What a weekend for the Phoenix Suns!
Steve Nash lost all feeling in his limbs -- momentarily -- after a collision in the opening minutes of Friday night's game with the Mavericks in Dallas. Then, the next day, a monster trade with Orlando was announced, which sent the Suns most prolific scorer, Jason Richardson, and two others to the Magic for a gigantic Polish center, an aging superstar, and a streaky wingman.
With Nash's getting medical attention for what turned out to be a "stinger" for the rest of the game, the Suns were outgunned by Dirk Nowitzki and the talented Mavs 106-91.
Turned out Nash was fine, at least fine enough to score 20 points and dish out 10 assists in Sunday night's 113-110 nail-biter against the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
It was a great win for the Suns, who played sans Richardson and forward Hedo Turkoglu, dealt to Orlando along with seldom-used forward Earl Clark. Only, the guys the Suns got in exchange, Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter, and Mickael Pietrus, hadn't caught up with their new team, and Phoenix had to play Kevin Durant and the 19-9 Thunder extremely shorhanded.
On this night in the one-time Dust Bowl, it didn't matter. The Suns took it to the Thunder, leading by as many as 11 points. But by the end of the third quarter, Oklahoma City, on the back of the phenomenal Durant, who had 28 points in the game, led 85-82.
The Thunder outscored the Suns 40-28 in the third, but Phoenix wasn't done. The Suns outscored Oklahoma City 31-25 in he final period to get out of town with the victory.
Thirty-eight-year-old Grant Hill was the high scorer in the game with 30 points. He also grabbed 11 rebounds, and had the daunting task of guarding the most dazzling scorer in the NBA, Durant.
Center Robin Lopez, who recently returned from a knee injury, also had a big night, with 19 points.
The Suns will be without their new hires for their next game, too, against the rival Spurs in San Antonio. (Tip-off is 6:30 tonight. TV: My45.) And they will have a tough time without a complete roster against the 23-3 Spurs, whose big three, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker, have them leading the Western Conference.
Gortat, Carter, and Pietrus won't be in Suns uniforms until Thursday, when Phoenix hosts the 21-8 Miami Heat, who feature their own big three in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. After a disappointing start, the Heat have mowed down their last 12 opponents. (Tip-off's at 8:30 p.m. at US Airways Center. TV: TNT.)
It will be interesting to see how the trade works out for the Suns. But it won't be any worse than the earlier one for Turkoglu, who hardly was up to filling the power-forward shoes of Amar'e Stoudemire, now talked about as a league MVP candidate for his scoring romp with the New York Knicks. He has made the Kincks a contender for a playoff spot in the East. The Suns were happy to get rid of Turkoglu, an expensive cog that only made their fast-paced machine sputter, and Orlando, apparently, was happy to get him back. The Turk had his best years with Dwight Howard and the Magic, before getting traded to Toronto and then Phoenix.
NBA insiders believe Gortat is better than the backup center he's been to Howard in Orlando. As a starter, they believe he will surpass his average this season of four points and five repounds in 16 minutes.
Whether he will start for the Suns, though, is an open question, since Lopez has been playing well since his return. But Gortat will play much more than he did for the Magic, and he can teach Lopez what it takes to be a tough-as-nails defender in he middle.
As for Carter, an eight-time NBA All-Star who turns 34 in January, may be here for just the remainder of this season, since the Suns only bought out the last months of his contract. Whether they will want to negotiate a new deal with him will depend on how he plays. He's averaged 15 points this season for the Magic, down from his career average of 23 points per game. He will replace Richardson as starting shooting guard.
We've got to give the 13-13 Suns credit for not standing still with their roster. They had to do something, and maybe this latest combination will at least get them into the playoffs.
For more information, on the trades and on the upcoming games with San Antonio and Miami, go to www.suns.com.
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