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Center of the Sun: New Year, New Suns?

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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Phoenix Suns v Washington Wizards Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Current Record: 20-17

Offensive Rating: 116.9 (3rd)

Defensive Rating: 113.7 (17th)

Net Rating: +3.1 (7th)

Happy New Year, Bright Siders.

When you look at the calendar year of 2022 for the Phoenix Suns, it was a decent one. The team posted a 56-27 record. While they were exited from the playoffs in an embarrassing fashion, their .656 winning percentage in 2022 was the 10th best calendar year in history of the franchise.

So everything’s cool, right?

The team left 2022 playing their worst basketball of the year. You know, if you don’t count that Game 7 at home against the Dallas Mavericks. Missing five of their top 8 rotation players for much of it, Phoenix was 5-11 in the month of December, allowing a year-high 116.1 points to the opposition. 41% of the Suns’ losses in 2022 occurred in December alone.

I get it. I’m sure you do too. The team is injured, they have a distressed asset in Jae Crowder, and Monty Williams is simply trying to piece together lineups that could be productive during this tumultuous stretch of being incomplete. There is no consistency. This is what you get. Bad basketball.

Week 11 for the Suns was a microcosm of the struggles they’ve faced. The team averaged 110.3 points (28th in the league in Week 11) in their 1-2 week, and while they hit 47.8% of their three-pointers (1st), they turned the ball over an average of 20 times (1st).

The win against Memphis was exhilarating. The loss against the Wizards was frustrating. The loss against the Raptors was embarrassing.

There is hope, right? Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet will be back against the Knicks. James Jones is going to will someday make a transaction to better the team. In Booker’s absence, Deandre Ayton has become the max center he’s always claimed to be.

Pump the brakes on that last one.

I wrote this week on how, with Devin Booker and Cameron Johnson not available in the starting lineup, this is the time for Deandre Ayton to become the integral part of the offensive attack. I gave reasons as to why it should occur. Now I’ll tell you how I feel about the situation.

It ain’t gonna happen.

In part, this is due to Monty Williams’ refusal to allow it. There could be a number of explanations, but in my opinion – based on nothing but watching him every game for five seasons – Deandre Ayton’s lack of ability to do so is the primary reason. I mentioned his statistics, made note of his effectiveness and shot attempts, and said that if you extrapolated those stats to 25 shot attempts per game, the young center would achieve marvelous things.

Something is missing. It’s something that we as Suns fans have noticed since he joined the team. Ayton is a quality center. He excels at lateral movement and shot deterrence. He can affect the game on both ends of the court. He is not an alpha, unfortunately. He does not have the gene that Devin Booker and Chris Paul do. That killer gene. That gene that says, “Give me the goddamn ball. I’m going to dominate this game”.

He can say it all he wants. We’ve heard it in pressers, we’ve heard it after he’s had good performances. Now is the time for him to walk the walk, rather than simply talk the talk.

I’m not dumb. I see what opposing teams are trying to do to him. He is respected for what he is capable of, therefore every time he gets the ball in the post, they squeeze him. Opposing teams know that he can be a threat offensively. I understand that he can’t pass himself the ball. I understand that every team shades a secondary defender his way.

So what? Has that ever stopped Devin Booker? They never stopped Chris Paul? Does that stop his fellow max centers Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, or Anthony Davis?

He brings the ball down with multiple defenders. It gets swatted away. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

We have entered a new year and there is nothing but opportunity ahead of the Suns’ max center. Will he seize it? Will Monty scheme his offense to help him seize it? Or will this be the same old Suns while we wait for Booker to return? Guard-centric offense with Landry Shamet and Duane Washington, Jr. leading the offensive charge.


Player of the Week

Chris Paul

18 points, 2.7 rebounds, 8 assists

52.8 FG%, 58.8 3PT%, 75FT%

Phoenix went 1-2 on the week, surprising winning against the Grizzlies while dropping games to the sub-.500 Wizards and Raptors. Chris Paul, however, looked to be getting his legs under him after missing time earlier this season.

He is increasing his offense production, seeing as Booker is out and Ayton isn’t, scoring 20 points in his last two games. He added 12 assists to that point total against the Raptors, although his 6 turnovers weren’t what you wanted.


Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns @ Memphis Grizzlies (W, 125-108) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns @ Washington Wizards (L, 127-108) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns @ Toronto Raptors (L, 113-104) FULL RECAP


Highlights/Post Game Podcasts

SUNS at GRIZZLIES | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | December 27, 2022:

400. Suns (20-15) @ Grizzlies Post Game Pod with Dave King:

SUNS at WIZARDS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | December 28, 2022:

401. Suns (20-16) @ Wizards Post Game Pod:

402. Suns (20-17) @ Raptors Post Game Pod:

SUNS at RAPTORS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | December 30, 2022:


News & Notes

Arizona Sports: GM: Devin Booker injury doesn’t force Suns to scramble on trade market

Bleacher Report: Windhorst: Teams Say ‘It’s Challenging’ to Trade with Suns amid Jae Crowder Rumors

Heavy Sports: Lakers Starter Ruthlessly Fires Shots at Suns Star Chris Paul

Fan Nation: What Devin Booker’s Absence Means for Suns’ Seeding in the West

PHNX: 3 highlight plays embody how Josh Okogie has become legitimate X-factor for Suns

12News: It’s (finally) time for the Phoenix Suns to feed Deandre Ayton

Clutch Points: 2 trades Suns must make with Devin Booker out a month

Burn City Sports: Suns Trade for Hachimura Should be Revisited

Arizona Sports: Suns update: Cameron Payne (foot), Landry Shamet (Achilles) set to return Monday at Knicks


Quotes of the Week

“It’s tough, it’s tough to lose Book. It could have been something that kept him out for the entire year. Instead, it’s something that’s going to put him out for a month.” — James Jones

“Just praying for him to get back quick. Hope he’s OK and gets healthy soon.” — Mikal Bridges on Devin Booker’s injury

“Ain’t no revenge. It ain’t no animosity behind it. We came to play for us. We play for us. They just in the way. They just in our way. To do what we want to do, those boys just in our way.” — Deandre Ayton following the victory against Memphis

“It felt good man. I’ve been working my tail off.” — Duane Washington, Jr.

“This is always a tough back-to-back. If you lose an hour, and then you land in Dulles, you’re probably going to get in your room 3:30, 4 o’clock. Our guys probably felt it, but look, they beat us.” — Monty Williams

“I don’t know. Just different coverages. I think I saw two or three people on me the whole night.” — Deandre Ayton

“Guys throwing one-handed, left-handed passes, trying to make interior passes against team that clogs the paint when the 3-ball on the backside was there all night.” — Monty Williams


Key Stat

38.3 3PT%

Suns three-points shooting is currently 3rd best in the NBA. This is the 6th highest in franchise history and their best since 2009-10 (41.2%)


Injury Status Report

Devin Booker (groin soreness) is OUT

Cameron Payne (foot) is PROBABLE

Landry Shamet (Achilles) is PROBABLE

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

Jae Crowder (new year, same crap) is NOT WITH TEAM


This Week in Suns History

January 2, 2001

Tony Delk. Remember him? The guy that the Suns sent, with Rodney Rodgers, to the Boston Celtics for Joe Johnson?

00 was a star at the University of Kentucky, was drafted 16th overall by the Charlotte Hornets, and in August of 2000 he joined the Phoenix Suns as a free agent. He came along at a time in which the ‘Backcourt 2000’ experiment was in place. Jason Kidd. Penny Hardaway. We all know how that turned out.

As the calendar year turned to 2001, the Suns were 18-11 and on the road in Sacramento, taking on a potent Kings team. The Suns were without Hardaway, who played a total 0f 4 games that season. Filling his spot? Tony Delk.

On that night, Delk was unstoppable.

20-of-27 from the field. 13-of-15 from the line. 0-of-1 from deep. Different times, right? Tony put up 53 points against the Kings, accounting for 45% of the Suns’ scoring. They’d lose the game 121-117, but it was Tony’s performance that’d we all remember.

Suns Trivia

So Tony Delk scored 53, eh? How many members of the Suns have scored 50+ points in a game? It’s happened a total of 12 times:

  • 50 points: Amar’e Stoudemire (01/02/05)
  • 50 points: Clifford Robinson (01/16/00)
  • 50 points: Devin Booker (03/27/19)
  • 51 points: Jamal Crawford (04/09/19)
  • 51 points: Devin Booker (11/30/22)
  • 53 points: Tony Delk (01/02/01)
  • 56 points: Tom Chambers (02/18/90)
  • 56 points: Charles Barkley (05/04/94)
  • 58 points: Devin Booker (12/17/22)
  • 59 points: Devin Booker (03/25/19)
  • 60 points: Tom Chambers (03/24/90)
  • 70 points: Devin Booker (03/24/17)

Devin and TC are the only repeat offenders to eclipse the 50-point total.


Upcoming Games

Monday, January 2 — Phoenix Suns @ New York Knicks

Wednesday, January 4 — Phoenix Suns @ Cleveland Cavaliers

Friday, January 6 — Phoenix Suns vs. Miami Heat

Sunday, January 8 — Phoenix Suns vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Suns start the New Year in NYC, playing the 19-18 Knicks. If you get frustrated about the Suns’ lack of free throw shooting relative to their opponents, get ready. The Knicks shoot the 5th most free throws in the league. Julius Randle leads the team with 6.9 FTA a game, and Jalen Brunson (questionable to play) is another player who loves navigating the paint.

The final stop of the 6-game road trip for the Phoenix Suns puts them in Cleveland. This is a team the Suns will play twice this week – they play them in Phoenix on Sunday as well – and will wear the City Edition uniforms each time they do.

The 4th seeded Cavs are explosive as they have added Donovan Mitchell to the back court with Darius Garland. They hold their opposition to the least amount of points scored in the league, 106.2, and possess the best defensive rating at 109.2. This team is athletically designed to shut you down on both the perimeter and interior.

Donovan Mitchell has enjoyed his new team, averaging 28 points, 9th best in the league.

On Friday, Phoenix will play the 19-18 Miami Heat at home, a team that has had ups and downs throughout the season. The Heat’s five-game West Coast swing will end with this game, so perhaps the Suns can catch them weary and pining for South Beach.

Like the Toronto Raptors, the Heat are a team that forces turnovers and protects the ball. No repeat 27-turnover performances, please.


Weekly Prediction: 2-2

The combined winning percentage of the Suns’ opponents this week is .568. It’s a rough road ahead for the Suns. The Cavs will be a challenge, especially considering their defensive prowess.

The Suns have reinforcements en route. Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet will be back.

Cameron Johnson’s return is just around the corner. The team is 3rd in the NBA in three-point shooting, which means they are never out of a game. They have experience, which you can never discount. They get some solid DA performances — more than just box score stuffers but quality games — and this team can steal a couple while they wait for Booker’s return.

A win in NYC, a loss in Cleveland, a loss against Miami, and a win against the Cavs.

Poll

What will the Suns Week 12 record be?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    4-0
    (3 votes)
  • 15%
    3-1
    (13 votes)
  • 25%
    2-2
    (21 votes)
  • 42%
    1-3
    (35 votes)
  • 12%
    0-4
    (10 votes)
82 votes total Vote Now

I don’t mean to be anti-Ayton. I try to be as subjective as I can because I want so bad for him to be successful. How great would it be to have the DA that we saw for two weeks in November show up more than 30% of the time? It does nothing but benefit the Suns, this franchise, this fan base. It’s just so damn frustrating to watch sometimes.

I don’t know if it’s him and I don’t know if it’s Monty Williams. I don’t know if there’s a grudge there. I don’t know if Monty has the capacity to change his offensive strategy to incorporate Ayton more. Does DA lack the fire to do so? Does he lack the skill? Will he forever be a beta to someone else’s alpha?

If Ayton can take advantage of the opportunity that January 2023 provides, great things lie ahead for the Suns. If not, it’s going to be a long winter.

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