All young players in the NBA ask for is a chance. A chance to play; a chance to shine; and chance to out-perform expectations.
For “Big Sauce” Alan Williams, all he has longed for all season is a chance to play, and when he gets those opportunities he refuses to let the team down.
Tonight, in a game with much more meaning to the Chicago Bulls than the Phoenix Suns as the East-Siders are clinging to a back-end playoff spot with Jimmy Butler and Dwayne Wade each returning from injuries, Alan Williams waved a red flag and the Bulls ran straight through, seemingly confused and disoriented.
With Chicago returning to full strength, the Phoenix Suns began the game short-handed only to find themselves needing to reach even deeper down the bench to run a full compliment of five players on the court. Alex Len was suspended for exiting the bench area during the altercation against the Memphis Grizzlies two nights ago, then with 3:50 remaining in the first half Tyson Chandler sprained his ankle and was unable to return to action.
Needing a body to front the Chicago big’s of Robin Lopez and Nikola Mirotic, in came Big Sauce, Phoenix’s very own homegrown hero, a player who impresses every time he reaches the court – a situation he so rarely finds himself in.
Having not played in consecutive games since the first two post-Christmas, nor has he played in at least ten minutes since before Thanksgiving, Alan Williams showed no rust. Performing in a near career-high 23:50, Williams recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, throwing in a career-high tying 4 blocked shots as well. No other front court starter matched the output of Williams who outscored every other big in the game, and the Sauce out-rebounded and out-blocked every player on either side.
Devin Booker led all scorers with 27 points on 10-19 shooting, beginning a new 20+ scoring streak which now sits at two games. His shooting against Chicago was a significant step up from the 11-33 he had shot in the two games prior giving evidence that he had returned to his prior form.
Eric Bledsoe fell one shot behind Booker in efficiency connecting on 9-19 finishing with 23 points to go along with 8 assists, his dime count matching his high for the month set against the Clippers on the 1st.
T.J. Warren scored 15 points on 8-17 shooting and grabbed 5 caroms, rebounding nicely from his 4 point and 4 board effort against Memphis two nights ago. Warren has now reached double-figure scoring for the fourth time in five games, after only doing so four times in his prior ten outings.
For Chicago, Jimmy Butler scored 20 points and dished out 6 assists, while Dwayne Wade scored 18 points and grabbed 6 rebounds, each in their returns from injury. Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson, and Doug McDermott each scored in double-figures in the loss, combining for 41 points, 14 rebounds, and 0 assists.
The Suns held the Bulls to 97 points, the first time since January 5, that they held an opponent under 100 points. The 115 the Suns scored was the most in a victory since dropping 115 against Toronto on January 22. The Suns’ 50.5% FG% was their highest since shooting 53.9% against Denver on January 26.
Tonight’s win was the first Suns victory at home since January 3, when they defeated the Miami Heat. The Suns had lost eight in a row since that victory.
Thoughts from the Valley of the Suns
I have a question that I feel deserves a legitimate answer:
What are the Suns playing for?
Winning tonight doesn’t upset me too much because with this team wins are few and far between – Earl Watson is still the only Head Coach in franchise history to not own a three-game winning streak, an achievement not reached in near 450 days – a continually building franchise record.
Tonight wasn’t all too surprising either as against the Eastern Conference the Suns are above average and now sit 11-7 while stumbling to a 6-30 record against the West. At 17-37 through 54 games the Suns are three games above their pace of last season, although at this point in the schedule Phoenix had just lost their 9th straight game on their way to tying the franchise record of 13 consecutive.
All of that aside, unless the Suns want to try and pull a Miami Heat and completely turn their season around only to push themselves out of the top of the lottery and still possibly fall short of the playoffs (although admittedly with 13 straight wins, who is going to stop the Heat from punching their ticket to the tournament?) why isn’t Alan Williams and Brandon Knight getting more playing time?
Albeit for two totally different reasons, but do they not each deserve extra time on the court than they are receiving?
In playing for the future the Suns need to do two things: Get the young guys experience, and find a trade partner for those players who do not fit into the franchises plans. Alan Williams is a young guy – he is only in his second season in the NBA – and with his third double-double of the season deserves to find some real minutes in games, especially those which are blowouts (a situation that more often than not falls opposite of the kind of blowout the Suns experienced tonight).
Furthermore, if Brandon Knight were a part of the future we would all know it, mostly because he
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would have been productive. But with six games left before the trade deadline shouldn’t the Suns have him out on the court as much as possible giving him the opportunity to show him off? Sure, maybe his production has been so bad that playing him less actually drives his market up, but that would seem illogical as teams will want to see him succeed, and knowing that a player on a bad team cannot get of the bench cannot hurt one’s value more than a player on bad team that can’t score with consistency.
The Suns’ goal should be development of the youth and showing of the talent that can be traded. Half of that was accomplished tonight, while the other wasn’t. And usually we’re left wanting both.