Can Frye And Nash Lead Phoenix Suns To Playoffs?
By Bob Goodwood
Special For Modern Times Magazine
March 22, 2011 — Five months have passed since the NBA season tipped off for the Phoenix Suns Oct. 26 and the season has truly been a wild ride.
The current roster has only Steve Nash, Robin Lopez, Jared Dudley, Grant Hill and Channing Frye as holdovers from last year’s Western Conference finals squad. The season has been a constant attempt to find a winning lineup. During the preseason, everyone was concerned about how the floor would remain spaced without a real presence in the middle thanks to the departure of Amare Stoudemire. The early attempt was virtually a waste when Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark were traded to the Orlando magic for Mickael Pietrus, Vince Carter and Marcin Gortat.
Then, the second transformation was under way. The new low post weapon, rebounder and space eater — Gortat — had to be integrated. Yes, Carter also had to be worked in, but he is so inconsistent, it seems hard to game plan or think any approach will solve Vinsanity.
In early March, it looked like the team had finally put it all together. Between Jan. 28 and March 4, the team had gone 12-4 with some quality wins thrown in. Perhaps the biggest reason besides the emergence of Gortat was the growth of Channing Frye. The former Arizona Wildcat had become more of a complete player in his second year with his home-town team, and finally started playing like a ‘big man.’
By March 4 and at the end of a long road trip which would ultimately end in Oklahoma City, they were on a roll. Grant Hill even speculated that with a win against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and crew, the Suns would have completed a “special” road trip.
Then, disaster struck.
Against Oklahoma City, Durant came down hard on Frye’s arms as he went up for a baseline jumper. The diagnosis: a dislocated shoulder and two weeks in street clothes.
Then, Nash started aching and stiffening. He missed two games.
So with 14 games to play, the Phoenix Suns are sitting just out out of the playoffs. Do they have a chance?
Yes, but that must come along with several “ifs.”
The biggest two “ifs” are simple: The Phoenix Suns will make the playoffs IF no one else gets injured and IF they get some help.
Everyone knows crucial injuries down the stretch can sabotage any team down the stretch, but it is even more important for this Suns team that is so dependent on a few players.
The most important one for the Suns as the 2010-2011 conclude is getting some help becasue they are going to need it. After the losses to Houston and New Orleans last week — two games they needed and should have won, even while playing without Nash and Frye — there is no longer any margin for error.
The schedule does them no favors. The two teams directly ahead of them, Houston and Memphis each have fewer games to play and better matchups. The Suns have 14 more games to play, seven at home and seven on the road. Nine of their opponents are playoff teams.
The Houston Rockets have 11 games left, five on the road. Five of their opponents are playoff teams.
The Memphis Grizzlies have 12 games left, five on the road with six games against playoff teams.
Even worse, the Suns will have to go back-to-back four times in the last 14 games. A slight bit of hope is that there are no juggernauts in the list of the teams in the second part of the back-to-back — Toronto, Oklahoma City, and Minnesota twice.
Undoubtedly, the season will come down to the last road trip of the season from April 3 to 10. It will be a grueling five-city affair that will take them through San Antonio, Chicago, Minnesota, New Orleans and Dallas.
Meanwhile, Houston will be at home against Atlanta and Sacramento before going to New Orleans then back home against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Memphis will face the Clippers and Kings at home during the same span.
Some luck of the Irish would surely be nice. Anybody have Pat Garrity’s number?
Memphis Grizzlies Remaining Schedule
March 21 Utah
March 23 at Boston
March 25 at Chicago
March 27 San Antonio
March 30 Golden State
April 1 at New Orleans
April 2 Minnesota
April 5 Los Angeles Clippers
April 8 Sacramento
April 10 New Orleans
April 12 at Portland
April 13 at Los Angeles Clippers
Phoenix Suns Remaining Schedule
March 22 at Los Angeles Lakers
March 23 Toronto
March 25 New Orleans
March 27 Dallas
March 29 at Sacramento
March 30 Oklahoma City
April 1 Los Angeles Clippers
April 3 at San Antonio
April 5 at Chicago
April 6 at Minnesota
April 8 at New Orleans
April 10 at Dallas
April 11 Minnesota
April 13 San Antonio
Houston Rockets Remaining Schedule
March 23 Golden State
March 27 at Miami
March 29 at New Jersey
March 30 at Philadelphia
April 1 San Antonio
April 3 Atlanta
April 5 Sacramento
April 6 at New Orleans
April 9 Los Angeles Clippers
April 11 Dallas
April 13 at Minnesota