“Pretty embarrassing, point blank.”
P.J. Tucker kept it short and simple as the Phoenix Suns became the Philadelphia 76ers’ second win of the season Saturday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns fell 111-104 to the team that had previously been 1-30.
“Yeah, obviously it’s probably a low point for us.” said head coach Jeff Hornacek. “We started off decently, but we got things here or there where we blew a couple games, had some leads in some games and then this last stretch I think we lost a little bit of confidence.”
Phoenix has dropped four in a row, three of them at home to teams with a losing record and another on the road to someone they were in a hypothetical battle for the eighth and final seed in the West.
The Suns are still mathematically close to that dream of ending a five-year playoff drought, sitting only two games behind the Utah Jazz, but it seems much farther away than that.
“We’re not doing the things we set out to do early,” said Tucker. “Not continuously holding each other accountable doing the things we’re supposed to do better each and every game. Something better change quick, it could get really ugly, really fast.”
And that’s no exaggeration. Next up on the Suns schedule is the Cavaliers at home on Monday, the Spurs on the road on Wednesday and the Thunder in Oklahoma City the following day.
This isn’t how it was supposed to be for this team. Coming into the season there was talk of being a top ten defense behind the addition of free agent center Tyson Chandler, Tucker on the wing and a guard defense led by Eric Bledsoe.
Those three leading a blitzing aggressive unit was going to turn into easy offense spearheaded by Bledsoe and Brandon Knight — the Suns big money backcourt.
Nothing has gone as planned and now Tucker, one of the few who stuck around to talk in an empty locker room, wasn’t shy about what’s going wrong.
“We get to slow starts because we’re not playing hard, point blank, period,” he explained. “We’re not getting into our assignments and doing the things we’re supposed to do. We’re not knowing our personnel and what guys like to do and what we need to stop guys from doing. We’re not laying it all out there on the line as a team, until we collectively, everybody does that, we’re gonna keep struggling.”
When things go this far off the rails the first concept that comes to mind is blame. It’s easy to point, yell and single out, but in reality there’s not one specific issue you can identify.
Mistakes in talent evaluation from the front office, the head coach not being able to get the most out of the roster, the players not accomplishing their jobs on the court — it’s a mix of everything.
In a situation like this change is inevitable. Whether that be the players coming together to figure out how to put a more successful product out on the court or it has to head down a dark path you never like to see.
If there isn’t change, blame will be handed out. The question is who will be the scapegoat.
The players all say they get along. The coach and general manager Ryan McDonough have spoke positively about all individuals on the team in recent weeks including Markieff Morris, who served the first of a two-game suspension.
It’s up to them to prove constructing the team the way they did wasn’t a mistake. They’re the ones with an ability to keep this group together, but time is running out. Blame can’t be too far away.