Is it time to panic?

Posted by on January 5th, 12:08 am

Pro: These aren’t the same old Suns

There’s almost always cause for optimism on Planet Orange.

The storyline usually goes something like this: An overlooked Steve Nash rallies the troops from a dry spell, the Suns rattle off 10 straight, sneak into the playoffs and make enough noise for the nation to see them as a potential threat.

But not this year.

The Suns are an afterthought in the Western Conference playoff race (11th place, three games back of eighth) and that aforementioned optimism is quickly fading. ESPN’s John Hollinger gives the Suns only an 11.7 percent chance to make the playoffs and also projects them to go 22-28 for the rest of the season, ultimately finishing in 12th place in the West.

Yes it is only 32 games into the season and no I’m not sold on Portland, Houston or Memphis, but this Suns team doesn’t have the same chemistry that allowed last year’s Suns to rally and sneak into the Western Conference Finals. There’s also no star player to rally around when times are tough.

When Phoenix stood at a mediocre 26-21 last season, Amare Stoudemire went into beast mode and carried the Suns to a 28-7 record to close out the season. Who on this team is capable of putting the Suns on their back the way STAT did?

Then add in that 26-21 isn’t exactly 14-18, and Phoenix is teetering. The Suns are winners of only three of their last nine games, and are fresh off of losses to the league-worst Sacramento Kings, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers — those three teams have a combined 30 wins.

Phoenix’s only bright spot recently came against a Detroit Pistons team that’s still clinging to Ben Wallace as their starting center and features Tracy McGrady at point guard.

There are no more excuses with this team. Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus have been aboard for five games now, and even though they’ve been who we thought they would be, the Suns are still struggling.

You no longer get the feeling they can beat any team on any given night. You no longer believe in chemistry overriding the talent of their opponent. They give away games, have no go-to scorer, struggle rebounding and forget to play defense in stretches.

This is a mish-mash of random players and that’s what it’s looked like on the hardwood all season long. Who would’ve thought the Suns would have Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat in purple and orange?

Nothing seems right this season. It’s not the same old Suns — it won’t be the same old result.

– Mike Schmitz

Con: Give it time

I have seen Hollinger’s Playoff Odds and understand the theme of Schmitz’s argument.

When you lose to the Clippers, Sixers and Kings in a week, you don’t look anything like a playoff team.

The thing is that this rendition of the Phoenix Suns has played a grand total of three games together. They were awful in their debut against the Sixers, very impressive against the Pistons and then pretty good for three and a half quarters against the Kings before their meltdown.

It’s depressing to think that the Suns are four games below .500 after one of the easier patches in their schedule and that they sit in 11th place in the West (although just 2 1/2 games out of eighth).

But as disconcerting as all that is, I’d rather focus on the fact that this team has played three games together, that the newcomers have been together for all of two weeks. During that time the Suns have already changed their defensive schemes once before they even were able to get comfortable with each other.

So much of basketball is about trust on both sides of the ball. You need to trust that when you help, your teammate will have your back, and you need to trust that when you make a leading pass your teammate will cut right to that spot. You need to play with one brain and exude the kind of chemistry that is often developed over years or at least a camaraderie-filled training camp like the one of last season. Even last year’s magical Suns team took until the very end of January to really “get it” and mesh into a conference finalist.

All this isn’t to say that time will heal everything, it’s just to say let’s give it a chance to happen before panicking. The roster was fundamentally flawed to start the season, and the Orlando trade took care of that issue. On paper, this is the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

These Suns may yet never come together for a playoff run and it may be time to blow things up and get value for Nash, but let’s give this team a couple of weeks to gel before we start looking ahead to 2011-12 and beyond.

– Michael Schwartz

What do you think? Is it time to panic? Let us know in the comments.

Mike Schmitz

Mike Schmitz is a former ValleyoftheSuns writer who now works as an assistant video coordinator for the D-League\\’s Bakersfield Jam. He specialized in video breakdowns for VotS.

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Tags: Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Zac // Jan 5, 2011 at 1:22 am

    Truthfully? I’m not ready to throw in the towel. Mind you we had a couple rough ones, but in the past few weeks so have the Defending champs. losing to both Memphis and Milwaukee by a combined 38 points. Both those teams being around our win-loss ratio. Bad games happen. We just need, like you said, to gel. Time is running out however. We need to figure things out fast.

    And I’ve yet to put much faith in the power rankings personally. They seem a little too biased, but that is just my opinion.

  • 2 john marzan // Jan 5, 2011 at 1:45 am

    okay, let’s panic. now what? i still think trading steve nash is an awful idea.

  • 3 Shaqita // Jan 5, 2011 at 2:36 am

    I would only panic if they are willing to do a crappy deal.

    I still see them in playoffs. They just need to show some self-respect on the court and have fun.

  • 4 KJ Loyalist // Jan 5, 2011 at 2:52 am

    You are welcome to panic if:

    - Over the next five games, there are five more different starting rotations.
    - Grant Hill continues to play at the 4.
    - Vince Carter continues to be the go-to guy.

    Hrm…

    Seriously though, Gentry needs to put a starting lineup together, (you guys all know the 5 I’d go with), and get to work on that bench.

    I think the starting 5 is obvious, but the bench is going to need some molding, because at least Nash has some idea of what he will see come jump ball. Dragon has ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA who he is going to be coming off the bench with and NO IDEA how to make them work.

    That is not his fault. That is Gentry’s fault and the infinite tinkering that he is doing. Either way, the bench is causing us to lose major leads.

  • 5 Artur Mascarenhas // Jan 5, 2011 at 4:29 am

    I dont think its time to panic.

    Actually, I dont think our expectations changed that much.

    I think we were giving the Suns a #7 or #8 seed on Playoffs with going no further than first round. I dont think that changed.

    What we have to think about it is what’s the benefit of living in this “limb” for so many years. We have no stars in the making, no good picks and no trade baits – except for Nash, but who are we going to land on a Suns team without Nash? He’s the reason people wants to play on the desert.

    Dont get me wrong, Nash is one of my favorite NBA players ever, but I dont want him to chase a ring elsewhere. I want him to retire as a Sun and get his ring as our head coach a few years from now.

    He’s been the face of this franchise for years and all our qualities and flaws are the same as his personal qualities and flaws. Nash made the Suns what they are as much as the Suns made Nash what he is. So, I dont accept this rupture, as much as we can blame the organization for some dumb decisions.

    He is a star, he deserves a ring, but so does the Suns.

  • 6 adobbs // Jan 5, 2011 at 6:14 am

    All we need is an All star power forward and this team could be really good, probably not good enough to win a championship, but at least good enough to compete in the playoffs.

    Imagine if we could lure Amar’e Stoudemire from the Knicks?

    I was okay with letting STAT go when it happened, but only because I hoped they would get a legitimate PF. Then, they picked up Warrick, but I still thought he was just insurance in case they couldn’t pick up someone more desirable. Then, the season started and they had 0 power forwards on their team and their go to scorer was Jrich. Now their go to scorer is Vince Carter.

    Having a wing as your go to scorer down the stretch works when Michael Jordan is on your team, that’s it. Otherwise, you need a skilled big man who can score. Gortat and Robin are solid players, but neither of them are all stars and neither of them can put a ton of points on the board. I had a little more hope for Robin, but his body isn’t right and he can’t move well.
    I’m done watching the Suns until they prove they aren’t a one and done team.

  • 7 HankS // Jan 5, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Well, if losing to the Clippers, Sixers and Kings (almost) in a row isn’t a reason to panic, I’m not sure what is… but I generally agree holding out five more games might be good idea. Then again, unless we win at least two of those five, and the losses aren’t blow-outs a la the Sixers, I’ll feel free to panick away.

    As for trading Nash, first show me a trade scenario that would make any kind of sense. The Knicks, in particular, have nothing the Suns might be interested in that comes close to an all-star value. Starting PG and starting PF sound like the minimum asking price to me.

    As for an “all star power forward” coming to Phoenix, I just don’t see that happening. Where is a team willing to give up such a weapon for a bunch of decent role-players? There’s no Pau Gasol for the Suns I can think of.

  • 8 KJ Loyalist // Jan 5, 2011 at 7:00 am

    adobbs – wow. I’m saddened.

    First – an all star forward is what we need to not be good enough to win a championship, but compete. We just had that in STAT. What is the point if you are not improving? That’s so silly.

    Secondly – winning a championship is a team effort. Using Jordan is irrational, because Jordan had Pippen. Without Pippen, (as great as he was), Jordan had no rings. Then he got Rodman. Hollywood Harper. They had studs at 4 of the 5 positions. That is what you need: the complete team.

    Third – PHX didn’t “let Amare go.” Amare left. He wanted to leave. He wanted to leave for awhile.

    As far as “players not wanting to come to PHX without Nash,” That is wrong as well and takes me back to the point I’ve been trying to make for months now.

    Nash came back to the valley not only for that decent contract he got, but because of the team waiting on him. The team was constructed so that it was young, with lots of promise, and a squad that could challenge for a title with the right superstar.

    That is what Phoenix should do again. They have a lot of young talent on this team that they could be grooming so that a stud on the market looks at it and says: “Hmm if I went there, I’d be in the hunt for a title for years.” Which is what happened for Nash.

    Screw the playoffs really, for this year at least. Even if we make it, we’re not beating LA, BOS, ORL, or MIA, (whoever comes out of the east).

    Shockingly enough we have draft picks, (though the trade deadline hasn’t come and gone yet – stay tuned), and it’s time we put them to use again. You don’t have to have the top 3 picks to get a future stud. Sun Tzu and Matrix weren’t at the head of the class. Nash wasn’t at the head of the class back in the day. The talent will be there.

    Fans like adobbs don’t worry the rest of Suns nation. Soon as the team rebounds and scorches the league again, we know you’ll be back as if you never left.

  • 9 AnacondaHL // Jan 5, 2011 at 8:15 am

    - Gortat seems to be doing well with the increased minutes. Start him. Lopez is comfortable with Dragon anyways.
    – Dudley over Vince to close out games. Otherwise he’ll be on the bench eating Mrs. Fields cookies all day. Besides, Nash even admitted Dudley was his favorite alley-oop target.
    – More time for Childress, less time for Grant Hill, strictly for endurance’s sake.
    – Pietrus: an actually sneaky-good go-to guy when it matters.
    – Poor Warrick. A 10-man rotation takes magic, but 11 is just impossible.

  • 10 Justin // Jan 5, 2011 at 9:18 am

    I’m not pushing the panic button just yet. When the season began with hedo as our starting PF I felt that we had a good chance, after a few games I knew he wasn’t going to pan out the way that the suns invisioned. Once the trade went down I was estatic, Gortat and Pietrus have proven that they are legit defenders and good players, just what the suns need. Pietrus reminds me of raja bell in a sense and gortat is a player we’ve never had before, as for vince carter, I don’t know yet if he’s a player that will stay the rest of the season or just be shipped out before the trade deadline for a couple of young un polished players and draft picks. I feel this team has the keys to winning more games, they just have to put it all together. I think Gentry needs to move gortat into the starting line up, Lopez barely plays anymore and shows slight hope that he could still revive this season for himself. I’m going to give it until the all star break to decide if this team is going to be a contender, or have another draft lottery season like 2 seasons ago. The suns are never going to find a player to replace amare, they knew this coming into this year, hence the reason this summer for bringing in four players that could possibly fill in the gap a little. In all I still have hope and can’t wait for what the rest of the season has in store for us.

  • 11 Artur Mascarenhas // Jan 5, 2011 at 9:30 am

    KJ Loyalist – When Nash came back to Phoenix, the Suns had Amare (21), Marion (25) and Joe Johnson (22).
    Now, if Nash leaves, we will be left with RoLo (22), Dragic (24) and Gortat (26). You gotta agree with me that there’s no comparison between these two cores.

    —-

    If we are in need of a young PF with scoring ability, maybe J.J. Hickson is the answer, considering that Kevin Love may be out of reach by now.

    Dont know what kinda deal we can make to bring him, but would be good to part ways with Frye and bring him aboard.

  • 12 Kalvo // Jan 5, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Its been time to panic a long time ago. Even if Phoenix was to somehow make the playoffs they would only be a first round team. Hopefully they can make some better changes during the offseason.

  • 13 Brenton // Jan 5, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Its definitely time to panic. Nash is great, but he is stunting the development of Dragic and other players. They need to learn to win without him. The players lean on him.

    I would say trade him to Houston, since they are a playoff contender and they have the pieces to make it work.

  • 14 Dukeeeeyy // Jan 5, 2011 at 10:09 am

    It is easily time to panic for the suns. Schwartz’s argument for “give it time” has no place in this discussion. “Giving it time” will only expose how bad the Suns are. Bringing up looking good against the Pistons is the epitome of a nationwide label of Suns fans being far too optimistic. There is NO go to guy on the suns, Nash turns it over late in games, Peitrus takes absurd shots, Vince is well, Vince, Gortat does not want to be in Phoenix, there is just nothing going for this Suns team. Looking ahead, Lon Babby and the front office have done a terrible job setting this team up to be successful in the future. With so much money locked up on so many role players like Frye, Dudley, Warrick, and Childress it will be extremely difficult to A) move them and B) pay Dragic the money he is going to eventually need. The writing is on the wall and the Sun is clearly setting in the Valley of the Sun.
    OVER AND OUT

  • 15 Zak // Jan 5, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I never panic. There is really NOTHING the Suns can do thins season to improve the team to title contender status. No other team will be willing to trade the pieces the Suns need for what the Suns would be willing to give up for them. If they are lucky, they might be able to get a strong, defensive/rebounding PF without giving too much up in trade but that would probably just further disrupt the team chemistry and the rotation. Facts are facts and barring some sort of miracle, the Suns are headed for at best a 7th/8th spot in the playoffs with a quick first round series exit. More likely they are headed to the lottery this year where hopefully they will get lucky and draw one of the first three picks in the draft. This team still has the potential to play better than they’ve played since the trade and I think they will do so as the season goes on. The do need a “go-to” guy at the end of the game. VC could be that guy but so could Grant Hill. Maybe the Suns should adjust their rotation so that both of them play fewer minutes early in the game so that they’re fresher and better rested when the 4th quarter rolls around. Limit them, especially Hill, to 15-16 minutes in the first 3 quarters then turn them loose in the 4th. Hill especially would be my choice. Let Dudley play the majority of the minutes in the first 3 quarters so Hill will be well rested going into the 4th. Let the younger guys tire out the opposing SFs and then see if they can stop Hill at the end.

  • 16 MikeMeez // Jan 5, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    I’m not panicking but I think the Suns should start working on a Nash trade basically regardless of the team’s play in the next few weeks. Unless the Suns go on a tear and look like a title contender, which they won’t, then what’s the point of letting this play out. We all love Nash but, as Suns fans, haven’t we gotten to the point that anything less than a championship is just not enough. The Suns have been around for over 40 years and they’ve always been good, they go to playoffs and Conference Finals and a couple Finals so I don’t care about doing those things again. A championship is the only thing left. And this team, even if it comes together and plays well, is not good enough to do that.

    And free agents will come here even without Nash. Phoenix is a desirable place to live and the Suns are a great organization.

    Still, gotta stick around. If you abandon the team when things get tough, it won’t be as sweet when they come back and win their first championship. That’s why when I was offered tickets to the Suns-Lakers tonight I had to take a deep sigh and say “Yes” to go to an inevitable defeat and annoying Laker fans.

  • 17 Roger // Jan 5, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Please suns at least make the playoffs!! Please

  • 18 Eduardo G // Jan 5, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    If the Suns are in panic mode, then it’s time to trade Nash and start rebuilding.

    http://durosports.blogspot.com/2011/01/suns-changing-stance-on-nash.html

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