Phoenix Suns: Monty Williams will help Ayton learn from the greats

The Phoenix Suns have a rising star in big man Deandre Ayton. However, he needs to study the greats to get on an elite level. With the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns select Deandre Ayton. Those words have the potential of becoming the beginning of a Hall of Fame […]

Phoenix Suns: Monty Williams will help Ayton learn from the greatsValley of the SunsValley of the Suns – A Phoenix Suns Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

Diamondbacks swept by Padres, offense produces only 5 runs in series

No matter how you slice it, five runs for a three-game series is not going to cut it.

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ offense hit a snag in San Diego against the Padres, resulting in a sweep and 5-2 loss on Wednesday.

To be fair to the D-backs, this was theoretically the game to lose of the three. Starter Merrill Kelly couldn’t escape the second inning, lasting only 1.2 and allowing four earned runs. He gave up nine baserunners over that time and Arizona had only six total all game.

But to be fair to the bullpen, they held down the fort for the other 6.1 innings, having only one more run added to the total.

The missed opportunity was the previous two games.

When Zack Greinke went seven innings and allowed three earned runs on Tuesday, Arizona’s offense responded with only five total baserunners, all on hits like Wednesday. Which means, yes, the D-backs have gone two straight games without a walk.

Monday was a 2-1 loss, with Luke Weaver throwing six innings of two-run work. Arizona left seven runners on base, including two situations where a runner was on third, a stinger for a one-run loss.

Adam Jones and Christian Walker were the two bright spots of the D-backs’ surprise April, but the two have really cooled off as of late.

Jones didn’t play in Monday’s loss but went a combined 0-for-8 in the other two games. His batting average has dipped down to .265 after batting .286 in April.

Walker was 1-of-12 in the three games, striking out in all three and six total times. On May 5, Walker was hitting .314. Since that game, he’s 8-for-50 (.160) and is now down to .262 on the season.

That makes the status of left fielder David Peralta all the more important.

The 31-year-old is putting up All-Star numbers, slashing .309/.357/.524 with five home runs, 30 RBI and 16 doubles. But Peralta, dealing with right trap soreness from last week, exited Tuesday’s game and did not play Wednesday. Per The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said if Peralta’s right shoulder is still bothering him on Thursday then he will have an MRI.

One of the few players who hasn’t been slumping is Wilmer Flores, who hit .347 in 16 games for May. But Flores was placed on the 10-day injured list on Tuesday and Lovullo said on Wednesday that Flores has a broken right foot.

Keep an eye on how Lovullo uses catcher Carson Kelly for the next handful of games. While Kelly was 1-for-5 with a walk in the series, he joins Flores as the only D-back hitting above .300 in May at .357 in 12 games prior to Wednesday’s loss.

Arizona is off on Thursday before a three-game series in San Francisco kicks off Friday.

Sarver calling Colangelo brings new level of belief in Suns owner

The Suns have a new kind of credibility. A real adult is in charge, in full control of the locker room.

That guy is Monty Williams, the new head coach who won his debut press conference in Phoenix without trying to impress anyone, while harping on his own flaws and previous weaknesses. That’s real talent and real leadership. That’s how it’s done.

But the biggest change with our NBA franchise revolves around three numbers.

The first is the No. 5. That’s the length of Williams’ contract in years. The second is the premium salary Suns owner Robert Sarver paid for Williams’ pedigree and experience. Together, they arm and empower the new head coach against all doubters and dissidents.

He’s proof you get what you pay for in the NBA.

“If you look at the commitment (Sarver) made to me and my family, that’s a huge commitment in this day and age,” Williams said. “There are coaches around the league who’ve won more than I have who haven’t gotten that kind of commitment … it says a lot about what he wants to do.”

But the biggest reason for optimism involves the numbers in Sarver’s cellphone, the ones he hasn’t used in years. They represent the phone call made to Jerry Colangelo, when Sarver asked the former Suns owner for his opinion on Williams.

You can’t quantify or overstate what this means to the Suns, Colangelo and an army of Suns fans yearning to feel special all over again.

During the years that Sarver has sailed alone, he rarely picked up the phone and called his predecessor. He never called for advice, and maybe that’s understandable. Or maybe it’s the pitfalls of pride, ego, jealousy and arrogance. Truth is, numerous situations and free agents came and went without Colangelo’s input, without advice from one of the most powerful men in the NBA, without enlisting the man who could help more than anyone else.

I have known Colangelo for over two decades. Like everyone else, I respect his story, his legacy and how he built the Suns into the best small-market franchise the NBA had ever seen. I’ve seen his anger, his clout and the respect he garners when walking into a room. And I’ve never met anyone with so much power who wields it so generously, so gracefully, for the betterment of others. All you have to do is ask.

It took a while for Sarver to get to that point. But he’s here now, and for Sarver to finally pick up the phone and call Colangelo for guidance is all I need to believe in a new era of Suns basketball.

Like Colangelo, I have fought many battles with Sarver. I have been highly critical of his meddling nature and he’s been highly critical of my work in return, once marching into the publisher’s office of the Arizona Republic to demand relief from their loudmouth sports columnist.

I have long wondered if his success and acumen as a businessman made him immune to his obvious shortcomings as a NBA owner. To wit: How does a man who buys a team for $404 million, only to see it expand into a $2 billion asset, look in the mirror and see failure?

Would you?

But this sequence of events feels different. Maybe Sarver was prodded by NBA commissioner Adam Silver to cut the nonsense. All of these recent changes – from the hiring of Jeff Bower to the phone call placed with Colangelo – came after consecutive hit pieces from the national media that that painted Sarver in a terrible, petulant light, most notably the deployment of defecating goats in the office of former GM Ryan McDonough.

Maybe Sarver has grown tired of his previous self and all the losing. Because real change can happen with real self-awareness, real self-loathing and the real desire to find a better way.

“You can make excuses or you can make progress,” Williams said during an interview that had nothing to do with Sarver. “But you can’t do both.”

Williams is the perfect symbol moving forward. He gives the Suns a man who knows everything about the NBA experience. He’s anchored by his faith. He’s endured unspeakable tragedy, losing his first wife in a car accident. Kevin Durant adores him, and Williams’ presence in Phoenix almost guarantees the Suns a seat the table in Durant’s free agent recruitment, no matter how long the odds.

Somewhere along the line, the new coach clearly touched Sarver. During their interview in Philadelphia, Williams was so open about his shortcomings that it prompted Sarver to do the same. And Williams walked away feeling the call of duty, sincerely believing in Sarver’s intentions. He will liberate a locker room full of NBA players weaned on instability, who will finally know what it’s like to have a professional coach who can make a profound difference in their lives.

But for long-suffering Suns fans, nothing compares to the glorious end of the Cold War between Sarver and Colangelo, when the current owner finally felt comfortable enough to pick up the phone and call the icon who made all of it possible.

And when the day comes when Colangelo’s statue finally sprouts from the ground outside the arena, commissioned by Sarver himself, we will finally be healed, whole, unstoppable.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

D-backs infielder Wilmer Flores has right foot fracture

Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Wilmer Flores has a fracture in his right foot, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo told reporters after Wednesday’s loss against the San Diego Padres.

In Sunday’s game against the San Francisco Giants, Flores was hit by a pitch in that foot and left the game. The D-backs placed Flores on the 10-day injured list on Tuesday.

While other names in the Arizona order have been slumping in May, Flores bounced back in a major way. In 16 games for the month, Flores has hit .347 with five doubles, a homer and seven RBI. That helped him recover from a poor start to the season. On the year, Flores is hitting .281 with nine doubles, two home runs, 14 RBI and 13 runs scored.

Flores has started 25 of his 29 games at second base. The 24 other starts have belonged to Ketel Marte (19), Ildemaro Vargas (4) and Eduardo Escobar (1). Vargas was called up on Tuesday when Flores was placed on the 10-day IL.

Without Flores in San Diego, Marte started the first two games of the series while Vargas got the nod on Wednesday.

Diamondbacks to start right-hander Taylor Clarke on Saturday

Taylor Clarke, the first pitcher to get a crack in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ open rotation spot, will get another look on Saturday.

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said after Wednesday’s loss to the San Diego Padres that it will be Clarke getting the call, per The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan. Arizona took advantage of an off-day on Thursday by moving left-hander Robbie Ray up one day to Friday, putting the open rotation spot up in the queue on Saturday.

That spot used to be Zack Godley’s, who was moved to the bullpen on April 27. After Clarke pitched 6.0 innings and gave up two earned runs on May 7, Godley served the opener role twice out of the bullpen in that spot. For the year, Godley has a 7.90 ERA and 1.78 WHIP with a 1-4 record.

Clarke’s start against the Tampa Bay Rays was the first of his MLB career and only his second major league appearance.

The D-backs will have to make a roster move, as Clarke is currently with the Reno Aces in Triple-A. The team sent down reliever Jimmie Sherfy after the game Wednesday.