The Phoenix Suns kick off the 2010-11 NBA season in Portland where hordes of Trail Blazer fans await with one thing on their minds. Suns coach Alvin Gentry insists that players on both sides have forgotten about last year's playoff contest, but there's no doubt that the rabid faithful in Rip City have revenge on their minds and hate in their hearts. Not enough sun does that to people.
Greg Oden is still working his way back from one injury or another and Joel Przybilla is a few weeks away from returning, as well. The Blazer front line took another blow this preseason when former ASU Sun Devil Jeff Pendergraph was lost for the season with a torn ACL. The cold-hearted Blazers promptly waived him -- it's just business.
The Camby-Aldridge-Batum trio can give the Suns trouble on the glass, but behind them, the front line depth only consists of energy-man Dante Cunningham (6-8) and the well-traveled Fabricio Oberto (6-10). The Suns will face much worse this season.
Lopez can certainly body-up on Camby and will beat him down the floor with no problem. On the other end, however, Aldridge should have a field day being guarded by Hedo Turkoglu or Hakim Warrick. This will force the Suns into double-teams and the chemistry for crisp rotations behind the help just isn't there yet.
It is worth noting that the Suns out-rebounded this same Blazers team in the playoffs last season without Robin Lopez, so it is not impossible that a properly motivated Phoenix team plays with enough passion and energy to prevent a rebounding disaster.
Unfortunately, the Suns enter this year's campaign with more questions than answers and a noticeable gloom hanging over the team. Instead of picking up on a highly successful season that brought them just two games from a trip to the NBA Finals, we are talking about how much more time they are going to need to "figure it out."
"Work in progress," the catch phrase from the disastrous 2008-09 Terry Porter team, is back. So is Terry Porter, for that matter, but this time as a TV analyst for his former Blazers team, where he can talk about defensive slides and slow tempo to a much more willing audience.
To overcome the Suns uncertainty and unfamiliarity -- which translates to missed shots and blown defensive rotations -- the Suns will have to play with a lot of passion and desperation, something they haven't shown much of in preseason.
Making matters worse for the Suns is the lack of Josh Childress, who will likely not play due to a broken right index finger. Guarding guys like Brandon Roy is exactly how J-Chill can make a huge impact for his new team. That and his rebounding, transition scoring and occasional open layup off a dive or baseline cut.
The good news is the season is starting, the bad news is the first few weeks of Suns basketball promises to test the nerve of even the most orange-loving fan.
[Note by Seth Pollack, 10/26/10 12:36 PM MST ]
It looks like Childress is going to play tonight:
Josh Childress to make Suns' debut tonight
Forward Josh Childress will make his official Suns debut in tonight's season-opening game at Portland despite suffering a right index finger fracture a week ago.
It's hard to imagine that Josh will be nearly as effective scoring the ball with that finger all wrapped up and we can only assume that he's been assured that he can't make it worse by playing.
As Gentry said, "he's dying to play and we're dying to have him play."