76ers Blog: Pre-Game Notes ~ 12/28/2013 @ Phoenix Suns
12/28/2013 6:26:00 PM
The 76ers (8-20; 5th-Atlantic Division, 14th-Eastern Conference) begin to enter the teeth of a road-heavy stretch, playing the second of six straight away games against the Phoenix Suns (17-11; 2nd-Pacific Division, 6th-Western Conference). The Sixers technically began their trek a week ago, when they were handed a 116-106 loss at the Milwaukee Bucks. But, between then and now, the team had a few days off for the Christmas holiday, and regrouped Thursday in Phoenix.
One noteworthy news item that surfaced since the Sixers' most recent game was that swingman Evan Turner experienced soreness in his right knee during last Saturday's loss to the Bucks; he will not play against Phoenix. Also, this past Thursday, the front office re-assigned Lorenzo Brown - a North Carolina State product who had appeared in 13 games - to the Sixers' development league affiliate, the Delaware 87ers.
For the Phoenix Suns, there were few expectations at the outset of the season. Last year, they went a Western Conference-worst 25-57, which was the second-poorest record in the organization's 46-season history. The Suns' struggles prompted change, as a new general manager - Ryan McDonough - and new head coach - Jeff Hornacek - were both hired in May. In the months that followed, the franchise used trades to ship off veteran players like Jared Dudley, Luis Scola, and - most recently - Marcin Gortat.
Still, not only has Phoenix so far been able to win, but the Suns have done so while competing within the deep West. Behind a potent backcourt duo, the Suns have won eight of their last 10 games, and recently had a five-game winning streak - their first since January 2011 - come to an end.
The 76ers haven't played a game in a week, getting a rare extended schedule break around the Christmas holiday. Fresh legs could be invaluable as they begin a string of five consecutive road games against Western Conference opponents.
The Sixers conducted a brief workout last Sunday, after returning home from their defeat in Milwaukee. Head coach Brett Brown then allowed his players to disperse for a few days. Veteran center Spencer Hawes went back to his hometown of Seattle, WA, where he hung out at his family's annual crab feed.
Hawes will be making his fourth lengthy, late-December swing out west as a member of the 76ers. When it comes to surviving this annual trip, Hawes said, "It's cliche and we say it all the time, you can't look at the whole trip as one entity. You have to break it up. If you look at it on the whole, it's daunting, but if you kind of break it up and take it in pieces, it becomes a lot more manageable."
The Sixers will stop in Los Angeles on Sunday to take on the Lakers, before moving on to visit the Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings, and Portland Trail Blazers.
Even though the Phoenix Suns overhauled their roster in order to get younger, they've been surprisingly successful thanks to the production of the NBA's high-scoring backcourt tandem. Eric Bledsoe - acquired in an off-season deal with the Los Angeles Clippers - has assumed point guard duties, and leads the team with 18.4 points. Goran Dragic - with Bledsoe running the offense - has shifted to shooting guard, averaging 18.0 points at the position.
Bledsoe and Dragic are each hovering around the 6.0 assist per-game mark, and could end up becoming the first pair of teammates to average 18 points and 6 assists since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did so for the Chicago Bulls during the 1991-1992 season.
Phoenix has been a very solid home team, with 10 of its 17 overall victories coming at the U.S. Airways Center.
Linked beneath the image in the upper right corner of the article is a one-on-one interview with Spencer Hawes.