NBA Rundown Week 3: Phoenix Suns emerge as league's biggest surprise so far; LA Lakers are most hated franchise
Bits and bobs from the week gone by in the NBA
The Phoenix Suns had a 19-63 record last season. The franchise has not recorded 25 wins in the last four seasons.
The Los Angeles Lakers emerged as the most hated franchise in the league this season, according to a Twitter poll.
The spotlight was back on the phrase load management after LA Clippers star Kawhi Leonard sat out tie against Bucks.
There were a multitude of reasons why the Phoenix Suns were probably on no one’s short list for pre-season Playoffs contenders. The Western Conference is stacked with superstars. The Suns are… well… not!
The franchise had a 19-63 record last season — the franchise’s second-worst record of all time. The Suns have not recorded 25 wins in the last four seasons.
Then right at the start of this season, they lost last season’s No 1 Draft pick Deandre Ayton for 25 games due to a violation of the league’s anti-doping policy.
On top of that, they had a new coach in Monty Williams after Igor Kokoskov was sacked one season in!
But nine games into the 2019-20 season, the Suns, flaunting a 6-3 record, have looked nothing like the Suns we have come to expect.
Call them what you will. The feel-good story of the season. The sleeper team of this season. The surprise package. They’ve beaten pre-season favourites like the Los Angeles Clippers, the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and even last year’s NBA Finalists, Golden State Warriors who, to be fair, were a shadow of their past-season selves. Two of their three defeats — to Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz — are by one-point margins.
This leads us to the question: are the 2019-20 Suns the real deal?
You only need to look at the stats from the game against Nets on Sunday to get an inkling of what the answer to that is.
The Phoenix franchise had a season-high 37 assists — an indicator that the team were more than comfortable sharing the ball.
“We're willing to share the ball. You see that with 37 assists,” Suns centre Aron Baynes, who has more than stepped into Ayton’s shoes, said.
The franchise also had just a paltry seven turnovers in the Nets game — a season-low — and racked up 32 points off 17 Brooklyn turnovers.
“We came out connecting on all cylinders. We moved it around, it doesn't matter who scores as long as everybody touches it. Nights like these, it’s scary,” Kelly Oubre Jr said in the aftermath of the victory over Brooklyn Nets.
Sunday’s five starters all racked up scores in double figures, and were responsible for 93 of the franchise’s points on the night. Of those, Ricky Rubio and Devin Booker combined for 49 points and 21 assists, underlining their growing stature in the team.
Of course, sceptics will point that the Suns’ season is barely 10 games old, with over 70 more clashes to come.
But given the evidence the Suns have given in this fledgeling season against pedigreed teams like Warriors, Clippers, Sixers, Nets and Jazz, it’s tempting to repeat Oubre’s words: “Nights like these, it’s scary.”
Durant, who played every minute of the contest, also had 17 rebounds and 10 assists as the Nets seized a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Firstpost Explains: How stints with US colleges, high schools help Indians edge closer to professional basketball
Earlier this month, Lalhnehpuia Chhakchhuak became the sixth NBA Academy India graduate to commit to playing high school/prep school/collegiate level basketball in the US. But just how do these stints help Indian players, looking to make it to the NBA or its developmental league, the G League? Firstpost explains:
NBA Playoffs: Paul George powers Clippers to win over Suns in third game of Western Conference finals
It was a crucial victory for the Clippers as no team in NBA history has ever won a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games.