Right now, the Suns are about to find out if they are the team they truly believe they are.
That’s just the way it works when you’ve lost four in a row — as the Suns have now done following a 125-118 setback to Memphis on Martin Luther King Day. All four losses have come on the road, and three of them (Indiana, Atlanta, Memphis) were relatively close.
The biggest problem lately has been defense, and that comes straight from Coach Alvin Gentry. Also, in the loss to Memphis, the Suns committed 16 turnovers that resulted in 23 points. Struggling to take care of the ball and failing to make key defensive stands are sure-fire recipes for defeat, especially when you seem to have spent more time on the road than Disney On Ice.
“You can’t give up 23 points (off) turnovers,” Gentry said following the Memphis loss. “You can’t defend the turnover. That got us in trouble again, and then we have to be able to come up with stops.”
Steve Nash sounded just as perplexed.
“I’ve never been on a bad road team before, so it‘s strange for me,” he said. “I don’t know what it is.”
Now, the Suns aren’t necessarily a “bad” road team. They’ve just lost some games on the road that we figured they would win. One was in Indiana, where the Suns blew a big lead against a poor opponent. They also got blown out in New York on the first day of December.
Other than that, the majority of their road losses could be classified as not-so-terrible.
But this is what you get when you have the type of Suns team that was put together during the offseason — when GM Steve Kerr shook things up by handing Shaquille O’Neal over to Cleveland. He wanted the team to get younger, understanding that it might take a few hits before the All-Star break. He understood that this team would likely be even better in the season’s second half.
Today, the hits have just kept on coming, as the Suns have now lost 11 of 12. It should also be noted they haven’t beaten a team with a winning record since Jan. 6 vs. Houston.
But again, none of that is a reason for panic. Certainly not at this juncture.
The good news is, they now have three games at home, and all three are against teams with losing records (New Jersey, Chicago and Golden State). These are the types of games a team that is still finding its way — and a team that is still trying to mesh the younger players with veterans like Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire — needs to regroup.
This week is a chance for the Suns to take care of business, gain some much-needed confidence, and pick themselves back up. Thankfully, they are still in the thick of the playoff race, and despite the struggles the Suns remain just 3 ½ games behind Dallas for the second seed in the Western Conference.
In other words, there is still time to get back on course, and plenty of reasons to believe the Suns can do just that. After all, you know men like Nash, Stoudemire and Grant Hill believe it. They have all been in these situations before. They understand the concept of pulling together, fixing the issues that have recently plagued them, and trusting in the system.
They still believe in their coach, in each other, in the fact they can win the types of games they have been losing lately. It just takes a little adjusting, a little continued maturing from some of the young guys who are getting their first real playing time this season.
Right now, the Suns are about to find out if they are right. And this, folks, is what being a pro is all about.
Fortunately for fans everywhere, these Suns have never had a problem understanding that truth.
Sam Amico is reporter for NBA.com and a frequent contributor to Suns.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.