Posted by Dave Dulberg on November 27th, 11:00 pm
PHOENIX — Two years ago, he was a focal point of the offense. Two months ago, his status for the season was unknown. Two weeks ago, he was a liability — slowly trying to work his way back after missing the entire 2012-13 season due to an enlarged heart.
But that was then, and this is now.
After two of his most impressive halves of basketball on the young season, Phoenix Suns power forward Channing Frye is back.
Back in the sense that questions about his conditioning, his shot, his medical history are becoming fainter and fainter to the point of being mistaken for mere whispers.
Wednesday night’s performance — scored a season-high 25 points in 41 minutes of action — was just the latest evidence that the former Arizona standout is inching closer and closer to becoming the player he was before his year-long hiatus from the court.
That charismatic hometown kid, who with the flick of a wrist ignited an entire fan base on several occasions from 2009-12, is still very much inside of him.
“I think his conditioning is getting better,” Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “You know, when he was running down the court to start the season — I don’t know how to explain it– he was just kind of plodding down the court. Now he’s running a little bit. I still don’t think he’s probably in the best shape of his career, but he’s getting there.
“That’s always the case, when you’re in shape and you’re running up and down the court, if your legs aren’t tired it’s a lot easier to shoot shots. I think that’s what’s happening now when he’s shooting those shots, and he’s making him.”
When Frye began the season as the team’s starting four it made for a rather feel-good story. But that heartwarming tale of redemption quickly took on a rather negative theme, as the seven-year pro looked like a shell of his former self.
Oct. 31 vs. Blazers - Seven points on 3-of-7 shooting
Nov. 1 vs. Jazz – Four points on 2-of-7 shooting
Nov. 5 at Pelicans – Four points on 2-of-6 shooting
Nov. 6 at Spurs – Three points on 1-of-4 shooting
Nov. 8 vs. Nuggets – Seven points on 2-of-10 shooting
Nov. 10 vs. Pelicans – Three points on 1-of-6 hooting
Nov. 13 at Blazers – Two points on 1-of-6 shooting
Nov. 20 vs. Kings – Zero points on 0-of-3 shooting
Yet even as Frye struggled to work his way back into playing shape, Hornacek didn’t sit him. He didn’t reduce him to bench minutes or replace him with Markieff Morris, who was named Western Conference Player of the Week on Nov. 11.
The way Hornacek saw it, it was only a matter of time.
And while the poor performances continued to mount, Frye admitted that he didn’t get discouraged. Instead, he spent extra time working on becoming more aggressive with assistant coaches Mark West, Kenny Gatison and Irving Roland, even picking their brains on how teams might game plan to defend him.
The work has begun to pay off.
For the first time since April 2011, Frye has strung together four consecutive games of double-digit scoring. And during the Suns’ second-quarter comeback effort in a 120-106 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night, Frye’s 11 points proved instrumental.
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Tags: Channing Frye · Goran Dragic · Jeff Hornacek
Posted by Dave Dulberg on November 27th, 10:04 pm
PHOENIX– The Portland Trail Blazers have officially found their kryptonite in 2013-14.
It wasn’t Carmelo Anthony’s one-man show, the Golden State Warriors’ up-tempo offense, the Brooklyn Nets’ cavalcade of aging stars or Tom Thibodeau’s stingy half court defense.
No, their weakness apparently is playing inside the US Airways Center.
For the second time this season, the Blazers came to the Valley of the Sun with a heavy dose of optimism and left with an L beside their name.
Paced by a 40-point second quarter, tremendous offensive contributions from Goran Dragic (31 points on 10-of-18 shooting) and Channing Frye (season-high 25 points and nine rebounds), impressive bench production from the Morris brothers and Ish Smith and a rare sign of aggression on the offensive glass (13 offensive rebounds), the Suns put an end to the Blazers’ 11-game winning streak with an impressive 120-106 victory Wednesday night.
The margin of victory (14 points) was the Suns’ largest of the season, surpassing the 13-point beat down they already put on Terry Stotts’ squad on Opening Night.
For the Blazers, they move to 0-2 in Phoenix, and 13-1 everywhere else.
For more analysis, let’s answer Ryan Weisert’s preview questions.
Which Aldridge will show up?
The ‘Bad’ LaMarcus Aldridge that went 5-of-19 for 12 points back on Nov. 13 was nowhere to be found Wednesday night. From the outset, the Blazers made a conscious effort to get their All-Star power forward the ball.
Aldridge scored 11 points on eight shots in the first period alone and finished with 24 to go along with four rebounds.
But outside of a five-point spurt he had in the third quarter to trim the Suns’ lead down to seven, the seven-year pro didn’t have a major impact on the game’s outcome.
Whether it was Channing Frye, Markieff Morris or occasionally Marcus Morris, the Suns seemed content to let Aldridge get his touches, as long as they came primarily outside the paint.
How will Eric Bledsoe’s potential return impact the lineup and team chemistry?
For the sixth straight game, Eric Bledsoe sat out due to a left shin contusion. Before the game, Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said that an MRI on the shin came back negative, but that until he proves that he can play, the coaching staff will continue to game plan as if he won’t be available.
Gerald Green continues to make that process a little bit easier with each passing game. Although having Bledsoe in the backcourt certainly provides the Suns a luxury of having an interchangeable one-two punch at the defensive end against dynamic guards like Damian Lillard, Green has filled in admirably in his absence.
In Wednesday’s win over the Blazers, Green didn’t shoot particularly well (3-of-14 from the field) but he reached double figures, hit two big three-point shots during the Suns’ 19-point second quarter turnaround and held Wesley Matthews to a rather quite night (eight points and five rebounds) from the field.
Can the Suns close out the fourth quarter?
The Suns have had their fair share of issues closing out teams in the fourth quarter, including earlier this month in a 90-89 loss to the Blazers.
So they decided to make that issue a priority coming out of halftime. After erasing a 16-point deficit in the second quarter, Phoenix came out of locker room and scored the first 10 points of the third quarter to push its lead up to 13.
After the Blazers trimmed their deficit back down to single digits, Marcus and Markieff Morris took over, scoring 11 of the Suns’ final 13 points in the period. On the night, the Morris brothers combined for 34 points and seven points off the pine.
A 7-2 run to begin the fourth officially put the game out of reach, as the Blazers never got to within single digits the rest of the night.
Tags: Channing Frye · Goran Dragic · Jeff Hornacek · Phoenix Suns Recap · Portland Trail Blazers
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on November 27th, 2:57 pm
In case you were wondering what Kendall Marshall was doing outside his social media habit, we now have an answer. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports the 13th overall pick of 2012 has turned down overseas offers and will put his name in the D-League waiver-wire.
Should a team pick him up early next week, Marshall would be able to play himself into a candidate to be called up to the NBA this season.
In 48 games last year, Marshall averaged 3.0 points and 3.0 assists while shooting 37 percent from the floor for the Suns. He also averaged 9.3 points and 7.6s assist but shot just 31 percent in nine games with the D-League’s Bakersfield Jam. It might be obvious, then, why the draft pick of former Suns general manager Lance Blanks has had trouble finding a new team. After all, fellow former Suns rookie point guard Diante Garrett — who looked like a more NBA-ready player with Bakersfield — was signed to the Oklahoma City Thunder and after a stint there found another place with the Utah Jazz
This offseason, Marshall said he had lost weight and was working on improving his jump shot.
“A lot of it is just repetition and confidence,” Marshall said of his shot. “When I shoot confidently it’s not a bad shot. Technically, the main thing I just want to focus on and remember is to get air on the ball and get it up in the air.”
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Tags: Kendall Marshall
Posted by Ryan Weisert on November 27th, 9:17 am
Time: 7:00 pm MDT
Tonight the Phoenix Suns return home from their successful southeast road trip to take on the Portland Trail Blazers for the third time in four weeks. After their opening night loss to the Suns, Portland has won 13 of their last 14 games, making them one of the hottest teams and biggest surprises in the NBA. Damian Lillard has improved on his Rookie of the Year campaign. LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging 20 and 10 for the first time in his career. And Wesley Matthews is having his best year as a pro, becoming a legitimate third option on one of the NBA’s most potent offenses. On the flip side, the Suns are just .500 for the year, but they too can be viewed as overachievers, especially when considering how well they’ve played in Eric Bledsoe’s absence. No one believed Phoenix would sniff relevance this year, but 14 games in, the Suns are hanging tough and proving themselves to be farther along in the rebuilding process than any NBA pundit could have predicted.
It would seem Portland is the far superior team in this game, but Phoenix matches up with them quite well. The Suns definitely have a chance to throw some cold water on Portland’s hot start tonight. Phoenix will be looking to avenge their heartbreaking 1-point loss in Portland two weeks ago. Eric Bledsoe, who is likely to return to the court tonight, will definitely have something to prove after a defensive miscommunication between he and Channing Frye allowed Lillard to score the go-ahead layup, and his own subsequent attempt at a game winner was just a touch too strong. For more on tonight’s matchup, let’s look at three key questions to be answered.
Which Aldridge will show up?
In the first game between these two teams, LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points on nearly 55% shooting. In the second, he had only 12 points and shot under 30%. Aldridge could do no right in the game two weeks ago. He missed easy buckets all night long, turned the ball over four times, and was more hindrance than help to the Blazers’ cause. Overall, he’s having a stellar season, but he has had been inconsistent lately, shooting under 40% in each of Portland’s last three games. The Suns are a tough defensive team with the size and depth to contain Aldridge. It will be interesting to see how LaMarcus attacks the Suns’ defensive game plan.
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Tags: Eric Bledsoe · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Preview · Portland Trail Blazers
Posted by Kevin Zimmerman on November 25th, 8:13 pm
For the first time this season, the Phoenix Suns let a game get away from them.
The Miami Heat, led by a 11-point fourth quarter from LeBron James, used its usual second half push on Monday to separate from a pesky Suns team and then held off a solid push-back from Jeff Hornacek’s crew by feeding the MVP. Phoenix lost by double-digits for the first time this season by a final of 107-92 in South Beach.
With the Suns trailing 73-71 with 2:34 left in the third quarter, the Heat ran off a 15-2 run over the the final two minutes of the third and well into the fourth. Two three-pointers by Ray Allen that were part of the run were the punch to the Suns’ gut. At the same time, Phoenix reacted well after the blitz, continuing to fight and punching into the Miami lead to bring itself within nine points in the final three minutes.
Of course, James would have his moments. Whenever he made it clear he was looking to attack, he was successful despite P.J.Tucker’s best efforts. James isolated Tucker late in the fourth quarter and hit three fadeaway jumpers over Tucker, who didn’t receive double-team help but held his place on the block.
The end result was James finishing with 35 points on 11-of-14 shooting.
Phoenix was led by Channing Frye’s 16 points and 4-for-8 shooting from deep, while Goran Dragic sniffed a triple-double by finishing with 14 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
Ryan Weisert asked the big questions to preview the matchup with the reigning champs. Here are the answers.
Can the Suns take advantage of the Heat from downtown?
The Heat play a unique defense and one that gave the Suns a lot of opportunity – but not necessarily good opportunity.
Coming into the game, Phoenix was a middle-of-the-road but impressive-for-them team beyond the three-point arc, hitting a decent 37.9 percent from deep this season. Meanwhile, the Heat were surprisingly giving up the NBA’s second-worst opponent three-point accuracy of 39.4 percent.
Blitzing on pick-and-rolls, Miami didn’t let Goran Dragic and company find open shots easily. Instead, they required the Suns to find their teammates on difficult skip-passes, which they completely fairly well. While some long passes led to turnovers – the Suns had 15 on the day – the completed ones allowed an actively-rotating Miami defense to recover enough during the passes’ flight to challenge the threes.
The result was Phoenix flinging 32 but hitting just eight, or 25 percent.
On the positive side of things, the Suns held a Miami squad that’s hitting 43.9 percent from deep to 7-of-22 shooting (31.8 percent). While the made threes were painful, it could have been worse.
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Tags: Miami Heat · Phoenix Suns Recap
Posted by Ryan Weisert on November 25th, 9:56 am
Time: 5:30 pm MDT
After winning the first two games of their east coast road trip, the Suns are riding high. Despite Eric Bledsoe missing the last four games, Phoenix has found ways to win. The Suns’ defense is among the league’s best, and Coach Hornacek is getting contributions from every part of the roster. But tonight they visit the defending champions and King James himself. The Heat, after a few early stumbles, have ridden a six-game win streak to a 10-3 record, and once again, they look like the class of the league. But Miami does have its weaknesses. The Vegas spread for this game may be double digits, but the Suns have better than just a puncher’s chance to win. For more analysis, let’s look at the three biggest questions to be answered in this matchup.
Can the Suns take advantage of the Heat from downtown?
The Heat are not a good defensive team at this point in the season. One of their biggest weaknesses is defending the three. Miami is giving up over nine triples per contest and allowing opponents to hit nearly 40% from beyond the arc. The Suns have been a great three point shooting team thus far this year. Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye, and Marcus Morris have all been very productive from three. Floor spacing and ball movement will be key to attacking a Miami team which is high on athleticism but slow to rotate and close out on the perimeter. The Suns will need to hit double digits from downtown to keep pace with Miami’s top rated offense. If the Suns are cold from downtown, this game could get ugly in a hurry.
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Tags: Miami Heat · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Preview