (hip) is DAY TO DAY

Devin Booker (groin soreness) is OUT

Cameron Johnson (right meniscus) is OUT

Jae Crowder (texting Chris Haynes) is NOT WITH TEAM

This Week in Suns History

January 16, 2000

Cliff Robinson. Suns legend.

For four seasons between 1997 and 2001, Clifford Robinson was a solid rotation player for the Suns. Averaging 16.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in 292 games, the former 1993 NBA Sixth Man of the Year — affectionately nicknamed ‘Uncle Cliffy’ — was revered for his tenacious play, shooting skill and ability at 6’10”, and Iron Man ability.

He was considered to be one of the best free agent signings in the history of the Suns’ organization.

Cliff wasn’t feeling well on January 16, 2000. He was sent home from the team’s shootaround early in the morning due to flu-like symptoms. The team wasn’t sure if he’d be available to play that evening against Antonio McDyess, Nick Van Exel, and the Denver Nuggets.

Clifford Robinson #30

Robinson returned and, in Jordan fashion, used his illness as motivation to put up his highest scoring game in his 18-year career. It began with a 23-point first quarter – tying a Suns record for most Q1 points with Charlie Scott and Eddie Johnson – on 9-of-11 shooting.

“I don’t think he took a bad shot,” teammate Jason Kidd said of Cliff’s performance.

Uncle Cliffy, headband and all, would continue to find the right range throughout the night. He ended 17-of-26 from the field, including 3-of-5 from beyond the arc and 13-of-15 from the line. His final total?


It was a then-arena record (previously held by Kevin Johnson, who scored 42 on April 3, 1994) that Amare Stoudemire has since tied and Devin Booker has surpassed three times. “It felt great,” Robinson said. “I just tried to put some effort out there, and it came out good.”

Upcoming Games

Monday, January 16 — Phoenix Suns @ Memphis Grizzlies

Thursday, January 19 — Phoenix Suns vs. Brooklyn Nets

Saturday, January 21 — Phoenix Suns vs. Indiana Pacers

Sunday, January 22 — Phoenix Suns vs. Memphis Grizzlies

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Phoenix travels to Memphis to face the 29-13 Grizzlies. Since the Suns surprised them with a victory in December, Memphis has been a machine. They have won their last nine games in a row, and you can bet that the two games against the Phoenix Suns in Week 14 have been marked on their calendar.

They’re a young team that likes to find ways to get motivated, and they don’t need much. With Ja Morant roaming the court and executing his offensive attack in an explosive manner, it’s easy for them to get up for anything.

The Grizzlies have the best defensive rating in the league (109.4), are best in offensive rebounding (13.1), second in defensive rebounding (36.0), and best in total rebounding (49.1). They are also second in blocks (6.1). In short? They own the paint. Have fun, DA.

The Suns return home after their four-game road trip and are rewarded by playing the 27-14 Nets. It is our first look at a team that was widely discussed throughout the off-season. Kevin Durant never made it to Phoenix and we will wonder how those conversations took place and what offers the Suns made to bring him here.

Brooklyn will be without KD, who is out with an MCL sprain. The Nets are the opposite of the Grizzlies in that they are 29th in the league in rebounding. They are a perimeter team, shooting 39.2% from deep, second best in the league. Kyrie Irving is averaging 26 points on 48.4/36.2/90.2 splits.

If Mikal has to guard him, expect some burnt Bridges. He has a hard time with quick guards.

The other team the Suns play this week is the 23-21 Indiana Pacers. Oh great, Jalen Smith and Tyrese Haliburton talk. My favorite. It’s a subject that will continue to haunt the Suns. Anyone who is anti-James Jones will bang the drum that he should’ve drafted Halliburton stead of Jalen Smith in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Yeah? Ryan McDonough should’ve drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo instead of Alex Len in 2013. That is why the art of drafting is an imperfect art.

Indiana is a feisty team that played with the seventh fastest pace in the NBA. They pass the ball, move it around, and attack. They most likely will be without Halliburton, however, who is out with a sprained elbow.

Indiana Pacers attempt the sixth most three-pointers per game. Another perimeter-based team for Phoenix to battle.

In summation, Week 14 is a sandwich. Rebounding is the bread with the Grizzlies, the perimeter is the meat and cheese with Brooklyn and Indiana.

Weekly Prediction: 1-3

How are we feeling this week?

Looking at last week’s poll, I was wrong with the 52% who predicted that the Suns would be 0-3 in Week 13. They pleasantly surprised us by winning against Golden State.

With a four game slate ahead of them, I’m predicting a 1-3 record in Week 14. The two Memphis games and then the Brooklyn game will be too much for this team. Indiana at home without Haliburton is a different story. That is a winnable game. So go win it.


And the Suns Week 14 record will be?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    (2 votes)
  • 3%
    (2 votes)
  • 43%
    (25 votes)
  • 35%
    (20 votes)
  • 14%
    (8 votes)
57 votes total Vote Now


Week 13 reminded us that hope still exists. The schedule? Daunting. The injury report? Long. Like, really long. Like, the team-had-one-of-their- top-six-players-available long.

Somehow the Suns exited with a 1-2 last week. While that might not feel like much of an accomplishment – the team currently sits in tenth place in the Western Conference and is threatening to miss the playoffs – we still have hope.

I’m trying. I’m trying to be positive. This has been a dark time for the Phoenix Suns. This last month and a half has been some of the worst basketball we’ve witnessed since Monty Williams arrived in the Valley. But there’s nothing you can do.

There’s no one thing you can point out and say, “Hey, that needs to be better.” Why? Because of the obstacles that her place before us. The Suns aren’t struggling due to lack of execution or lack of effort. Okay, maybe Ayton is on the effort front. They’re struggling due to a lack of continuity, lack of familiarity, lack of health. Those things just take time.

That’s where I revisit hope.

Cameron Johnson could be back this week. Devin Booker could be a couple weeks after him. That’s 39.2 points automatically inserted back into your lineup.

With the Western Conference as inconsistent as it is, a five game winning streak can go a long way. It’s just a matter of getting there and understanding that once Booker and Johnson are back doesn’t mean that the Phoenix Suns automatically become the best team in the West again. It will take time for them to get their legs underneath them, it will take time for them to reacclimate to the game.

Help is on the way. We just have to get there.

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