The Phoenix Suns were never expected to resolve into a good team this year, but they at least seemed ready to play some fun, occasionally winning basketball. Devin Booker was all set to continue his ascent and become one of the best pure scorers in the league, Trevor Ariza was there to provide some steady veteran play, and Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges had arrived to provide some exciting glimpses of the future. Instead, all the Suns have managed to do is go out every night and leave a big turd on the floor.
Phoenix is 4-21 after last night’s 108-86 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. This came two days after a 122-105 loss to the Sacramento Kings, a game in which the Suns managed to piss their way through a nine-point opening quarter. How did they go about bouncing back from that display? By once again scoring just nine points in the opening quarter against the Blazers.
The Suns were without Booker and T.J. Warren in both of these games, but getting the score to double digits before the end of the first quarter shouldn’t have been too much to ask of their replacements. That sort of back-to-back humiliation can lead to all sorts of tension within the team, and the Suns couldn’t even be bothered to hide their dysfunction last night. First-year head coach Igor Kokoskov tried to impart some wisdom on Bridges at the conclusion of the third quarter, but Bridges wanted nothing to do with it:
According to USA Today, the Suns needed a “10-minute cooling off period” in the locker room after the game, but when reporters entered they caught the tail end of a heated confrontation between Booker and Ayton. The rookie big man didn’t start this game because he, no joke, was feeling sick from not having eaten enough. He did, however, enter the game just three minutes after the tip-off and ended up playing 27 minutes, because Kokoskov does not appear to have a very good handle on his team. From USA Today:
Then, he started Holmes instead of rookie Ayton as the No. 1 overall pick said he was feeling sick to his stomach Wednesday night.
“It’s me not eating,” Ayton said. “Sometimes after practices, I don’t eat. Trying to play on a hungry stomach, it kind of gets me and it got me after (Wednesday’s) practice.”
Holmes said he found out he was he starting at Thursday’s shootaround, but Kokoskov said he was going with the same starting lineup as last game that included Ayton, but wound up starting Holmes.
Three minutes into the game, Kokoskov inserted Ayton to replace Holmes.
“My decision was not to even play him at all, but he insisted on playing the game,” Kokoskov said. “… I was surprised he played this game.”
The Suns have a whole lot to figure out before they can start considering themselves a functional basketball team again—they are currently 28th in offensive rating and 27th in defensive rating, according to Basketball Reference—but the first step forward seems easy enough: Deandre Ayton should definitely start eating.