PHOENIX - Can the Suns win by losing? Yes. If losing means gaining a top pick in a loaded 2014 draft class, then the Suns will tolerate losing short-term to facilitate winning long-term.
They'll face off against the Portland Trailblazers in Wednesday night's season opener, with Goran Dragic and Channing Frye among the only familiar faces.
Planet Orange, in a way, has become Planet Orange cones. The Phoenix Suns are most definitely under construction with only four players returning from a team that won a franchise worst 25 games (not counting the Suns expansion season).
And, right now, the Suns are in need of building materials. In the NBA, that’s known as superstar talent.
“It is a process. Some people have to realize that to build a good team, a contender team, you need two years for that,” said Marcin Gortat before he was traded with Shannon Brown and Kendall Marshall to the Wizards for a protected first round draft pick and an injured Emeka Okafor, who will continue to rehab a neck injury for at least the first month of the season.
The Las Vegas oddsmakers forecast the Suns as the second-worst team in the NBA with a projected over-under total of 19.5 wins.
Former Suns star Jeff Hornacek, in his first head-coaching job, plans to start a pair of point guards, Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, who came over in a trade with the Clippers for popular Suns forward Jared Dudley.
"Like Jeff told us, whoever gets the ball is going to run the show and the other guy has to run," said Dragic, who has played some at the two-guard spot and figures the pairing with Bledsoe will work well.
Hornacek says that he wants to play an up-tempo style to avoid being exploited by savvy veteran teams in the half-court. Otherwise, playing time figures to be a fluid situation with a roster overhauled by new general manager Ryan McDonough.
As part of the overall youth movement, the Suns will work in their pair of first-round picks and ask them to learn from their mistakes. Seven-foot-1 Alex Len, the fifth overall pick in the draft, is just 20. Guard Archie Goodwin, the 29th overall selection, is barely 19.
“There's always something," Hornacek said. "We've got to get them to watch a lot of tape, sit down with coaches and go over plays, just so they can see it."
Following the Gortat trade, the Suns will start inexperienced center Miles Plumlee, who played a grand total of 57 minutes for the talented Indiana Pacers last season.
And, saving the best storyline for last, Frye has come back after sitting out an entire season for treatment of an enlarged heart. At 31, the former St. Mary’s High School and UA star will be the oldest player in a Suns uniform.
"He pushed himself," Hornacek said. "I was surprised in training camp. I thought he would get into it slowly and do a couple of things but he kept pushing through stuff, rarely sat out."
At the outset of training camp, Frye predicted that he would be playing by December. Instead, he played in the second preseason game and now expects to be ready when the Suns debut against the Blazers in the season opener at US Airways Center on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
"I just continued to push myself and here I am," Frye said. "That's the last time I make predictions."
We’ll do the same with the Suns upcoming season. Just remember, the Suns losing now might make for winning later.
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