Preview: Phoenix Suns (5-6) at Charlotte Bobcats (6-6)

Time: 5 p.m. MST


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Following the Phoenix Suns’ most disappointing performance of the season, a 113-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night, the message was simple: Stay together.

For a team filled with 20-somethings, four-game losing streaks are often times more of the rule than the exception. Regardless, veterans like Gerald Green, Goran Dragic and P.J. Tucker said that they emphasized to the younger players the importance of looking at the bigger picture. The NBA’s 82-game season is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. In short, losing streaks happen and the campaign is still in its infant stages.

The Suns will look to get back on track Friday, when they visit the Charlotte Bobcats in the first of three games on the road. Phoenix swept the season series a season ago, but Charlotte with a still-developing, young nucleus and a retooled front court — signed Al Jefferson and drafted Cody Zeller with the No. 4 overall pick — has played inspired basketball under first-year head coach Steve Clifford, “racing” out to a 6-6 start.

When will Green slow down from three-point range?

Jeff Hornacek shared a very telling story before Wednesday night’s game. While sitting on the bus after Tuesday’s 107-104 loss at Sacramento, the Suns first-year head coach was greeted by Gerald Green. Green, who had finished with a season-high 23 points in the contest, told Hornacek that he had never had a coach who believed in him and allowed him to shoot with such freedom from three-point range. Hornaceck’s initial response: Keep shooting.

The seventh-year pro definitely took his advice the following night, as he tied a career-high with six three-point makes en route to another 23-point performance.

In 60 games with the Indiana Pacers last season, Green only hit four three-point shots in a game three times. He’s already done in four times in a Suns’ uniform. While his minutes might go down slightly given Eric Bledsoe’s impending return to the starting lineup, his ‘Green Light’ still applies.

Until he shows otherwise, Green has earned the right to fire at will from distance.

Over/under 16 turnovers for the Suns?

During their current four-game losing streak, the Suns have committed an average of 15.75 turnovers per contest. Now part of that has likely been due to Bledsoe’s recent absence. But with the fourth-year guard expected to return after being hampered by a left shin contusion, the question becomes will Phoenix take a little bit more pride in its possessions, or at the very least look a little less tentative at the offensive end?

Hornacek admitted after Wednesday’s loss that his team needed to get back to the fundamentals when it came to passing the basketball, adding that he’d have his players working on several drills to correct their recent woes Thursday.

Will the day of drills pay off? We’ll find out.

Through 12 games, the Bobcats have been a model of consistency. They don’t turn the ball over much at the offensive end (ranked No. 3 in fewest turnovers) and don’t turn the other team over at the defensive end (ranked No. 20 in turnovers forced).

Another double-double down low?

Statistically the Suns might still be a top-10 defense, but a glaring deficiency has been exposed over the last week or so.

As Hornacek admitted following Wednesday’s seven-point loss, his team doesn’t have a ton of size or strength down low. Frankly, depth could be added to that assessment, as well. Over the last five games,  Anthony Davis, Robin Lopez, Brook Lopez and DeMarcus Cousins have had their way in the paint, out-muscling Channing Frye, Miles Plumlee, and Markieff Morris  on their way to four consecutive double-doubles.

If healthy, Al Jefferson could be the fifth different big to add his name to that double-double list. Jefferson, the team’s big free agent acquisition in the offseason, has missed the last three games due to a recurring right ankle injury. However in 24 career appearances, the 6-foot-10 power forward has torched the Suns, averaging 20.5 points and 11.0 rebounds per game.

But, Frye and Plumlee will have their work cut out for them even if Jefferson can’t play. While Josh McRoberts, Bismack Biyombo and Zeller don’t exactly present the same matchup problems, they’re still credible threats to make an impact — primarily on the glass.

And 1

According to former TV analyst and sports columnist Peter Vecsey, who now resorts to social media as his primary medium, one GM believes the Suns “will do everything possible this summer to sign Gordon Hayward to an unmatchable offer sheet.”

The rumor makes some sense when considering Hayward’s connection with head coach Jeff Hornacek, who was an assistant with the Utah Jazz from 2011-13. However, given the money that both Hayward (18.2 ppg, 4.9 apg and 5.9 rpg) and Eric Bledsoe will likely command this summer, it’ll be quite interesting to see if the Suns can really make a play to sign both.



  • Foreveris2long

    The Suns need to focus their attention on getting a real power forward not another wing. In addition to being of the opinion the Suns have good or promising wings, the 2014 draft will have an abundance of talent at that position. I think McD is too smart to tie up big salary dollars for Hayward.

  • HushPuppy

    At least the draft comes first, so we will see if we need him at that point. I, personally, am not opposed. I think he is a damn good player who is being asked to carry the team on his shoulders. That being said, it does take huge money (or poison pill contracts 6m, 6m, 15m) to pry great players away in the RFA and I’m not sure it would be worth it to tie so much of our money in to one wing player. I guess this is why McD gets paid the big bucks. I trust him.

  • Ty-Sun

    I really can’t see any reason for the Suns to make a play for Hayward unless the worst possible draft scenario plays out… the Suns wind up with another 12-13 pick and BOTH Minnesota and Washington miss the playoffs.

    As Foreveris said, the big need now is a PF. I’d be very happy to just find someone who will play tough D, rebound and throw in a few put back buckets every now and then.

  • DBreezy

    If we’re just talking about basketball, I can definitely see the Suns potentially being interested in Hayward. If we’re talking about cba/finances it’s a far tougher situation. However it’s early, and as HushPuppy noted, none of this occurs until after the draft. If you buy into their notion that Parker is a 4, there are presently 3 PF’s listed in the top five prospects on DX , 4 in the top 8 and 6 in the top 16.

    This is all just a rumor from someone who’s generally been more loud than reliable in his career. That said I find it hard to believe people couldn’t see him fitting in well nicely here, especially if they don’t get a 3 in the draft. He has a nice all around game, doesn’t need the ball as an iso guy to be effective, and is very familiar with the type of sets Hornacek will eventually be running as the team gets more talent.

  • Foreveris2long

    DBreezy, while you are my man (not that way guys) I think the problem a lot of us have is for $10m or $11m/yr we do not want someone who will fit nicely, we or at least I want a game changer or potential all-star and I do not see Hayward being that guy.

  • DBreezy


    That’s part of why I say maybe. Look at Shawn Marion. A different and better paid player than Hayward for much of his career. He was solid with the Suns from the jump, but he became a game changer when the Suns added the right pieces and coach around him. When he left he looked horrible in MIA and TOR, but has done very well in the twilight of his career on Mavs team that he fits well with.

    I’m just saying that I could see a set of circumstances here where Hayward’s value could jump in a similar fashion. The easiest one to see is if the Suns land Randle. You’d have to think that Hornacek would run a lot of the old Jazz stuff in that scenario. Hayward knows those plays well and those old Jazz teams were pretty good with guys at the 3 who weren’t as good as Hayward on offense at least like Russell, Benoit, and Edwards.

    Plus Hayward is a good passer. As much as the Thunder miss Harden’s scoring, what made him really deadly for them was his ability to facilitate. Teams were forced to put their best defenders on Westbrook and Durant which allowed Harden to work on lesser guys. He either scored or if teams tried to help it often freed up Westrbook or Durant to attack. You could envision a similar dynamic developing with a Bledsoe and Randle. Maybe even more so because you would tend to think that with Randle and Plumlee/Len out there teams would tend to sink an extra defender near the bucket in a near zone for a quick double of Randle and to protect the glass similar to what we saw the Suns try to do against Cousins or how teams guard the Grizz. Let’s also not forget such an alignment could allow Goodwin one on one opportunities off rotation.

    Right now the Suns don’t have a Randle or even Aaron Gordon, so it’s a maybe for me but I could see the thought process if this rumor has any legs.

  • Ty-Sun

    I wouldn’t give too much credit to the Hayward rumor anyway. One thing that the Suns’ FO has been good at even while Blanks was here was keeping mum on potential moves. I can’t think of any moves that the Suns’ FO made in the past 4-5 years that “leaked” out as rumors before they happened.

  • Dave:f32

    The argument with the justification on taking Alex Len at the #5 pick, complete with the bum ankle before he ever steps on the court:

    1. He was damaged goods from before the ‘jump’. When you are in a retail store, you never reach for something that has an iota of damage to it. You reach way far in the back and get the product that look like it hasn’t been tampered with.

    (I hate the comparison of people to products, but in this case it works because after all, corporations in the NBA look at players as assets to their business structure.)

    2. That the Suns didn’t just do themselves justice, and trade up in the draft, if they knew ahead of time, and they did, that they were going to go all publishers clear-ing-house, and get rid of a good majority of the roster. They had Gortat at the time of the draft, and could have easily coupled him with another vet and their #5 pick, to move up.

    3. That they didn’t pick Ben McClemore, who has more upside than an injured Alex Len.

    4. That they didn’t do their due diligence and homework to figure out a player that is out there who would be a great addition to what they were planning on doing. They needed to fill all positions in a rebuild. Scouting and player personnel has to get better.

    Alot of this teams in the mid-majors of the NCAA have solid players that scouts haven’t even got around to knowing whether or not they can become an NBA product and contributor.

    The argument that if we didn’t pick Alex Len or Ben McClemore is a simply-flawed ideology. There are a million other players out there. Good players, but you just have to do your homework BEFORE the draft.

  • DBreezy


    As far as the rumor goes, it probably isn’t solid in the sense that it’s actively being looked at, although it’s timing is a little curious. You’ve got the season’s first big trading session coming up in December and the Jazz have stunk so far without a legit pg. They also couldn’t come to terms with Hayward on an extension before teh season. That could mean nothing, but if Hayward doesn’t want to stay in Utah it gets interesting. Looking at their history, Utah has never made anyone stay who didn’t want to be there so it’s possible that they do not match an offer if Hayward wants out. That could prompt them to try and make a deal early like they did with Deron Williams and the Suns are a team holding multiple picks in the next two drafts.

    If he’s allowed to go to RFA, I’m sure a lot of GM’s will be interested to see if he really wants to stay in Utah given Utah’s history. You might be able to snare a quality RFA away from a team without a max or poison pill offer.

  • HushPuppy

    I think people are giving up on Len a bit prematurely. Who’s to say he doesn’t have potential? Who’s to say we didn’t scout accurately? Who’s to say he won’t live up to being a number 5 pick?

    Of course it is a possibility that he is a bust, but man, the season just started. We literally have no reason to throw him out there when he is not 100 percent and risk him getting injured further. Once he is up to speed he will get his reps because he is part of the rebuild. The Celtics gave up on their bust-of-a-pick Chauncey Billups a few games in to his rookie season… I’m not drawing comparisons but I think judgement should be withheld for a while. At least wait till he gets some decent practices and game minutes in.

    Grant Hill came here as “damaged goods.” MVSteve did also. I have a hard time believing our staff would take a huge risk and pick a guy who won’t recover. I don’t know if Len will ever contribute but I do know it is way too early to count him out.

  • DBreezy

    Those same Celts gave up on Joe Johnson midway through his rookie season. I too am not worried about Len at this point, there’s a lot of road ahead. Seems like the fast start has made us a touch impatient. Hopefully McD stays the course with his plan.

  • Dave:f32

    “I think people are giving up on Len a bit prematurely. Who’s to say he doesn’t have potential? Who’s to say we didn’t scout accurately? Who’s to say he won’t live up to being a number 5 pick?”

    Whos to say he has potential? Whos to say we scouted correctly? Whats to say he lives up to being a #5 pick? Yes, i agree its too early but the NBA is not MLB. Right now, its disappointing cuz the guy plays 5 min.

    So, ur telling me you would go to a car dealership, get financed for 4-5 yrs if the car didnt start right up when you wanted to test drive it? Oh, and the car has a flat tire.. No, you would say “show me another car!”.

  • HunterSThompson

    Jeeezus, Dave:f32. Talk about short sighted. Look at the bigger picture….

    Why do you want to put miles on your new car driving around a parking lot? Have a little patience and you just might be able to take it out on the race track when you are actually ready to do so.

    You must be really frustrated with the Bledsoe trade right now, huh? Damaged goods has not played in 4 games….what a crappy move that was.

    I WANT MY MTV!!!!!

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  • Dave:f32


    Im the most creative, open-minded person you could ever meet. There is no credence to your retort analogy playing off mine. You have been wanting to aim something at me like 5 comments ago, but you missed my point ENTIRELY. Its okay, though.)

  • Dave:f32

    Fyi im okay with the Bledsoe trade. It was a legitimate trade, so long as Suns are able to re-sign him, or trade him for alternate assets.

  • EBJM

    Using Chauncey Billups as an example doesn’t work. He came in as a 6′-3″ scoring PG and Boston traded him for All-Star PG Kenny Anderson. It took four teams and 8 years for Billups to peak as a PG.

    Boston gave up J.J. to acquire what they thought at the time was two proven veterans to help a playoff Celtic team as quiet Joe was taking his time getting acclimated to the NBA.

    Once again I agree that selecting damaged goods at #5 based on the Suns training staff and “potential” wasn’t in the best interests of getting the best value out of the #5 pick.

    Len wasn’t exactly tearing it up at Maryland where he was scoring a whole six points per game and only grabbing five boards. But the Bobcats made a similar choice at #4 with Cody Zeller who isn’t exactly tearing up the NBA with two good ankles.

    What these picks have done is allow a team like the 76ers to find the real steal of the draft at #11 with Michael Carter-Williams.

    With Len sidelined and Plumlee being a bit light to battle full-sized centers I still don’t understand why Slava Kravtsov has played a total of 16 minutes. I mean none of us really want to make the playoffs do we? See if the guy wants to prove he belongs, he is our designated banger.

    While Dave’s Hayward analysis is spot on as usual I think most of us don’t want to see him as one of our highest paid players if he isn’t a Super-Star. I mean bringing all of Utah’s style and methodology to Phoenix isn’t what most of us envision for the future Suns. How many titles did it win for the Jazz?

    Bottom line the Suns priority is to add size and post play. I want you guys to watch the Magic’s Nikola Vu?evi?, a Montenegrin just like Nikola Pekovic. Maybe the Suns should have been looking at Montenegrins instead of Ukranians?

  • DBreezy


    You could just as easily ask how many titles have the Suns traditional style and methodology bring them? In fact knowing you, you’re waiting for someone to ask that! Especially since the last time the Suns and Jazz played in the finals they each lost to the same opponent. The Jazz made it there twice in that era and the Suns only did once and everyone lost to Jordan.

    Over time, I’ve realized that I more didn’t like the Jazz because of some of their players and that they were Western Conference rivals than their style. The staple of the best Jazz teams was the same as the best Suns teams, the 1/4 screen and roll. Those teams also ran a lot more than history seems to give them credit for. Personally I think it was because of the perception of having so many white players, but I remember a lot of fastbreak Stocton to Malone along with big crushes from guys like Blue Edwards, David Benoit, Byron Russell, and even Horny who I remember frustrating opponents with his ability to score layups without hops. The Suns have definitely always pushed the pace more, which Horny has and likely will continue, but the Jazz style did plenty of running.

    What I like about what the Jazz did relative to the Suns is that I think their halfcourt offense has been more sustainable in general and definitely in the postseason. It isn’t nearly as reliant on 3pt shooters to space things as the Suns offense has tended to since the 90′s, and it tends to yield more easy buckets via the offense vs relying primarily on the stars to create everything.

    Every finals caliber team has stars, but in the playoffs the Suns have historically relied so much on theirs to do everything. It’s why we’ve lived and died with everything that Barkley/KJ/Nash/Stat have done or didn’t do and it’s just so hard against the best teams in the playoffs. I think one of the more impressive things about the Heat the last two years is that Spo has tweaked things so that the Heat are able to generate easy points through their offense rather just iso’s for Lebron/Wade/Bosh all the time like their first year together. To me that’s the biggest difference between them and the Thunder, Harden or no.

    If the future Suns have some of those elements however Horny molds them, I will be more than happy come postseason time when it matters most.

  • DBreezy

    As for how much Hayward on any other potential free agent in the future costs, that’s just life unfortunately. The only way around it is basically some version of the Thunder’s strategy. Three core players and fill much of the rest out with a revolving door of players on rookie deals with an affordable veteran or two mixed in. So far it looks like the Suns may have found the kind of developmental staff to try that strategy.

    However if that isn’t the plan, you’re gonna pay. In general, the new cba has decimated the salaries and contract lengths of the NBA’s ‘lower class’ and really squeezed out the former ‘middle class’. It’s lowered some of the salaries for guys who aren’t truly the top players, but most of them are still getting paid regardless especially when we’re talking about guys coming off rookie deals. That’s because max deals for those guys aren’t nearly as big as the ones that can come later. Guys like Hayward, Monroe, Faried, Bledsoe, etc are all solid to better players and at some price point we have to remember that this is about winning basketball games. So again, unless you’re going to go the Thunder route, you’re going to end up paying somebody 10M+ who isn’t necessarily a superstar. Nic Batum has a 4/45M deal. Serge Ibaka has 4/48M. Shawn Marion once made a whole lot more than both of them.

    Speaking of Marion, I can see a scenario in a year or two where Eric Bledsoe is the third best player on his team but has a 5 year max deal. Imagine if the Suns land a Wiggins/Parker/Randle and they pan out. Also imagine that Archie Goodwin keeps improving and fulfills the promise that had ranked anywhere from top 5-8 on a lot of boards going into last season? Bledsoe might still be the heart of the team in that scenario, but he wouldn’t be the best player. This also completely ignores the ongoing Len debate and the completely plausible idea that Len shows why he was picked 5 in the next year or two. Who will be considered overpaid for their value to their team if much of this happens?

    On evaluating potential NBA big men like Len, I think we’ll mostly be disappointed if we just look at their college stats. Those #’s you quoted were from Len’s freshman year btw. He averaged 12/8 his sophomore year on 54% shooting which is better than what Drummond averaged for example(especially on FT’s!). Anthony Davis, who basically played like the big guard he was/is at UK averaged 14/10 on a stacked team. The latter point is huge with collegiate bigs. Many fans assume that a guy like Davis would have averaged more if he wasn’t on such a stacked team but young bigs usually are helped greatly by having talent around them especially guard talent. In recent times, the only top 5 level bigs to actually enter college with a real post game have been Cousins, Sullinger, and now Randle. That’s it. I would have included Kanter, but he never actually suited up for UK. The rest of the guys, including Davis, have been raw when it comes to interior offense like Favors, Drummond, Oden, Jordan, McGee, etc. If you were to look at them at the frosh/soph level the same could be said for Hibbert and Marc Gasol. The plus for Len vs a lot of those guys is that he did demonstrate some nice moves and more touch in college. I have no idea how the ankle stuff will pan out, none of us do. But as for the rest it still seems way too early to be howling about this pick.

    Btw from what I saw of Zeller last night, he needs to spend a lot of time watching prime Amar’e tapes vs LaMarcus Aldridge whom some compared him to coming out. He actually looked pretty quick for a big off the dribble, but he starts so far out. He doesn’t have the range that Aldridge does so no one is going to respect him that far out, making it easier to close on him if he does drive, and he’s nowhere near as explosive as a Stoudemire or Griffin so he can’t just elevate over the rotation. Seems like starting at the FT elbow area would be more effective for both his jumper and drives. I think he has time to figure it out though.

  • EBJM

    Nice post Dave!

  • HushPuppy

    Very well stated Dbreezy