Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Kurt —  December 10, 2008

NBA Finals Game 4: Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers
Records: Lakers 17-3 (1st in West) Suns 13-9 (8th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.5 (3rd in league) Suns 109.6 (6th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 101.1 (3rd in league) Suns 109.3 (24th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Suns Steve Nash, Raja Bell, Matt Barnes, Amare Stoudemire, Robin Lopez

Live Chat Tonight: We are going to be doing a live chat for tonight’s game against the Suns. This is the system we used last time, with comments flowing and a fast pace, so grab a winter brew and swing on by. The chat tips off at 7:30.

Lakers Note In all the hand wringing about the loss to Sacramento, one thing has not been mentioned around here — the Kings hustled. They wanted it. They earned the W. Yes the Lakers are more talented and should have played harder, but credit the Kings for doing just that. Good on Theus and his squad.

Lakers Suns Rivalry Think about all the great games in this series recently.

April 30, 2006, Kobe just can’t be stopped in crunch time. He hits this running/floater shot with seven-tenths of a second left in the fourth quarter to force overtime, then drains the 17-footer to give the Lakers a 99-98 win. At that point the Lakers are up 3-1 in the Western Conference playoffs. I don’t remember what happened after that…..

Or May 10, 2000, another Kobe game, but he was just 21 at the time. Clock running down he dribbles it out in isolation, then hit a 15-foot jumper over Jason Kidd to seal a 97-96 win. Lakers go up 2-0 in a playoff series. I remember what happened in the rest of those playoffs.

Before that was a regular season game where Magic hit a fade-away jumper to win by two. There were a series of great games in the 1980s when the Suns were a top team and the Lakers were led by Magic and Kareem — and one game where the ball went into Kareem, who passed out to Norm Nixon for a patented 15-foot fadeaway that won the game.

Everybody kind of sees the Lakers as a rival, but few teams have that many rivalry games with us over the decades.

The Suns Coming In: Our condolences go out to Shaq on the loss of his grandmother.

He would have made her proud last night with a vintage performance – 35 points, 10 boards and he just dominated the game the way he used to. He’s still good for that now and again, but he will not be in the lineup tonight.

Amare has wanted to get the spotlight, and he has been the best player on the Suns of late, averaging 21 and 8 in the last 10 games. He also has been picking up fouls at a fast rate, getting five in the last three games prior to the win over the Bucks.

Raja Bell has been cold of late, shooting 25% in his last three games but he is shooting 46.8% from three in the last 10, so best not to leave him open.

Keys To The Game: With Shaq out these are going to look a little more like the old Suns than the new ones. That means the overall strategy has to be make Nash the shooter, don’t let him dish out the assists. When he scores 30 the Suns lose, but if he scores 18 but has 15 assists they become tough to beat.

The Lakers have been, um, crap at defending the pick and roll lately, and it is something that plays to the weaknesses of the Lakers aggressive defensive system. But they are going to see a steady diet of it until they start playing it well, and few teams run it as well as the Suns with Nash and Amare. The Lakers need to be focused, show out hard on Nash and not let him dictate everything.

What the Suns are doing now is turning the ball over a lot — 18% of their possessions end in turnovers, highest rate in the league. The Lakers should be able to create turnovers tonight, but unlike last night they need to take care of the ball for that to matter.

Farmer vs. Barbosa, a fun matchup that could determine the battle of the second units.

Both teams had games last night, although the Lakers should have an advantage as they clearly did not expend much energy during the contest.

Where you can watch: You can choose Fox Sports here in LA or ESPN here and everywhere else. So, Mark Jackson or Stu Lantz?

Kurt

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41 responses to Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

  1. Raja Bell has been cold. Well the Lakers should be a good team to heat up against ….. Just kidding though he does seem to usually play good against the Lakers.

    I’m hoping for a blow out so I don’t have to stay up real late. The game starts at 9:30 here and I don’t like to watch the games live. I DVR them so I don’t have to watch the commercials (or FTs). Also the lab tech in my lab is a Suns fan so it’ll be fun to rub a slaughtering in his face.

  2. Not only do the Suns run a fantastic P&R, but they’re crafty at it as well and use multiple options off of it. Nash can penetrate, shoot the jumper, or pass to the rolling screener. Amare can roll to the cup, pop to open space for the jumper, or slip the screen and dive to the basket. And shooters on the strong and weakside are always floating to open spaces, taking advantage of Nash’s ability to find his guys spotting up for open jumpers because he can take advantage of over (or under) rotating defenses.

    On the flip side of that, I expect us to trap Nash hard if we find him doing his Curly Neal routine on the baseline and under the basket. Nash is a master at keeping his dribble alive in order to exploit the defense and find cutters, but if he tries that on the sideline or baseline, he better be prepared to be trapped hard. (And we better be prepared to cover the basket as Amare dives down from the top of the key).

  3. “Both teams had games last night, although the Lakers should have an advantage as they clearly did not expend much energy during the contest.”

    Kurt, at least we can have a bit of a sense of humor after last night. After a day for the upset to set in, I can accept that it was just one game. (let’s just not see a lingering trend)

    The Lakeshow should be ready to come out and run, force turnovers, and hopefully produce a convincing win.

  4. First-where is warren, maybe we are missing his good luck first posts.

    Second-kobe, at his age, and considering the fact he has played non-stop competetive basketball since Oct ’07 through now, should really look to rely on the plethora of talent on the team. Basically, he should be one of the key guys trying to facilitate the offense so the ball goes inside, where we can utilize Pau and Drew. Defensivley, this means committing to the team principles displayed by the Lakers during there first 7-10 games.

    It doesn’t all fall on Kobe, but on the court, it starts with him.

  5. lakers always get up for the suns, so i’m expecting a quality effort out of the team tonight.

  6. SportsCenter says:
    Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley to Phoenix for Diaw, Raja Bell, and Sean Singletary.

    If so, the Suns will be pretty short-handed.

  7. Kurt,

    What time you will you be starting the live blog?

  8. Wow. I can see that trade making sense for PHX but what a mess Charlotte is. Jason Richardson gives them a scorer who can create for himself and finish, shoot the 3, and be a slasher who can cut when Shaq has the ball in the post. Raja can’t drive helpout as much as Richardson can offensively and Boris is a fat, lazy disappointment.

  9. so diaw / bell are definitely out tonight, plus jrich doesn’t start playing for them right?

  10. I’m not too impressed with Steve Kerr as a GM. First, they get Shaq to get better defensively, which doesn’t happen. Then you trade away your best defensive player, Bell. Finally, you give up two players (maybe 3, Singletary look pretty good in spots) that are part of your rotation for one – an erratic gunner.

    Maybe this trade would make sense if they still had Marion and D’Antoini and simply wanted to try to outscore everyone.

  11. Kwame – I think it’s just too difficult for Kobe to just ‘set things up.’ He probably has some internal standard he has to live up to, which, unfortunately seems a bit arbitrary and does not always relate to wins.

    I’m not sure if Kobe will ever get past that stage of having to prove himself despite all his talk. Part of it must also be about carrying weight, maintaining reputation and keeping yourself marketable – after all, these guys are worth more than some businesses.

    Off a tangent…

    What if there was a rule that allowed the team with the best record in the regular season(in each conference) to split the luxury tax among players so that they have something to play for?

    Split it even among players depending on how long they were on the active roster, even paying those that are traded mid-way (those who came in mid-season would obviously get less), and we’ll probably see more players playing for wins instead of stats…

  12. wondahbap, yeah, this trade should be good for the Suns. Not only did they get rid of Diaw’s horrible contract, Richardson is much more of an offensive threat in half-court than Bell. With both Shaq and Amare down low (and Nash’s great passing) the Suns could really use a more natural scorer than Bell. Raja’s offensive production the last couple of years was really a product of D’Antoni’s system, rather than a natural offensive ability.

    Living in Phoenix I can also say that Bell has been very outspoken about not liking Porter’s new style. Apparently Bell is/was so unhappy that he has also become a malcontent in the locker room, and that his teammates are very happy to get him out of here. (and the team’s been trying, apparently, to trade him for a few weeks).

    I just can’t believe the Suns actually got someone to take on Diaw’s (or Doris She-aw as he’s often called on the radio for his soft play) way overpriced contract.

  13. So their bench is now Barnes, Barbosa and Lopez? Who is the back up power foward?

    Dragic is terrible as a back up point guard (worse than Sasha was his rookie year).

  14. Stu Lantz, but barely.

    Shaq not playing is kind of a buzzkill, right?

  15. Can we let Sun play for them tonight, I want see him again get some run.

  16. phil might want to warn his team tonight about how easy it is to have a letdown when facing an undermanned squad, something he knows from experience. when he was coaching the bulls during the season they went 72-10, one of those ten losses was to an undermanned miami team (i believe as a result of the tim hardaway trade). no one on the bulls had a good night other than jordan and kerr (ironically the two who made the trade today), but miami’s rex chapman caught fire, and the heat pulled off the upset:
    http://www.basketball-reference.com/boxscores/199602230MIA.html

  17. just thought i would point out the pointless and note that this was posted in uncategorized rather than game previews.

    also, i hope we see the ball move tonight, since its been stagnant in our poorer efforts. when we’re moving the ball offensively it picks up our whole game, from interior D to outside shooting

  18. Will the Lakers have another lackluster effort again tonight? We shall see….

  19. Charlotte should just fold already and stop wasting everybody’s time. Seriously.

  20. Anybody but Stu. Just can’t stand the guy’s commentary and know-it-all attitude. Nothing personal.

  21. Michael Jordan is the new Elgin Baylor. What’s curious to me is this new legacy he is building for himself. Young fans will only know the sneakers, thw Wizards stint (maybe), and being a terrible executive. As Laker fans, I’m sure we’re all familiar with the average fan knowing Elgin for his Clipper failures rther than his Laker greatness. Sure, Jordan is on a grater scale, but fans forget, and my 17 and 21 y.o. brothers are more familiar with the terrible Bobcat VP Jordan. Not 6 time Champ and MVP MJ. Plus, the Jordans suck now.

  22. Jason Richardson’s contract for this year is $12.2 million, next is $13.3million, and the third and last year is worth $14.4 million ($39.9million total). He is a potent SG, and seems to be a clear upgrade for Phoenix at the position.

    Diaw’s contract is for 9million through 2011-12 ($36 million). Bell is $5million this year and next.

    Who got the best player?

    I for one am glad the Lakers get to play an undermanned team tonight. At least we shouldn’t be too tired.

  23. Phoenix certainly got the best player in Richardson, and now they have a top flight PG, wing player and center.

    But, what kind of team are they trying to build? I still have yet to sense an organizational philosophy, to see what they are building for long term. This wasn’t a win now move, was it? Not alone. But with the age of Nash and Shaq the Suns only option is to win now (the aren’t going to blow it up).

  24. wondahbap,

    Though I agree it’s a bit sad to see Jordan’s overall legacy diminished (at least so far) by his questionable management, I don’t think he will ever be thought of as anything but the Best Ever, at least until LeBron completely revolutionizes the game. If you’re even a casual fan of the NBA, the culture doesn’t allow you to forget just how special, and good, like world-historical good, Bulls Jordan was. He was a global superstar unlike any athlete before him. For the time being, I think his legacy is still untouchable.

  25. As for the Bobcats, I really have no idea.

  26. Steve Kerr has no plan left. He put all his eggs in the Shaq basket and won’t be able to change course for another couple of years. The only thing he can do for now is make trades like this one to at least keep them in the playoff hunt.

  27. The Bobcats need to get rid of that stupid name and logo. They’re named after Bob Johnson’s boardroom nick name. How lame. Would it make too much sense to give them a name that can tie in North Carolina’s racing (NASCAR) heritage? Might help.

  28. Here’s hoping to see a good effort from the Lakers tonight; if it wasn’t for the loss last night this game against an undermanned Suns team would be a prime candidate for over-looking.

    What’s the Suns’ plan? Kerr and Porter definitely want the team to be more defensive and half-court oriented. Problem is their philosophy changed but their roster didn’t really. Porter’s made a bit of a mistake in not catering a bit more to the roster he has rather than what he may want.

    Kurt asked if this is a ‘win now’ move; well sort of. They’d really like to make a run before Nash/Shaq are gone but don’t have the pieces. This trade, I think, is more of a getting Bell out of the locker room before he drags the team down, plus they really needed someone else who can create some offense himself, which Bell can’t.

  29. Speaking of the Suns (indirectly), anybody who doubts the power of D’Antoni’s offense needs to check the stats for Chris Duhon and Al Harrington since they became Knicks players.

  30. My thoughts on the trade:

    Phoenix got the best player and some salary relief from Diaw being gone. Diaw is/was a system player as an initiator PF who excels at the highpost. His game would never really mesh with Amare’s, so in the long run it’s better that he’s gone. Also, living in the Bay, I can say that while Richardson is not a franchise level player, he can and will excell as a good teams 3rd best player. His game from the wing and rebounding ability from the backcourt will surely help the Suns as he can space the floor and score in bunches. If his minutes overlap into the 2nd unit, he will make the Suns a much better team overall bringing some scoring punch to the team that can use it with Barbosa having a down year.

    As for the Bobcats, I’ll put up a tepid defense of the deal from their side. Diaw is a player that is another initiator. Both Felton and Augustin are good scorers at PG and Wallace is not a creator for others. So, Diaw can help spread the ball around on that team and be another post player for them besides Okafor. While Diaw has his limitations, he can serve a needed role for the ‘Cats (if Larry Brown plays him). As for Bell, he is exactly the type of player Larry Brown likes. He’s a hard working, defensive minded player that “plays the right way” and will provide more veteran leadership for a youngish team. Bell will space the floor and guard the other teams primary wing scorer, and do it at a higher level than Richardson. This deal may not seem like a real upgrade for the ‘Cats, but it does put everyone into better roles onto the team as Wallace will now be their primary wing scorer, Okafor (who’s been playing much better lately) will continue to man the block, and Felton can now try to score more when Diaw takes more of a distributor role on the team. The ‘Cats may not have won on talent in this deal, but they did make their team more well rounded and bring in one Larry Brown type of player and another guy who *can* help them. Is it perfect? No. But they are trying to build team (however loosely you want to use the word is up to you).

  31. inwit,
    Richardson is a 20ppg type scorer. The Suns had no one remotely close to that scoring ability in their SG/SFs. He can shoot 3s,get his own shot and a strong finisher for Nash to find. Phoenix has become much more dangerous.

    Robin Lopez was a PF in college.The Suns must feel he’s ready to play regular minutes as the third big.(And they’ll prob use Barnes at the 4 in a small lineup.)

    Interesting that the rookie Singletary was included,as the Euro PG the Suns traded for has been benched for a few games. Wonder if they’re going to make a run at one of the Grizz points? Looks like Felton is really on the hot seat in Charlotte.

    Agree w/most everybody,see no reason at all for the trade on Charlotte’s side. The Cats gave up the #5 pick in 07,cap room for Richardson and now they’re trading him for Diaw? Ouch!

  32. Oops. Didn’t know about Memphis trading away Crit.
    Looks like it’s gonna be a wild ride in the NBA this yr!

  33. Darius, I would agree with a lot of your points if I thought the Bobcats actually had some sort of plan. I don’t. As far as I’m concerned, any benefits that accrue from any move they make are strictly incidental.

    J-Rich may not be a star, but he was a useful asset who could surely have netted more than the ghost of Raja Bell and the contract of Boris Diaw. And then you throw in a solid young forward in Dudley and a pick? Yikes. The Suns make out like bandits here.

  34. One of the things that worked for the Suns a couple of years ago was that Amare and Marion play well without the ball, meshing well with Nash who dominates the ball. Shaq also needs touches to be effective and Richardson needs the ball as well.

    Image Ray Allen with Nash, a scary thought. Richardson’s something of a black hole.

  35. Kurt – Don’t forget they have a top flight PF too. Amar’e is one of the top free agents for 2010.

    Up here in the Bay Area, the Warriors seemed to be super high on J-Rich. They only traded him to be able to sign Monta and Baron (don’t forget they didn’t have enough cap space to resign 2nd round pick Gilbert Arenas). He wasn’t exceptional defensively, but wasn’t nearly as bad as Nash.

    Phoenix got a huge upgrade. Shaq is healthy, motivated and feeling disrespected. You have to admit the new lineup looks pretty good on paper.

  36. Joel,
    I said it was tepid…ha.

    One thing I will say as well in favor of the Bobcats is that they are an improved team this season. While I think they made mistakes in the draft (Augustin over Lopez and Anjic over every player that could actually play on the board at that time), I still think that Larry Brown is getting through to those guys and that they look like they’ll continue to improve as the season progresses. Do I think they can get to 35 wins? No, I don’t. But they ARE an expansion team that could have had some much better fortunes as a franchise had they only lucked out a little bit more in the lottery when their were true franchise players in the draft (remember they fell to #2 and took Okafor when Dwight Howard went #1 and fell to #5 when CP3 and Deron #3 and #4 when they really needed a PG and they took Felton…those were some bad breaks).

  37. That’s all true Darius, but unfortunately they made things worse by taking Adam Morrison over Rudy Gay and Brandon Roy…

    Is that Luke in the starting lineup????

  38. Run the triangle, make the easy play. Looking good against a very depleted Suns team…kind of a bummer

  39. Joel,
    Yeah. Some bad drafting overall.