Blazing The Trail Back To Tankland
Phoenix’s loss to the Trail Blazers Wednesday night was a tough pill to swallow. The Suns were in charge for the majority of an offensively sloppy game and were one stop away from going 2-0 against a very good Portland team. The team’s fourth quarter momentum flickered on and off for a bit after Goran Dragic collided with Mo Williams going for a loose ball and had to be taken to the locker room to get stitches for the gash in his head.
— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) November 14, 2013
The Suns and Blazers traded buckets for the lead in the game’s final minutes, with Eric Bledsoe being assertive on offense and finding his target, Miles Plumlee, out of the pick and roll to give Phoenix a one-point lead with 51 seconds to play. Phoenix got a stop and had a chance to extend the lead, but Bledsoe missed a contested layup and Portland got the ball back with 11 seconds left.
From there, the Suns’ defense completely broke down. A simple pick and roll with Damian Lillard and Aldridge gave Lillard a WIDE OPEN drive to the basket when Channing Frye failed to hedge the screen. Even worse, neither P.J. Tucker nor Gerald Green left their man to cut the ball handler off and Lillard’s layup went completely uncontested. It was actually so pathetic that it gave the Suns another opportunity to win since the breakdown only took five seconds.
Unfortunately, the Suns pulled a Kevin Love and missed three easy shots before time expired, allowing the Blazers escaped with the win. On a crazy possession, Bledsoe missed a shot at the rim, Tucker’s desperation tip didn’t fall and Markieff Morris‘ tip-in attempt couldn’t edge its way over the rim. Bledsoe and Morris both got looks they’d make about eight out of 10 times, but they just wouldn’t fall.
The same went for the Suns’ followup heartbreaking loss to the Deron Williams-less Brooklyn Nets last night. Joe Johnson hit a clutch shot at the buzzer after Channing Frye bricked a 3 at the end of overtime, sending the Suns home disappointed at the buzzer for the second game in a row. Still, as a fan, it’s hard to cheer against your own team and the incredible effort Phoenix has put forth this season is admirable. Even though the wins (and playoffs) aren’t coming, the effort and progress this team has made this season is astounding.
The dramatic finishes made for a tough losses, especially since Phoenix continued its trend of overachieving and competing with another playoff squads. But in a way, Portland helped Phoenix blaze the trail back to where the Suns ultimately need to be: Tank City. The surprising start behind Bledsoe, Plumlee and an improved Markieff Morris has made the Suns one of the more exciting teams to watch, but let’s not forget the ultimate goal is still the 2014 NBA Draft. Even though thinking about Bledsoe’s ceiling and Dragic playing for his son makes it really hard to cheer against them.
Dragic told Hornacek he “wanted to play for his son.” Shedding blood with the effort. Kinda cool story to tell when he’s old enough. #Suns
— Matt Petersen (@TheMattPetersen) November 14, 2013
Goran Dragic, Father of Dragons
Speaking of the Dragon, Goran Dragic became a father Tuesday when his wife Maja gave birth to Mateo. As someone who’s heard Dragic talk fondly about his wife in person before, this was happy news that also helped explain his competitive fire against Portland. Dragic hit huge back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep the Blazers at bay before the collision removed him from the game.
Against the Nets, he was even more spectacular. With basically one eye open, Dragic put up 19 points and 10 assists in the losing effort. There was a stretch in the fourth quarter where the Dragon was basically willing the Suns to stay in the game. Dragic’s effort personifies the spirit of this Suns team. This team should be terrible, but they’ve been resilient beyond expectation. Phoenix didn’t get either win, but at least we still have this:
Exclusive photo of Goran Dragic’s wife and their newborn son, Mateo (aka Baby Dragon): pic.twitter.com/5RhA2RX6e7
— Sreekar (@sreekyshooter) November 12, 2013
Putting Down The Plumdog
On to a
more less serious topic: nicknames for certain Phoenix Suns players. We already know Goran Dragic is the Dragon, which works on so many different levels. Dragic is close to “dragon,” dragons breathe fire, Dragic plays for the Suns, etc, etc. Up until now, Dragic has pretty much been the only player worthy of a nickname, especially following the Marcin Gortat trade. But with a slew of young and exciting talent in the Valley of the Sun now, we should probably establish some nicknames for the new recruits.
Miles Plumlee’s stellar and unique style of play so far this season is deserving of a nickname, but “Plumdog” isn’t it. The Suns’ stellar announcing crew stumbled a bit when they landed on that nickname and it’s time for “Plumdog” to go the way of Old Yeller and be put down. There’s just no way to make it better. Even changing it to “Plumdog Millionaire” wouldn’t make sense since Plumlee isn’t a millionaire yet. And, you know, he’s white.
I propose we go with either “Miles Above The Rim” (my idea) or “Frequent Flyer Miles” (credit due to Bright Side of the Sun). They both sound a lot cooler and emphasize his surprising above-the-rim athleticism. I honestly don’t care which one you use. Just pick one, tell your friends and tweet it as much as possible so that some day soon “Plumdog” will be a thing of the past.
The rest of the team is a little easier. Gerald Green quickly became G-Air-ld Green. Markieff and Marcus Morris can be referred to as the Morris twins or Mark 1 and Marc 2 (my idea again). But what about Eric Bledsoe, who will undoubtedly be the most important player on the team this season? His name isn’t easy to manipulate and I’m not a huge fan of “Mini-LeBron” or “Baby LeBron.” I’ve heard some people suggest something along the lines of The Bulldog, The Closer or Mr. Fourth Quarter, but the only one that doesn’t feel a tad presumptuous is The Bulldog and that’s too simple. I’m open to suggestions here, people.