Bobcats 98, Suns 76 – Rock bottom?

Posted by on January 24th, 2:18 pm

Everything went wrong for the Suns in Charlotte ... again. (AP/Chuck Burton)

Everything went wrong for the Suns in Charlotte ... again. (AP/Chuck Burton)

The Suns can only hope this is rock bottom, because I’m not sure how much further they can fall after being embarrassed in Charlotte of all places on Friday, 98-76.

Yes, not Boston, Charlotte, a franchise that had previously never won a single game against Phoenix.

The Suns trailed by as many as 25 in the first half and 34 in a game they were never in, just like Monday’s stinker in Boston. That’s after scoring a season-low 13 points in the first quarter.

Phoenix has now lost five of six, and they’re not exactly losing to the Lakers and San Antonios of the world. Three of those losses have been the kind of head-scratchers the Suns never used to lose under Mike D’Antoni.

And people are starting to panic.

“We had no energy,” Suns head coach Terry Porter told Suns.com. “Somehow we have to find some energy. Again, it was the turnovers. Maybe it was the turnovers that zapped a lot of our energy away. It was a tough night.”

The Suns really have no excuse for coming out flat again, just a couple days after being flattened by a Boston team that at least is of championship quality. This was a game they really needed to win just to stop the bleeding, and once again the effort wasn’t there.

That brought Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic to question whether it’s too early to fire head coach Terry Porter, who clearly isn’t getting anywhere near the best out of his players, be it a motivating issue or a style issue.

I supported the Porter hire over the summer because of the job he did in Milwaukee, his familiarity with Kerr and most importantly because of his toughness that I hoped would rub off on his players. That hasn’t happened.

You know there are big problems in Phoenix when Shaq is the only player who’s really rolling. The Daddy was solid in this one with 20 points and seven rebounds, but only Amare and his 12 points on 5-for-14 shooting joined him in double figures.

That is not Phoenix Suns basketball the way Mike D’Antoni drew it up.

I still say it’s too early to do anything rash like fire Porter. I think a coach like him with solid credentials deserves at least this season, but if the Suns hit an even lower rock bottom in two weeks, I might even change my “give this group at least one year” tune.

For whatever reason Porter has not been able to do anything to improve his team’s awful turnover numbers, and Friday was another example of that when the Suns coughed the ball up 24 times. Nash and Amare each led the team with six, and that’s not a category those stars are supposed to lead Phoenix in.

The Suns normally at least shoot well to combat the turnover issues, but this time their 36 percent shooting included every starter but Shaq struggling from the floor.

To add insult to injury, Nash’s back bothered him Friday, leading to a four-point, five-assist game that of course made his stat high in turnovers. Porter finally mercifully took Nash out after an air ball in the third quarter of a game Nash maybe shouldn’t have even played.

“I tried to fight through the back pain tonight, but it was tough,” Nash told Suns.com. “I probably should have taken myself out earlier. Hopefully that wasn’t the wrong decision. It’s a struggle right now. I wouldn’t say I had back spasms, but it was locking up. It was more of a shooting pain at times.”

And if this turns out to be serious, who’s confident with starting the Goran Dragic Experiment?

The bench is also an inconsistent mess, as the Suns don’t know what they’re going to get out of Leandro Barbosa, Matt Barnes and Co on a nightly basis.

Some games that duo looks great, like when LB and Barnes combined for 30 points during the win in Toronto, but the last three games they have scored five, 15 and three points. Combined.

Barbosa has averaged 17.7 minutes per game during this stretch and Barnes 16.0, and Barnes rightfully isn’t happy about that.

“Me and LB can maybe get a little more playing time,” Barnes told The Arizona Republic. “We’re playing about 15 minutes a game and that’s not helping the team at all. We’re better than that. We know we can help this team. Playing 13, and LB played 19, we’re not allowed to help the team.

“We don’t get no rhythm out there. We don’t get (stuff) done. It’s frustrating. We’re a lot better than our record. We’re struggling in all areas. When it rains, it pours.”

The Suns need to get those guys going off the bench, and there’s no question more time to help them get better involved in the flow of the game would be beneficial. But both of those players have been inconsistent even when they have gotten minutes, so they can’t blame all of that on Porter’s substitution patterns.

To make things worse, Jason Richardson even acknowledged that the Bobcats “made some trades and I think they are going to be a pretty good team because of that.”

I wonder what trades he’s referring to?

Could it be the deal in which the Bobcats shipped him to Phoenix in a trade chiefly involving Boris Diaw and Raja Bell, two of the best players on the floor on Friday?

Diaw played one of those vintage all-around games Suns fans are so used to from his 2005-06 MIP season, exploding for 26 points, 11 boards, four assists and even three threes for good measure.

Bell, meanwhile, showed off an all-around game he didn’t flash much in Phoenix with nine points, a career-high eight assists and five boards, all the while holding the player Phoenix acquired to upgrade the shooting spot over him to eight points on 3-for-9 shooting.

“They played about as well as I could ever expect,” Charlotte head coach Larry Brown told Suns.com. “I’m so proud of Raja because he just plays, he does all the little things. And Boris was phenomenal tonight. I think they’ve both been great since we got them. Under the circumstances it was a pretty nice ending.”

Suns GM Steve Kerr certainly has a bit of egg on his face after the way the principals of the Suns-Bobcats trade played in this one, especially since the Suns are 10-8 since the deal and Charlotte 11-9.

It may still end up being a good trade for Phoenix, especially with the way Diaw needed a change of scenery and J-Rich fits the Suns’ long-term and short-term plans better than Bell, but right now nothing’s looking good in Phoenix after the Suns dropped to ninth in the Western Conference.

This has got to be rock bottom, right?

How could this team play any worse?

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Boris Diaw · Charlotte Bobcats · Jason Richardson · Leandro Barbosa · Matt Barnes · Phoenix Suns Recap · Raja Bell · Steve Nash · Terry Porter

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Scott // Jan 24, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    at least now we can play the lottery machine on espn.com and hope for ricky rubio. 0.5% of winning

  • 2 b-rad // Jan 25, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Fire Kerr and Porter NOW – before it's too late to salvage this season.

    Or just keep them and continue to force boring mediocrity on a bunch of great players, so we can get a lottery pick that Sarver can then sell to Portland. Sweet, thanks to Sarver and the Suns, I might get to see Ricky on the Blazers!

  • 3 tophermurphy // Jan 25, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    We need to fire Porter and pick up Avery Johnson before the Grizzlies get him.

    I can’t think of another coach of his caliber available right now .

    Things aren’t gonna just get better.

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