PHOENIX — In the fashion world, it helps when timing is impeccable. For the Suns, it was tragically unfortunate.
Having stacked 38 misses in their last 49 3-point attempts, they spent a large part of Friday night attempting to upgrade that accuracy during the debut outing for those controversial short-sleeved jerseys.
With no less an authority on restriction of movement than LeBron James recently voting thumbs-down on this league-wide uniform epidemic, how could they manage it?
Not all that well. While they’ve been worse recently, this bright-orange uniform option saw a 31.8 percent effort (7 of 22) from 3-point range that was improved a bit by a 4-of-10 effort during a fourth-quarter rally.
And although the visiting Mavericks contributed some self-inflicted drama, they held off the home team for a 110-107 triumph at US Airways Center.
Even with league officials and Adidas (the official outfitter of the NBA) representatives promising the style change is here to stay, the Suns didn’t exactly take an optimistic approach to short-sleeve duty.
"I am not a fan of those jerseys," Suns guard Goran Dragic said before making 12 of 20 shots from the field and finishing with a game-high 28 points.
But Dragic, perhaps suffering from a lack of extension, did miss all four of his attempts from 3.
Checking in as second among NBA team for 3-point attempts, the Suns certainly are doing their part to keep busy in that category of the hoop-analytics bible. The 3, you probably recall, served them well while they were charging up the Western Conference standings with Dragic and Eric Bledsoe orchestrating the drive-and-kick operation.
But since Bledsoe surrendered to his prevailing meniscus crisis, the Suns (coincidentally?) have been chilly from beyond the arc.
"I’m sure teams are guarding things differently," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said when asked to assess what has happened to his team’s long-range success, "but a lot of the shots we’re missing are open. We’re getting good looks at it; we’re just not making them.
"I guess over an 82-game stretch, you’re going to have periods where you’re lighting it up and then maybe periods where you’re struggling a little bit."
So, with the Suns burning the 3 at a 22 percent clip (they’re making 36 percent of their 3s on the season) over their previous two games, having fabric covering their armpits just added to the challenge. Maybe it was mental. Gerald Green went just 1 for 3 but also has demonstrated the capacity to go stone-cold without sleeves.
The Morris twins, who combined to score 19 of their 36 points in the fourth quarter, managed to go 5 of 11 from deep. Maybe the new look suits them.
It should be noted that the seemingly form-fitting sleeved jerseys have inspired quite a few players to go up the medium route in shirt sizing. While some players claim the contoured fit can restrict movement, the aforementioned folks from Adidas have reminded us that each player can select whatever size feels comfy.
Speaking of comfy, the Suns allowed the Mavericks to shoot 53 percent from the field, suggesting the sleeves may have properties that restrict defensive movement, too.
Regardless of all of the dressing up or down, Dallas improved to 24-17 with the victory, moving into seventh in the Western Conference playoff-seeding race while Phoenix, at 22-17, drop from seventh to eighth.
The Suns, still attempting to regain their footing in another interlude without Bledose, did generate 20 fast-break points and 60 points in the paint. It’s good to have evidence of sleeves having little effect on layups and dunks.
Regardless of how they look on the 94-foot NBA runway, the Suns need to figure out a way to become crustier on defense. Even though their pace is reasonably quick (ninth-fastest in the league), their defensive efficiency has been shaky enough to enable three of their last four opponents to score 110 or more points.
BLUR TO RETURN?
Leandro Barbosa, whose injured shoulder limited him to cameo work during his 10-day contract, is expected to be back for another 10-day run, Hornacek said.
"I think Ryan (general manager McDonough) wanted to talk after the game and figure that out. I’m assuming that we’ll probably sign him to another 10-day contract."
Even though he’s an amiable sort, Barbosa’s wide postgame smile suggested good news in that regard.