3-on-3: The Suns' brutal road trip

The ValleyoftheSuns gang analyzes three burning questions surrounding the Suns’ upcoming five-game death trap of a road trip to San Antonio, Chicago, New York, Boston and Dallas.

What’s the most difficult circumstance the Suns will face on the trip?

Michael Schwartz: The health of Nash and Hill. They are already “beat up,” as Alvin Gentry put it, and now they must play three games in four days while bouncing all around the country from Phoenix to Texas to Chicago to New York before finishing in Boston and Dallas. Even if they’re healthy enough to start it, there’s no way Nash and Hill make it through this trip at peak effectiveness.

Kevin Zimmerman: Every fourth quarter. The Suns have been anemic on the offensive end in the final period of late. To get back on track, the Suns must figure out why they’ve been losing the battle in the last 12 minutes of the game.

Ryan Weisert:  Age. The Suns have played well as of late against the Blazers and Bucks. But their back-to-back against the Cavs and Nets showed how the Suns’ “experience” can keep them from being competitive night in night out. Five games in nine nights will be a tall order.

What’s the toughest game of the trip?

Michael Schwartz: New York. They may not be the toughest team Phoenix will face, but you can pretty much mark the Knicks game down as a scheduling loss right now. Playing their third game in four nights and fourth in six in a different area of the country, there’s no way the Suns will be able to hang with the league’s fifth-fastest team.

Kevin Zimmerman: Chicago. Playing the Bulls isn’t a good way for Phoenix to get out of an offensive funk. In addition, the Bulls could hurt the Suns where they’ve been struggling most: guarding opposing point guards and rebounding the basketball.

Ryan Weisert: The Bulls. Point guards have had incredible nights offensively against the Suns lately. Deron Williams and Kyrie Irving both put up a lot of points. I see Rose having a field day against the Suns and the Bulls cruising to victory.

How will the Suns fare on the trip?

Michael Schwartz: It’s not a stretch to think the Suns will steal one game on this trip, but I just don’t see which one it would be. Forget the fact the Suns just lost to the Cavs and Nets at home, they are playing five of the league’s best teams in their gyms, the kind of squads visitors rarely defeat. Add in the brutal travel schedule and I see the Suns taking an 0-fer.

Kevin Zimmerman: I think someone slipped something in my drink when I said 2-3 on our Vokle show Tuesday night. After the last three games, it’s ever more clear this team has major roster deficiencies. Every team on this trip can quiet the Phoenix offense, but ever the optimist, I think the Suns will steal a victory.

Ryan Weisert: If the Suns play the way they did against the Cavs and Nets, they will surely end up 0-5 on the trip. If, however, they play the way they did against Milwaukee and Portland, 3-2 is definitely in play. The games against Boston and San Antonio will be the best opportunities for victory because of injuries to Pierce and Ginobili.

  • Scott

    Caption to photo of Nash and Hill chatting on the sidelines in the final minutes of the Nets game …

    Hill: We should take the next five games off. What do you say?

    Nash: Excellent idea!

    (I’m sure these two guys really do want to play, but this upcoming road trip is likely to get ugly.)

  • Tony

    Had the Suns been playing even decently, I think they could have taken wins against the Spurs and the Knicks. With the way the team is playing now though, I don’t know if they could even beat the Wizards at this point.

    A question to Michael or any Suns fan,

    assuming the Suns come back home 4-12 or even 5-11, at what point will the Suns front office finally just give up on this season and start the rebuilding process by trading Nash?

    It’s not very complicated why the Suns struggle in the 4th quarter of games either. Opposing teams step up their level of intensity, Nash is gased by that time, or Gentry also Nash out so long between the end of the third quarter and by the time he comes back in the 4th quarter that he’s lost all his rythm and is forced to quickly regain it before the game ends, and the added pressure that comes with the 4th quarter makes players like Dudley unable to be effective because of the pressure. Furthermore, since the Suns don’t have a true scorer and are forced to rely on perimeter shooting, other Suns players besides Nash are fatigued by the time of the 4th quarter and besides defense, shooting from the perimeter is the next thing to go when a player is tired.

    I don’t know why there’s such a debate as to why the Suns struggle in the 4th quarters? It’s perfectly understandable why they do so.

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    Well, and it’s not just the potential 4-12 or 5-11 the Suns seem to be staring at. Then they host Toronto on a B2B upon their return from the trip, go to Portland for a likely loss and then host Memphis and Dallas before hitting the road again for seven of nine, with the last two being the start of their first three games in a row stretch before two in a row against the Lakers. Assume the Suns do fare poorly, I’m not sure where in that stretch reality will set in and if it does whether they will stop talking about remaining competitive while rebuilding if they clearly aren’t. I’m still not sure this FO will ever trade Nash, but if they do I think it would only happen if the Suns drop to the very bottom of the standings over the next month.

  • Scott

    @Tony -

    I’m inclined to disagree. I know it’s theorized that Nash is gassed by the end of the game, and it’s been proposed that the lack of a crunch time creator / shooter is killing the Suns in the last 6 minutes.

    I’m (currently) of the belief that the games are getting lost from the start, because the Suns aren’t playing aggressively in the paint, getting the opposing bigs into foul trouble. So when the end of the game comes around, defenses pick up, and the most dependable offense is to go inside, the Suns can’t go there and instead shoot 3s like the Hail Mary was an actual offensive plan.

  • A-Game

    Honestly guys this team has no chance on this tough roadie. I see them going 1 – 4 at best. Nash and Hill’s age will show on the road.

    I hate to bash my fav team like this but they are not very convincing right now. They lack star power and athleticism – eventually leading to their demise on da road.

    Can you say….lottery??

  • Scott

    BTW, if the Suns start to lose faith in Telfair … or if they wind up trading Nash for a late 2nd round draft pick and a stale pickle, consequently needing another PG …

    NY PG Jeremy Lin will probably be waived by Feb 10 and be on the market.

    Denver’s undrafted Julyan Stone is 6′ 6″ and reportedly can defend and pass. He could probably be had for said stale pickle.

    And, as mentioned before, PG Patty Mills is off playing in China, but is unlikely to return to the Blazers. Mills is the most experienced of these 3 PGs and has played with the Australian Olympic team.

  • James

    Looking forward to an 0-5 road trip. Suns need the lottery more then they need wins this short season.

  • Mel.

    Nash gets traded when he wants to get traded. I don’t see that changing, no matter how many losses the team logs or how badly we tank in the West; for as myopic as the team’s long-term planning seems to be, it’s at least understood that scuttling Steve–without either establishing a potentially marquee replacement, or getting a MAJOR name in return–would completely crush what little local credibility they’re clinging to.

    Of course, this leaves them in the same position as a family that’s acquired a stray cat. They know they can’t keep it–and won’t keep it–but the kids have already named the damn thing, and they’re more excited about it than any of the toys you got them for Christmas. It would be better for everybody if you just accepted that the cat needs to go to a shelter or another, more feline-friendly home, but… when it starts bounding around and playing with that string like a kitten, you just lose all resolve.

    And you start kinda figuring that hey, it’s only got what… two, three years left? There’s no reason why those years can’t be good, and why you can’t love it as much as it deserves, and pay the vet bills, even though… y’know. The wife is a little bit allergic, and what you REALLY want is a proper dog…

  • Tony

    Thanks for the input Michael and other Suns fans regarding what happens with Nash. I really hate to see him leave the Suns, but in my opinion, the longer he stays with the team while the team continues losing, the more it hurts his legacy and the worse it is for the future of the Suns organization. I would like nothing more than for Nash to stay another year as a Sun and see the front office sign a max level player and at least one really good player, thereby giving Nash one more chance to win with this organization. But looking at the free agents this coming off-season, there’s only two unrestricted superstar players in Howard and Williams and it’s ridiculous to presume the Suns have any chance of signing either. As far as the top restricted free agents, it makes no sense that either Minni or the Thunder would not match any Suns offer on Love and Westbrook. So I just don’t see how this team can be really competitive next season either regardless of if Nash stays or not.


    I completely agree with you that the game is usually lost for the Suns after the opening tip. I think it has most to do with the opposing team’s usually gain a lot of confidence early on and once they do so, it becomes extremely difficult to stop them. Unfortunately, this has always been the case with the Suns even in their best years with Nash. This is the result of not having someone like a Garnett or even Chandler, who brings an intimidation factor with them.
    With that being said Scott, I do think Gentry has a poor substitution pattern with Nash in the 4th quarter. He usually leaves him on the bench from the late 3rd quarter until about 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter. So, when taking into account the total time he sits, i.e., timeouts and other breaks, I don’t see how Nash can stay loose and in a rythm sitting so long. He used to do ab exercises to keep limber and warm, but I’m not sure if he still does that. I would prefer to see Gentry sit Nash earlier in the 3rd quarter, such as around 3 minute mark and then bring him back around with 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter. That way Nash wouldn’t be forced to be in a position where every play becomes critical but he could slowly get back into the flow of the game.

  • KeZ

    Mel: Thats a really nice way to put it :)

    Do you guys think that we can get Westbrook via a la Nash trade or in the free agency this summer? I know the Thunder can match his pricetag…..but hey, we can all dream right!

  • shazam

    @ mel ” a family that’s acquired a stray cat.” …thats about as good as it gets…now one step further…that stray cat understands the psychological hold it has on the kids and demands to the parents to bring in his old stray buddy for 6 million dollars….aka,grant hill

  • Scott

    Okay, so I think everyone here knows by now I think the Suns could basically fix their woes by moving Lopez to the starting unit, and Frye to the second unit. A simple move the coach could make any day now. Any day ….

    But did you know that the trade of Dragic to Houston not only cost the Suns a good backup PG, but also a pick which could have been used on Marshon Brooks or Norris Cole, players who could have not only helped the Suns this year in games, but also saved them money by replacing either Brown’s or Telfair’s contract?

    Feel free to grind on that for a while. :)

  • Scott

    @Tony –

    I think Gentry brings Nash in at the same time D’Antoni used to bring him in, and that it works for Nash.

    Keep in mind that in any close game there’s also always the possibility of overtime.

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    @Scott Every time Brooks scored on Friday Fox Sports’ Randy Hill and I looked at each other and made basically the same comment (Hill says he was high on both Brooks and Cole before the draft). We all knew that was a bad trade from the start, but didn’t realize it would be quite this bad!

  • shazam

    babby selling us all that over priced crap when he wore the agent hat and then conning a job out of our organization speaks volumes about how out of touch sarver is….please put nash,hill,lopez and chill in a designer hand bag…blow this thing up and go for the draft…rookies dont get paid much so maybe mr. sarver will hold on to a few in this environment…is it just me or does babby sound like he sucked on a helium balloon etc. every time he talks?

  • Mel.

    Scott, what’s worse is that Dragic had endeared the hell out of himself to the fan community through that single-handed slaying of the Spurs in 2010. With that collateral, he could have slumped through the better part of a season and a half, and we STILL would have been pulling for the kid… mainly because of his potential, but also because it was widely understood that he was being groomed as Nash’s apprentice, for… well, you know. The exact moment that we seem to find ourselves sitting in, now.

    No knock on the veteran stripes that we’ve got backing up the PG position now (And getting the nines straight, Dragic’s mental toughness and consistency are still legitimate question marks), but the franchise could have pushed the “core of tomorrow” crap to the stars, focusing on Dudley, Gortat, Dragic, Frye and Lopez as being an indication of an investment in the future.

    Instead, we’ve got a completely arrested sense of development, and a foot-in/foot-out approach towards what’s going to feasibly come next. The youth movement is suddenly looking a lot less promising across the boards, and we’re playing the “loyalty to our veteran statesmen” card, simultaneously.

  • Scott

    @Michael -

    IMO, the Suns have made some bad moves in the last two years, and I suspect it’s coming from not having someone take sole responsibility for the composition of the team – a mastermind – but instead distributing responsibility to both the coach and front office. I think Dragic was a casualty of this collaborative process.

    Dragic can play PG just fine if he’s given teammates with varied offensive abilities who know their places. Giving him a bunch of players who all need to be close to the basket to score, and who are frequently out of position because they don’t know the plays, and then telling him “Good point guards find a way to make it work,” is lazy coaching. All the opposition has to do is pack the paint, thereby forcing the PG to jack up 3s. Which is what happened. Nobody was able to take that second unit, as it was composed, and make it work.

    IMO, someone needed to push back on Gentry, and instead they accommodated him.

    Of course, since D’Antoni famously rejected Kerr’s advice on how to run his team, the Suns are no doubt reluctant to offer any coach any advice. I’m sure Sarver has directed his FO to give the coach anything he wants.

    Which is probably why the Suns signed Turkoglu and Telfair …

  • shazam

    stick gentry in to a designer hand bag and ship him off too…bring in one mean coach or player…time to shake things up…kobe and michael will smack you on the back of the head when you are just pretending to ball

  • Scott

    @Mel -

    Fans who posted on Suns.com last season seemed to think Dragic was terrible in his last year with the Suns. The blame was put on him, and sentiment greatly favored Dowdell.

    However, I saw essentially the same production out of Dragic, Dowdell, and Aaron Brooks. That’s because the problem with the 2nd unit last year wasn’t the PG, it was the composition of the 2nd unit. Which was due to assignment by the coach.

    Dragic had the job for all the difficult points in the year, having to try to work in all the new players who weren’t good enough for the first unit, and who didn’t know the plays, and who couldn’t score, and then getting his unit changed up again when the trade went through. If Dowdell or Brooks appeared to do any better, it was because by the time they got on the court, the 2nd unit players were at least acclimated to the system (even if they were hopelessly mismatched).

    IIRC, Dragic essentially had Lopez (his bad year), Warrick (before his jump shot was good), Childress (broken finger), and maybe Dudley … I’ve forgotten exactly who. But all you had to do as an opposing team was stand your guys in the paint, put one person out on Dudley (if he was there) and then send someone running at Dragic when he found he was unable to penetrate or make an assist, and so took his 3. There was NO HOPE.

    Previously – IIRC – Dragic was successful because he had 2 perimeter shooters (Frye and Dudley), a rebounder (Amundson), and a speedy combo guard (Barbosa) who could also shoot the 3. Now that’s a well-composed 2nd unit, and it’s no wonder they blasted other 2nd units out of the water.

  • shazam

    the suns would be better off if management would just turn the keys over to mel,scott and tony…think im joking?…..NOPE