Gentry says changes coming to Suns starting lineup

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The fact that the Suns lost to the Miami Heat on Saturday, even with Dwyane Wade out due to injury and LeBron James playing through illness, wasn’t by itself cause for concern. But the way the team started, flat once again and failing to score in the game’s first 4:14 on the way to a 9-0 deficit, has head coach Alvin Gentry thinking about making some changes.

Phoenix has been a scrappy team that has fought its way back from large deficits the entire season, but it’s obviously difficult to win games when you have to expend so much energy digging yourself out of double-digit holes.

After seeing his team fall behind early and often in just about every one of the Suns’ first 11 games, Gentry says he’ll be making some lineup changes to try to stop that trend.

From SBNation Arizona:

“We got to stop having the starts we’re having and the only way we can deal with that is that we are going to have to change the line-ups,” Gentry said. “So the next game we play it won’t be the same line-up that you’ve seen. I haven’t decided exactly what I am going to do there, but we’ll do something. We’ll do something.”

As for what that something will be, Gentry has a couple of options.

Luis Scola has been inconsistent defensively, and while his offense has come and gone, his spacing on that end of the floor has hindered the team’s effort there rather than helped it.  Jermaine O’Neal might be an option, as would Markieff Morris, who has started to play better recently but has also been inconsistent himself.

A more likely switch could involve shooting guard Jared Dudley, who has yet to find his role with the starters this season with the offense being run through Michael Beasley. Dudley has been solid in the games where the shot attempts were there, so maybe playing with the second unit and being featured a bit more might help him contribute more consistently.

Shannon Brown has provided a consistent offensive spark playing with the reserves, so plugging him in with the starters might give them a little bit more firepower and help the team get away from those painfully slow starts.

Beasley’s position in the rotation isn’t likely to be tinkered with, given the fact that he’s been placed in a primary scoring role and plays somewhat heavy minutes with a combination of personnel. It’s probably best to continue to work with him and hope he finds a measure of consistency rather than dropping him to the second unit.

But at this point in the young season, with winnable games having become losses and the team sitting at 4-7 in the standings, Gentry will have to consider all of his options.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.