Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Kurt —  October 31, 2006

UPDATE: Kobe will be sitting this one out, he posted it on his official Web site. I’m disappointed, although it is best for him to be ready rather than come back too early and have a chronic problem all season long. Thanks to J. for posting this in the comments, via True Hoop.

The Monster M*A*S*H*: Fitting for a Halloween game, both of these teams are dragging some busted-up limbs and other body parts into the season opener.

For the Lakers, the biggest question is obviously Kobe’s knee — he’s going to play, but how effective will he be? Will Lamar Odom and the other Lakers step up and take some of the slack, rather than thinking Kobe’s back and they can just throw him the ball and watch from really good seats?

Also in the walking wounded category will be newcomer Vladimir Radmanovic and his banged-up hand (which now may not be better until off-season surgery), plus two centers Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm.

The Suns are no better, Shawn Marion — he of the team-best PER of 23.9 last season — is questionable because of a bad back. Amare Stoudimire is not all the way back, his knee is sore (sound familiar?). Raja Bell’s hip hurts, but yet I do not weep.

Coming of Age: So, is it trick or treat from Andrew Bynum? Last season’s curiosity gets a baptism of fire to start the season, a couple of weeks where he is the starting center and will be counted on for big minutes. Confidence matters, and as I said yesterday, starting the season against two smaller teams is a plus.

What I hope to see out of Drew: good defense, solid rebounding, hustle and points out of that. Don’t force it, let the game come to you.

The Suns Can Score: What the Suns do offensively is brilliant statistically — shoot better than anyone else (team 53.7% eFG% last season, best in the league) then play as many possessions as possible (95.1 per game last season, most in the NBA). The result is a league-leading offensive rating of 113.9 (points per 100 possessions). The bottom line: they bet you can’t match that.

One glimmer of hope is that the Suns have been less impressive in the preseason — shooting just 50.5% as a team. Two key guys have been off: Raja Bell destroyed from beyond the arc last season shooting 44.2%, in the preseason that is down to 31.9%; second Amare shot 55.9% in his breakout season, but he is at just 50.5% in the preseason. Now, as I have said with the Laker numbers, these are preseason so don’t read much into them.

And they can play defense: Yes they can. As of last January they were actually fourth in the NBA in defensive rating, than the injuries and lack of depth caught up with them. If they can defend even decently, they become a force.

Getting deeper: I really like what the Suns did this past off-season, they became deeper and better defensively. Part of that was bringing in Marcus Banks to back-up Nash (who like Kobe needs to be on the court less to rest nagging problems, in this case a back). Banks is a solid defender and is quick and can run the floor. I also like the Jumaine Jones pickup, we remember from a couple of years ago he is good at finding spaces and drilling threes, so he should be a good fit in Phoenix.

More importantly, of course, they get Amare and Kurt Thomas back. Those two guys give them an inside presence, particularly on the defensive end.

Things to look for: This is a little hard to do at the start of the season, but here are a few things.

Can the Lakers force Marion to shoot from the midrange? He is a force close to the hoop, shooting 74%, but that drops to 43% on jump shots (he is especially cold from the left side, for some reason).

Can someone, anyone, slow Steve Nash? By the way, I’m not one to talk but I really hate his hair now.

Lamar Odom destroyed Marion in the playoffs last season, and tonight he may not even have to face someone that athletic. If the Lakers are going to win. Odom will have to play big.

What is the under/over on the start time for this game? Sure, TNT says 7:30, but the first game of their double header always runs long. So, 7:45? Does the game start at that time but TNT not flip over to it until 8? Honestly, I really hate being the second game in this double header.

For the Record: The Suns are my pick to win it all this season (knocking of the Cavs in the Finals). I think they win the Pacific too. But they are still going to pick up 22-27 losses this season, and banged up to start the season might be a time to catch them.

It’s the first game of the season, you’ve got to be optimistic.



46 responses to Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

  1. Good stuff as always. I think Kobe and the Lakers have said that he will play. He doesn’t seem to be as pessimistic about his knee as some. We shall see.

    Oh, and I think Marion spells his first name “Shawn”.

  2. Thanks, it is Shawn and it is now fixed. Let this be a lesson to you other bloggers reading this — writing after midnight usually works about as well as drunk calling at that hour.

  3. Happy Halloween! Go Lakers. I’m having trouble concentrating today. Must. See. Game.

    Will TNT kill the end of the Bulls Heat game for the west coast if it goes long?

  4. Is it tip off yet? Is it tip off yet? Is it tip off yet? Is it tip off yet? Is it tip off yet? Is it tip off yet? Is it tip off yet? Is it tip off yet? Is it tip off yet?

  5. By the way Kurt, the second “Shawn Marion” (in “Things to Look For” is still spelled “Sean.”

    Hmm. This late game start may be good for me, since I’ll most likely be away from home until 9, meaning I can still catch some of the game. Yay.

  6. True Hoop is reporting that Kobe won’t play tonight based on this post on #24’s website:

    The excitement of tonight was beginning to cloud my judgment of playing, I want to play, BUT I am not there yet. I am rounding 3rd base and will be home SOON.

    Is this for real? I really hope that’s just theatrics.

    By the way, dude (or whoever really writes these entries) signs his posts “Mamba.” Gotta like that.

  7. J., I doubt it’s theatrics, we’re Kobeless tonight.

    By the way, the Web site is done by the guy who ran the Blazers blog for the Oregonian, and he is really, really good.

  8. Sigh..I got really excited looking at the counter to tip-off..but then i realized Daylight Savings messed it up…

  9. Goo, I noticed that earlier today, but the counter is a pain to fix so I just let it be.

  10. Watching the Bulls-Heat…Tyrus Thomas is looking good…Miami is doing what the Lakers do and standing and watching Wade try to do his thing.

  11. Wow the Bulls are killing the Heat. Or it could just be a prelude to another referee-assisted Dwayne Wade 4th quarter comeback.

  12. Come on Dan, you know Shaq and Walker aren’t going to try in a regular season game.

  13. I guess the result isn’t that surprising. I mostly posted because I’m still bitter about Dwayne Wade killing the Mavs and other things. I have no reason to “hate” him… but I really don’t like him.

    So it’s 7:30. How long til the Laker game starts?

  14. Andrew Bynum, offensive machine.

  15. Bynum sure doesn’t look hesitate or lost like he did in games last year.

  16. i really do not like it when we are on tnt, they cause us to either have a delayed start, or we miss the opening.
    and it’s not like the miami/bulls game meant anything, their own fans fled the building in the 3rd quarter, so why did we have to suffer through it?
    then, they go to a game break with barkley?? like I care what that guy has to say.
    really don’t like these tnt games…
    but, the HD pic is nice, I gotta admit that.
    too bad about kobe, it’s beginning to feel like there’s something more to it, that they are not letting anyone in on it…hmmm
    we’re gonna need him tonight, it’s not looking too god mid way through the 1st.

  17. I hate to justify Shaq after the fact but I noticed we stopped going in to the center and Suns started pulling away.

  18. Looks like Drew gets his double double tonight.

  19. Farmar sighting!

  20. I’ve only been watching the ESPN gamecast, but Evans seems to be adept at crashing the offensive boards

  21. I feel like Magic in his first game….WAY too much emotion for the first game of the season. WAAAAY too much!

  22. the lights out thing looked great on TV…and so did Bynum.

  23. That was a pleasant surprise.

    I’m glad D’anotni stayed with Banks for so long in the third quarter and then went to a three guard set…

    That microfracture surgery is a b**ch to come back from and Amare still has a ways to go if ever…

    Bynum and 5 assists was my favorite stat.

  24. WOW! I didn’t think the Lakers had this in them. I’ve never seen Lamer play this well. Bynum is starting to make me a believer, he looked like he belonged on the court and more. Just a great team win. Just a great team win.

  25. 82 and oh!

  26. Yeah, apparently Bynum can pass out of the post, hitting cutters and the open man at the 3-point line. Nice. More of that, please.

    Also, tonight he kept his hands up & the ball above his head when he grabbed offensive boards or received a quick pass in the paint.

  27. 1 down, 81 to go. Impressions: Odom and Bynum killed it tonight. Wow. Smush and Sasha played D! On screens! I knew Farmer would, but he seems to have pushed the other two points into action! Best thing I saw all night.

    Vlade looked lost in the triangle, and like defense was a foreign word. Evans also looked lost, but still scored because he did his best Cook impression (Shooting every time he touched the ball).

    Interior defense was awesome. Walton, Bynum and Odom threw down a gauntlet, and there wasn’t an uncontested shot in the lane (other than fast break points given up to Vlade and Evans’ man).

    82 strong.

  28. 23. Amare looked slower but still made some nice plays and shots, if he can get healthy, well, they are contenders. He is the guy they needed on the defensive end against Bynum, not Diaw. But you’re right, that’s a slow process back from that operation.

  29. I’m estatic about winning this game. You got the sense during the game that we could score everytime down by running our offense. Last year at time i remember thinking either Kobe or Lamar has to shoot it or we’ll have no chance of getting a bucket. I just hope we can get healthy soon, this game was great but if we play this short handed for too long my hair is gonna turn grey.

  30. This was really amazing. A treat for us and a trick for them–and most basketball fans across the country.

    At first, I felt that the only good thing that would come from this game was instructional to those who had not yet jumped on the Farmar bandwagon. For me it became The Smusher vs. Farmar time.

    In the first quarter, Smush scored some, but they scored 41. We were down 15. In the second quarter, Farmar came in and Smush sat down. Amazingly, Phoenix almost stopped scoring. Team defense reared it’s head. When Farmar sat down, the Lakers were down 6. That’s about how the half ended.

    But even in the first half it was more complicated than that. Sasha was more than willing to be a partner in crime in the first quarter defensive meltdown. Smush wised up and deferred to Odom toward the end of the second–only looking lame at the free throw line. Toward the end of the game, Farmar and Smush were on the court together playing complementary roles–and playing well!

    Though Odom had a truly outstanding game, he was not the one who made the fairy tale come true for me. In fact, if someone says that they showed a Walt Disney movie instead of a real game, I’d bite!

    Who was playing center for us? Who was plugging up the middle, grabbing rebounds, making easy put backs, more difficult fadeaways, throwing a cagey pass to a cutter for a layup? I had a hard time believing that our center was Baby Bynum.

  31. The Phoenix front line was absolutely decimated, destroyed, and dismantled by Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. 52 points, 22 rebounds, and 11 assists combined.

    Farmar off the bench is pure energy. Evans is a great pickup.

    Oh yeah, and the Heat got themselves blown out of their own building in historic fashion on their championship ring night.

  32. To be honest..i’m expecting a laker loss against the warriors tomorrow so i can read 20 posts of pessimism…how the sports gods torment us so..

  33. WOW. feels like we just picked up from where the playoffs ended last year.

    Second unit really kicked it in high gear. Vlade and Evans were solid despite a weak pre-season.

    24 layups vs 13 for the suns. Triangle passing is working like a charm.

  34. Cook signed a 2-year contract extension shortly before tip-off according to ESPN (if that hasn’t been mentioned yet).

    Odom’s performance suggests last season’s last couple months were no fluke. I really hope he can keep it up.

  35. Great debut for the team. They absolutely killed on the boards. I was happy that Bynum’s regular season debut was so good. But I was more jazzed about Odom’s game. He looked like a man on fire. Next stop: Whoa Nellie!

  36. great game, start mo evans tonite, especially if j-rich is playing, other than that, keep it up, we’re a deep team, nobody, not even our own media appreciates the depth Mitch has added to this team, but over the course of an 82 game season it will be our second greatest strength behind the kobe/phil contribution

  37. I’m really stoked on Evans. We got him for basically nothing and it just seems like he’ll make a huge contribution off the bench. Coming from detroit it just seems like he’s solid in every aspect of the game. He was extremely disruptive on defense, and really just played a great game to help us win. Walton was great too. Vlad looked better than I thought he would with his sore hand and lack of triangle knowledge.

  38. Maurice Evans instantly looks like a good GM move a la Smush ’05. Overall Farmar looked good. Great start to the season.

    Any thought on why Turiaf didn’t get much time?

  39. Kwame a.: I right not the depth, and we are being underated this year. Which i’m sure would be kind of a weird feeling for any Laker team.

  40. What do you guys think of the forum style lighting at Staples Center? I love it. There wasn’t much focus on the crowd last night, which is the way it should be…

    MSG has a similar set up, and that is the reason I’ve always loved going to games there…

  41. I loved the “Lights Out” look. It gives the game a special feel and helps differentiate Staples for the Lakers. Given that so many pro teams play there, I think that’s a good thing.

  42. 38. About Turiaf, here’s my guess: With all the injuries Ronny is essentilly the backup center. But having him at that spot makes them a little smaller, so against the Suns he used more of Vald in that role. It was a matchups issue.

  43. Statement: If Kobe and LeBron were to switch teams, both teams would get significantly better.

  44. I hardly ever agree with John R. but I find myself nodding in reluctant agreement with the comment above in 43.

  45. Mo Evans….he was fantatic with Olympiacos BC Piraeus (Greek) and Pallacanestro Treviso (Italian) and won the Euro championship with one of them if I remember correctly….so it should be no surprise the kid can play great NBA ball.

    I was very happy with the game….and Lights Out was great.

  46. This team is going to win 50 games this year. There is no doubt in my mind. Granted we haven’t faced a team with a true Center but they are more talented then the critics thought.

    Keep it up Lakers!

    And wait til Kwame, Kobe, and Mihm come back! Whoa Nally! I’m stoked!

    Mitch Harper
    Laker fan in Utah (Salt Laker)