Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 1/31/12
PHOENIX -- Now that they've managed to lose 13 times in only 20 games, the Phoenix Suns are making an aggressive slide into the team picture of bitter franchise history. The 2003-2004 Suns opened that campaign at 8-12, escorting coach Frank Johnson to within one more loss of the door and assistant Mike D'Antoni into the catbird seat. It also inspired the re-hiring of Steve Nash before the next season began. How's that for a silver lining? By the way, Nash's first Phoenix work tour began as a rookie in 1996, and was low-lighted by an 0-13 beginning that included a mid-stream coaching shift from Cotton Fitzsimmons to Danny Ainge. Kevin Johnson wasn't around for the first few games of that staggered start, but the Suns -- who had parted with Charles Barkley in the off-season -- decided even more was needed after KJ returned. In separate deals with the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix waved bye-bye to five players (Sam Cassell, Michael Finley, A.C. Green, Robert Horry and Joe Kleine) and welcomed six new Suns (Tony Dumas, Loren Meyer, Cedric Ceballos, Rumeal Robinson and some other guy.) The other guy was Jason Kidd, who eventually found his way back to Dallas. But Kidd wasn't in uniform Monday night when the defending-champion Mavericks knocked off the Suns 122-99 in front of 13,132 at U.S. Airways Center. Nash and his thigh bruise didn't participate either, which -- for an offense already grinding down the NBA road -- is an overkill of misery that rivals removing the engine from a car with no tires. Anyway, for good news regarding Suns history, the '96-'97 squad rallied to finish 40-42 and qualify for the playoffs. The co-starring bad news? Well, the Suns don't exactly have the assets required to make enough deals that could lead to a similar uprising (maybe that's more good news for Phoenix followers rooting for a really high draft pick). With contusion interrupting cohesion -- or at least the goal of achieving it -- Nash continues to be the subject of those pesky, rumored deals that would include another change of scenery. But while he continues pledging allegiance to the Suns as long as they want him and the Suns pledging the same thing, basketball observers in this town must feel like hamsters in a wheel. Meanwhile, back on the court, Nash, his teammates and Suns coaches simply are groping for positive consistency on both ends of the floor. After scoring 71 points during last Friday's loss in Portland and 86 in Saturday's home triumph over Memphis, the Suns shot a relatively scalding 48.6 percent from the field in a 48-point first half against the Mavs. Unfortunately, a defense that's been crusty on some occasions this season was riddled for 66 points on 57-percent Dallas marksmanship. "Obviously, we ran into a team that shot the heck out of the ball, and they caught us in rotation because of Dirk," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said in reference to Mr. Nowitzki and his Dallas cronies who combined to finish the evening at 55 percent. "Their shooters shot the ball extremely well tonight." The Suns' defensive game plan was to assist Grant Hill in dealing with Nowitzki through the use of double teams. That's always risky against any NBA team, but Phoenix was hoping the Mavericks -- who checked in as the league's 23rd-best team from 3-point range -- would come out clanking. "You've got to play the odds when when you're playing Dirk," Gentry said. For the record, Dirk scored 10 points and made 4 of his 10 shots. "It's what he opens up for other guys," Gentry said. A different version of that duty usually is supplied for the Suns by Nash, who couldn't rally after taking a Marc Gasol knee to the thigh while defending Mike Conley on the last play of Saturday's victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. "It's not something you can just bounce back from," Gentry said of Nash's thigh bruise. "If anyone can do it, he can." The next scheduled bounce opportunities are Wednesday in New Orleans against the struggling Hornets and Friday's meeting with the red-hot Houston Rockets. The Suns return home Saturday to take on the extremely beatable Charlotte Bobcats. If Nash is able to move and get in a reasonable groove, Phoenix can stay ahead of the pace set by the '03-'04 juggernaut, which didn't record its ninth win until game No. 25. I probably shouldn't mention that the point-guard vacancy Nash filled in the summer of '04 was created by trading Stephon Marbury shortly after the previous-season's debacle began. We wouldn't want NBA watchdogs to get any more ideas.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Florida's Chiozza sends Wisconsin home on incredible buzzer-beater

LaVar Ball gets Crying Jordan, meme treatment after UCLA loss

Celtics upset Suns tried to pad Devin Booker’s stats

Five teams that may be interested in Blake Griffin this summer

Report: Tony Romo ‘believes it’s Texans or retirement’

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Clay Matthews Sr. passes away at 88

WWE’s Kane is inching toward running for mayor in Tennessee

Jung Ho Kang denied visa for DUI, may miss 2017 MLB season

Jets not ready to say Josh McCown will be starter

Sens owner on Sidney Crosby: He’s 'a whiner' and should be suspended for Methot slash

Report: Griffin could be growing more open to leaving Clippers

Best of Yardbarker: Did Team USA's victory save the World Baseball Classic?

The Rewind: George Mason's improbable run to the Final Four

Breaking down the Naismith Award race

Box Score 3/24: Waiting on West Virginia

Eat, Drink, Watch: Weekends are for upsets

The 'Once again, Barry Bonds is the best power hitter in San Francisco' quiz

With Team USA's victory, World Baseball Classic (finally) lived up to its potential

The NFL distraction playbook

Which Sweet 16 team should you be rooting for?

The Aesthetic: The world of player exclusive sneakers

Lingering issues for each 2016 MLB postseason team

Box Score 3/23: Team USA wins their first WBC title

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best of Yardbarker: Did Team USA's victory save the World Baseball Classic?

The Rewind: George Mason's improbable run to the Final Four

Breaking down the Naismith Award race

Eat, Drink, Watch: Weekends are for upsets

The 'Once again, Barry Bonds is the best power hitter in San Francisco' quiz

The NFL distraction playbook

With Team USA's victory the WBC (finally) lived up to its potential

The Aesthetic: The world of player exclusive sneakers

Which Sweet 16 team should you be rooting for?

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Steph Curry pushes OKC's buttons

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker