Plight of the Phoenix
After starting out 7-4, the Phoenix Suns have gone 5-17 since to find themselves sitting in the 12th seed in the Western Conference. What was supposed to be yet another year of a promised playoff run has become more of the same in Phoenix and a likely sixth straight year with no postseason. Two days ago changes came in the form of two assistant coaches being fired and replaced, rather than firing head coach Jeff Hornacek. More changes seem inevitable as we head into the New Year.
The question is where do we begin? You have the ongoing Markieff Morris saga that has recently given us a thrown towel a la Robert Horry, and a two game suspension for the power forward that rarely even plays anymore. Eric Bledsoe went down with a torn meniscus in a game against the 1-31 Sixers which the Suns lost, literally adding insult to injury. Their free agent acquisition of the summer Tyson Chandler has had his moments, but is not playing anywhere near to the level of the 4 years, $52 million he was signed for. He has also missed time with injuries. Alex Len does seem to be improving and to Chandler’s credit some of that has to be due to his leadership.
This team has been trying to establish an identity for quite some time now, and cannot seem to figure it out. The two point guard system of Bledsoe and Knight seems to work on the offensive side of the ball, but they cannot stop anybody lately on defense. Both guards have the athleticism to do it, so it is either a coaching issue or they just don’t want to play defense. With Bledsoe’s injury, we aren’t going to see them together for a while anyway. This might at least give us a chance to see what Knight is made of as the primary ball handler.
There are some bright spots if you dig deep enough, and to me that lies with the young guys on the roster. Devin Booker is starting at shooting guard and has looked very well for a 19-year-old rookie. T.J. Warren has a lot of energy and upside to his game and I believe he should be starting over Tucker at small forward. As I mentioned before, Alex Len has improved this year with Chandler’s leadership and if he can stay healthy will only get better. The development of these three young players will shed light on what kind of team this is going to become in the near future. As a Suns fan of about 25 years, this at least gives me something to be hopeful for.
Kevin McQuade covers the NBA for MFST, you can follow him on Twitter @kmcquade9.