Valley of the Sun: Suns 123 Warriors 101

Hmm… maybe that line wasn’t so ridiculous.

The Suns are clearly a much better team right now than the Warriors.  Yes, the Warriors got a horrible whistle in the first half, which makes it hard to win against anybody.  Yes, they shot 42%, which shouldn’t happen often.  Yes, they turned the ball over 22 times against a defense that is among the worst in the league, which is uncharacteristic.  And yes, it was a road game. But still it can’t be denied that the Suns were the far better team.

Which kind of took me by surprise. Why? Because at mid-season of last year, the Warriors were clearly a better team than the Suns.  I’m referring to the moment in February when the two teams played a home and away series.  The Warriors dominated the Suns in the home game.  In the away game the next day, on a road back-to-back, the Warriors were tied with the Suns with a couple of minutes left in the third quarter when Andris Biedrins suffered the first of the severe ankle sprains that effectively ended his season.  Only then were the Suns able to separate themselves for the victory.

So what’s changed?  Let’s begin with what’s different about the Suns:

  • Alvin Gentry as head coach instead of Terry Porter.  Defensive genius Terry Porter was hired by Steve Kerr to pound a square peg into a round hole.  And pound he did.  His attempt to turn Steve Nash and this Suns team into a walk-it-up half-court system built around Shaquille O’Neal was one of greatest basketball crimes in history. Comparable only to what defensive genius Mike Brown is doing to Lebron in Cleveland.  With an honorable mention to what defensive genius Nate McMillan is doing to the team of wondrous athletes assembled on the Blazers.  Did you know that the Blazers were dead last in fast break points last season?  (And did you know that Channing Frye couldn’t get off the bench for McMillan?)  Alvin Gentry has the Suns back to running and gunning, and letting Nash run the offense.  That makes all the difference.
  • Channing Frye for Shaquille O’Neal.  Shaq is completely washed up, and was a horrible fit for the system. Deadeye Frye is perfect for the system.
  • Steve Nash.  With the ball-and-chain removed from his ankle, Nash played like a 2-time MVP.  His greatness can mask a whole bunch of flaws in his team on any given night.
  • No J-Rich.  I’m talking about this game.  J-Rich’s gunning hurt the Suns in that first game last year.  He was under better control the second game, but against the Warriors in particular, I think Barbosa is a better option for the Suns.  Barbosa makes the Suns so much faster, he drives the basketball, and his size isn’t a liability against this year’s Warrior’s backcourt.

What’s different about the Warriors?  Where to start? I’m just going to free-associate, rather than rank these points:

  • Chemistry.  Its early in the season, and the Warriors are working in a rookie point guard, but there is simply no chemistry right now.  Whether it has to do with simple unfamiliarity, mismatched pieces, injuries, disgruntlement or a mixture of all four remains to be seen.  Other than Curry, the players on this team are not “playing well with others.”
  • Point-Monta.  In last years matchup, Monta played but was not running the team.  That was left to Crawford and Jackson, and sadly they did a much better job.  Monta is simply doing a lousy job running this team.  He is failing to look for his teammates, and forcing his offense.  And when Curry leaves the floor, the team has fallen into the abyss.
  • Turiaf.  Rony sat out training camp with what was revealed to be a slightly torn cartilage.  He came up lame on the same leg tonight.  If Turiaf is out for an extended time, the Warriors are in trouble.
  • Randolph.  In the rotation now, wasn’t last year. Not sure if the injury affected his play tonight, but he looks like he’s not yet ready for prime-time.  He has no offensive game right now. When you combine that with a strong desire to look for his own shot, you get a player that hurts his team. He’s playing selfishly and out-of-control, and if that keeps up he’s going to be picking splinters out of his butt.
  • Morrow.  In the rotation now, wasn’t last year. Once again Morrow found himself matched up against the opposing team’s best defender, and the result was not pretty.  The Suns played him with Grant Hill.  Many thought Monta’s comment to the press yesterday that Morrow needs to work harder to get open reflected a bone-headed selfishness.  There was nonetheless a grain of truth to it.  Teams have done their scouting, and they are blanketing Morrow.  Every time he catches the ball they are right in his face.  And he’s struggled.  It remains to be seen whether at 6’5″ and no athleticism he can get his shot off against teams that are focused on him.
  • Morrow.  Now I’m talking about the defensive end of the court.  Barbosa simply lit him on fire and roasted marshmallows on him in the third quarter.  If Morrow can’t defend better than what we saw tonight, he will be a sharp-shooting role player off the bench, and nothing more, for the rest of his career.
  • Private Jackson.  Jack’s role on this team has changed in a big way.  The offense is no longer running through him, and it is a long time between touches for him.  He’s also being rested far more often than last year. And, he hasn’t been asked to guard the other team’s best scorer in either of the first two games. So it’s completely natural that one of the big impact players on the Warriors has had next to no impact so far. Right? I sure hope that’s the case, and not a sign of something worse.

I’ll end, as is my wont, on a positive note:

Stephen Curry was taken to master class by Steve Nash tonight.  Still, I loved what I saw from the rookie, on both ends of the court.  He gave tremendous effort on Nash all night, and seemed preternaturally intelligent in his positioning. Nash didn’t have a great shooting night, and I credit Curry with that. The out-of-this-world 20 assists I lay at the doorstep of Curry’s teammates.

On offense, I again thought he was spectacular.  He played with poise and control, initiated the offense well, made a couple of beautiful dishes, but also showed something new: the deep jumper off the dribble.  I can’t believe the talent I see in this kid.  As a Don Nelson fan, I watched most of the Mavericks games in the Nellie era.  I watched Steve Nash play his first season under Nellie, which was his third in the NBA. What my disbelieving eyes are telling me is this:

Stephen Curry is better, right now, than Steve Nash was in his third NBA season.

16 Responses to Valley of the Sun: Suns 123 Warriors 101

  1. Pg is one of the toughest positions to learn. Took Waslh, the guy many compared Curry to, several years. There is one thing to look at a young pg and say he has promise, or I don’t see it at this position, or this was a bust.

    I saw both promise in Curry and yet his play, especialy his drives or lack of same, this eary and the pace that he runs the offense (Monta had be ball over the halfcourt two tempos faster than Curry on a regular basis). This is crucial for a fast break team.

    Tonight it was like two teams, one with an A offense (football) or some such fancy offense depending on their line getting at least a bump advantage over the other guys. You fail down the line, even though it might be just a fraction of a second, and they dominate you.

    Phoenix, like us, is a running team. They outran us under Curry’s offensive quaterbacking. Hard to see it any other way. We didn’t have it against a slower team in Houston and got run off the court against a faster one. Long season if we keep starting Curry and he doesn’t make a big jump up in areas that I haven’t seen from him yet. Good things from him include his stroke, nice shot when open, and, though a smidgen slow EVERY TIME on Nash, he looks like that will become a strength of his.

    Everyone else was afterthought to my eyes. CM is way off now. He doesn’t have his sroke on long shots, basically he isn’t ready and he’s out of his best use position because of trying to get enough minutes for Monta and Morrow at two. S. Jax had a bad game, but not for not trying. He did move inside when he couldn’t hit a shot from the outside. Buke was off when it counted but overall so so or less than so so. AB played his role okay. Turiaf’s loss was a killer on a team that had enough warning on getting another bruiser-type pf, and didn’t. Monta was the only guy getting and making his own shot–for one half. I did not that once he moved over to point, though our team speed increased, his shot rhythm got lost. He’s traditionally a slow starter so more can be expected from him. AR played disappointing to me. He’s got to pass the ball more and remember than garnering rebounds down low is where he’s being judged. Morrow has to make his own shot or his own openness. He’s not looked good so far. Ellis was totally right on him and he’s been vilified for that. According to many our new team led by Curry with Randolph the new all everything, we could start 7-1. Instead we are 0-2. Unless we change this learn-while on the job, mentality of starting young guys not ready, it could be a long season.

    The Good News: We are only two games out of first in our conference, and one out of the playoff group.

    The Bad News, we are tied for second worst in our conference and look it.

  2. Bad typing so early in the morning. It’s obviously Nash not Waslh.

  3. Hard to argue with anything you wrote, Meir. I hadn’t really looked at the tempo that Curry was pushing the ball upcourt. But when he slows it down, isn’t he just waiting for the guys running with him? No question the Warriors fast break has been very disappointing the first two games.

    And I have perhaps been way too optimistic about what a team with a rookie point guard could accomplish.

  4. Any culpability on the part of the coach? Mmmmm?

  5. Back attacha…Credit where credit is do…excellent recap.

    Curry’s tempo is for Monta…who else can run on this team?

    It’ll be a long season if Curry isn’t starting.

  6. Perimeter defense? Two games in a row with 12 3 pointers against? That’s ridiculous. I think your chemistry problem of mis-matched pieces and disgruntlement could be showing up on the defensive end.

  7. meant to include AR with Monta…but he’s off right now for whatever reason.

  8. I agree a lot about this recap, and it keeps coming back to chemistry and unselfishness. This team has neither and crappy body language to boot.

    Quick Hits:

    Jax is killing them. He is persona non-grata in the NBA and on this team. If I were Nellie I would be tempted to play him on their best player so he can quickly get fouls and get off the court. Bad shots, ball stagnant, bitching at refs while the other team breaks. Can’t have any of this, and Nellie needs to stop with the kid gloves, even if it means a blow up.

    Monta: He is a Diva and is playing like such. He only passes when he has to, and when he goes cold he keeps firing. He must remain in the off-guard spot. Time to get Acie or CJ some real PG mins . I will say this for Monta…his defensive intensity is up which is nice, but he also looks like he’s not in Warriors up tempo shape yet. That’s when he doesn’t get by defenders and his shot goes awry. He really needs to watch his body language too.

    AB He plays to soft. Start hitting people. The man could really use to unload on the refs a few times as he gets some of the lamest ticky tack calls against him. Man needs to take a few T’s! It works!

    Curry needs to shoot more. If he’s open, he needs to take it. Then the defenders will be easier to blow by as they guard him closer. Can’t really complain about what the rook is doing.

    Morrow go to the rim. Then they will give you space to shoot.

    Finally …someone really needs to be effective with their back to the basket and draw doubles. This will open up our offensive end. AR needs to try it.


    Curry is great pushing the ball upcourt. Meir, you haven’t even seen him play before. It’s a real strength of his. Neither he nor Monta pushed it last night bc noone was getting out on the break. He was constantly bringing the ball up ahead of everyone. It was apparent from the beginning that Nellie’s strategy was to slow the game down. I don’t get it. Curry is way too smart and talented to slow the ball down if the Coach wants him to push it.

    Second game in a row that Nellie was badly outcoached. It looks like there will be plenty more.

  10. Good recap, feltbot. Your most important point was team chemistry. In the first two games, the team has not played up to its potential. There are many reasons for that including injuries, disgruntled players, selfishness by the veterans, and players (esp. Magette) playing out of position…Scotch is right in identifying coaching as a part of the problem. Early indications are that Nelson has lost this team. I heard Nelson on Ralph and Tom yesterday and he sounded dispirited. Unless they can trade Jack pronto, it’s going to be a long season for Nelson.

  11. COM and SOA, thanks for coming over and posting. I could use some push back on this board, and if the early going is any indication of what’s to follow, I deserve it.

    Nelson of course must shoulder the responsibility for what’s going down this year. For everything starting with the failure to really address the thinness at power forward, to the chemistry implications of the Curry draft. And ending with the coaching. Judging by what we’ve seen the first two games, Nellie has done a poor job to date, and has a lot of work to do to simply make this collection of talent look like a team.

    I have made no bones about being a Nelson admirer, but I will judge his performance this year by nothing else but his performance this year.

  12. Wow! I came over here just to check it out. I’m acually impressed, Felt. Your doing a good job! It’s nice to see you being objective.

  13. Thanks, BG. You’re welcome to come over here and blast away :>

  14. I thought the officiating last night was horrible and favored Phoenix. Horrible calls. Phoenix shot more free throws. Ellis was fouled numerous times and didn’t get a call… Since that book by came out by Tim D. (aka… crooked referee), it makes me say hmmm…

    Look into that Feltbot and stir the pot a little on that…

  15. I read it POB, and I believe much of it. I saw the Portland/Laker abomination, the Sacramento/Laker abomination, and I also think, along with Bill Simmons, that the Mavs got jobbed against the Heat.

    I highly recommend looking for that Simmons piece in his archives if you’re interested in this topic.

    The Warriors got seriously jobbed last night, which I think took a lot of their heart away. I also think they NEVER get a home whistle themselves, that Houston game a perfect example. Could the refs be punishing Jackson or Nelson? Given the contents of that book, you can’t dismiss those thoughts.

  16. I think so… They were calling palm… that never get’s called… Kobe, Pierce, and Lebron should get called everytime… They were calling touch fouls on the Warriors, yet Ellis gets mugged driving to the hole. What about the charge they called on Ellis when Grant Hill was late getting over and not set when they called it. What was the free throw? 3 to 1 ratio? I’d rather have the replacement refs because they don’t have the kobe rule…