Woeful Suns begin second half at Cavs
Two of the league's worst teams kick off the second half of the season on Thursday when the Phoenix Suns travel to the banks of Lake Erie to play Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Suns have lost 15 straight. Their last win came on Jan. 12 against the Denver Nuggets. The Cavs have been a little better, going 3-11 in their last 14 and 4-23 in their last 27.
NBA All-Star Weekend provided both teams a much-needed break. Suns coach Igor Kokosov described it as "an escape."
"We're all going to get to escape from each other," Kokoskov told the Arizona Republic after the Suns lost to the Los Angeles Clippers before the break. "I think we all need that escape emotionally from losing games, but we are who we are as a group. We belong here and if we want to change something, we have to do it as a group. Starting from each individual, understanding that we need to change."
At 11-48, Phoenix needs change pretty quickly to avoid the franchise's all-time worst season. With 23 games remaining, Phoenix needs to win six times to avoid that low mark of 16-66 set in the franchise's first season (1968-69). The Suns must win 10 games just to match last year's 21-61 mark.
The season has been just as disappointing for Cleveland.
The Cavaliers had faith they'd be competitive in the first year of the (latest) post-LeBron James era. Those aspirations were doomed after Kevin Love was injured.
"We had such high hopes for the beginning of the year," Love recently told the Cleveland Plain Dealer when discussing the October injury that sidelined him for 50 straight games.
Other key Cavs like Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance Jr., David Nwaba and Cedi Osman have missed extended time.
Both teams will use the final two months of the season to assess some good, young talent.
Phoenix has two solid building blocks in Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker. Along with complementary players like T.J. Warren and Kelly Oubre Jr., the Suns just need to stay healthy and get some experience.
In 44 games this season, the 22-year-old Booker leads the team in scoring (24.6 points per game) and assists (6.7).
"We don't deserve an All-Star break," Booker said. "We need to work on our game."
Ayton, the first overall pick in the 2018 draft, has played in 53 games and is averaging 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Ayton is just 20 years old.
Warren is averaging 18 points per game, but also has been injured. Oubre, who was acquired in December in a trade with Washington, is averaging 14.1 points per game this season, including 15.4 in 28 games with the Suns.
Cleveland's youth movement has been forced on coach Larry Drew. A flurry of trades involving four veterans left the Cavs with a just-turned 20-year-old rookie point guard running the show.
Collin Sexton has had his ups and downs, but he is averaging 15.1 points, 2.9 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Jordan Clarkson has been one constant for Cleveland, leading the Cavs in scoring at 17.2 points per game off the bench.
One of the new Cavs acquired, along with a plethora of draft picks in those trades, is 22-year-old Marquese Chriss. Chriss (6-foot-10, 240 pounds) has made a good impression on his coach and teammates in just the few games he has played in Cleveland.
"He's a terrific athlete," Drew said. "With a body that size, he really plays above the rim and he's comfortable stepping out and shooting it at the three."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 21, 2019