We spoke with Bright Side Of The Sun in the preseason, when we were all happy and filled with hope. Last night Bright Side Of The Sun writer Jacob Padilla and I visited again about where our teams stand. Be sure to visit their blog as well.
Oh and here's me answering some of their questions!
1. Last time we talked was in the pre-season when we still had the hope of the possible. Early returns for both our teams are mediocre at best. In your opinion, what's been the biggest problem for the Suns early on?
I'm not sure I can pick just one problem at this point. The team is kind of a mess. The Suns have the worst defense in the NBA last time I checked. While the Suns have a few quality defenders in Goran Dragic, Sebastian Telfair, P.J. Tucker and Jermaine O'Neal, they are balanced out by sieves like Micheal Beasley and Luis Scola. Even Marcin Gortat has not been effective (whether that is on him or the system is another discussion). Something needs to change, be it effort, execution or scheme.
On the other end, it's not like the Suns have a particularly high-powered offense. Outside of a couple flashes, Beasley has been a disaster. The Suns have some good offensive bigs, but they aren't getting enough scoring inside. The perimeter shooters aren't knocking down enough of their 3-pointers either.
Put all that together and you get a team that digs itself holes early in games and ends up with a 7-12 record through 19 games.
2. Gortat got in some hot water a few weeks ago for him comments to a Polish newspaper. It seemed as if he thought no one would be able to translate what he was saying to English. Has there been any fallout? Is there any legitimacy to Gortat's complaints? Do you think he might be traded at some point?
Gortat has never been afraid to speak his mind, but his latest comments to the Polish media were over the top. I actually agree with a lot of the things he had to say (he does need more touches and he can score in the post more than he's given credit for), but it's not something you put out there in the media. Gentry fired back a little bit, but nothing has happened since. He came out strong against the Blazers in the game following the comments, and got plenty of touches. But since then he's been very hit-or-miss, and for the most part, quiet. Whether it has something to do with the comments, Gortat's play or Alvin Gentry's trust in veteran Jermaine O'Neal, Gortat has been getting fewer and fewer minutes, particularly in the fourth quarter.
As for trade talk, Bright Side of the Sun exploded after the comments were made public. That was only intensified when Gortat was reported to turn down an extension from the Suns. But then again, it doesn't take much for Suns fans to bust out the Trade Machine. A trade is certainly possible considering the Suns' situation, but honestly, I have no idea where this front office is trying to take this team or what its goals are. I won't be surprised no matter what happens with him.
3. Jermaine O'Neal has come back from the dead due to the Suns' amazing training staff. Tell us about his contributions.
I have learned never to doubt the magical restorative abilities of Aaron Nelson and the Arizona air. I did not like the O'Neal signing at all and thought the guy was done. Heck, so did the other 29 teams as he was considering retirement before signing with Phoenix. But O'Neal has looked as healthy and as athletic as he has in the last few years. In fact, in recent games O'Neal has been outperforming Gortat in fewer minutes. O'Neal has been an excellent defensive presence in the post, but he's also given the Suns an option in the post offensively.
The two best acquisitions this summer (after Goran Dragic) turned out to be Jermaine O'Neal and P.J. Tucker. While that makes for a great story, it also is a testament to the lack of talent on this team and the failure of the Suns' other moves.
4. Have there been any early season surprises or disappointments?
I've already covered a lot of this in the first two questions. Michael Beasley has been a massive disappointment as he has been playing the worst ball of his career thus far. It hasn't been pretty. And O'Neal has been a pleasant surprise.
But the biggest surprise has been P.J. Tucker. Tucker is a former second round pick by Toronto who played a handful of games with the Raptors as a rookie and then headed overseas after that. He killed it last year in Germany and came back to the States a more mature player to give the NBA another shot. He played for the Suns' entry in the Las Vegas Summer League, and although he didn't really stand out statistically, he impressed Dan Majerle. Thunder Dan, who thrived on hustle plays in his days with the Suns as a player, identified with Tuckers hard-nosed and gritty style of play. The Suns rewarded Tucker by not only inviting him to training camp, but they gave him a contract as well. Most of us expected minimal contributions from Tucker, but not only did he supplant Wes Johnson as the back-up SF a couple games into the season, but now he's making a strong case that he should be starting ahead of Beasley. Tucker is a very good defender and rebounder, an although he's limited offensively he has found a way to be effective there as well. Tucker is probably the story of the season for the Suns so far (again, that's awesome but doesn't say much for this team).
Thanks so much!