Previous week’s games
11/19/09 Hornets 110, SUNS 103
11/22/09 SUNS 117, Pistons 91
11/25/09 SUNS 126, Grizzlies 111
This week’s games
11/27/09 SUNS @ Timberwolves, 7:30 p.m., My45 (NOTE: This game has been switched from ESPN)
11/29/09 SUNS @ Raptors, 1:30 p.m., My45
12/01/09 SUNS @ Knicks, 5:30 p.m., My45
12/02/09 SUNS @ Cavaliers, 5 p.m., My45
On this Thanksgiving, Suns fans have many things to be thankful for. Here are my top three things to be thankful for this holiday season in the Valley of the Sun.
3. Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley and the Suns’ second unit
The second unit for the Suns have been a huge surprise this year, and an even bigger reason for the Suns’ hot start. Jared Dudley is the glue that holds the bench together. His hustle and effort on the defensive end, along with his overall passion for the game, pushes the second string as well as the starters to play hard and leave it all on the court every time out. Add in his lights-out three-point shooting and you’ve got yourself a difference maker.
Goran Dragic isn’t far behind Dudley in what he brings to the table for this team. His vast improvement in play from a year ago gives the Suns something they’ve been lacking for years: a backup point guard. Dragic’s solid play has helped give Steve Nash plenty of rest, which explains why Nash’s minutes are at his lowest in over 10 years. Dragic has shown play-making ability and a nice touch from behind the arc. And, when the shot isn’t falling, Dragic still plays fantastic defensive night in and night out.
Despite his minutes being down, Leandro Barbosa has continued to do what he does: hit open threes and get to the basket at will. Lou Amundson still provides the dirty work in the form of rebounds and blocked shots. Jarron Collins has stepped in nicely when needed, adding a little toughness in the paint, and Earl Clark has impressed when on the floor. With Robin Lopez coming back from injury (perhaps later this week), Suns fans will soon have more reason to be excited about this bench.
2. No more Shaq
I didn’t really have a problem with Shaquille O’Neal while he was here, but it’s clear the impact he had on the team was a negative one. The team tried to run the offense through him, but that meant playing to the other players’ weaknesses. He clogged the paint and messed with the floor spacing on the offensive end. On the defensive end, he was so terrible with the pick and roll that opposing teams would kill us with it on a nightly basis. Shipping him out and bringing Channing Frye in to replace him has made a world of difference. The lane is once again open for Nash to operate and the Suns’ spacing has them on a record pace for three pointers made this season.
1. Making Alvin Gentry head coach and resigning Steve Nash (I couldn’t choose just one of these)
When Alvin Gentry took over the head coaching duties last year, we saw an entirely different Suns team from the one Terry Porter put on the floor every night. Gentry started playing the bench more, going 10-11 guys deep at times, while reintroducing us all the Phoenix Suns offense we had previously grown to love. This year, things have been much the same. Gentry has the Suns back on top in scoring average while getting the team to play with effort and energy on the defensive side of the ball. The bench continues to develop under Gentry, and the team chemistry appears to be at an all-time high since Steve Nash returned to Phoenix.
Once Gentry was made head coach, the next logical step was to resign Steve Nash. Many people doubted whether or not this was the right move for both Nash and the Suns, but 15 games into the season, it’s clear it was. Nash’s numbers are just as good as they were in his two MVP seasons, with his assist numbers actually up while his minutes are down. What Nash gives Phoenix in the stat sheet is only half of what he offers, though. He gives the Suns’ younger players someone to look up to and continues to provide great on-court leadership.
When you add these three things together, Suns fans have lots to be thankful for this holiday season, and it’s no wonder why their team currently sits atop the NBA with a 12-3 record.