Time: 5 p.m. MST
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.
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.