The Other Side: Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns conclude a six-game East Coast trip against the Washington Wizards on Monday with the hope of returning home at 3-3. The Suns opened the trip with a win in Toronto, but lost three in a row in Boston, New York and Charlotte before winning defeating Atlanta, 104-99, on Sunday.
The trip has been very disconcerting because it included losses to former coach Mike D'Antoni in New York and former Suns Boris Diaw and Raja Bell in Charlotte. And, the three losses were by an average of 14.7 points. Before playing Atlanta on Sunday, General Manager Steve Kerr and Managing Partner Robert Sarver met with the team. Kerr and Sarver met with groups of players at the hotel restaurant and Kerr addressed the team before the game. The Suns broke out of their funk against the Hawks, but most importantly, Leandro Barbosa finally broke out with 20 points. He had failed to reach double figures in any of the three losses -- the longest stretch since 2005.
Phoenix has gone from 13-9 on the day it acquired Jason Richardson from Charlotte to just 11-9, and Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen said Kerr should consider making more moves if he wants to make the Suns a true contender. Here is what else you should know about the Suns before they play the Wizards at Verizon Center tonight:
1. Fun-N-Gun Is Done
They used to be a shock to the system, a team that tempted opponents into a track meet then ran them off the court. When the Suns lost in New York last week, Amare Stoudemire said that the team doesn't scare opponents anymore. Point guard Steve Nash has been making cryptic comments this season and has been openly discussing his future plans when he becomes a free agent in 2010 in stops in Toronto and New York. Nash is still among the top three in assists (9.2), and the Suns rank fifth in scoring (103.8), but Terry Porter would rather his team not score a lot of points. Arizona Republic columnist Bob Young asked recently if Planet Orange is dying. A Dutch View has already buried the Suns as we once knew them.
2. Shaquille O'Neal's Not Done Yet
Buried, lost and almost forgotten through an injury-plagued final half-season in Miami, O'Neal has been rejuvenated in Phoenix with the help of the Suns' top notch training staff and Suns Coach Terry Porter's reliance on the 7-foot behemoth. O'Neal has scored in double figures in each of his past 14 games, averaging 22.2 points and recording nine double-doubles during that span. With the dearth of big men in the NBA, O'Neal could earn a spot on the all-star team after missing the event for the first time in 14 seasons. O'Neal believes he belongs among the league's best in his new adopted home town.
3. Amare Stoudemire Could Soon Be Done in Phoenix
Stoudemire sent the first signal of the underlying problems in Phoenix when he told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith in November that he wanted to be the focal point of the Suns' offense. Terry Porter hasn't necessarily granted Stoudemire's request and it has led to some uneven performances this season, including a 0-for-7, three-point game in Boston last week. Still, Stoudemire is the only Sun guaranteed to be in Phoenix for the All Star Game, after fans voted him in -- at small forward, no less -- for the first time in his career. But with Stoudemire eligible to become a free agent in 2010 and upset with the direction of the team, CBS Sportsline's Ken Berger wrote that the Suns might consider moving him.
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