The Suns is a Phoenix

Bill Bridges —  November 12, 2009

Sixers vs. Suns
Most pundits have been surprised by the Sun’s success this year. These are the same pundits that picked the Lakers to finish 8th or out of the playoffs in 07/08. Of course the Lakers made it to the NBA finals. I’ve watched most of the Suns games this year and their success is not a shock to me. This is the best Suns team since Nash has been in Phoenix.

Last year, they had the wrong or new personnel playing in the wrong system for the wrong coach. Yet, they barely missed the playoffs. This year the wrong personnel  (Shaq) is gone, the new are now familiar, and the right coach who is Mike D’Antoni 2 , except this one also coaches defense.

The most successful Suns team is the 06/07 team that made it to the WCSF and lost to the Spurs. The team won 61 games in the regular season and started Nash, Bell, Diaw, Marion, and Stoudemire. The bench consisted of Kurt Thomas and Barbosa. No other player got any meaningful minutes.

This team is an upgrade at every position except perhaps PF.  New Amare is better (especially on defense) than the old Amare. Hill looks like the one that played in Detroit and is significant upgrade to Diaw. Nash is still Nash – except this one seems to have a healthier back. Jason Richardson is playing like Andrew Toney. Marion is better than Fry. But Fry might be a better fit.

It is the bench that is the most drastic difference. Whereas D’Antoni didn’t trust his bench and played 7 deep the entire season. Gentry’s bench is deep and productive. Barbosa might now be the 7th or 8th man behind Amundson and Dudley (one of my new “Favourite Players not on the Lakers”). Dragic is the best Slovenian PG in the NBA and Robin Lopez has yet to play who brings their only size off the bench. Amundson is like David Lee who plays Defense.  Barbosa might have lost something but is still very dangerous.

On offense this team has versatility missing on previous teams. Not a single player on the old team had a reliable post game. (Diaw was the closest; but whereas he had the skills, he lacked the will). That team was exclusively based on high screen-roll. Stoudemire picks for Nash, rolls to the hoop or pops. Nash passes to Stoudemire, or dribbles closer either for his own shot or a kick out to a shooter. Deadly efficient at the pace they played but still predictable; and in a playoff series, ultimately stoppable.

Now, this team runs a variant of the triangle/Princeton sets and posts up Richardson (and less frequently Hill) on the left block. They are good enough from the post to draw doubles and are very good at kicking it out for open 3’s.

There is some truth to the statement that some of the Sun’s success is due to the unfamiliarity of most teams to playing against a team with such pace. But of course, if pace alone were the determining factor, the Warriors would also be successful.

1. Nash penetration. Usually to his left. Swing out with his left hand to the right corner 3. Or a further swing from the corner to the key and wing for open 3’s
2. Kick out from left block by Richardson or Hill after a double. Usually to the right wing to Fry/other shooter for open 3
3. PUJIT – no need to say more
- Amare tends to pick to Nash’s left – this naturally leads to his rolling from the right side or popping for a shot on the right and Amare is a strong right-handed player.
- Nash has a deadly jumpshot off the dribble to the right. He is not nearly as comfortable shooting over his right shoulder.
So force Nash to the right to discourage penetration and live with the jump shots.
Do not double the post player. Force Richardson and Hill to make the turnaround J. They can make this shot but perhaps not as well against Kobe and Artest. A contested turn around from the block has a much lower EFG% than an open 3 (76% for the Suns – crazy!), and much easier to rebound.
The Lakers can minimize the PUJIT by being disciplined on offense; limiting turnovers and trying to have the Suns begin their break by taking the ball out of bounds each and every possession.
The Suns also are very good at swarming the post causing turnovers. Bynum and Kobe will have to be mindful of this when they get the ball. As a side note, in Jared Dudley the Suns have possibly the best or second best post defender at the guard position. Kobe will have to work harder to establish position and get the ball. Dudley is extremely good at fronting his player and denying the pass. The huge advantage Kobe has with other teams who have guards that treat the paint like alien territory is not there against Phoenix.
The Nash/Amare screen roll is probably the most devastating single play in the NBA. You have to try to get Amare to pick to Nash’s right than left. Much like Denver tried to disrupt the Kobe/Gasol screen roll by severely shading to Kobe’s right forcing Gasol to pick to Kobe’s left, the Lakers have to do the opposite. Shade Nash severely to the left to force Amare to pick to Nash’s right. This impedes Nash’s penetration, and forces Amare to begin rolling or shoot from a less comfortable position of the left side of the lane. If Fry is screening, I’d go under the screen so that Fry’s man can stay with him. Fry doesn’t roll and will drift to the three point line looking for the drop off from Nash. Of course you leave an open 3 to Nash – but you always give up something to take away something.
What a terrific game so early in the season. This game will test the Laker’s weaknesses this year. They will have to control the defensive boards (the Lakers are the worst in the league), not turn the ball over, make the proper rotations to cover the weak side three point shooter, and run a disciplined offense to control the tempo. All doable but challenging.

Let’s examine the few things the Suns do extremely well.

They shoot the 3 at 48%. Unheard of.  Such efficiency is a product of good shooters getting open looks from their favourite spots in rhythm. Disrupt any of these factors and the percentage drops. These open looks in rhythm come in 3 primary ways.

1. Nash penetration. Usually to his left. Swing out with his left hand to the right corner 3. Or a further swing from the corner to the key and wing for open 3’s

2. Kick out from left block by Richardson or Hill after a double. Usually to the right wing to Frye/other shooter for open 3

3. PUJIT – no need to say more

Unlike most right handed players, Nash tends to penetrate going left. This is function of two factors,

– Amare tends to pick to Nash’s left – this naturally leads to his rolling from the right side or popping for a shot on the right and Amare is a strong right-handed player.

- Nash has a deadly jumpshot off the dribble to the right. He is not nearly as comfortable shooting over his right shoulder.

So force Nash to the right to discourage penetration and live with the jump shots.

Do not double the post player. Force Richardson and Hill to make the turnaround J. They can make this shot but perhaps not as well against Kobe and Artest. A contested turn around from the block has a much lower EFG% than an open 3 (76% for the Suns – crazy!), and much easier to rebound.

The Lakers can minimize the PUJIT by being disciplined on offense; limiting turnovers and trying to have the Suns begin their break by taking the ball out of bounds each and every possession.

The Suns also are very good at swarming the post causing turnovers. Bynum and Kobe will have to be mindful of this when they get the ball. As a side note, in Jared Dudley the Suns have possibly the best or second best post defender at the guard position. Kobe will have to work harder to establish position and get the ball. Dudley is extremely good at fronting his player and denying the pass. The huge advantage Kobe has with other teams who have guards that treat the paint like alien territory is not there against Phoenix.

The Nash/Amare screen roll is probably the most devastating single play in the NBA. You have to try to get Amare to pick to Nash’s right than left. Much like Denver tried to disrupt the Kobe/Gasol screen roll by severely shading to Kobe’s right forcing Gasol to pick to Kobe’s left, the Lakers have to do the opposite. Shade Nash severely to the left to force Amare to pick to Nash’s right. This impedes Nash’s penetration, and forces Amare to begin rolling or shoot from a less comfortable position of the left side of the lane. If Frye is screening, I’d go under the screen so that Frye’s man can stay with him. Frye doesn’t roll and will drift to the three point line looking for the drop off from Nash. Of course you leave an open 3 to Nash – but you always give up something to take away something.

What a terrific game so early in the season. This game will test the Laker’s weaknesses this year. They will have to control the defensive boards (the Lakers are the worst in the league), not turn the ball over, make the proper rotations to cover the weak side three point shooter, and run a disciplined offense to control the tempo. All doable but challenging.

—Bill Bridges

Bill Bridges

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65 responses to The Suns is a Phoenix

  1. this post was so great that i read it twice…

  2. Um… it looks like there was an accidental copy-paste in the middle of the post, it confused me a little bit at first.

    Great analysis of the Suns, and as a huge fan of the mythological Phoenix I like that analogy. :) Rising from the ashes, into a high-speed scoring machine again. I feel rather smug that it looks like I was right about the Shaq trade. I found out about it at work, and immediately turned to my Suns’s fan co-worker and told him, “Getting rid of him is really going help you guys next season”.

    Looking forward to tonight’s game… Go Lakers! :)

  3. great breakdown. i hope the suns do well this year that way we can beat them in the playoffs. how sweet….

  4. LMFAO yeah I read it twice twice so 4x in total. Props Bill.

  5. Lolz.

    I thought I was crazy about midway through this article (reading the same passage twice). Didn’t realize it was not me until I read the comments.

  6. I know the Lakers coaches and Kobe are going to be ready for this, but we shouldn’t expect to see Kobe left alone, single coverage, to post up and shoot over his defender like we’ve seen the last 3 games. those games, the opponents did not make an adjustment, and Kobe went off for 3 straight 40+ games. Expect the Suns to be well aware of this, and to be ready for it, they know they have to take this away from kobe/lakers if they want to win this game.
    so, the Lakers have to have a plan in place for when that double comes, it should open things up for Drew or LO, or any array of possibilities.
    this will be a fun game to watch just to see how prepared the teams will be to stop each others strengths, a real game of strategy tonight!

  7. this is a blowout either way. it’s a matter of controlling the pace, i feel the lakers are incapable of running right now. unless of course we put Ron on Nash. :D

  8. Sorry guys for the cutnpaste mystery. Fixed now.

  9. Great work Bill.

    Unfortunately for the Suns, we can do what they do, but they still can’t do what we do.

    Kurt,

    I linked that too!

    Here are more if anyone is interested:

    http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2009/11/12/1142533/the-credits-rising-sun

  10. I’ll pile on here with the accolades. Great post. Some questions and thoughts.

    Would the converse of Kobe not seeing as easy of a time in the post with Dudley being more comfortable defending, be Hill and JRich also not being as comfortable with Kobe and Ron being able to defend the post better than most? That would definitely make it much easier to not double them and increases the difficulty of the already tough turnaround J. I’d like the Laker chances of Kobe adjusting better to Dudley than Hill/JRich adjusting to Kobe/Ron.

    I actually like the thought of Suns swarming the post with Kobe in there. Kobe is proficient at finding the open man. I think it’ll be incumbent upon the other players to cut to the hoop or move to the open spot so that Kobe had the right angles to find them. I’d like to see Ron in the post, as he’s also shown an affinity for finding the cutter when he’s down there.

    In the previous post, it was mentioned that teams have a hard time planning for Phx in the regular season due to different styles and time constraints. Lakers have had three days in between games and are familiar with how to deal with Phx in past battles. They also have a more polished Drew and Ron too in the post. You’d like to think that the coaching staff will be ready and so will the players having had time to prepare so they can execute the game plan.

    Oh and Kurt, happy birthday to your wife! She must be a saint to allow you to devote so much time to this great site.

    3 day drought in between games felt like forever. Planning to rush home from work tonight to catch. These kinds of games are always enjoyable to watch.

  11. Kudos to Bill for the amazing post but my absolute admiration goes for Kurt, cause it’s because of him that so many clairvoyant people( Bill, Drrayaye, Xavier, Nomuskles, Darius, Zephid……) come around and share their incredible insight.

    In a complete unrelated matter if you want a good laugh check this out. He’s singing for the comercial of an 80’s spanish group singstar game. It’s in spanish but you’re going to laugh anyway.

    http://www.marca.com/2009/11/12/baloncesto/nba/1258005219.html

    It’s the definitive proof that it’s hard to don’t look clumsy when you’re 7 feet…

  12. Tips for Phil (as if he needs ‘em):

    1. Light the Bynumite early. While we’d have difficulty guarding the frenetic pace, who doesn’t?

    2. Kobe on Hill. Yes we’d be giving Grant some open 18-20 footers but he’d have to beat us from there, not off fastbreaks.

    3. Farmar playing honest D. Stop fooling yourself that Stevie will fumble the rock. It never happens.

    4. Ron on JRich will be interesting. The reason why Jrich is so good is coz he has the range and he is very strong. Against Ron, he’d have to depend on range.

    5. No Powell. The guy just wont run, whether it be Amare from the high post to Frye picking his spots for the 3-ball, JPEASY will have to not be himself to play.

  13. I’ve always said: it’s better to bill bridges than to tear them down. Great post, man!

    I think the reason the suns crept up on everyone is that they seemed to be in full rebuilding mode. They got rid of shaq and were actively shopping Amare looking to dump salary.

    By the time the season was about to start the realization that they HADN’T blown it up was sudden and unexpected. All the analysis I’d spent the summer doing hadn’t included room for the old Suns coming back.

    I did expect the rockets to be better than people expected and the Hornets and Jazz to fall back, though. Just not to the extents they have.

  14. J,
    ” You’d like to think that the coaching staff will be ready and so will the players having had time to prepare so they can execute the game plan.”

    It’s debatable if it’s worth it to put in a lot of extra time with Sun-specific preparations, or if they are better off working on the “normal” items. I go with the latter, especially with Bynum and Artest still working themselves into the system.

  15. http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=4646071

    Phil was just kidding. Gasol still day-to-day, not out until Christmas.

  16. I don’t know much about Jared Dudley, but if Bill says he’s a good post defender I’ll believe it. This throws a wrench in what I had envisioned as Kobe’s path to taking over this game. Now, I envision Kobe heading to the perimeter and penetrating. I don’t think they have a guy who can stay in front of him.

    This is a game that we would love to have Pau for. He’s the perfect Kryptonite for a team that plays this way. He gets us reliable looks close to the hoop and is mobile enough to chase Amare up and down the court. Hopefully Bynum can fill that hole.

  17. The key to beating the Suns is holding them under 105.

  18. @LJAY,
    Told you he’s too smart to go out and play now! :)

    Thanks for the link, I’m spreading it to fellow fans now.

  19. Best Suns team since Nash has been in Phoenix?

    I’ll take the 04-05 team with Nash, Amare, Marion and Joe Johnson.

  20. Hornets just fired Byron Scott. I guess he didn’t beat the Clippers by enough….

  21. That is ridiculous. Byron Scott was the Coach of The Year in 2008, he didn’t just suddenly become incompetent.

    I don’t understand how Hornets management expect Scott to excel with what he has to work with, considering that they refuse to provide Chris Paul with some help.

    We have an extra assistant coach slot at LA, come on over.

  22. It was clear in the playoffs last year against Denver that the team quit on Byron. This year they would just roll over against good teams.

  23. A very nice post, but let’s not get too carried away by this Suns team. J-Rich and Grant Hill in the post? Against the Lakers they will be posting against Kobe and Ron, both of whom are bigger, longer and stronger, and neither of which will require help with a double-team. No double means no open shooters (if Lamar stays home, which is a big if…) so I would expect the Suns to come crashing down to earth tonight.

  24. @#16 exhelodrvr, understand. My fault I wasn’t clearer. I was thinking more in terms of regular game planning. As I understand it most teams usually plan for their opponent to a certain degree. But if you’re playing 4 games in 5-7 nights, there just isn’t a lot of down time for a specific team.

    A team could maybe get some film work and a practice in at most in between. So you really can’t prepare for an unfamiliar style too much. But Lakers having all this down time could have the luxury to devote a full day and practice, without deviating too much from their normal routine.

    That said, I’d venture an opinion that Lakers normal routine and sets are more conducive to nullifying Suns’ style than other teams. The triangle and Lakers personnel dictate more of a half court patient pace anyway. If they run the normal sets that would go a long way to not falling into the Suns’ bait.

    That’s also why I had commented in the previous post about Jordan. We all know he loves to run. I’m hoping he shows continued growth in knowing when to run and when to pull it back.

  25. Question for Kurt or whomever. I get that the Suns are good, and there are theories out there for beating them. But I don’t think they’re better than the Lakers. What do the Suns have to do to beat us?

  26. I like Byron Scott, but this was inevitable. The writing was on the wall last year. They didn’t give him an extension, they started to stink, especially on defense with people questioning their effort. Something had to change and the cheapest and easiest move was to fire Scott. Then hope the team gets some sort of new coach bounce.

    Frankly though I don’t see Shinn bringing in anybody with the clout to turn this around. Which coaches are out there that could come in and command respect right away? Van Gundy? If they just promote an assistant, how is that going to change anything? It’s a tough situation.

    As I said on twitter, the Hornets apparently have an assistant coach named Charlie Parker- so it’s no wonder their season died so young!

  27. Jman,

    What else could they do? A change had to be made. They can’t scrap their roster and press a reset button. There have been thoughts of friction. They had to do something, and the coach is the first guy to go. Sucks, but it’s true. The Hornets are struggling and they need a shake-up. I doubt this happens without Chris Paul being okay with it.

  28. Travis, get the Lakers to run. The Suns win in large part because teams get sucked into their game, it’s fun to play at pace and suddenly you’re doing it even if you know you are not supposed to. If the Lakers try to run with the Suns, they will lose. Also, because the Suns won so handily last night, they got to rest their starters late, we’ll see how much of a fourth-quarter, back-to-back drop off they have.

  29. @Inwit,

    I agree. Until I see more from Phoenix I find it hard to think this team is better than the 2004-05 team. Steve Nash, Amare Stoudamire, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion and Raja Bell tossed in for the ride?

    If these guys are better than that team then they are on their way to the NBA Finals. The ’04-’05 team made it to the WCF. I will be watching closely tonight.

    The Suns shoot a high volume from 3 point land. One the keys to beating them is cutting off the 3 point line. If you have to choose between giving up lay up to Nash on dribble penetration or helping out and allowing him to kick out, just give up the lay up. Those threes add up over the course of a game.

    I will be very interested in seeing Ron defend Richardson. It should be a great game.

  30. As long as the Lakers give the Suns a heavy dose of Andrew Bynum in the low post it will not be a close game. They will have to double Andrew every time down court.

  31. i was wondering why, with almost same people, paul, david west and coach, they suddenly dropped from a championship contender to a playoff contender in 2 years.

  32. I’m actually interested to see how Amare- with his new focus on defense- will approach the matchup with Bynum.

  33. The Lakers have alot of experience against the Suns and the 7 seconds or less philosophy. They have to (as Bill Bridges notes) run the offense to get good shots so that they have floor balance (for hitting the offensive boards and having people back on defense against the break). By hitting the offensive boards you force the Suns to have at least 4 players block out the defensive boards. This also allows you to contest the outlet passes. Finally, you go inside on offense to make the big line up vs. the small line up match-up favor you. This will be easier when Gasol returns to the line up. If Bynum is getting the ball deep in the post, the defense is not in position to fly down the court on the break.

    Last night, the Hornets jacked up all kinds of wild or quick outside shots. The only thing that accomplished was getting the coach fired.

  34. I expect Nash to get 30 points and 20 assists in this game, considering how our PG will fail.

  35. The number 1 reason why the Hornets have gone from West contenders to playoff hopefuls? Peja Stojakovic. The reasons for this are two-fold.

    1.) Peja’s shot kept their offense flowing. When Peja was hitting his threes, the Hornets offense was almost unstoppable. Chris Paul, working with screens from Tyson Chandler and David West, could either drive to the rim, hit Chandler on a roll to the rim, West on a pop out to 15 ft, or Peja in the corner/on the wing. When Peja was shooting a career high 44% from three, this made the Hornets offense deadly efficient. With his injury and slumping shooting form, they’ve never recovered and never gotten a swingman to replace his abilities.

    2.) Peja’s enormous contract pretty much prevented NO from signing anyone from anywhere. In the salary cap age, teams can afford at most 3 star-level salaries (10+ mil per year). Some teams (Lakers), can afford to supplement that total, but small market teams like the Hornets really can’t field a decent team with more than 3 big contracts. Even teams like the Spurs have managed to field 3 star teams, but they’ve only been able to do so by supplementing them with low-cost role players. However, considering Peja is at best the Hornets 4th best player, but their highest paid, their management was left with the mid-level exception to work with (which they gloriously spent on an aging James Posey).

    Byron Scott is not to blame for the Hornets failing. It is the front office management that signed Peja to his massive contract (and similar contracts for Posey and Morris Peterson). Ironic then that the GM Bower gets to replace Scott and work with the crap roster he’s put together.

  36. @33 Palani, that’s the thing, it’s not the same team. That NO team two years ago was thin anyway. Pargo even though he was inefficient, weak defensively and a streaky shooter at least gave them someone off the bench who could create his own shot to an extent.

    Also you had Tyson Chandler and Peja playing extraordinarily well with great FG%’s. Chandler was also patrolling the paint.

    No Chandler, a done Peja, no replacement for Pargo. Posey was not the answer. Basically no bench. That team has no decent bigs, West who depends on CP3 to create shots for him most of the time. Okafur is nice but on a team that has as many holes as this, he’s not enough. He certainly isn’t providing the defense that Chandler did two years ago.

    This team is a skeleton of of the WC Finalist two years ago. Really it’s West and CP3, that’s the only thing they have in common. And as good as CP3 is, it’s not enough.

  37. wow, great post. stuff that makes me come here at 6am local time ;)

  38. Let’s test the NBA conspiracy theorists and see if any key Lakers — this means you, Andrew Bynum — get called for two quick fouls in the first quarter.

    If Bynum gets two cheapies, it obviously helps the Suns. And the Suns beating L.A. early on would be good for the league, since everyone would love to hear more about the scrappy Steve Nash and his band of cast-offs and geriatrics gelling to form a viable threat to the defending champs.

    If the league’s as rigged as some suggest, tonight’s a perfect place to see that evidence.

    I personally think L.A. wins a hard-fought contest, pulling away late. But that’s just one fan’s hope/expectation.

  39. #37. Spot on.

    And you find out how good teams really are when they have a major injury or two (i.e. KG/Bos, Bynum/LA, T-Mac & Yao/Houston, Jameer/Orl).

    The 2007-08 Hornets were the healthiest contender at that time. Many of the players enjoyed career years and it resulted in a #2 seed in the playoffs. But that teams wasn’t the real team, just a healthy one. And health is the first and main obstacle in working toward building a championship caliber team.

    I’d like to see other teams like Denver & Cleveland with a major health issue before I crown them amongst the elite. These 2009-2010 Hornets are the real Hornets (although CP3 is still a beast). They won’t improve until they get better help for CP3.

  40. And after everything that’s wrong with the Hornets, as an organization they are still WAY better off than the Warriors right now. The Warriors make the Clippers look like the Spurs.

    http://www.ibabuzz.com/warriors/2009/11/12/ellis-vs-nellie/

    http://www.ibabuzz.com/warriors/2009/11/11/game-7-2-5-pacers-108-warriors-94/

  41. JD, it’s because the Warriors can’t fire their owner.

  42. Also, the Hornets didn’t add any major parts in the off-season. Tyson for Okafor was a lateral move and with Peja looking finished, they are down a major piece. Posey is showing that he is exactly what he has shown in the past – a limited role player who contributes alot when he is on a championship level team, much less when he is not.

  43. Kurt- I know, but Don Nelson has just gone to another level. People complain about someone like Dunleavy, but he just makes mistakes. It’s not like he doesn’t want to win. Don Nelson’s behavior can only be explained by some form of sabotage for whatever reason.

    Jackson (no saint in all this admittedly) asks for a trade. Nelson gives an interview about how hard it is to trade Jackson, then lists all the problems with him. Then the next night invents an injury so he can jerk Jackson’s playing time around arbitrarily (a game after Jackson’s best in recent memory). Inventing an injury could only make it HARDER to trade jackson. Why good could this possibly do? I can’t even figure it out.

    Now Monta Ellis is at the breaking point. Anthony Randolph is being jerked around and Tim Kawakami says he thinks Biedrins and even sweet, lovable Ronny Turiaf are close to snapping too.

    In the annals of terrible owners, I can’t figure out how there is any upside to letting this continue. Even if they move Jax, Nelson is still the problem. They can trade everyone on the roster just to keep 1 insane drunk on the sidelines or get rid of that guy. But they won’t because he’s owed too much money and I’m guessing has some serious blackmail info on Cowan.

    I actually think they should explore pulling an Al Davis and sue him for such actions as what he’s done with Jackson’s trade value. Fire him for cause so they don’t owe him anything. This is absolutely miserable.

  44. Now that Byron Scott is no longer coaching some here will say that the Laker should sign him as our new PG :-)

  45. I think Scott’s problem was his insistence on giving minutes to mediocre vets and his reluctance to develop young talent.

    That being said, Bower has done a poor job acquiring talent; and the talent he has acquired have had immoveable contracts. Now he has to reap what he’s sown.

  46. The suns are indeed playing well. And its good for their fans too. A litte off topic but I lived in phoenix for 2 years and those years happen to be the years that the suns kicked the lakers out of the playoffs. Both seasons i came to work the next day to find my cube decorated in suns colors and pictures of Raja taking Kobe down. Then i move to Houston and now all i hear is how the lakers are not even that good. They claim they took the lakers to 7 games without their 2 best players. My response them? I rather be part of the team that always get the win and championship, not the one that constantly pushes but gets no win, No trophy is won for taking the champs to 7 games in the western semi finals.

    So tell me what team you want to give lakers a run for their money, i’d move there…:)

  47. I’m hesitant to follow the media on many of their “rumors” or “whispers”, but there were both surrounding Byron when he was coaching the Nets to back to back Finals about his grating style (picked up from Riles) and his ability to alienate players. When Byron got fired from NJ, there were tons of quotes about Eddie Jordan being the mind behind their offensive execution and Byron just being the task master whose act wore thin. Now, he’s fired mid season from a team that looks like it’s not playing hard? A team with one of the 3 or 4 best players in the league whose also one of ther most competitive players as well? Something smells fishy and that’s now 2 strikes on our former Laker.

    As for Phoenix, great post Bill Bridges. A question was asked about what Phoenix has to do to win this game and while I agree with Kurt, I also think there’s a simpler explanation (though one that’s tied into to Kurt’s explanation): make shots. One of the reasons the Suns can get teams to play their style is because they put you in a hole by making shots (especially 3 pointers) and puting points up on the board. The pressure opponents feel to counter act leads to forced jumpers, 3 point FG attempts, pushing the pace, and essentially trying to make up the lead all at once. Teams start to try and make 7 point shots (this isn’t the MTV bball jam) and it just feeds into the Sun’s style even further. Luckily, the Lakers have a coach that is (likely) drilling his guys about this at every opportunity, but it will be the players that have to execute the plan and not lose focus.

  48. @#48 Lakergirl. If you come back home to LA would you just increase the potency of the Lakers? Come back to LA! LOL!

  49. @Kurt and Darius,
    So basically to win we just need to control the tempo, control the game, and make our shots? That sounds… very familiar. I think we may have done that once or twice in the playoffs last year.

  50. 51. Mimsy,
    Ha. Yeah, pretty much like any other night, no? That said, the Suns are a unique opponent with some pretty fantastic players.

    If you want to talk X’s and O’s, the Lakers need to simultaneously be adept at defending the middle of the court on the P&R and Nash penetration while still recovering to shooters. On offense, we’ll need to establish the post with Bynum, Kobe, Ron, Odom, and Walton and punish the Suns with any size/strength advantage that we have. We also need to run our sets from a positioning/spacing standpoint to enable us to crash the offensive glass while not forfeiting our ability to transition from offense to defense.

    As it’s been pointed out already, the Lakers have the blueprint and have been very successful with it while employing less talented players than the ones currently wearing Lakers jerseys. But as Bill Bridges points out, this is a different team that still employs some familiar threats. Frye especially is a key to what can make this team difficult to defend. Many times, he’s going to play a role similar to what Rashard Lewis does for the Magic. While Nash and Amare run the P&R, it will be Frye that is circling to open areas of the court to make himself available for the open three pointer against a rotating defense. And as long as Nash and Amare are threats, Frye is going to get good looks. Add Richardson and Hill (two other players that can create for themselves off the dribble) and you’ve got a more versatile team than the ones that featured Raja Bell (spot up shooter) and Marion (slasher/rebounder/corner 3 taker). Plus, it needs to be said again, Nash is a beast on offense. He does not terminate his dribble and is a threat to score from nearly anywhere. Kevin from ClipperBlog and TrueHoop once compared him to a humming bird and I can’t think of a more apt description of his ability to control the ball and move around the court with a distinct ease and fluidness. We can debate his MVP’s or dissect his ability to play defense, but the man is a monster on offense and the engine to their potent offense.

  51. @31

    Not that it matters, but Bell wasn’t on the team that year. Q Richardson rounded out the starting 5 with Nash, Johnson, Amare, Marion.

    What this team has on that team is that team had no bench. Barbosa was super shaky and unconfident that year and Hunter was serviceable. The only player who saw decent time was the mid season pick up of Jim Jackson, and he wasn’t exactly fantastic.

    On the other hand, Joe Johnson was out for part of the playoffs after having his eye socket fractured in a Mavs game.

  52. @48 and @50
    Of course moving to LA might break the Clipper Curse and we could have a hallway series WCF!!!

  53. One thing about last night’s game that made an impression is Channing Frye’s capacity to pull a big man out of the paint. Without a defender in their to clog the paint, executing the pick and roll becomes less difficult.

    I think a very big problem for LA will be how to match-up at the 4 and 5. Bynum on Frye? AB’s size and interior defense are neutralized. Bynum on Stoudemire? That might expose LA’s problems defending the pick-and-roll.

    Question: When Bynum helps on the pick-and-roll, is a defender supposed to rotate and pick up Bynum’s man? Or is Bynum responsible for “showing” and then recovering without any help whatsoever?

  54. Wow I was surprised when I read this post. I haven’t seen the Suns yet this year, so I was shocked to hear that this team is better than previous versions of the Suns. But Bill Bridges knows his stuff. So now I’m really looking forward to this game tonight. Like I said before, we’ve never really paid the Suns back because they collapsed before we could play them in the playoffs. I would love to crush them at full-strength.

    We forget them in our hatred for the Celtics, but the Suns dealt this team more pain than any other for a couple of seasons. Hard to hate a team with Nash and Hill, but Sarver and their fans (and 06-07) make it easy.

    Chibi also brings up a great point. Can we afford to keep Odom on Amare? My guess is Phil will stick Odom to Frye and let Bynum handle Amare early, but I have to admit, I can easily see Drew getting burned and losing Amare on the roll. Frye changes things up a bit.

    Also, this was asked for on the last thread, part 2 of yesterday’s article (haven’t read it yet so can’t comment): http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2009/11/11/1125576/why-do-advanced-statistics-hate

  55. well… historically Bynum has had his way with Amare on both ends of the floor. It was actually against Amare where Andrew had his coming out party on X Mas day a couple years ago. That game was the turning point for the Suns. They saw they couldn’t handle the Lakers with Amare trying to play Bynum at Center. There is a reason Frye is listed as a center… because they know Amare can’t match up with true centers. Robin Lopez is actually there starting center… so when he returns from injury the Suns will match up a lot better with LA than they will tonight.

  56. I have never understood the perennial respect that’s been given to Don Nelson throughout the decades. OK, he has 1,000-something regular season wins. Show me the team he’s led to a title, or to the finals. While I’m waiting for you to do that, I can show you a few teams he’s marched straight down the toilet.

    The guy once had Manute Bol jacking up 3-pointers for an entire season. I’m grateful I’ve never had to watch him coach MY team. Shaq nailed his approach: “Clown basketball”.

    Extra points deducted for his fluke carom shot that took the Lakers down in ’69.

  57. Last nights Suns/NO game was the first time I have watched them play this year. I wasnt surprised that they smashed a team that looks as if they have mailed it in, not a month into the season. Its hard for me to belive that they will be able to stop Bynum, Artest, Kobe in the post. The beginning of the game will be crucial in taking their confidence on both ends of the court. Pounding the ball inside and making their bigs work will play a big role in the outcome.

    Phoenix has played three legit playoff teams in the east(Boston(won), Miami(won), Orlando(lost)). The rest of the NBA are taking notice of the Suns and their record, tonight is the beginning of the end of teams taking them lightly. Lets see how they fair when they are not sneaking up on anybody. GO LAKERS!

  58. @Darius,
    Same as every night. :) In my defense, when the Lakers are successful with that formula, they tend to win. That said, it’s easier against some teams than it is against others, and it is not easy at all against the Suns when they play well, the way they want to play.

    Tonight’s game is going to be a good one.

  59. I am very sure Kobe has a personal agenda with the ‘new old’ Suns and Nash being mentioned among the early MVP candidates.

    And this could be yet another game where we see what Ron’s worth, while Lamar has been quite adequate against the Suns if my selective memory is closer to the whole thing.

  60. #57–Even before training camp, Frye was favored over Lopez by both Gentry and Kerr. At best, Lopez is a situational starter. Based on Frye’s play, I presume he’s won the job outright.

    http://nba.fanhouse.com/2009/09/28/channing-frye-to-start-at-center-for-suns/

  61. New game thread post up.

  62. Definitely a nice post for sure, can’t wait for tonight. Over the past 2 games, no complaints from me whatsoever from this Lakers squad. Everyone, I believe, is playing up to their capabilities. These have been 2 GREAT all-around victories for us. Usually question marks at times, but… Powell, Luke, Sasha, Farmar, Shannon, Mbenga, Fisher, even Ammo are all looking awesome. Albeit against the Griz and a team whose coach just was axed today. But without our two 7 ft studs, it’s huge. I’ve always thought that a big part of the declining bench play was playing time. But now with 2 of our main guys out, the bench’s mins have increased, thus positively affecting their play. Bench play could hinder us today with Bynum coming back.

    But back to the post, other than agreeing with mostly everything, I completely disagree with the statement that this is the best suns team with Nash at the helm. Frye a better fit than Marion at the 4?? Marion is thee perfect fit at 4 for a 7 seconds or less type offense/defense. A healthy Hill over Diaw? Debatable for sure. Anything over Bell, agreed. I believe in the suns hot start, but am going to need a full season’s worth to actually judge whether or not this team is the best one Nash has had. It sure is great though that Kobe actually has players around him now that can fully compete with a strong phoenix team. Bring it on.

  63. @50

    I didnt see the-moving-back-to-LA angle. I will find me a job and pack my stuff back home. See if i can bring us 3 championships in a row :)