Suns.com Road Diary

Suns players like Miles Plumlee found themselves in cooler climates during their five-game road trip.
(Brad Faye, Suns.com)
In January, the Phoenix Suns will partake in their longest road trip of the 2013-14 season, a five-game trip through Chicago, Minnesota, Memphis, Detroit and New York. Along the way, Suns.com will be providing fans with a behind-the-scenes look at life on the road.

Detroit: January, 11 – 1:00p (MST)

After braving the cold in Chicago and Minnesota, the Suns found themselves in warmer - albeit rainier - climates in Memphis. With the temperature hovering around the 40-degree mark throughout most of their two-day stay in the city, players left with an extra appreciation for athletes of another sport, who are often forced to play outdoors.

“It’s crazy how NFL players do it,” Suns forward PJ Tucker said of playing outside this time of year. “I think that’s a job in itself, being able to focus when it’s this cold. It’s hard enough just to walk in this.”

Gerald Green agreed that the cold is just another reason why he has such a respect for what NFL players are sometimes asked to do on any given Sunday.

“I would respect what those guys do even if they’re out there playing on a sunny day,” the forward laughed. “Those guys go through a grind, and it takes a lot of grit to do what they do.”

“I think it’s evidence of just how mental sports are,” Tucker said. “Guys have to overcome a lot of obstacles to play this game at a professional level, and in the case of football, I think toughing out bad weather is something most people don’t understand the difficulties of.”

Memphis: January, 10 – 7:00p (MST)

Following the news that Suns guard Eric Bledsoe would miss an extended period of time after today’s successful surgery, teammates were quick to send their well wishes to Bledsoe via Twitter.

As far as who players believe will step up in Bledsoe’s absence, the Suns believe it’s going to take a team effort if they’re to continue enjoying what’s been a successful season.

“I can’t wait for him to get back and we can play together again, but we need to continue playing hard and continue playing as a team,” guard Goran Dragic said. “We’ve done a great job all year of responding, and I think the game in Minnesota was a good confidence boost in terms of what we can still do when we play together.”

Suns forward Gerald Green agreed, telling Suns.com, “This is a team game and obviously it’s bad news, but we need to keep going out there and playing the same type of basketball that we’ve been playing.”

Among the players who could be seeing extended playing time while Bledsoe recovers is guard Ish Smith, who also said he doesn’t see any reason to place additional pressure on himself as opposed to continue putting forth the effort he has been all season.

“There isn’t any added pressure,” Smith said. “Throughout a season you need to take steps to get better both individually and as a team, so that’s obviously what we’re just going to go out and continue doing.”

Memphis: January, 10 – 6:30p (MST)

For rookie guard Archie Goodwin, Friday’s contest at Memphis was about as close to a homecoming as he could receive on an NBA road trip. Growing up in nearby Little Rock, Arkansas, the former Kentucky Wildcat needed to request roughly 30 tickets to Friday night’s game to fulfill requests for friends and family members.

“I love being in the South period,” Goodwin told Suns.com. “This is the area I’m from and I always look forward to being back. A lot of people have made the trip out here for the game, and I’m hoping I get a chance to talk with them a little afterwards.”

Memphis: January, 9 – 5:00p (MST)

One of the best things about being on the road is all of the new places you get to experience. Case in point – checking out the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. The site is located just near the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, and today looks to educate visitors on the Civil Rights Movement.

Last year while the Suns were in Memphis, a number of players including PJ Tucker, made the trip to the museum which is conveniently located close to the team’s hotel. The forward told Suns.com that last year’s visit to the location was his first, and one he doesn’t believe he will ever forget.

“To actually be in the same spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. once stood was inspirational,” Tucker said. “They do an amazing job of retracing his steps and the way they have the entire assassination laid out is pretty incredible.”

Minnesota: January, 8 – 11:45p (MST)

If there was any doubt that this was a Suns team that doesn't fight until the clock hits zero, they again proved naysayers wrong on Wednesday with their dramatic win in Minnesota. Following the game-winning shot by Gerald Green, the forward grinned when he saw the group of reporters hanging around his locker.

"Nine years in the league, and I've never seen this many reporters wanting to talk to me," Green joked.

The forward then discussed the play which eventually led to his big bucket by explaining, "I knew I just had to rise up and shoot it. The original play didn't work out, but in basketball, if one thing doesn't work, you've got to do something else to make it happen."

Minnesota: January, 8 – 10:02p (MST)

On Wednesday, the Suns announced the 10-day signing of guard Leandro Barbosa, who played with the organization from 2003-10. The 2007 Sixth Man of the Year recipient, who has since spent time with Toronto, Indiana and Boston since his time in Phoenix, told Suns.com that he looks forward to spending more time with former teammates including Goran Dragic and Channing Frye, but also getting to know some of his new teammates, as well.

“I’m just grateful,” Barbosa said of the opportunity to play in Phoenix. “They do a lot of the things similar to what they did when I played here in terms of running. It’s just crazy now to think that I am one of the older players on this team when before I was one of the youngest. I’m just looking forward to help in any way the team needs me.”

Barbosa did not wait long to make his debut as a Sun, checking into Wednesday’s game versus the Timerwolves and scoring three quick points.

“He fits into the scheme of what we do with the way he plays,” forward PJ Tucker said. “He’s a high energy guy who plays hard and I think he’s a good addition to this team.”

Goran Dragic, who played with Barbosa back during the “Brazlian Blur’s” last stint with Phoenix, said he doesn’t believe the newest Sun will have any problems fitting in with his teammates.

“He was one of the guys who helped me back when I was a rookie and helped make me more comfortable around my teammates,” Dragic said. “Now it’s strange to think that he is the one who doesn’t know everybody in the locker room, but knowing him, it won’t take long for him to make friends.”

Barbosa quickly proved Dragic right by treating Viacheslav Kravtsov to a Starbucks drink upon arriving at the Target Center.

Chicago: January, 7 – 11:00p (MST)

The results of Tuesday’s contest may not have been what Suns fans were looking for, but the 92-87 loss at Chicago did provide fans with a sneak peek at what rookie Alex Len could potentially bring to the table for the team moving forward.

Injured for the majority of the season with an ankle injury, Len returned to the court on Tuesday to post three points and a pair of rebounds in six minutes at the United Center. But while his time and production was limited, the seven-foot center out of Maryland said it felt good to be out on the court battling it out.

“It felt good being out there and I was told my minutes could be extended with each game,” Len said. “Right now I have no pain which is great, and I’ve been trying to get in lots of extra conditioning for this return.”

With Tuesday’s affair being the first of four contests to be played in just five nights, Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek said following the game that the return of Len could help provide some depth in the tough week head.

“I thought he did pretty well considering he hasn’t played in a while,” Hornacek said. “Our rotation was a little thrown off with Channing (Frye) getting into early foul trouble and Miles (Plumlee) needing to play some extended minutes, but I thought in the time he was given, he did a nice job.”

Chicago: January, 7 - 2:21p (MST)

Following severe weather conditions, the Suns were delayed on their flight to Chicago until early Tuesday morning. While teams only travel on day games in extreme situations, this did not mark the first time the team has been forced to do so.

After being delayed for nearly three days in Denver due to weather during the 2006-07 season, the team barely made it back to Phoenix in time for a matchup versus the Washington Wizards. But while the Suns came up on the losing end of that contest, Suns broadcaster Tim Kempton - who was there for the ordeal - says he believes this situation is different.

"That was difficult because we were stuck there for so long," Kempton explained. "The whole city of Denver was pretty much shut down which made it a different scenario. I think guys maybe got a little too used to being stuck in the house that time around."

As far as this trip goes, Kempton told Suns.com that he wouldn't expect fatigue to be as much of an issue for the players as much as the irregularity of the situation.

"It kind of breaks up your routine more than anything. Travel is physically demanding whether it's a charter or not, so it's a little difficult. When you're heading back East you have to be ready for this kind of stuff, and I think guys did that today by sleeping on the plane and making sure there bodies were ready."

Phoenix: January, 6 - 4:45p (PST)

With Governor Pat Quinn issuing a state disaster declaration and activating the Illinois National Guard on Monday in response to severe winter weather, the Suns will be catching a late flight out to Chicago in preparation of Tuesday night's game versus the Bulls.