Suns rookie Warren out with broken thumb (Yahoo Sports)

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 13: TJ Warren #12 of the Phoenix Suns takes a shot against the Houston Rockets on October 13, 2014 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

PHOENIX (AP) — Phoenix Suns rookie forward T.J. Warren has a small crack in a bone in his left thumb.


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Phoenix Suns Must Walk Fine Line Between Endless Fun and NBA Mediocrity

Don’t mistake the Phoenix Suns‘ emphasis on pace and points for signs that the franchise values entertainment over sustainable success.

Because while it may look like Jeff Hornacek‘s pack of desert roadrunners (do those things travel in packs? Let’s pretend they do) are prioritizing a flashy style over the grittier elements required for NBA dominance, the truth is these Suns are working through the final stages of their evolution.

They’re just having fun until they can get down to business.

 

Danger in the Desert?

Worries that Phoenix is focusing on the wrong things aren’t without foundation. The danger is easy to spot, and the path to postseason success is littered with teams that thought they could simply outrun everyone else to get there.

Carmelo Anthony’s Denver Nuggets, led for years by notorious pacemeister George Karl, emphasized a run-and-gun attack in a decade-long period of consistent postseason visits. They went out in the first round nine times between 2003-04 and 2012-13.

But hey, they were fun to watch, weren’t they?

Somewhere in the book of old-timey basketball truisms, there’s an entire chapter devoted to the principle that undersized, fast-paced teams can’t win big. And in a rare collision of anecdotal wisdom and statistical proof, we know that to be true.

When I broke down over 1,000 team seasons over the past 35 years, among the most startling conclusions was this: “No team in the last 35 seasons has won a ring while playing more than three percent faster than the league average during the year.”

Speed kills…title chances.

Are the Suns—fresh off a summer that saw an already guard-heavy attack get guard-heavier by adding Isaiah Thomas—in danger of playing too small and too fast to succeed? Are they doubling down on the wrong things after finishing with the league’s eighth-fastest pace a year ago, per NBA.com?

 

Madness, Meet Method

Nope.

What the Suns are doing isn’t a gimmick. It’s not a misguided conflation of fun and function. The NBA as a whole is speeding up. The threes are flying with increasing frequency, and there’s no sign of things changing in the coming years.

Phoenix may not be ahead of the curve in terms of the NBA’s stylistic trends, but its hitting the throttle at the turn’s apex, barreling into the upcoming straightaway. The Suns see the direction the NBA is headed, and they’re making sure to keep up.

Most critically, speed and excitement aren’t the only things that define the Suns.

They finished 13th in defensive efficiency last season, per NBA.com, ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks, both of whom made the playoffs. And they did so without Eric Bledsoe—one of the NBA’s most impactful perimeter stoppers—in the lineup for nearly half the season.

This is not a team content to simply trade buckets. Defense actually matters to Phoenix.

“We will push these guys to play defense,” Hornacek said, per Dave King of Bright Side of the Sun. “The old Phoenix Suns, that’s always the talk with ‘no defense’ but we’ll emphasize defense. I think the guys are going to have to scrap and play hard.”

The Suns, as presently composed, may never become a conventional defensive powerhouse. But they got to the line 2,004 times last year, which ranked in the league’s top 10, per NBA.com. And if you’re drawing fouls, it means you’re getting a chance to set up your defense.

Not only that, but Phoenix’s league-high 1,533 fast-break points were a direct result of its 688 steals, a figure that ranked seventh in the NBA.

There are lots of ways to play defense; the Suns have just embraced the ones that take advantage of their personnel’s strengths. And while it’s fair to be skeptical about unconventional defensive methods like the Suns’, it’s important to note they may change for the better in the future.

 

Flexibility

These Suns are not at the end stage of their evolution.

Eric Bledsoe is locked in to a five-year, $70 million deal that could look like a bargain when the salary cap jumps to almost $100 million in two years. Thomas’ four-year, $27 million contract is a major steal—one made more larcenous by the fact that its annual value declines every year going forward, per Spotrac.com.

The Suns have only $53.5 million in salary commitments this season, per Hoopshype.com, and just $44.6 million earmarked for 2015-16.

This is a team with the cash to make a major move even after paying handsomely to retain Goran Dragic this coming summer.

Plus, there are young talents on the roster who haven’t done anything yet but might still someday feature as key rotation pieces. Alex Len was a lottery pick brought low by injuries as a rookie. T.J. Warren, Tyler Ennis and Archie Goodwin may yet develop.

Even Miles Plumlee, already a starter, could continue to improve.

Between the financial flexibility and potential for growth from within, the Suns are an unfinished product—albeit already a darn good one.

After inking Dragic to an extension in 2015 (an absolute must), Phoenix will have to choose its next move carefully. The unpredictable cap rise will constrain or increase its options, but the next major free-agent acquisition will be vital.

Perhaps the Suns will make a run at DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol or LaMarcus Aldridge—all unrestricted free agents and the kinds of players who could vault the Suns to the next level. Whatever it chooses, Phoenix must get its next move right.

Because the next big expenditure will hem it in financially.

 

Oh, The Irony

Team Breakneck Speed is showing patience. The squad that’s best at hurrying up is also adept at waiting.

The Suns haven’t overspent. They’ve built things carefully, leaving options and avoiding a headlong dive into contractual commitments before the team’s window for real contention opens.

That’s hard to do. Restraint like that is rare in the NBA, and it feels especially impressive because the Suns are so characterized by their aggressive, sometimes reckless offensive style.

Maybe it’s not so surprising, though. Maybe Phoenix is on to something.

After all, walking the tightrope between entertainment and sustainable success can be scary. And it’s probably best not to look down.

Maybe that’s why the Suns are sprinting.

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Griffin and Paul lead Clippers over Suns 108-105 (Yahoo Sports)

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 22: The Los Angeles Clippers huddle during a game against the Phoenix Suns on October 22, 2014 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles Clippers new owner Steve Ballmer attended his first home game Wednesday night at Staples Center and the Clippers broke out of their preseason funk with a 108-105 victory over Phoenix on Wednesday night.


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Clippers vs. Suns: Live Score and Highlights from 2014 NBA Preseason

The Suns led the Clippers 61-58 at the half.

 

Stay tuned to Bleacher Report for live updates and analysis throughout.

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Spurs’ Popovich jabs Suns owner Sarver (Yahoo Sports)

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 11: Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs talks to the media following the game as part of the NBA Global Games on October 11, 2014 at the Ulker Sports Arena in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich dismissed Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver’s critical comments as silly and said they should have been made while wearing a ”chicken suit.”


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Suns owner apologizes after Spurs stars skip game

It was a class act.

      
 

 

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Popovich Replies to Suns Owner’s Criticism of Spurs with ‘Chicken Suit’ Retort

SAN ANTONIO—Saturday wasn’t the best night to test Gregg Popovich. 

And Phoenix Suns majority owner Robert Sarver, thousands of miles away, bore the brunt of it. 

The Spurs coach, looking weary after the Spurs’ lengthy European trip, admitted he wasn’t in the mood for much conversation prior to Saturday’s preseason game against the Miami Heat. Then reporters asked for his response to what Sarver did Thursday night—apologizing to Suns fans that so few headline players participated in Phoenix’s 121-90 win against visiting San Antonio.

“Hey everybody,” Sarver told the crowd, with about three minutes left. “I want to thank you for coming out tonight. This is not the game you paid your hard-earned money to watch. I apologize for it, and I want you to send me your tickets if you came tonight with a return envelop, and I got a gift for you on behalf of the Suns for showing up tonight. Thank you.”

Popovich also skipped the game—letting assistant and longtime Euroleague coach Ettore Messina take over for a night. On Saturday, he didn’t seem to know many, if any, details. 

“Was that directed at us or something?” Popovich asked a reporter. “Is that the point you’re trying to make? So you’d love for me to respond so you can have something to write, and all that kind of thing?”

He paused, and proceeded. 

“As I said, the silliness begins,” Popovich said. “And I think wise individuals would check facts before they made statements. Unless you’re interested in putting on a show. In that case, the facts get in your way, as in this case. We had five guys we didn’t send. Patty Mills had a shoulder operation over the summer. Tiago Splitter has been out the whole preseason with a calf (injury). Kawhi Leonard was out and is still out for 10 more days. The other two, (Tim) Duncan and (Manu) Ginobili, are two of the oldest guys in the league who just came back from a 13-day European trip. The only thing that surprises me is that he didn’t say it in a chicken suit. I’ll just leave it at that.”

Ah, but we can’t. 

Not when there’s context behind that. 

Popovich, after all, didn’t just pluck the poultry reference out of thin air. 

During the 2004-05 regular season, Popovich sat Duncan and Ginobili against Phoenix, causing Sarver to flap his arms like, yes, a chicken, prior to apologizing. 

Of course, Popovich is unapologetic about his practices, even after the league fined him $250,000 for sending Duncan, Ginobili, Green and Tony Parker home before a national television game in 2012 in Miami. 

And Saturday, he sat Parker against visiting Miami. The Heat—on a second night of a preseason back-to-back—weren’t complaining. They rested four healthy contributors: Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Chris Andersen and Luol Deng

 

Ethan Skolnick covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter,@EthanJSkolnick.

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Popovich has great response for Suns owner

Jason Whitney There are a few people in the NBA that you will never win a beef with and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is one of them. Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver made a statement to his fans in regards to Popovich sitting several players including Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili during a preseason game […] Sports-Kings – The Kings of Sports Lists – Sports bloggers that cover the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, fantasy sports, college sports and much more. From funny videos to pictures we have it all

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Suns owner apologizes to fans for starless Spurs

Fans who attended Thursday’s preseason game between the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs didn’t exactly witness the best basketball, and Suns owner Robert Sarver wasn’t happy about that fact. During a timeout late in the fourth quarter at the US Airways Center, Sarver suddenly commandeered the PA announcer’s microphone and apologized to the fans for paying to see a poor version of the 2014 NBA champions. The Spurs showed up for the game without head coach Gregg Popovich and several of their star players. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili remained in San Antonio to take a couple of days off while Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, and Tiago Splitter were out for health reasons. Sarver told fans that the Suns would send each fan gifts if they mailed the team their proof of attendance. According to AZCentral.com, the gifts include a $50 credit toward merchandise or food at the arena for those who sat in the lower bowl, and $25 for those in the upper bowl. Sarver said he understood that fans were unsatisf

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Suns beat short-handed Spurs 121-90

Goran Dragic scores 20 points, Suns beat short-handed Spurs 121-90

      
 

 

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