When the Golden State Warriors faced the Phoenix Suns to open the season, there was still room for optimism among the Bright Side of the Sun staff.
Unfortunately, things haven't gone the optimists way.
But we've been where the Phoenix Suns are this season: rooting for a team that is lottery bound and doesn't seem particularly close to reversing that trend. Learning what to do with a coach who is inexperienced at his job.
For some insight on how Suns fans are holding up this season, I got in touch with Dave King of Bright Side of the Sun to provide us with some insight.
Q&A with Bright Side of the Sun
1. First, let's start with the good: you mentioned in our Q&A before the season opener that the wings would be a major key for Suns success this season, singling out Beasley in particular as "the only guy with All-Star talent". Now just the other day you wrote that Michael Beasley has turned the corner. For those of us that have just written Beasley off at this point, how does his turning the corner improve this team?
Dave King: Well, "turning the corner" was followed immediately by stepping backwards in his next game. Even during this improved stretch, Beasley has not had two good-shooting games in a row. But he was still contributing with (slightly) improved defense and rebounding to offset bad shooting nights. Sure enough, he shot 2-13 last night in a home game against Dallas. Afterward, he said and I quote "I shot the ball great tonight. I had great shots. They just didn't fall. That's it." So there's SuperCoolBeas for you. Then he proceeded, correctly, to talk about the Suns' terrible defensive effort as the reason the Suns lost the game. They could not get stops.
As I opined at the beginning of the season, the Suns were dependent on a great season from Beasley if they wanted to make a playoff push. Three months later, the Suns are 16-31. It's still true that when Beasley plays well, the Suns are a better team. He just doesn't play well enough on a regular basis.
Having said all that, Beasley is a nice guy who really wants to please people and do well. His problem most of the season is that he thinks too much, which is not a plus for a guy like him. Lately, he's been reacting rather than thinking (last night being no exception) which is more often than not a good thing. So we'll see about the corner-turning. Doesn't make the Suns playoff team, but it does make them a little scary for playoff opponents jockeying for position.
2. You mentioned in that article that Beasley's improvement coincided with Lindsey Hunter's promotion. What are your early impressions of Hunter as a coach and how having him at the helm has changed what this team does?
DK: Hunter clearly doesn't know what he's doing yet, but he is the first to admit it and appears to have good instincts that will serve him well. He recognizes he knows next to nothing about offense, so he picked an offensive assistant who makes calls and draws up plays all game long. He recognizes that good defense covers for bad offense, and he's trying to instill that in the team moreso than Gentry did. He recognizes when to actually call timeout (always a problem with Gentry and D'Antoni), and how to make good substitutions. But everything else is a work in progress. He's no George Karl, but there's only a handful of really good coaches in this league.
Your own coach, Mark Jackson, started coaching without any experience either. So I'm sure you have some insight into watching a guy develop on the bench.
3. I've seen Gortat being mentioned in a few of trade discussion posts at BSotS over the last month or so. Has he met your expectations so far this year after putting up an All-Star caliber performance last year? Did a Gortat to Boston idea get any more traction in your mind with the Rondo injury?
DK: Marcin Gortat is a very good NBA player who has reached his athletic ceiling and maxed out his skills. He is a threat to double-double on any night, and generally will. But he is also very earth-bound and never dunks in traffic. His legs are not pogo sticks, for sure. Yet he gets good rebounding position and is one of the better defensive rebounders in the game. He's got a soft touch around the rim, but often too soft and sometimes misses bunnies when he could have gone up strong and forced the ball in the hole. I like Gortat. He's not a franchise cornerstone, but he's definitely worth 7 million per year for 12 points and 10 rebounds and a block or two.
4. There's a bit of role reversal for this year's Suns-Warriors meeting: the Warriors look firmly playoff bound while the Suns are going the opposite direction. It seemed like expectations were mixed over at Bright Side at the beginning of this year but things really haven't gone as well as some of the more optimistic among Suns fans might have hoped. How do you think the fan base - or the Bright Side community in particular - is handling a season that will very likely not to end in a playoff berth?
DK: After a couple of months of (in some cases) unbridled anger, the masses have calmed considerably. Fans were unable to fathom such a bad team - the Suns, after all, are the 4th-winningest franchise in NBA history despite the lack of rings. They have always been a playoff team. So looking at a bottom-feeder is tough to swallow. As President Lon Babby put it the other week, "Fans are all for patience as long as it doesn't take too long." However, now most of the fans are looking at getting better in the lottery and accepting losses as the cost of doing business.
5. The Warriors engaged in tanking of epic proportions last season to save their draft pick, which forced us to look ahead to the draft. Have you all already started to look ahead to the draft/free agency or is there something within the narrative of this season that has you fully engaged game to game?
DK: Somehow, the fans are still fully engaged in watching this trainwreck of a team and a season. There's a lot of hate for the front office which keeps conversations going. They are looking forward to the lottery moreso than free agency because nothing looks that good or realistic there. And they are hoping the Suns embrace tanking by the deadline and will trade people for more draft considerations and/or salary flexibility. Oh and there's also the love of watching the Lakers fall apart - the Suns get a second lottery pick if the Lakers miss the playoffs. Thanks Steve!
For more on the Suns, check out SBN's Suns site Bright Side of the Sun.