Sacramento Kings 117, Phoenix Suns 103 — Going through the motions

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 28: DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings shoots agaisnt Markieff Morris #11 of the Phoenix Suns on March 28, 2013 at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

PHOENIX, AZ – MARCH 28: DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings shoots agaisnt Markieff Morris #11 of the Phoenix Suns on March 28, 2013 at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Goran Dragic knifed through the lane uncontested for easy bucket after easy bucket. He even settled for several jump shots outside the lane and hit those as well.

Unfortunately, Dragic’s 20-plus-point performance came in warm-ups, as the Phoenix Suns decided to rest their starting point guard for the second consecutive night. With Dragic and center Jermaine O’Neal reduced to pine duty, the Suns earned the same result – desired or not – as their previous four games: a loss.

While the Sacramento Kings came to US Airways Center Thursday also playing the second game of a back-to-back, Keith Smart’s squad seemed far more interested in winning than gaining position in June’s draft lottery. Propelled by both a dominate performance from DeMarcus Cousins and an 18-4 run to end the first half, the Kings ran away from Phoenix en route to a 117-103 victory – their sixth over the last 10 games.

“I think our effort was there tonight, but I think our execution wasn’t,” Suns interim head coach Lindsey Hunter said. “I think guys had mental lapses at times on different coverages and it resulted in them scoring at certain, crucial times when we had the game manageable to get a little closer.

“We made timely mistakes on rotations. Just the small things. Part of it is just because those guys haven’t played much together. You know inexperience plays a part in it, but that is just what we have to work on.”

Cousins scored 15 of his season-high 34 points in the final 3:48 of the first quarter and treated the underwhelming Valley crowd to an array of dunks, post moves and jumpers over the ineffective arms of Hamed Haddadi and Markieff Morris.

“I just feel like I got it going early,” Cousins said. “My jump shot was falling and with (the Suns) giving me my jump shot and hitting it, it helped the rest of my game. It was fun.”

Before Thursday’s game, Hunter lauded Sacramento point guard Isaiah Thomas for his fearless ability to get to the basket. Thomas lived up to the praise and made a night out of carving up Kendall Marshall inside the three-point arc. Marshall, who was making his second career start, was consistently a step slow and the former Washington standout took full advantage.

In a “complimentary” role to Cousins, Thomas finished with 23 points and eight assists – a stat line Phoenix’s rookie point guard didn’t take lightly.

“In extended minutes you’ve got to make sure you’re consistent over 48 minutes,” Marshall said. “You can’t make four or five great plays and then make two horrible plays. There are 82 games in a season and you have to be consistent in that period time.

“I have to work to play at that consistent level, whether it’s setting up my teammates for shots or keeping the ball in front of me at the defensive end.”

Outside of the individual performances of Cousins and Thomas, who were not held out despite Sacramento’s abysmal record, Thursday night looked exactly like what it was: a 48-minute exhibition between two teams going nowhere fast.

The contest at times had the feel of a college intramural game: frenetic pace, little to no defense, plenty of turnovers, notable scoring spurts and not a whole heck of a lot on the line.

“It’s tough (to play without Dragic or O’Neal), but to be honest despite what it might seem like, I feel like guys are trying to win games out there,” said Marshall, who became the first Suns rookie to record 10 or more assists in consecutive games since Negele Knight in April 1991. “We’re competing, but we still have mental lapses.  I don’t think that means we’re not trying to win or we don’t have good energy.  That’s just something we’ve struggled with all year.”

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the short-handed Suns. P.J. Tucker (stifled Tyreke Evans and scored 18 points), Michael Beasley (14 points and eight rebounds) and Luis Scola (25 points and seven rebounds) seemed genuinely involved in the game’s outcome. However, Hunter was hard-pressed to find much out of any of his other players when it came to defensive intensity or toughness on the glass.

Although the Suns appear to be writing the blueprint on how to simply play out an 82-game season, swingman Wesley Johnson still believes there is plenty to play for that won’t show up in the standings.

“There’s always something to play for,” said Johnson, who had his third straight double-digit scoring effort Thursday. “Every guy in here is playing for something. It’s not about just playing for wins and losses.  There’s a bigger goal than that. Everybody in here is always going to go and compete, and we’re not going to just lay down just because we have eight or nine games left.”

And 1…

  • With Thursday’s loss, the Suns secured their first 50-loss season since 2003-04. That season, Phoenix went 29-53 before retooling its roster with the likes of Steve Nash and Quentin Richardson.
  • Following two losses without Goran Dragic, the Suns still find themselves with the fourth-worst record in the NBA. While Phoenix is just half a game behind the Cavaliers, its cause has not been helped by the fact that both Cleveland and Orlando are both on losing streaks of six and eight games respectively.
  • Keith Smart and Co. pulled off a rare win in Phoenix. How rare? Before Thursday night’s victory, Sacramento had just one win in its past 13 appearances at US Airways Center.

Tags: DeMarcus Cousins. Lindsey Hunter Kendall Marshall Phoenix Suns Recap Sacramento Kings

  • bill.thomas

    Lightening up on the pizza would help. And I’m a pizza delivery guy !!

  • bill.thomas

    I would love to get my route in Marshall’s territory !!!!

    Earn good money there.

    But if I got it in Markeiff’s territory, IRS would be all over me asking where I keep my gold bullion.

  • IowaPhxFan

    Glad to see the young guys continue to play this thing out…

    Impressed with what Garrett does when given the time….his stats for such limited minutes are very good. Yes, it’s a very small sample size…but he seems to always be involved when on the court and a difference maker.

    Didn’t score tonight…which I’m ok with at least he isn’t just chucking when he gets in…he’s playing his game….6 asts 4 rebs in only 14 mins….if he played starter mins (30 or more) I think he’d avg 12 ppg, 8 apg, 6 rpg….


  • foreveris2long

    I would not draft Zeller in the top ten this summer. Looks like the Suns will lose the balance of their games in hopes of securing a top 3 pick.

  • bill.thomas

    I am not sure I would draft Zeller in the top 15. And Oladipo, even with that stat line, made zero impact. PJ Hairston and Jamal Franklin, thank you.

  • bill.thomas

    People talking about Cody Zeller in the top 7 shows the weakness of this draft. I would trade the 7th pick to someone to take Zeller there at 7, if we could then get the 29th pick in the 2nd round and draft Lon’s niece there. I hear she’s a hella player.

  • DBreezy

    What amazing talent headcase Cousins has. Kind of rare to see a guy with his kind of issues be as consistent on the glass as he is and man does he have some nice touch. If only he could unlock the rest, but it is still a pleasure to watch old school big man style hoops.

  • Scott

    If the Suns fail to see improvement this summer from the Morris twins, they could possibly find a trade opportunity with Sacramento. (Just my impression.)

    In other news, Kobe and Nash are getting gimpy as we head into the final stretch.

  • Luka

    I really hope none of these “young” players are back next year. The Suns have to be kidding themselves on Wesley Johnson. He’s had a handful of nice games on a lottery team, and suddenly there’s talk of a contract extension? Please, no. The Suns have to consolidate the roster as soon as the season is over. Let’s stop pretending there’s anyone outside of Dragic worth keeping.

  • bill.thomas

    LA Times Headline: “Border Patrol Catches 7 People in Tractor-Trailer with watermelons”.

    This is the answer to our prayers. If we can use the CBA to our advantage to get rid of some underperformers,
    anyone caught in a tractor trailor with watermelons might well be desperate enough to outperform.

  • bill.thomas

    I would trade anyone Zeller and a bunch of watermelons for PJ Hairston. And don’t worry, Zeller wont eat the melons, he only eats corn and cotton candy.

  • bill.thomas

    @Scott, are you still on the Tony Allen 2.0 bandwagon ??

  • bill.thomas

    If we pick Plumlee even with the last pick in the second round, I’m going to be a draft-day suicide.

  • bill.thomas

    @Scott: How bout we trade Sillmarillion and Azzbballfan for Jimmer Frdedeyye. Equal value.

  • bill.thomas

    Meant Fredette, typed too fast. Equal value.

  • bill.thomas

    @Luka: How do we consolidate the roster? We establish a new church, the Church of Pizza, and ordinate the Morris twins and Marshall as the founding ministers of said Church. We then supply said Church with quarters, daily za delivery and various beverages. Voila, three roster spots open and yet another new group exercising its freedom of religion in this great country. And all tax deductible to Sarver.

  • Azbballfan

    Hey i have got an idea

    replace the phoenix suns gorilla with a watermelon

    we could sign him as a free agent and if he plays well, an extension could be in the cards

    in all seriousness, if Johnson wants to remain in the valley of the suns and we can get him for a reasonable amount i wouldnt mind keeping him

    he is playing the best ball of his short career, and worst case scenario would give us another asset to use in a trade

    Yeah, ideally you want super stars on your team but the Suns arent the heat or Lakers or Bulls

    They have to draft superstars or get lucky like the Clippers and find a disgruntled one and have the assets teams want that are rebuilding

    I think if we get to 56 losses it will be the 2nd worse season in Franchise history

    our young guys actually played ok

    P.J. Tucker played well

    Tucker is one guy who should be back next year

    Haddadi also seems to improve a little bit every game too

    JO and Gortat will likely be gone by next season i would have no problem with Haddadi playing good minutes

    besides the Suns need to retool and it looks like next season is going to be another rebuilding year

    which is a good move, only people we can get this year in free agency are are guys that arent superstars

    i would patiently rebuild in a year like this

    Save your cap space for 2014

    and if someone gets amnestied, the Suns will be able to bid on someoone like that

    btw i would only sign andrew bynum to a deal if i could get out of it later

    i think new deals in the new CBA have the stretch option

    if our training staff says he can recover and play its not a bad gamble

  • Scott

    @bill -

    I’m not enthusiastic about any of the top draft picks, even Noel. So no, I’m not entirely happy about Oladipo, although the key with these players is potential. If he has the IQ and work ethic to improve his game, then he has a good foundation to start with.

    As I’ve said before, he needs to improve his handling, creation, shooting, and preferably show he’s hungry to score every game.

    @Luka -

    I might be the only one talking about signing Wes Johnson for next year. I don’t know if the Suns are thinking about it.

    The idea I’ve presented all along is signing him to a contract like the one Shannon Brown had this year, which is a 2 year contract for $3.5m, where the first year is guaranteed and the second year is team option. But I would want to be planning on playing him at SF.

    Wes has a good body for a wing player, he’s tall and long, he’s quick and athletic, his energy seems good, he makes a fair number of good plays, and he’s willing to shoot the ball. What he needs to improve on is really his consistency in scoring and his accuracy (which is kind of the same thing). His midrange game is coming along.

    If the Suns end up moving him to SF, I believe his scoring opportunities will improve, as he’ll be more available for back door cuts, rebounds, and short jumpers off of garbage plays, just like Shawn Marion used to do (and still does, but for another team).

    The only reason I would go with the smaller contract is that his efficiency has been so low. His PER is less than 10. But part of that is – IMO – because with the Suns he’s been playing out of position at SG, just like he did in Minnesota.

    In both Phoenix and Minnesota, the teams had no native SG, and they ended up pressing SFs into duty as SG. (The only true SG the Suns have right now is Brown, and he’s at best a one-way player.)

    When Johnson plays at SG it takes away from his rebounding and highlights his modest ballhandling, creation, driving, and midrange skills. If there’s no Dudley next year, I’d want Johnson starting at SF.

  • Scott

    Also, if the Suns retain Tucker for next year, they ought to (and probably will) increase his salary to something like $2.5m, on a two year contract (2nd year team option). Not only would that show respect for his effort this year, but it would also bring his salary in line with first round rookie contracts, making it easier to trade him to any contending team willing to shed a rookie.

    I’d use Tucker as a defensive wing, with the idea that he could start over any rookies the Suns might get. I’d encourage him to work on his step-in midrange shot, just as Dudley and Johnson have done, so he can become a better two-way player.

  • Forever is2long

    More and more I am in the J. Franklin camp over Oladipo. Franklin has freakish skills and an incredible arm length to potentially make him a nightmare to play against when he reaches his potential. I just love his upside.

    Definitely put me in the keep Wes Johnson camp. As shooters with athleticism are not that common in this league, I think he is a definite attribute to the roster. Scott and I disagree as to whether he is a better 3 than 2 but I think he is a needed wing on the Suns who is good defender. Whether he plays the 2 or 3 I hope he works hard on getting more shots in the lane or at least 15 feet and in. That is how he will improve his shooting %. With confidence going into the offseason and should the Suns get a low post post power forward (39% shooting Mercury Morris need not apply), his game will shine even more. IMO WJ is a definite keeper.

    If the Suns draft Zeller with their lottery pick, just call 911 for me the minute it is announced.

  • Scott

    While I like Gortat, Scola, and Dudley – I think they’re good players and I have liked them since I first saw them play – my inclination is to place them all on the trading block and to try to find good homes for them with competitive teams. I don’t know what the Suns would get back, but it would have to be reasonable; I’m not calling for a fire sale.

    I have, for instance, outlined a trade of Scola and Dudley to Boston for Green, Sullinger, and Melo. I would also trade Gortat to Orlando for any combination of Vucevic, Nicholson, and Harkless, or to Dallas for a suitably re-signed Mayo.

    I don’t know if Frye will be back. If he’s done his contract may still have trade value.

    I think Brown is out, O’Neal will likely join another team (he seemed friendly with the Wiz), and Haddadi is on the bubble, depending on whether the Suns are able to adequately fill the C spot. Garrett is on the bubble too, probably depending on who the Suns draft and if there’s room on the roster.

    So, not knowing who the Suns will draft or receive in trade, I project Dragic and Marshall at PG, Tucker and Garrett at SG, Johnson and Marcus Morris at SF, and Beasley and Markieff Morris at PF. Maybe Frye and Haddadi at C.

  • Evan

    Frye cant even elevate his heart rate or he might die…he is done.

    Scola was a 1 year rental. He is gone next season.

    Same with Brown and Oneal.

    We need to amnesty Beasley because he is worthless.

    Haddadi is also worthless…gone.

    Tucker and Dudley are scrappy defensive oriented players, that are great to have around, Wes Johnson has a lot of talent, and can be a great peace…but we can only keep 2 of them.

    Dragic is a decent starting point guard, and Marshall is a decent backup.

    The morris twins make a good BACK UP, SF-PF combo.

    Gortat is a quick footed big man with a mid range shot and post game…unless we get Dwight Howard keep the man.

    So then we need to draft/sign in free agency 1 Starting caliber SG who can score on his own, 1 starting PF who can score/rebound, and one Back up center who can play good D and give Gortat some rest for at least 15 min a game.

    Totally doable.

  • Forever is2long

    Evan, Just out of curiosity why do you want to keep Gortat when he will be 30 next season, a free agent next summer and has openly indicated he will not sign an extension with the Suns? Why wouldn’t you want to get something for him since we are rebuilding anyway?

  • Scott

    @Evan -

    I don’t think you have the right story on Frye.

    Frye is out this year to rest and see if his heart recovers. He’ll be re-evaluated sometime soon, I imagine, so he and the Suns can plan for the future.

    At this point, nobody knows if he’ll be cleared for play next year or if he’ll be forced to retire for medical reasons.

    His condition is not believed to be as dire as you have said.

  • Evan

    No matter what the Suns are not going to be great next season, maybe compete for a playoff spot if they do all the right moves, yeah if someone offers decent talent for Gortat then pull the trigger on a trade, but dont trade him just to trade him, but the fact is that if we keep the players I mentioned that leaves only 3 spaces left in a realistic 10 man rotation. We are going to draft 2 players in the early to mid 1st round, and will have decent cap space for a Monte Ellis, K-mart, or Nick young, then a David West, Milsap, or Josh Smith, and maybe a DeJuan Blair.

    To you want to try to win now or in 10 years?

  • Evan

    we can still sign a couple big name free agents that we will build around over the next few years. But trading gortat just to trade him seams stupid.

  • Evan

    Dude google it, Frye has not been cleared to do any physical activity that raises his heart rate. Yeah after a few tests and some cardiac treatments where they kill some nerves in this heart he might be cleared to play, its the same type of thing that happened to a friend of mine who now has a pacemaker. I would say that there is a 1-10 chance he is back next season, at which point we should not even take that chance.

  • Forever is2long

    Evan, who said trade him just to trade him? Of course you want to get something of quality back for him. That would be implicit in any deal for a starting center with decent numbers. No one is saying trade Gortat for a second round pick.

    Who says we are going to draft 2 players in the early to mid 1st round? As of today the Lakers are in the playoffs, so if things continue as presently situated, where are we getting another mid 1st round draft pick from this summer?

    K-mart, Nick Young, Monte Ellis, D. Blair,etc., these guys are not going to make you a championship contender. Do you just want a winning record or do you want a championship contending team? If you want just a winning record, then the 3 blind mice should follow your lead. However grooming the young talent we draft this summer will likely result in another lottery trip next summer when the draft will likely be much deeper, then maybe, if we are really lucky, we can talk about a winning team that can grow into a championship contender.

    Your band-aid approach is not good when a team is in ICU and needs surgery. We are the least talented team in the NBA, why would any “big name” free agent want to come to Phoenix this summer other than to visit a sick relative? Come on man,

  • john


    I’m not saying I know anything for certain on when Frye can come back, but here are a couple of quotes from you:

    “Frye cant even elevate his heart rate or he might die”

    “Frye has not been cleared to do any physical activity that raises his heart rate”

    Those are two wildly different statements, the first of which I believe to have no truth behind it, the second of which I believe is true.

    There is a very big difference between not being cleared and not being ABLE to do something.

    To back up my claim, here’s a quote from USA Today article where they interviewed Frye:

    “He is ’95 percent positive’ that he’ll be healthy enough to return for next season, yet still acknowledges that there’s a slim chance he may never play again.”

    That sounds like a far cry from your first statement and right in line with your second statement.

  • Evan

    @Forever my strategy is called re-building, it is accepting the fact that your bad, taking a good hard look at your roster, taking out the players that are worthless, and sighing a couple of free agents that can be pieces to a decent team that you build around until you get a star which in the NBA you need, I never said we would compete for a championship I said that we could compete for a playoff spot, no one wants to go to a team like the Bobcats, Kings, Raptors ext that has no interest ever in being competitive, so betting everything on a free agency over a year from now is stupid. Yeah if you can trade Gortat for something good then trade him. Simply writing off the next year and trading every good player is not a good strategy, that is what the Bobcats have been always done. The point is to build not to keep demolishing what you built the year before. Will you make a couple mistakes along the way (cough Beasley cough) Yes, but at least your trying. I would like my team to try to get better.

  • Ty-Sun

    Forget about Frye playing for the Suns again for now. I like the guy and appreciate everything he’s done for the Suns but there’s no way to be certain that he will ever play in the NBA again. I hope he has a full recovery but it’s not something anyone can be certain of.

    Evan, there is no way the Suns can “amnesty” Beasley. I’m surprised no one else has mentioned this yet. Amnesty was a one time provision in the latest CBA and each team could amnesty ONE and only one player for the duration of the new CBA. Phoenix has already used it on Childress and can’t amnesty anyone on their roster.

    Gortat is about to enter his final contract year with the Suns and he obviously wasn’t happy here this season. It would simply be best for him and the team if they looked into a suitable trade for him during the off-season.

    Scola might actually be a one year rental but unless that Suns can find a better replacement, I don’t expect him to certainly be gone next season. Perhaps if Frye actually does recover in time for next season… but as I said, we can’t count on Frye.

    Haddadi is NOT worthless. He’s proven to be a fairly good – and inexpensive – backup 5.

    Brown is probably gone next season as is O’Neal but for different reasons. Brown just really isn’t that good. As for O’Neal, I think he’s just ready to retire unless he can get a contract with a team with a strong possibility of winning a championship next year.

    Bringing in Monte Ellis, K-mart, Nick Young, David West, Paul Milsap, Josh Smith and/or DeJuan Blair would be almost as bad as putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound… it will help a little but it won’t cure the problem. And Foreveris2long is right when he said that no free agents would want to come to Phoenix right now. If they are good enough to get a max contract offer, then better teams will offer them that and they will go there rather than come to Phoenix. And none of those guys are worth betting the future of the team on. They’re all good but not that good. Bringing any of them in would just limit the Suns cap space and keep them from getting high draft picks for several years. Yeah, we could be an 8th or 7th seed in the playoffs for several years and then find ourselves right back at this point a few years down the line.

    There is no way to be sure that the Suns will do well in the draft this year but that’s the best bet. They don’t even have to get a great player in this years draft, just a good, solid, YOUNG starter to build around.

  • Evan

    My bad on the Lakers pick I forgot how complicated these NBA picks are.

  • Evan

    OK you guys win fire sale trades with our only quality players is probably the best bet, I still think Nick young and Blair would be good bets at not a huge cost and would be good pieces on a rebuilding team. Scola is not fitting with this team at all, we can easily let him go…So my bad on amnesty, I still think we should trade Beasley for anything (jar of actual peanuts) just because his body language and work ethic is not what a rebuilding team needs, Gortat and Dudly should command some trade value.

  • Ty-Sun

    Well, I actually do agree that Beasley should be traded for almost anything although I think that the Suns should at least hold out for a bag of honey roasted peanuts for him. ;)

    And Gortat and Dudley should certainly NOT be traded away for lesser value players. Blair and Young might be worth it if they don’t ask too much.

    The odd thing about Scola is that he really doesn’t fit with any team. He’s an un-athletic PF that still manages to play at a high level because he has a great BB IQ. If somehow you could give Beasley Scola’s smarts or give Scola Beasley’s athleticism, you would have an NBA All-Star.

    Fire sale trades? I haven’t read anything here that implies that except from a very few people who I don’t bother to respond to. Those are trades that would be great for the Suns but very stupid move for the other teams. I often roll my eyes at how someone rationalizes how trading some of the Suns’ unproductive/older players to another team for some of their younger and more productive players would actually be “good” for the other team.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    IT’S A TRAP!!

  • Ty-Sun

    VOTS, PLEASE go back to Livefyre!

  • bill.thomas

    Chill out !

  • Scott

    Any draft thoughts on Michael Carter-Williams? He’s been playing this year as PG, but he has the size and scoring temperament to play at SG.

    As a playmaker he hasn’t been scoring much, but on 3/13/13 he had 15 assists.

    He’s 6′ 5″ tall with same wingspan, 175 lbs. (very light, no extra length), good foot speed, high assist to turnover ratio, good handles, apparently a high IQ, can shoot floaters and runners and 3 pointers, and can catch and shoot.

    He has good on-ball defense when he puts in the effort.

  • Lance Blanks

    Good evening. First off, I just want to mention that I am still with the Phoenix Suns organization. Any rumor to the contrary is simply false.

    Secondly, we feel very excited about not only where the team is headed but the upcoming draft.

    Myself, and John Treloar had a chance to do some preliminary mock drafts on Lon Babby’s laptop earlier and we couldn’t be more ecstatic.

    Lon has a unique computer program measuring all the metrics we’re looking for in our draft choice. We like what we’ve seen as we cultivate the soil in our draft process.

  • foreveris2long

    Scott I like Michael Williams game a lot. When he gets comfortable shooting jump shots he is going to be really good. The should take a good look at him this summer if he enters the draft.

  • Scott

    @forever -

    As I understand it, he came into college having played SG and being responsible for his HS team’s volume scoring. He supposedly knows how to shoot contested shots, shoot from all over, and also score at the hoop.

    However, due to his average to small size for SG, he thought it would be good for him to take his college experience and play at PG, to learn about playmaking. In that way, he’d be a more well-rounded guard prospect for the NBA.

    To me, that shows IQ and a willingness to work on his game. So as far as I can see what’s really holding him back is his average length, light weight (not an uncommon problem for younger players) and a possible character issue (I think he got caught shoplifting ..??).

  • Forever is2long

    Good insight. Absolutely the Suns should take a good long look at him in the camps. The shoplifting should not concern the Suns too much unless a background check finds more in his closet. If he even has an average jump shot, with his playmaking skills, defense and athleticism he deserves a look especially in a weak draft. The Suns need a wing who is really athletic, can defend and shoot. However if the Suns think he is a point guard they will not draft the guy because they will be too afraid they will be admitting Marshall was a mistake.

  • ?????

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