Week Two has come and gone, unlike the Suns' success, which was predicted to go after a brutal roadtrip (it concludes tonight in Philly).
The Suns did drop their first game of the season to an undermanned Orlando team, giving more beef to the rants of the week, but there was plenty to rave about, as well.
Phoenix rebounded from its Orlando loss to hand Boston their first "L" of the season (scoring 110 points in the process; yeah, the Suns as we know them are back), then showed they were capable of keeping focus after a big win, by dispatching the Wizards two nights later.
Now to the nitty gritty of what transpired:
1) Other than his scoreless debacle in Orlando, Jason Richardson showed why he's a valuable fit (besides the obvious lack of Leandro Barbosa due to injury). Barbosa is a speedster who has the tools to get around the defense for his points. Even his threes are in the corners, or spots where the defense is non-existent.
J-Rich is an in-your-face, take-it-to-the-teeth-of-the-defense scorer. It didn't show in his 0-for-4 night in Orlando. Maybe he thought the Magic without Rashard Lewis, and Vince Carter (more on this later) didn't deserve his offensive attention, and was saving it for Boston.
The writer's disdain for nights off aside, Richardson was nothing less than blistering the rest of the week, bombing Boston for 34 points (and just as important, 10 boards) from the outside, and then pounding Washington's small ball on the inside for 22 points.
The Washington effort was a comfort; the last thing the Suns need is Richardson jacking up contested threes all the time after a hot game. He's the only offensive option other than the Nash/Stoudemire pick-and-roll that can get its own points at a whim.
2) Everyone's waiting for it. Suns' staff is hoping for it (especially Steve Kerr, but for the wrong reasons). Opponents are fearing it.
Amare Stoudemire got off for 30-40 points, and announce the most-feared front-court scorer in the game is back. He will. He hasn't yet, but he will (wait for it).
Signs abound that the aforementioned game is coming. Sixteen points, and 11 boards at Miami. Twenty-five, and 14 against Orlando (the only starter to show that game). Twenty-two, and seven against Boston's defense. Seventeen, and 12 yesterday at Washington.
Maybe Stoudemire should keep teams waiting on the mammoth game. Maybe the Suns would rather see this kind of consistency, instead of the sporadic explosions (and subsequent hangovers). Seriously, you wouldn't be shocked to see those numbers next to a Tim Duncan recap, would you?
My buddy Nick is impressed. "I like his attitude this season," he said. "I wonder if his surgery had a profound, life-affirming effect on him."
It's possible. Maybe the eye-surgery made him see things differently. Go figure.
3) Ball movement is basketball. That's why the Suns were seen as saviors to purists when Phoenix burst onto the scene in 2004-05.
Case in point: Nash/Stoudemire pick and roll, Stoudemire is sealed off, so Nash fakes one direction, then slings a pass over to Richardson in the corner. J-Rich fakes the three (smart), then drives to the middle of the floor. Once the defense collapses, Richardson drops the beautiful no-look to Stoudemire (great no-show from the help-D by Boston), who slams the ball.
The best part: Phoenix didn't make a big deal out of it. It was just Exhibit 22A of how they want to play. It came against the vaunted (and previously undefeated) Boston Celtics defense. It's Phoenix Suns basketball, and thank the basketball gods it's back.
1) Ball movement is great, except when the ball moves into the hands of the opposing teams. Phoenix is third-best in the league at moving the ball to each other (the two better teams? Boston and...the Clippers . Not a typo).
Phoenix is also third-best at sharing the ball with their opponents (17.9 turnovers-per-game; the only two worse teams are Indiana, and Charlotte). Of the 10 worst turnover-prone teams in the league, only Philly and Phoenix are playoff-caliber.
Nash turns the ball over often (4.6 per game), but he handles the ball a lot, and makes up for it by churning out 11.9 assists-per-game.
The glaring culprit is Stoudemire. 3.3 turnovers-per-game from your power forward? Holy Kwame Brown.
STAT's main problem is not keeping control of the ball when he dives to the rim. He's so anxious for the slam that he forgets to squeeze the ball, protect it, and keep it high whenever possible.
As lethal as the Suns are now, imagine how much better they'd be if they swapped seven, or eight of those turnovers for actual shots? That's a swing of 10-20 points per game.
In other words: take care of the ball, y'all.
2) Orlando's a good team. An elite team. A championship contender.
This is true when they're healthy. Is the same true if their starters are Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson, Matt Barnes, J.J. Redick, and Jameer Nelson?
NO. No disrespect to those guys (Nelson and Howard are All-Stars, but Anderson, Redick, and Barnes?), but that is a team Phoenix, with guys like Nash, Richardson, Stoudemire, and Hill, should beat.
Hill and Richardson should never combine for zero points and six rebounds . Jared Dudley (this isn't his fault), shouldn't be the team's second-leading scorer with 17 points. All that means is the game went to garbage time, and Dudley was the alpha dog on the floor.
When an elite opponent is vulnerable, jump on them, rip out their throat, let them use their excuses as to why they lost, instead of being unable to explain why you lost to their undermanned version.
That's that for the Rant. Adios from Planet Orange.