The Phoenix Suns overachieved last season while winning 54 games and earning a trip to the Western Conference finals. Early season forecasts are not bright for the Suns, as this team is likely to struggle on the inside and go through some transition and beat downs on the interior.
Phoenix guard Steve Nash has acknowledged the Suns shortcomings prior to the season and noted the team’s lack of strength and imperfect roster. Nash must now run the offense without a key pick-and-roll piece, as Amar’e Stoudemire took his superman cape to the big apple. The pitfalls surfaced opening night when Phoenix was outscored 31-11 in the fourth quarter and lost at Portland 106-92. The Suns ran out of gas and had no go-to-guy down low to assist aging star guard Steve Nash. The perimeter players of Jason Richardson and Steve Nash led this team with 22 and 26 points respectively, and those two will be counted on often to score for this Suns team.
Just before the contest, Phoenix coach Alvin Genry had these less-than encouraging comments about his rotation, team and transition together. “You’ll see a lot of things in the next month from us until we get things figured out.” Pieces added to the Suns puzzle include Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick and Hedo Turkoglu, however all three are more suited to perimeter play than to the bruising battles underneath the basket. Childress played opening night with a broken finger and was a non-factor with two points while Turkoglu had just six points and three rebounds and he’ll be beaten up often inside as he tries to battle at power forward. With a center still learning his way and lacking strength in Robin Lopez and aging veteran Grant Hill (38) no longer able to bring his best every night, the Suns could really slide fast this season.
The transition continues tonight at Utah, where the Jazz try to rebound following a embarrassing opening night blowout loss at Denver Wednesday night, 110-88. But despite returning from altitude and a poor performance, the match-ups dictate some real strength for Utah tonight. Energy Solutions Arena is one tough place to play, and with a Jazz team likely PO’d about their play last night, we should see a big bounce back from a team that can dominate in the paint and pound the opponent inside.
Utah’s big offseason acquisition of center Al Jefferson did not sing a positive tune opening night as Jefferson had just six points and seven rebounds. But with other big bodies of Paul Millsap and Andrei Kirilenko, the Jazz should outmuscle the Suns front line all night long. Francisco Elson adds additional depth in the post and he had six points and eight rebounds in just 15 minutes of action in his Jazz debut.
Of course the Jazz have a star player at the point in Deron Williams, and the additions of Earl Watson and Ronnie Price along with starting shooting guard Raja Bell give the Jazz much versatility and depth this season. Add in swingman C.J. Miles as a second rotation scorer and this Jazz team should shine over the Suns and provide plenty of rotation options for top bench boss Jerry Sloan this season.
Check out the NBA action tonight as TNT carries the coverage and bouncing ball with tip-off at 7:30 PT.