Despite uphill battle ahead, Phoenix Suns remain positive entering All-Star break

Vince Carter and the Suns have seen plenty of tough losses, but remain certain they can play beyond 82 games. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

At this point of the season one year ago, the Phoenix Suns were nine games over .500 and riding a resurgent wave that started with a win over the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 28.

After finishing as strong as anyone after the All-Star break, the Suns nabbed a surprising three seed en route to the Western Conference Finals.

After losing to the Mavericks on Thursday night, the 2010-11 Suns find themselves in a very different position. They’re even at .500, don’t own a playoff spot and battle inconsistency. But even with a mountain to climb after the break, the Suns remain confident about the prospects of their season.

“I believe in this team,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said after Thursday’s 112-106 loss. “We will come back after the All-Star break and we will play good basketball and we will find a way to make a run and get in the playoffs, and yes, we want to make the playoffs.”

As the league’s best congregate in Los Angeles for the weekend, the Suns sit 2 1/2 games out of the eighth playoff spot in the West, chasing Memphis and Utah with Golden State not far behind.

With just 28 games left and so much competition for the final few playoff spots, there is little room for error and the Suns will have to beat the teams they are supposed to, and also beat better teams.

The Suns have won six of their last eight games against teams above .500, but have gone just 5-4 against losing teams over their last 15 games.

“We’re inconsistent,” Gentry said. “I think that’s the thing that will hurt us most, but I think the effort is there night in and night out. I think we have guys that are not quitters.”

Considering the highs and lows the Suns have seen thus far, it’s an accomplishment that they remain in position to make the playoffs at all. Many teams, faced with a revamped roster after losing an All-Star mainstay (Amare Stoudemire) and numerous demoralizing losses, would have folded and accepted a lottery-bound season.

“It’s been a real trying season so far,” Gentry said. “We’ve kind of changed our team twice, and now I think these guys are feeling good about themselves. We believe that we’re a good enough team that we can play ourselves into the playoffs.”

From player to player, that attitude doesn’t change. Everyone believes the Suns are good enough to earn a playoff spot in the final stretch. Though they’d undoubtedly love to have the nine-game cushion they had a year ago, the Suns still consider themselves contenders at 27-27.

“We’re still right there in the thick of things,” forward Grant Hill said. “I think it’s going to come down to the last week or the last game, teams jockeying for position. We’ve just got to come back and hit the ground running.”

Though most of the team will be taking some sort of vacation while the All-Star festivities take place, few consider it a true break. While most said they would take the opportunity to relax and escape the game a bit, no one shared plans to take basketball off their mind.

“I’ll be thinking about the team,” Gentry said. “It doesn’t matter where I am or what I do, I’ll be thinking about the team and how we can get better.”

Of the Suns’ 28 remaining games, 15 come against teams currently above .500 and 16 are away from US Airways Center. After opening at home against Atlanta, the Suns face a six-game road trip that includes stops in Boston and Oklahoma City.

The team is well aware of the challenge ahead, but daunting as it may seem, it has presented the Suns with a clear picture of what they must do to reach their goal.

“We’re just going to try to regroup and come back and go for broke,” point guard Steve Nash said. “We’ve got nothing to lose now. We got ourselves to .500 and we’ve got 28 games left and we’ll see how many of those we can win.”

Tags: Phoenix Suns

  • Zak

    I still see potential for this team this season. Yeah, maybe it might be best for the Suns’ future to actually miss the playoffs this year but – as long as they stay healthy – I’m not sure they can avoid the playoffs unless they just quit trying to win. Unless Denver somehow hangs on to Melo for the rest of the season, any trade they make will disrupt their team and send them on a downward spiral for the rest of the season. Gay is out for quite a while with injuries and I expect Memphis to start loosing more games than they win until he gets back (which I’ve heard will be at least a month). Utah may turn things around at any time but it seems that they are in at least a bit of turmoil after Slone’s resignation. Portland is playing really well lately but New Orleans is also dealing with injuries and not doing very well lately. IF the Suns avoid any major injuries for the rest of the season, they could possibly wind up as high as the 6th seed in the playoffs. I’m still wondering if that would be a good or bad thing. Sure, a good thing for now but maybe a bad thing for the Suns future. Time will tell I suppose.

  • Max Kuykendall

    A good possiblity of making the playoffs. If Melo leaves then the Nuggett will failture. Jazz is barely hanging on and Memphis is according to who they play after the all-star break. Nash proves he can play and make any player better. Knicks would be so lucky to get him. But Mike D. will NOT trade Gallernia period. He will want Steve, and will let go of felton and maybe another one if Felton value, but not the Italian. Blood is there, just like with Amare and Nash. They are all chomping for a championship and Nash plus Melo can do it.

  • Rob

    If VC doesn’t get traded, he will be buried on the bench after the deadline, right? RIGHT???

  • Albert

    Patience, I’ve been following VC’s carrer ever since, he’s game get’s stronger after all star break, although he’s game is affected by Nash controlling the ball and his weakness is outside shooting, but he showed he can play with this team at the beginning….

  • Leo J.

    At this point, I’d rather just see the Suns get in the playoffs, just for the sake of being competitive, because, unless they were as bad as the T-Wolves or Kings, they aren’t going to get a really good draft pick finishing in the middle of the pack. Plus, if they get the 8 spot, and play the Spurs, there is at least that rivalry to look forward to….I am not suggesting that they would beat the Spurs, as well as they are playing this year but hey, you never know…