Along with Boris Diaw and Brian Skinner, DJ Strawberry’s extended minutes have helped the Suns to the top of the Western Conference standings. (NBAE Photos)
With 30 wins, we’re on pace to win 58, which is about our average over the past three seasons. The difference this year, though, is that the wins aren’t coming as easily. The West has really improved, with teams like Portland, Golden State and New Orleans making dramatic strides forward. In fact, the way the season has unfolded, it appears that there are ten very strong teams in our conference, which means two teams will be left out of the playoffs altogether. There isn’t much wiggle room, that’s for sure. I’m really proud of the fact that our team has plowed ahead in difficult circumstances and put itself at the top of the conference.
I’m particularly happy with our team’s recent progress, especially given that Grant Hill missed 7 games following his appendectomy a couple of weeks ago.. In a strange way, though, Grant’s absence may have helped us grow stronger as a team. We were forced to go deeper into our rotation, with Brian Skinner, DJ Strawberry and Boris Diaw all given more responsibility and playing time. Boris has played better than he has all season during that span, and Brian’s shot blocking continues to give us a boost defensively. DJ has seen significant minutes the last two games, and his defensive intensity and energy have been important. He did a great job on Vince Carter in the New Jersey game, giving us the kind of size and toughness Raja Bell provides. Now that Grant is back, DJ will return to the bench, but it was great for us to see him perform the way he did when he got his chance. We believe DJ has a bright future, and that our depth has improved because we know he can do the job when called upon.
The rest of our schedule is going to be difficult, even with much of our road slate behind us. We’re going to be facing a lot of Western playoff teams coming up, and with the Lakers much improved, our main goal is to win the Pacific Division and get a top 3 seed in the West. We’re going to have to play consistently well the rest of the season to make that happen.
As always, thanks so much for your support. Go Suns!
One more thing…I’ll be answering fan e-mail again in my next blog so send me your questions and check back soon.