Back-to-back losses show Goodwin seeks consistency

PHOENIX — Considering the source, it was an important review.

The source was Suns coach Jeff Hornacek; the subject, rookie guard Archie Goodwin.

“I thought he made great decisions,” Hornacek said of Goodwin in Tuesday’s loss at Sacramento.

Considering Goodwin’s struggle to decipher defenses as a Kentucky freshman playmaker last season, recognition of positive evidence should be delivered as big news.

But in a home-and-home swing with the Kings, second-night proof of inconsistency also was on display.

“I definitely could have done better,” Goodwin said after scoring one point in Wednesday’s 113-106 loss. “Consistency is something I have to put my focus on.”

Consistency issues remind of the good stuff in this story.

“I really saw something different where he was making the right decisions,” Hornacek said Wednesday, one night after Archie supplied Phoenix with a career-high 16 points (making 7 of 10 shots from the field).

About 15 minutes before he was being indirectly praised by his coach for demonstrating increased situational wisdom, Goodwin was on the U.S. Airways Center floor, preparing for Wednesday’s sequel with the Kings.

Alongside two teammates, Goodwin spent this part of the game’s preamble working on another crucial mechanism in the march toward harnessing his vast potential.

Jump. Shoot. Repeat.

Fading for corner 3s off imagined down screens, Goodwin and his unusual right-to-middle hitch was leading to frequent rim bruising. Shooting mid-range jumpers moments later, the hitch was hard to detect and shots were falling more frequently. Finishing the session with free throws, Goodwin shot at a chilly 70-percent clip before any of the 12,705 eventual witnesses entered the building.

Once they did, Goodwin, mixing in shots from different areas, missed all eight field-goal attempts in the game.

“They really didn’t do anything differently,” he said when asked if the Kings made any between-games adjustments. “We just didn’t come out as aggressively.

“Guys usually feed off my energy. I just have to be better at being consistent.”

At the other end of the floor during Wednesday’s pre-game session stood Kings rookie Ben McLemore, a shooting guard much on the minds of Suns fans leading up to (and rolling past) the 2013 NBA Draft. Unlike Goodwin, the former Kansas star was knocking in practice 3s at an impressive rate.

McLemore, who had provided Sacramento with 19 points (on 5-of-13 shooting) on Tuesday, slipped from an anticipated top-3 draft position and was grabbed by the Kings at 7. According to local reports, the Suns never considered taking McLemore.

McLemore, who averages nine points per game as a starting guard, made 3 of 7 shots Wednesday and finished with eight points.

Goodwin, whose draft stock was clobbered by unfortunate out-of-position work as Kentucky’s emergency point guard, wasn’t selected until pick 29. After a stellar run at the Las Vegas Summer League, he was hailed by national writers as a revelation.

For a while, at least, Suns fans are expected to monitor the development of McLemore along with that of Alex Len — Phoenix’s choice at pick No. 5 — and the draft-night-steal potential of Goodwin.

If he can replicate Tuesday’s performance once in a while this season, the locals should be happy. Despite Wednesday’s dip, the Suns think he’s a keeper-in-progress.

Unlike McLemore, Goodwin thrives at attacking off the dribble.

“We know he has can get to the basket,” Hornacek said. “It’s a question of when does he go to the basket. When does he pull up short and not get in amongst the trees where he can get a decent shot off?

“He does have that ability to get into the lane, and once he has his eyes open for other guys — we’ve always told him it would make it easier for him if he does make those passes. Because then guys are going to be tentative on whether to come to him or help out.”

And that’s half of the classroom.

With a 6-foot-10 wingspan and the aforementioned quickness, Goodwin is surviving well enough on the defensive end.

But after the Suns coaches pointed out a defensive mistake Goodwin made Tuesday — going under a ball screen against Kings sniper Jimmer Fredette — the same mistake was repeated Wednesday.

“Sometimes he gets beat a little bit,” Hornacek said, “but he’s got long arms and recovers well. I think he’s getting better.”

At the moment, recovering for Goodwin means shaking off a bad game before he and the Suns begin a three-game road trip that begins in Charlotte, goes through Orlando and makes the last stop in Miami.

“It’s good that there’s another game coming up quick in this league,” Goodwin said. “You have a chance to do better right away.”

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