PHOENIX — Hamed Haddadi appears to be filling in nicely for Marcin Gortat and Jermaine O’Neal. Once viewed as a throw-in as the Suns sent off Sebastian Telfair and got a draft pick back, it’s a wonder if the Suns are simply using him because of the depth issues at center or if they view him as a potential inexpensive addition should they have a backup center spot open this offseason.
The Iranian center got his chance to shine on Saturday. He was a key contributor in a 107-105 Phoenix victory, playing 28 minutes and pulling down 11 boards to go with three blocks and six points.
“I was in Memphis for… four years. If I learned something, you got to be patient,” Haddadi said. “Your chance is coming.”
Jared Dudley said Haddadi’s smarts are something the team is quickly learning about. In his action with Phoenix so far, he’s been not only a rim-protecting big man, but a conscious teammate.
“He’s giving blocks, keeping the ball alive, he seals down low so you can penetrate,” Dudley said.
“He’s better than he looks,” Dudley joked. “No, but he’s a good guy. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think we win that game.”
There’s still room for growth. At one point, Haddadi took a 17-foot attempt that drew the ire of coach Lindsey Hunter. Haddadi learned that, while he’s not on a short leash with mistakes — something that was true with the Grizzlies — he doesn’t have a green light on his jump shot just yet.
“Next time (I’ll) make a jumper,” the 7-foot-2 center joked, “three points.”
Dudley the playmaker
A new wrinkle in the Suns’ offense had Jared Dudley handling the ball and playmaking off of the wing. Dudley scored 22 points and had seven assists. Not a threat to dribble-drive past anyone, Hunter and his coaching staff ran the reserve wing off screens with the ball, giving him the chance to find rollers or get a shot off himself.
“We want him to be more creative,” Hunter said. “We don’t want him to resort to being a spot-up shooter. I think he can do that. He’s real clever, uses his body well and he did that tonight. He scored in a variety of ways other than just spot-up shots. I told him before the game, ‘Anytime you get open I want you to shoot it.’”
Dudley expressed a strong support of his new rotation-mate, Kendall Marshall. And he added that he has no problem coming off the bench.
“For me, bench, starter doesn’t really matter as far as my effectiveness,” Dudley said. “Kendall got me open looks in transition. I think the biggest thing for me was rhythm. First time in a long time I was on the court for a long period of time, no subs, and I sort of got my rhythm going.”
Meanwhile, Hunter also praised Marshall, who a few times attempted assertive dribble-drives into the paint. While not the explosive enough athlete to separate, Hunter wants more of that from Marshall to open up more passing lanes.
Beasley’s play like an ocean’s tide
After struggling mightily of late, Michael Beasley put in his second efficient and successful game in a row. After the Suns’ loss to the Toronto Raptors this week, he blamed himself and showed a great deal of frustration in response to a general question about the team woes.
“I don’t know how to deal with success,” Beasley said after the 27-point home loss to the Toronto Raptors this week, answering a question about the prior three-game winning streak going to the Suns players’ heads. “Point to me, I guess, I don’t know. We don’t know how to play together as a team. Too many other people with their own agendas. Not that I’m equating myself from the bunch but as a team we’ve just got to learn how to play together.”
Beasley responded in the last two games. He scored 24 against the Kings in a loss before scoring an efficient 10 points to go with four rebounds against the Rockets.
Lindsey Hunter on the defense: “Guys were really, really doing a good job on pressing up on ball-handlers. And in spite of that, (the Rockets) made some tough shots. They made some tough threes, some contested threes. I think by us creating turnovers and getting into the open court and really driving the ball to the rim, we gave ourselves an advantage.”