Wednesday night’s game could be a telling one, which seems strange because it’s against the lowly New Jersey Nets.
Some might call the Phoenix Suns “lowly” as of late, as they have lost eight of their last 10 games, including some to the NBA’s worst squads.
But taking on the Nets, who the Suns have swept in three of the past four seasons, could be an indicator of whether the Suns will start winning games they should and hang on or simply bang their heads against the rock bottom they hit Tuesday night in Denver.
Ever since center Marcin Gortat said “it can’t get worse,” things have gotten exponentially worse. Losing to the Kings after being up 12 in the fourth quarter. Getting thrashed in Amare Stoudemire’s return to Phoenix. And then the team’s worst loss of the season at the hands of the Nuggets.
Things have gotten so bad for the Suns that President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby apologized to Suns fans Wednesday morning on Sports 620 KTAR’s Doug and Wolf show.
“I apologize on behalf of our team for that game last night,” Babby told the radio hosts. “We’re all watching the same thing and it doesn’t do me any good in my position to sugarcoat it.”
Babby went on to say that “it’s one thing to lose, [and] it’s another thing not to compete.” He also said that the team has yet to find its camaraderie and chemistry, but that it’s not too late to do so.
In truth, it may simply be that this particular group of players, all talented in their own right, might not have any chemistry. The Suns failed to find any chemistry with their season-opening roster and haven’t done it yet with their retooled roster.
Things have undoubtedly been very bleak lately, but the Suns are not out of it yet. At 15-21, the Suns are 3.5 games behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. With an easier second half of January, the Suns could make up some ground. As we’ve observed though, wins against the likes of Philadelphia, Detroit and Washington are no longer guarantees. Plus, it will also take wins against contenders.
With the Nets in town, the Suns get a look at the Eastern Conference’s second-worst team. The Suns were able to beat the East’s worst (Cleveland on Sunday) and should be able to take out New Jersey if they are able to get the ball in the basket. The Nets average the second-fewest points per game (91.9) in the NBA.
While the Nets work to get a blockbuster deal done with the Denver Nuggets for Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, the Suns avoid seeing back-to-back Carmelo. Not that it matters too much to an already-bad Nets team, but playing while waiting for your ticket to be punched out of town can’t be easy.
Wednesday’s game also marks one of two annual Lopez vs. Lopez matchups. The Suns’ Robin Lopez, however, checks in well below his brother Brook. Robin’s 7.0 points and 3.9 rebounds per game probably have Suns fans wishing for the other Lopez (18.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game).
More than anything though, Wednesday’s game is the Suns’ chance to answer Babby’s challenge that not competing will not be accepted.