Preview: Dallas Mavericks (19-27) at Phoenix Suns (16-30)


Time: 7 p.m. MST

TV: FSAZ Mavericks Suns

Lindsey Hunter calls the Phoenix Suns a work in progress and coming off a comeback victory against the Los Angeles Lakers two days ago, the team has a good reason to be upbeat. Defensive stops and a focused Michael Beasley led the Suns to victory on Thursday. The task of continuing to build upon the brief success is the challenge on Friday night against the Dallas Mavericks in US Airways Center.

See, the Suns have not yet shown the ability to turn confidence from a big win into building momentum. Just last Sunday against the same Dallas team was the perfect example. Two wins to begin the Hunter era sent Phoenix on the road to Dallas, where the Mavericks chopped up the Suns defense for 110 points via 27 fastbreak points and 51 percent shooting.

Furthermore, a fast-paced game between two teams that haven’t found themselves this season – and are lacking in the talent department – saw the Suns turn the ball over 18 times leading to 23 points for the Mavericks.

The Suns might be overconfident five days later. But Hunter’s tone following the victory against Los Angeles wasn’t one of a coach who had thought he’d found the magic elixir.

Hunter will get his second crack at a team for the first time as a head coach. He’ll need to help Phoenix solve a Dallas zone defense that baited the Suns into 17 three-pointers, most of which were out-of-rhythm.

Phoenix got in transition last time out, but taking care of the ball better than the last game against the Mavericks would surely help.

It helps that Dallas is coming off a late Thursday night game against the Golden State Warriors, who pulled off a tough 100-97 victory against the Mavs. So too does the injury to Dirk Nowitzki. He will miss Friday’s game against Phoenix with a strained adductor muscle in his right leg, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Of course, the Suns aren’t in any position to feel good about themselves because of Nowitzki’s absence. Shawn Marion torched them last week, and the ageless former Sun is coming off one of his best statistical games of the year. The Matrix scored 18 points and grabbed 17 rebounds last night, helping out fellow former Phoenix player Vince Carter, who had 22 points – although on 6-of-18 shooting – off the bench.

O.J. Mayo is another piece of the Dallas puzzle who will draw attention from the Suns. The shooting guard that some Suns fans wished for this past offseason has 25 points last night on 8-of-13 shooting to go with six assists and five boards (to them, I say it’s probably good to take note of Dallas’ record, which is only three games better than the Suns’ despite the Mavs getting help from Nowitzki, when healthy).

Jared Dudley speaks out against NBA Player’s Association executive Billy Hunter

Jared Dudley talked to CBS Sports’ Ken Berger about NBAPA executive Billy Hunter’s “shady” actions on Friday. Hunter, after receiving an audit that questioned his actions at his post, was placed on an indefinite leave of absence on Friday.

Most interesting of Dudley’s comments regard how players might have feared voicing their concerns about Hunter’s role and the problems in the NBAPA. The Suns wing appeared to question Hunter’s relationship with some NBA players, including Clippers guard Chris Paul.

"“I feel like guys feel like there is something wrong,” Dudley said. “I just don’t know if guys know how to take action and what is the process for doing that. … The people like the Chris Pauls and the [Maurice] Evanses and the [Keyon] Doolings, you felt like they and Billy were so close and tight. If you had a problem, you’d feel like you go to them and then it goes right back to Billy.”"

Conflicting reports on the Suns and Josh Smith rumors

[View the story “Do the Suns really want Josh Smith?” on Storify]

Do the Suns really want Josh Smith?

Local reporters in Phoenix, including Paul Coro and John Gambadoro, don’t believe the Suns have any interest in Josh Smith. Alex Kennedy, who reported the news, maintains his stance.

Storified by Kevin Zimmerman· Fri, Feb 01 2013 11:12:27

The stories about the Suns being interested in Josh Smith are ridiculous, there is zero interest there -ZERO!John Gambadoro

@RyGuyAZ @Gambo620 I stand by what I wrote. I wouldn’t have written the article if I didn’t have multiple sources saying the same thing.Alex Kennedy

@AlexKennedyNBA @ryguyaz I triple checked it, Suns have NO interest in Josh Smith. And have never even had a conversation with ATL about himJohn Gambadoro

Kennedy’s HoopsWorld colleague, Steve Kyler, writes that the Hawks have done background checks on some Suns. That, however, doesn’t mean Phoenix has moved toward a trade.

@Gambo620 must be confused lol

@BobbieL_AZ Nothing to report. They aren’t pursuing a trade for Smith. He might be a free agency consideration.Paul Coro

@bagman1980 The idea of trading for him seems to have no legs. He might be a free agency consideration.Paul Coro

In summation, HoopsWorld may indeed be hearing some rumors of a Suns-Smith trade. It’s hard to even understand what Phoenix could offer to make such a deal work, however, and the Suns front office would have to be offered something lip-licking good from Atlanta for any consideration.