Phoenix Suns drop first preseason game in Sacramento


The worst thing one can do when evaluating a preseason game is to just glance at the final score.

So “Kings 109, Suns 95” doesn’t do this one justice.

The Kings played this one with largely regular season rotations, whereas the Suns played it like it was, well, the first game of the preseason.

Playing many of their regulars, the Suns led by seven at the half only to see the Kings outscore them 58-37 in the second half, including 29-15 in the fourth. To begin the deciding period the Suns went with a lineup of Chucky Atkins, Matt Janning and Dwayne Jones flanking Jared Dudley and Hakim Warrick while the King played a pretty regular lineup of Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins with Eugene Jeter.

Steve Nash and Grant Hill logged just six minutes of time, Hedo Turkoglu 16 and Jason Richardson’s stellar evening ended midway through the third. Meanwhile, many of the King’s regulars played close to their usual minutes, led by Carl Landry (35), Cousins (30) and Evans (28).

That being said there were some definite bright spots and disappointments in this one.

Richardson led the Suns with 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting, including seven in the first quarter with Phoenix’s regulars. By the end of last season he finally was comfortable with his situation in Phoenix, and now without Amare on the roster it would not surprise me to see him lead the Suns in scoring.

Robin Lopez’s 15 points and six boards were nice to see as Lopez is expected to going to be relied upon to become a bigger part of the offense this season, and Hakim Warrick went for 11 on 4-for-5 shooting in just 16 minutes. Now that’s efficiency.

The biggest negative without question was the rebounding battle. The Suns got pounded in this department to the tune of 47-36, which was a common theme last preseason as well before the Suns became a positive rebounding team for the season (although still porous on the defensive glass).

Lopez led the team with six boards in 31 minutes and four more players corralled five (Richardson, Childress, Dudley and Jones) on an overall lackluster rebounding night.

Cousins grabbed 16 boards himself (five offensive) while playing a minute less than Lopez, and Thompson got to 10 more off the bench. This will not be the last time this preseason that rebounding is brought up.

The Suns also knocked down just 2-of-16 long balls (12.5 percent), but that’s not even worth worrying about at this point. It’s safe to say the second-best three-point shooting team in NBA history last season will be able to knock down the long ball once again, even without Stoudemire clearing space. I would chalk this up to tired legs from training camp and no Channing Frye, who missed the game for the birth of his first child.

In other negative news, Goran Dragic recorded a -24 in 25 minutes and Jared Dudley a -17 in 27 minutes. Still, hard to get too worked up about that when they played many of their minutes with some of the Suns’ scrubs.

Hedo Turkoglu’s 0-for-5 wasn’t pretty, but I’m more disappointed to see Earl Clark score just two points in his 17 minutes, least on the team although perhaps Clark taking only three shots can be seen as a positive sign.

For the Kings, Evans’ game-high 26 points is to be expected and by the end of the year I think the 16-16 line put up my Cousins will be no outlier. I’m on the record as saying Cousins will earn Rookie of the Year honors, and I think all of the GMs outside of Washington that passed on him will be asking for a do over.

I’m pretty high on Sacramento altogether. They are certainly young, but for the first time since the days of C-Webb and Vlade, talent lines the roster.

Happy birthday to Grant

Grant Hill turned 38 on Tuesday, which means he’s old enough for many of the Suns’ youngsters to have had his poster on their wall when he was an All-NBA performer for Detroit and they were grade school kids.

As the third-oldest player in the NBA — behind rapidly declining former Suns Kurt Thomas and Shaquille O’Neal — it’s astounding that Hill is still starting and contributing to a Suns squad with a whole cavalry of small forwards behind him.

Scott Sereday from 48 Minutes of Hell recently wrote a post on the positive effect of reducing a player’s workload on longevity. I e-mailed him about how Hill fits into this hypothesis, and although his situation put him outside of the data set Sereday used it certainly makes sense to me that Hill is making up for some of his lost time during the Orlando years at the back end of his career.

I also find it interesting that the Nos. 2 (Jason Kidd) and 3 (Hill) picks in the 1994 NBA Draft are still chugging along, but the No. 1 pick (Glenn Robinson) has been out of the league for five years already.

We shall see if Hill finally acts his age this season or if he will once again prove to be a valuable all-around contributor to the Suns.

Up next

The Suns next head to Vancouver, Canada, for Wednesday’s 7 p.m. MST tilt against the Toronto Raptors. This will be the first of two preseason games between the Suns and Raptors in Canada, but we can save the Hedo boos for the other one (which is in Toronto). This one will be more about Steve Nash receiving cheers in his home province, and a happy reunion between the Suns and LB and a chilly reunion between Turkoglu and his former mates.