Suns, Grizzlies accepting places in NBA hierarchy


PHOENIX — In a game of word association, here’s how it would’ve gone this summer. Grizzlies: Western Conference contenders. Suns: Wallowing for Wiggins.

Sometimes it takes a while for expectations to change, even within an NBA locker room. Thirty-one games into each of the Suns and Grizzlies’ respective seasons, the self-perceptions by the two teams have begun to reflect the record. The reality is this was an upset of sorts. Phoenix fell at home 99-91 to Memphis, their second loss to the Grizzlies on the season.

Maybe they don’t match up well with the Grizzlies, so believe Memphis has their number or not. Whatever the case may be, both teams are accepting of their records at this point.

“Hey, 19-12?” said Memphis forward Zach Randolph, who bruised up the Suns’ thin frontline for 20 points and 15 rebounds. “They’re a good team. They have a better record than us so we have to come out and play.”

Play they did. The Suns looked like the favorites fighting a scrappy team looking for attention — remember, just a month or so ago, Jeff Hornacek’s team was doing the very same thing. On Thursday, it was the Grizzlies more thirsty for a win.

“It’s just good to get a win right now,” said Memphis guard Jerryd Bayless, the St. Mary’s High School product.

Certainly, Phoenix missed point guard Eric Bledsoe, who was a scratch with a sprained knee. Bledsoe had planned to go, but he was pulled close to tip time after an examination found swelling. Hornacek called it more precautionary than anything, though he didn’t know if Bledsoe would be good to go in Phoenix’s game on Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Goran Dragic led Phoenix with a career-high 33 points but played 38 minutes and appeared to wear down in the fourth quarter, missing a difficult but usually-completed reverse layup, for example. The Suns certainly could have used Bledsoe against the Grizzlies.

“You know, you don’t ever want nobody out,” guard Gerald Green said of Bledsoe. “I feel like it’s disappointing for us because we feel like we can beat this team. Obviously, statistically that’s not the case. They’ve beat us twice already, but I think if you ask any guy in this locker room, they think that we can beat this team. Memphis is a good team, but we think we’re a better team than them.”

Green added that the Suns lacked a sense of urgency for, well, everything but the third quarter, in which Dragic and P.J. Tucker scored 15 points that helped turn a 12-point halftime deficit into a five-point lead by the end of an 18-0 spurt. That effort was all for naught once the Suns fell apart in the fourth.

“In the end, we just shut down ourselves,” Dragic said.

Mostly, the Suns were shut down in the paint. Despite their 30 fastbreak points, the Suns struggled to contain the bench duo of Ed Davis and James Johnson. The Grizzlies finished with 17 second-chance points.

There was fight, but Phoenix’s players seemingly became too focused on reckless drives into the paint. After the game, Hornacek even alluded to a “fake toughness” that caused the Suns to pick up charges on drives and led to a series of technical fouls being called on both teams.

“Guys get goofy and try to do things to get you out of your game,” Hornacek said. “That’s really when you have to get tougher — not fake tough, but tougher in terms of your execution, your ball-handling and making sure you’re getting a good shot.”

Grit-and-Grind was too much for the Suns to handle. Phoenix was outrebounded 59-40, and it said as much that Markieff and Marcus Morris grabbed as many rebounds (six) in 41 minutes combined as Channing Frye did in 35 … and 6-foot point guard Ish Smith did in 20.

But the difference from their 19-point loss to Memphis on Dec. 3, which preceded their 10-2 mark over the last 12 games coming into Thursday night, was this: The Suns expected to win.

That’s what made it all the more painful.

And 1

Jerryd Bayless on why he began talking smack to someone in the stands: “Some guy on the sideline said that I disgraced St. Mary’s. That kind of hurt my feelings. That kind of got me going a little bit.”

  • http://COX SOUTHPHILLY

    If last night showed anything it is that the Suns to make a true playoff run need a closer, a go to guy when the three is not falling.We have had teams that lived and died on the three and sooner or later you will fail.Go get that missing link,that veteran that can create his own shot and take over games.

  • john

    ^^^^

    I think Goran AND Bledsoe can be that guy, so to say. But when it’s just one of them, I don’t think either of them are quite the type of player who can really dominate a game down the stretch after playing 35-40 hard minutes before that.

  • http://www.yahoo.com The Real Al

    @Southphilly

    Totally agree. The Suns are one stud away from being a DEEP playoff contender. However, the suns must be smart to not ruin their future for short term gain. If the suns can scoop a stud with all star potential in his mid to lower 20′s, and it does not break the chemistry we’ve all seen this year, then i say pull the trigger!

    Theres just sooo many factors when right now especially when the situation for the suns is so fragile (in terms of future and playoff aspirations). Plus whos available? And please dont say K Love, Minni aint letting him go. Carmelo?? No thanks!!

  • http://COX SOUTHPHILLY

    I do believe a trade is coming.I agree with John that at times we have players that can dominate. But at crunch time we need that veteran. We cannot relie as much as we do on the three. Possible trade, Hayward,Randolph,Love, just to name a few.

  • EBJM

    Last night proved once again the Suns are a PF away from being contenders.

    Z-Bo and Davis dominate with a combined 36/26 leading the Grizzlies to a 59/40 advantage on the boards without Marc Gasol.

    Frye and Markieff go for 25/7. SEVEN rebounds from your two PFs. How do you spell pathetic?

    I know Kevin Love is a poor defender BUT the guy is leading the league in rebounding at 13.5 per game.

    As far as drafting how in the world do the mock drafts not have Phoenix stocking up on rebounding PFs?

    Suns PF Alex Oriakhi has just made it back to the States and is playing for the Erie BayHawks in the NBA D-League. In five games and in only 17 minutes per he grabbing close to 8 boards per game. Maybe they might consider bringing him up to match-up with guys like Ed Davis?

    Forever I agree McDonough appears to be a different breed of G.M. but this team is still fits the mold of past Suns teams. Suns desperately need an upgrade at PF.

    I guess my issue is I hate to see the Suns waste an opportunity when only being a PF away from the elite teams and at a time when so many teams suck. We all know how hard it is to have an opportunity for things to fall in place for a long playoff run.

    So many young fans are simply happy that the Suns are competitive and winning and are looking down the road not realizing they are really close right now. By the time Goodwin and Len develop, key veterans like Tucker and Dragic might be gone.

    “Live for today as tomorrow is promised to no one”.

  • Solarion

    Its not so much a closer, when things get tight their jump shooting, as with most teams, tightens up, they need to get closer to the basket. I was screaming at the TV last night, stop with the damn jump shots and attack the basket! We need a back to the basket low post presence, I love Channing’s 3-ball, but he is not going to get it done on a consistent basis down low.

    Wow, to have Kevin Love would be nice, but there is no way Minnesota is giving him up, they’re finally looking good up north.

    I don’t think Randolph would mesh with this squad, he’s too slow, old, etc., we need an athletic big, dare I say Amar’e in his prime =).

    http://www.hoopsworld.com/2014-nba-free-agents

    I’m not seeing anyone jump out from that list of FA PF for 2014.

  • Solarion

    And last night with Goran going all emo on Bayless, it would have been great if his play improved, but it just seemed to take him out of his game. Emotionally they allowed Memphis to get under their skin, rookie mistake by a young team.

  • john

    @The Real Al

    Regarding K Love, I’d say anybody in the league is available for the right price minus two players. James and Durant are the only two guys I would never, under any circumstances whatsoever, trade as a GM. Anthony Davis is very close to reaching that level as well, imo. While he’s on his rookie contract, heck no, there’s no way in the world he would ever be traded. Even guys like Chris Paul, Paul George, and Steph Curry could be traded for the right price, imo.

  • Solarion

    A trade for the SUNS< would ruin the chemistry they have, so, lets say you kinda gut the team, get K-Love, and you now have a PF, but you've given up youth, speed and picks to get him. I'd rather wait this year out and go after Greg Monroe maybe /shrugs. Just my 2 coppers.

  • EBJM

    Six degrees of separation regarding acquiring Kevin Garnett.

    I have no idea if McDonough could pry him away but look at the similarities between Garnett’s trade and why the Wolves might move Love.

    To start with Garnett was adamant about NOT being traded whereas Love has strongly indicated that he will opt-out in ’16 and isn’t really fond of the Wolves management.

    Minnesota is a small-market team that has to watch its’ payroll because owner Glen Taylor doesn’t have the deep pockets to venture into the luxury tax. That was the primary reason for moving Garnett, future flexibility with the salary cap and two future first-round NBA draft picks.

    They also received current Sun Gerald Green and former Sun Sebastian Telfair. The centerpiece for McHale was receiving Al Jefferson. The Wolves also had their own 1st rd pick returned to them just like Phoenix could also do.

    In lieu of young players the Suns can offer additional 1st rd picks in a very deep draft. If they had to throw in some young talent, well, a player like Goodwin or Len might be included.

    Without Love the Wolves own pick has a shot at being in the lottery which would be huge in this draft as that is where they might find their future Super-Star.

    Teams rarely get equal value in return for a Super-Star player. Nuggets got Gallinari who was selected right after Love for Anthony.

    Interesting trivia: Garnett didn’t want to be traded but said he would prefer to go to Phoenix to play with Steve Nash in the sunshine.

    All speculative but not impossible.

  • foreveris2long

    As for the Suns power forward need, I cannot wait for the suns to find one for all the reasons outlined above. As for Love, yes he would help the Suns rebound better and something good can be said for that. However I do not see it happening and therefore for reasons previously stated, I will not be disappointed. With that said I probably admit EBJM, McD could explore it because the upcoming draft does not look like it will be promising with a plethora of power forwards.

    This is really a sensitive issue because Suns would have to trade some young talent and draft picks to get Love, which troubles me but I definitely understand those of you who want him. I do not want to trade Goodwin. Go Monroe where Detroit may have some real salary issues soon or explore other options that may not include a superstar but a good defensive power forward.

  • Al

    The problem with trying to trade for Love is that they Minny would not be interested in any of the Suns players. Another team may have to be involved. That’s why I think a Suns-Min-Det trade could work for all parties. (Frye, Okafor, Love, Monroe being involved in the trade) Another 3 team trade could involve the Lakers sending Pau to Min to play alongside fellow Spaniard Rubio.
    In the end, Suns could use their 2014 picks to move up in the draft in an attempt to draft Aaron Gordon.