All 22 teams that were invited to resume the season are all in the Disney world bubble in Orlando Florida, all the players that have passed all the Covid 19 protocol are in practice gyms putting up shots getting back in the swing of basketball as fast as they can.
Practices are two a day but many of the guys are getting that late access to sharpen their skills, after being out so abruptly it will be difficult to get back to the level of grinding toward the playoffs.
The Phoenix Suns are in the running for the playoffs and get an opportunity to experience what they have not experience for over 10 years, as they are in a race for the eighth seed in the Western Conference with five other teams currently ahead of them.
Scheduling doesn’t work in the Suns favor if they are the same team they were when the league shutdown due to the Covid 19 pandemic, in fact with the layoff having not played would suggest the Suns would be worse than they were.
But the level of confidence is high around the team’s camp as players are saying all the right things concerning where they stand, guys are looking at this as another season and throwing out where they were and going forward with this gift of opportunity.
Center Deandre Ayton will indeed be the absolute key to the Suns success during this short run to the eighth seed, as there is no room for error and almost perfect is the formula to shocking the world and taking the step to the next level to becoming a winning franchise again.
Ayton was quoted after being asked which games he was looking forward to, the rejuvenated center said “all of them, we have an opportunity and we are ready to play” the seven footer says he is ready to be the one who controls the paint and run the floor and play hard on both ends.
The stigma on Ayton before the season was interrupted was, he didn’t embrace contact very well and settled for the turn around 15-footer avoiding the battle in the paint.
The question is, Has the long layoff of sitting around playing video games and home exercise enough to change Ayton’s game and attitude? Knowing that the only way you get better is to actually play against fierce competition on a daily.
Only time will tell as the short race to number eight leaves Ayton no more wiggle room to have to learn on the go, if he is still passive in the paint then look for the load to do what it always has and that’s fall back on star guard and team leader Devon Booker.
If this happens then look for the Suns to exit this race very quickly.
But if Ayton is focused and in aggressive big man mode, then the chances of getting that eighth seed go from zero to at least 50%.
That being because with the long layoff with no practice, shooting will take longer to get back into form and having a big that can bang in the paint getting rebounds, blocks and altering shots will be critical.
There are only eight games on the regular season schedule to determine the playoffs, and the Suns cannot afford to lose two games during this run.
Of the five teams ahead of Phoenix the Grizzlies, Blazers and Pelicans are the significant feats to overcome, the Kings and Spurs are in the same boat with little room for 2 or 3 losses and on top of that they play each other during this race.
So, in reality to have any chance Phoenix would probably need to win eight straight or seven out of eight and then hope that those three teams ahead of them lose 2 or 3, as the Suns do not play none of them during this eight-game stretch.
The Grizzlies, Pelicans and Blazer do play each other and also a few tough games on all their schedules making the light at the end of the tunnel for the Suns give a little glimmer of hope, the mindset has to be play hard every possession and be a hard out for these teams on your schedule and if all fails at least try and go into the shorten off-season with some positive momentum.