Pre-Season Notebook: Schmitt, Washington, Landal, and Twitter

Happy day, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve been jotting some mental notes over the past week or so Phoenix Suns Basketball is pre-season, so there you are.

The starting lineup is trying something new

Of course, you see the bottom line, the start in two games (22 minutes in the first game, 25 minutes in the second game) was less than excellent. Each time, they logged out with a deficit in the third quarter.

But when you pull the layers down a bit, you see some logic. This is the third year of the Chris Paul-Devin Booker-Michal Bridges-Deandre Ayton quartet and the fourth year of the Booker-Bridges-Ayton-Johnson quartet. They know what they can do, and they are very good at doing it. They know they can play one of the league’s top 10 offenses and top 10 defenses, and they can do so with their eyes closed. They know their successful roles well.

So this is before the reason is experimentation. We know what Chris Paul and Devin Booker-run crime looks like. And we know Bridges, Eaton and Johnson can go ahead when Paul and/or Buck are out of the squad.

But the Suns really need to create Bridges/Johnson/Ayton for the game industry while Paul and Book are on the ground (using Book and CP as booby traps) because that’s where the offense faltered in each of the last two games. So this season, you’re seeing a lot of Bridges (and Johnson, before he got injured) starting to play, and Ayton is given the ball off the basket with a chance to play his game from 15 feet.

Beginners are not trying to win pre-season games. I doubt they’d be interested in going 0-4 in pre-season if “winning” bases some tempo on an unscripted offense that’s not CP.

Once the real games start, you will see Team Suns seem very familiar to you. Just hope with the extra wrinkle for more non-all-star game making.

Who advances without Payne?

Assuming the Suns have no interest in stinging Chris Paul in pre-season, there’s a real chance for someone to show he’s managing the team’s attack effectively without Cam Payne in the squad.

Pine hit his finger in the first minute on the ground vs Lakers Last Wednesday, the Suns would play it safe by keeping Payne out for the two remaining pre-season games.

This opens up an opportunity for guys like Landry Shamet, who was a base guard in college if you can believe it, and Duane Washington Jr. , who has a two-way contract after spending his rookie year with Pacers.

We saw both players catch the ball in that comeback against the Lakers last Wednesday. Schmitt had his best game in a long time (21 points and made 2 in 20 minutes), while Washington led the fourth-quarter charge with two passes in the final eight minutes. Not world-beating numbers, but both contributed significantly to the comeback.

Who advances without Cam Johnson?

Another Suns player who injured a finger in front of the Lakers is Cam Johnson. So the next two pre-season games give the other players more chance to earn the lead role in the reserve force.

Just to catch up with you, former Jay Crowder has started to hold off off the season in hopes of a deal with a team that will keep him in the starting lineup and/or give him a contract extension beyond next season.

Now with Crowder and Cam out of the picture, much more opportunity opens up for Torrey Craig and Dario Saric backups.

Craig started the second half in place of Johnson on Wednesday evening and scored 6 points and 7 rebounds in 15 minutes of play. Four of his rebounds have been on the offensive glass, giving the Suns a minor secondary barrier in the lineup next to Ayton or Jock Landale.

Saric played 16 minutes on Wednesday, making 12 points and 4 rebounds, although some of that time he was playing on the deep bench as a midfield during the fourth-quarter comeback.

Both players looked better as the game progressed, metaphorically “getting rid of the rust” as they got more playing time than they had in a very long time. Let’s see who shows up as a rookie on Monday night against Denver Nuggets (My guess is Craig), and whether Dario can become comfortable as the second largest on Earth next to Ayton or Landale.

Speaking of Jock Landal…

Newcomer Landale played the bulk of the backup position’s minutes in his first two pre-season games and was very productive, scoring 14 points, 7 rebounds, two assists, steals and a block in less than 15 minutes of play against the Lakers.

Did Landale take on the job as iTunes backup? Or is this just a pre-season look, because head coach Monty Williams already knows what he has in his bismack veterans Piombo and Dario Saric.

I guess the latter, but I could be wrong. Monty Williams is probably so fond of Landale’s activity and range (made up of 2 of 4 triples on Wednesday) that he drops Dario and Pease to start the season. Either way, by the end of the season, I think the three players will have plenty of opportunities to support Ayton.

Twitter Dunks

I had a little fun on Twitter yesterday.

I’m sure you all heard about Jordan Poole’s Draymond Green coldcocking in the middle of last week’s training, right?

This news leaked – without video – almost immediately, and the Warriors responded by saying they considered this an internal issue and would give Draymond until Saturday to cool off before joining the team.

Then the video came out.

Watch it all. The green box hit Poole, who pushed Draymond away, only for Green to come right close to that space with a full-weight punch to the face that collapsed Poole. Notice how none of the warriors saw the blow. It wasn’t until TMZ acquired an illegal copy of the footage and released it to the world that most of these warriors saw it for the first time too.

However, the Warriors remain silent about carrying out any further penalty besides the pre-season break for Draymond Green. He said he hopes to play in the season opener.

The last time a practice punch leaked, even without a video, Bobby Portez was putting the hammer on Nikola Mirotic. Portis was immediately suspended eight games by the Bulls, while Mirotic missed 23 games due to fractures to his face. But even Portis didn’t connect Greene’s incident, stating that Mirotic rushed him twice before Portis finally defended himself. And we all thought he was less than Portis for years because that’s it, right?

However, it appears that the Warriors let Greene run the show here. Green was the first to face the media, not Paul. Sure enough, the Warriors have defended Paul, saying there is no place for Greene’s actions, yet Paul remains silent as Green faces his apologies and announces to himself that he will be staying away from the team another week or so while he cools off.

When I saw how they let Green create the message, I tweeted through my hotshot.

I stand by this. It’s bad management to let Green effectively run the show here. They had five days to decide on the punishment, and they simply said they were still evaluating. By letting Green run the show here, they’re telling Paul it’s a good idea for the training fights to happen. That’s why I said “Paul better warn”. All the Warriors do is embolden Green.

The Twitter warriors found me pretty quick and spent the rest of the day trying to dunk in my face, an easy displacement of their anger away from the true source. I do not mind. They are angry and afraid. They hope everything is okay, but they know deep down that it probably isn’t. So, they spent the day calculating the non-combatant percentage on Twitter.

I find it funny when they say that a Suns fan doesn’t know what “lack of leadership” looks like. Like Bro, I know what “lack of leadership” looks like because I’m covering the Suns. I’ve seen it for 18 years! I am an expert in recognizing him when he comes across my schedule.

I’ll absorb some of your wrath, warrior fans. However, it doesn’t make your team’s mismanagement of this situation any better.

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