The Phoenix Suns weren’t given any favors with their early season schedule. The Suns can start helping themselves with better play from their frontcourt.
Off to its worst start in four years, Phoenix tries to avoid its third straight home loss Friday night when it faces the Memphis Grizzlies, who are trying to solve their own problems in the paint.
As the only NBA team to begin the season with four straight games against opponents with 50-plus wins in 2009-10, Phoenix finds itself at 1-3 for the first time since losing five of six to open 2006-07.
“We’ve just got to keep our heads up,” guard Jason Richardson(notes) said after scoring a team-high 21 points in Wednesday’s 112-110 home loss to San Antonio. “We know this is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. It’s a long season. Nobody’s got their head down. We’ve got a long way to go and every game we get better.”
With his team coming off its first back-to-back losses in Phoenix since Dec. 21-23, coach Alvin Gentry said he needs better play from his frontcourt - namely newcomer Hedo Turkoglu(notes) - as the Suns try to fill the hole left by the offseason loss of Amare Stoudemire.
Turkoglu is scoring 8.5 points per game and shooting a career-low 37.9 percent from the field.
“We’re trying to figure out ways to get him more engaged,” Gentry said.
The loss of Stoudemire has also affected the play of Steve Nash(notes). No longer able to lob the ball to the five-time All-Star forward, Nash - the league’s reigning assist leader - has 27 with 21 turnovers this season, by far the worst assist-to-turnover ratio of his career.
While the Suns try to avoid their first 0-3 start at US Airways Center since 2005-06, the Grizzlies (2-3) are hoping Zach Randolph(notes) returns to the lineup as they continue a four-game western swing.
Randolph, third in the NBA last season with 11.7 rebounds per game, has been out the last four games with a lower back contusion suffered in the season-opening loss to Atlanta.
Memphis has been outrebounded by an average of 11.5 without the All-Star forward, who is questionable for Friday.
“We really need to help out on defense and rebound better,” guard O.J. Mayo(notes) said following Wednesday’s 115-109 loss to Golden State. “We just have to get back to the drawing board and get back to defending. There’s no need to panic, but at the same time we need to step it up.”
Forward Rudy Gay(notes) has done that, scoring a career-high 26.4 points per game on 54.1 percent shooting. Last season against Phoenix, Gay averaged 21.0 points and 6.0 rebounds as the clubs split four meetings.
In the Grizzlies’ last visit to US Airways Center, Mayo scored 25 points as Memphis snapped a seven-game road skid versus the Suns with a 128-103 victory Jan. 2.
Phoenix has won 24 of 29 all-time at home against the Grizzlies.
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins and assistant Johnny Davis will not be with the team Friday. The two will be in Portland for former teammate Maurice Lucas’ funeral, and assistant David Joerger will serve as head coach.