The term made famous by former baseball player Mark Grace was "slump buster". What Grace was talking about doesn't technically apply to the Phoenix Suns but there's also a direct correlation between his phrase and what the Suns are hoping to do again today when they "hook up" with the Sacramento Kings.
The four-game losing slump was officially busted on New Year's Eve thanks to a defensive performance that was full of verve and vigor and in true slump busting fashion took it's aggression out on an otherwise unfortunate partner. The Pistons on most days aren't a very good basketball team but on Friday they were even worse without the services of their top scorer and ball handler, Rodney Stuckey. Rip Hamilton's inability to drop the basketball and have it hit the floor helped as well.
The Kings present a similar opportunity for the Suns reinforce the busted slump and get right before coming home for some more intriguing dates with the Los Angeles Lakers (Wednesday) followed by the triumphant return of Amare Stoudemire and Mike D'Antoni who's Knicks (Friday) are four games over .500.
Sacramento sports the worst record in the league (6-24) and it took a miracle half court buzzer beating shot last week to even get their sixth win. They are a team that has some nice young pieces and a decent enough roster so it's a mystery why Suns legend Paul Westphal hasn't been able to get his team to work together.
They have suffered some setbacks, to be fair. Tyreke Evans has battled with plantar fasciitis and missed a couple of games and has seen his scoring and productivity dip after his Rookie of the Year season in 2009-10. This year's rookie stud, DeMarcus Cousins has put up decent numbers (11.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg) but has had his run-ins with the coaching staff and demonstrated the "character issue" chatter that surrounded him prior to the draft. In short, it is a talented but very young and immature team and in the NBA that's not a recipe for success.
The Kings are 28th in the league in offensive efficiency and 20th in defensive rating. The Suns should have no problem scoring on the Kings and the new and improved defense should, on paper, be able to hold the Kings to below their season average 94.4 points per game. That's the goal.
The Suns will come into the game with no injury issues and will likely start their small lineup they used effectively against the Pistons on Friday. That means Mikael Pietrus starts along with Vince Carter, Robin Lopez, Grant Hill and Steve Nash. With the Kings likely starting 7-foot Cousins and 6-11 Jason Thompson in the front court, this small lineup could prove problematic.
If Gentry is committed to keeping Frye on the bench where he helps stretch the floor for Goran Dragic and gives the bench some punch that it needs, we might see our first look at the Suns "jumbo package" of Lopez and Marcin Gortat playing together.
The front court rotation will likely continue to be a mystery and bit of an issue with the team only having one power forward who can spread the floor (Frye). The Suns offense has yet to prove it can be effective using a big lineup that has two inside players on the court at the same time. How Coach Alvin Gentry deals with this issue is one of the bigger questions facing the Suns right now.
The game tips off at 7 p.m. local time and will be broadcast in the home market on My45 TV and Sports 620 radio. Fans can follow along with the live game thread at Bright Side of the Sun.