It’s weird to try to analyze or figure out this Phoenix Suns team, when it’s clear that they’re more interested in earning ping pong balls than competing to win at this late stage of the season.
There’s nothing wrong with that, necessarily. It’s just that when a team doesn’t field its best possible lineups or combinations featuring its best players, it makes it difficult to take the effort seriously.
Phoenix sat a perfectly healthy Goran Dragic for the second straight game on Thursday, and as a result, Sacramento improved (?) to 8-30 on the road this season with a 117-103 win over the Suns in Phoenix.
It was the second straight road victory for the Kings, who were led by DeMarcus Cousins pouring in 34 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in just 30 minutes of action.
The Suns might be in player development mode, or they might be straight up tanking. Either way, capable players like Dragic and Shannon Brown didn’t see any action while Kendall Marshall, Wes Johnson, and Diante Garrett all played meaningful minutes.
Lindsey Hunter, who took over for Alvin Gentry as head coach earlier this season, was supposed to be impressing a defensive identity on this team to close out the regular season. Instead, all we’ve seen in Phoenix since then have been random lineups with little consistency, while the Suns have given up 117 points twice in their last four games, both times to teams just two and three spots above them at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
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“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.
“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”
That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.
I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?
It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.