Desire lacking for 7-8 Suns
Fifteen games into the season, teams start to find out what they really are. For the Phoenix Suns, the reality of the situation is grim: This is an eighth-seed playoff team…if it makes the playoffs at all.
For many teams, that is a respectable prediction, but for a team that has averaged 55 wins over the last six seasons, that is unacceptable, especially with as much talent as this roster has.
This group has a laundry list of deficiencies (not enough size up front, poor defense, no go-to scoring option, etc.), but the biggest area of concern is desire.
Outside of Steve Nash and Grant Hill, this incarnation of the Suns has little heart to speak of. Hedo Turkoglu often plays passive and nonchalant. Channing Frye only reluctantly bangs inside despite his 6-11 frame and too frequently loiters around the three-point line. Jason Richardson looks completely lost without Nash setting him up for open shots and struggles to create his own offense.
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The list goes on and on, and that is the biggest disappointment with this team. It simply doesn’t seem to care.
Frye was quoted on Suns.com after Phoenix dropped a double-overtime game to the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 24 as saying, “just take your hats off to their team.” The absurdity of that statement lies in the details:
Phoenix was coming off a day of rest (no practice even) while Chicago flew in late after a tough loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in LA.
The Suns led by as many as 23 points in the first half of the game.
Once Chicago clogged up the lane on Nash, the Suns’ offense seemed disjointed and at a loss as to what to do next, leading to several poor possessions by Phoenix late in the game.
The Suns could have secured the win had they found a way to inbound the ball to Nash late in the game to take the free throws instead of relying on less-automatic players like Richardson (who went 1 of 2).
Phoenix failed to attack Derrick Rose, who played most of the fourth quarter, the first overtime, and half of the second overtime with five fouls.
The only time a team should take its hat off to another team is when that team played as hard and smart as it could and still came up short. That certainly wasn’t the case here. Chicago simply wanted to win more than the Suns did.
That lack of desire present in Frye’s postgame comments is indicative of the team’s desire in other areas too.
The Suns get destroyed on a nightly basis on the boards due in part to their lack of beef up front. Against Chicago, Phoenix was outrebounded 57-49. For the Suns this season, that is not a huge margin, but 12 of those rebounds belonged to Rose and 10 to Luol Deng. With Hill on Rose and Richardson on Deng for most of the night, allowing that many rebounds cannot be blamed on a lack of size in the frontcourt; it is simply a lack of effort, of desire.
The Suns seem to be going through the motions during games, accepting of their shortcomings with the belief that all will be cured once their shots start to fall. Unfortunately for them (and those who watch them), they have no backup plan for when they hit a cold spell. The defensive intensity is fueled by their offensive output, their rebounding fundamentals are as flawed as they come, and if Nash can’t get a teammate open, the offense is as unreliable as an ’86 Yugo.
Now, undersized teams can succeed in the NBA to a certain extent, but they must claw and scratch and fight on every possession to compensate; that is what the No. 8 seed Golden State Warriors did en route to dispatching the No. 1 seed Dallas Mavericks in the 2007 playoffs. That is something this Suns team must figure out.
Teams that play with pride and value every possession do not get blown out in three straight games as Phoenix did against Miami, Orlando, and Charlotte. Granted, Nash missed two games due to a groin strain and was limited in the third, but that should not equate to a free pass to phone in the game.
Even sadder was watching a 38-year-old Hill outwork the rest of his younger teammates as he tried his best to channel his glory days with the Detroit Pistons. However, no one followed his lead, content rather to hang their heads when things got tough and fall back on the old cliché of “it’s a long season.”
It is a long season, and it will seem even longer than that if that attitude does not change.
By: Eric Lorenz
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer
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