Ladies and gentlemen, it’s finally here. After a seemingly interminable offseason highlighted by “Gangam Style” parody videos, the downfall of Lance Armstrong, and a shirtless Tim Tebow, the Phoenix Suns are finally back. Their season kicks off tonight against the Golden State Warriors in US Airways Center.
For the Suns, this season is about new beginnings. The roster is filled with players who will make their Phoenix debut tonight, and the overarching theme of the year will be how all these disparate pieces will fit together. No one knows how the Suns will finish, but for the first time in two seasons, there is hope that this franchise is building toward something. Tonight is the first real step in the post-Nash era, and that should not be overlooked.
The Warriors are also trying to start anew having brought in Andrew Bogut from Milwaukee after shipping out scorer Monta Ellis around last year’s trade deadline. In addition to accommodating new faces, however, Golden State also has major health concerns.
Point guard Stephen Curry and centers Andris Biedrins and Andrew Bogut all missed time in the preseason due to injury. Bogut and Biedrins have both been in practice the last few days and should play tonight in Phoenix. Festus Ezeli should see time at the five spot as well. As for Curry, he’s been held out of practice all week, ostensibly to allow him maximum rest for his ankle before the season starts. Curry is not listed on today’s injury report, so it’s more than likely he will play.
The Suns and Warriors met eight days ago in the preseason, with Golden State coming out on top 107-92. Both teams gave their reserves a lot of playing time in the game, so not much can be inferred about tonight’s regular season opener. The one result worth noting, however, was Marcin Gortat’s performance. After a very dismal preseason, Marcin posted 19 points and 10 boards against the Warriors. He did not miss a single shot from the field or the free throw line. He posted that line against backup Festus Ezeli, but nevertheless, if Bogut does not play big minutes tonight, the Polish Hammer could have a big game inside.
The matchup at the power forward position should be interesting as well. Both Luis Scola and David Lee are known more for their scoring than their defense. Lee is quicker off the dribble and can score in more ways, but Scola is a better jump shooter and post player. Both players are still adjusting to playing along side their frontcourt partners, Lee with Bogut and Scola with Gortat, so which of them has the advantage tonight could easily come down to who has better chemistry with their partner.
On the perimeter, Dudley and Beasley should have their hands full with Klay Thompson and Brandon Rush. Thompson averaged close to 18 ppg after Ellis’ departure last season. A big part of Mark Jackson’s vision for Golden State’s offense will be running Klay off screens to get him open shots. I expect Dudley to be tasked with chasing Thompson around the court in this game. That will put Beasley on Rush. Beasley’s goal will be to run him off the three-point line where he is most dangerous. Beasley has the size and athleticism to get the job done. The question that remains concerns whether he will have the commitment.
Rounding out the matchups is the battle of the ball handlers. If Stephen Curry is 100 percent healthy, his matchup against Goran Dragic should be one to watch. Both guys are very quick point guards who are equally skilled at distributing and scoring. Curry is a better shooter from outside, but Dragic is the superior penetrator. I expect both guys to finish with impressive stat lines.
Tonight’s game will generate a lot of scoring, and perhaps, a lot of answers to the plethora of questions surrounding the Suns heading into the year.
/* Style Definitions */
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;