Suns rout Lakers 119-99 despite Kobe’s 31 points (Yahoo Sports)

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 29: Goran Dragic #1 of the Phoenix Suns shoots against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 29, 2014 at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

The shots were falling from all over the court for the Phoenix Suns in their home opener Wednesday night. Kobe Bryant was a one-man show for the Los Angeles Lakers. The result was a 119-99 Suns blowout. Isaiah Thomas scored 23 points in his Phoenix debut, Marcus Morris matched his career high with five 3-pointers and the Suns dominated the night despite Bryant’s 31 points.


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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns: Live Score, Highlights and Reaction

The Los Angeles Lakers will look to bounce back from an ugly opening-night loss when they travel to US Airways Center to take on the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night.

The Lakers were not only hammered by the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, but they also lost Julius Randle for the season after the rookie forward broke his leg, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

The Suns are looking to build upon a strong 2013-14 campaign which saw them win 48 games and finish one game out of the playoffs. Phoenix was expected to be one of the worst teams in the league, but it proved to be a pleasant surprise behind impressive backcourt play and solid depth.

The Suns are also aiming for their seventh straight home win over Los Angeles, a feat they haven’t accomplished since 1994.

Catch the action at 10 p.m. ET on either TWC Sportsnet or Fox Sports Arizona.

Be sure to keep it right here as Bleacher Report provides you with live coverage throughout the game.

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Suns waive center Earl Barron (Yahoo Sports)

PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix Suns waived center Earl Barron on Saturday.

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Phoenix Suns vs. Utah Jazz 10/24/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Phoenix Suns looked to continue their strong preseason with a victory on Friday night over the Utah Jazz. The Suns were one of the most surprising teams in the NBA last season but faced a tough test from a talented young Jazz squad.

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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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