Almost two days after parting ways with Alvin Gentry, Suns name Lindsey Hunter interim head coach

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UPDATE 11:17 a.m. ET: The Suns have named player development coordinator Lindesy Hunter as interim head coach, the team announced this morning. We’ll have more on Hunter following this afternoon’s press conference.

PHOENIX — In case you weren’t sure of what the plan was in Phoenix to right the sinking Suns ship, we have some good news to pass along: You’re not alone; the organization doesn’t seem to have any idea, either.

Well over 24 hours after the Suns parted ways with head coach Alvin Gentry, the team has yet to name an interim head coach. It’s hard to imagine that the search will last beyond Sunday, considering that the team is exclusively looking at internal candidates. But the fact that this all wasn’t worked out ahead of time tells at least part of the story of this Suns team that finds itself at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby said at a press conference on Friday that he’d prefer to wait until a coach is named to describe the qualities he’s looking for in the person who will guide the team the rest of the season.

“Let’s wait until we pick the guy and then we can describe why we picked him; maybe that would be easier,” Babby said. “There are so many characterisitics that a good coach should have. Not everyone is going to have all of them. There is a tendency when you pick someone to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative and that’s what we’ll do. We’ll pick the right person internally for where we are and where to go but let’s wait until we pick that person. I’d rather describe the reasons or have [GM Lance Blanks] describe the rerasons or have the person describe why they are the right fit rather than do it hypothetically.”

This deflection was pretty much par for the course during Babby’s presser, where he essentially refused to get into the details surrounding the reasons for Gentry’s dismissal, other than to say that management felt that the team was regressing.

“I don’t want to get into the details of evaluating what led to the decision,” Babby said. “This is not something we planned for. As short as a month ago, Robert Sarver was direct and blunt in saying Alvin would be here for the rest of the year. That was our intent all along. That was a commitment that we had made. But sometimes in this business, you get to a point where it just doesn’t feel right and we just reached that point.

“How you get to that point is something that we look at closely and try to learn from, but I don’t think it serves anybody’s purpsoe to share all of the details and all of the reason, either from his side or from our side.”

Assistant coaches Elston Turner, Igor Kokoskov, and Dan Majerle are all believed to be in the running to ride out the lost season with the interim tag, as is player development coach Lindsey Hunter.

Gentry ended up taking the fall for poor front office personnel decisions, plain and simple. Babby said at one point during the press conference that the change at the head coaching spot doesn’t change the team’s plan from a personnel or player development standpoint, and that management’s plan was “intact.”

That would imply that a plan was in fact in place to begin with, which is hard to imagine considering how long it’s taking to simply appoint a current member of the staff to run the team the rest of the way.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scores career-high 44, dedicates game to father

Associated Press
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MILWAUKEE (AP) — After scoring a career-high 44 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo wrote a note on the game ball.

“This is for daddy. We got a win tonight,” the 22-year-old Milwaukee Bucks player said, remembering his father, Charles, who died last month at age 54.

Antetokounmpo scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a dunk that put Milwaukee ahead 111-110 with 11 seconds to go.

After a timeout, Damian Lillard found Jusuf Nurkic running open down the lane, but Antetokounmpo blocked his shot at the basket, sending the 7-foot center crashing to the floor.

Antetokounmpo, starting his fifth NBA season, made 17 of 23 shots with eight rebounds and four assists as Milwaukee kept pace with a Portland team that had dominated its first two opponents. The Bucks star is averaging 38.3 points through three games, up from 22.9 last year, 16.9 in 2015-16 and 12.7 in 2014-15.

“Seventy-nine more. This is just the beginning,” he said, thinking about how many regular-season games remain.

After Nurkic was rejected at the basket, Khris Middleton was fouled and made both free throws.

“They committed two guys to Dame, so somebody was going to be open,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said, referring to Lillard. “Turned out to be Nurk but they made a really good defensive play.”

Lillard scored 26 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter. CJ McCollum also scored 26, and Nurkic had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Tony Snell scored 17 points and Middleton added 16 for Milwaukee.

 

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant ejected at end of loss to Grizzlies

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Stephen Curry is going to get fined for this.

The former MVP was frustrated, his team losing and thinking he was fouled by Mike Conley as he attacked the rim late in the Warriors loss in Memphis Saturday night. Curry threw his mouthpiece at the referee, which deservedly got him ejected instantly.

Durant followed him to the locker room, making a gesture that will earn him a fine as well.

The Warriors are 1-2 to start the season and there are a lot of factors at play. The China trip does this to teams, and throw in three straight trips to the Finals on top of it and it has an impact. The team is a little banged up. However, the biggest issue is their defense is a mess right now.

The Warriors will straighten it out eventually, but the start of the season could be a rough one for them.

Pacers owner says team not for sale, will not be moved from Indianapolis

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There are more than a few NBA owners who are seeing the prices teams are being sold for — the Rockets just sold for a record $2.2 billion — and considering their options. Some other billionaires are looking for teams, several with the goal of packing up the franchise and moving it to their respected hometowns.

Those billionaires need not call Herb Simon. The Pacers owner said the team is not going anywhere, speaking to Gregg Doyel of the IndyStar.

“I want to leave my legacy: This team permanently in Indianapolis,” Simon told IndyStar Friday in an interview at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “That’s my No. 1 goal.”

Simon bought the Pacers in 1983 with his older brother, Melvin — who died in 2009 at age 82. He told IndyStar the team someday will be owned by his 53-year-old son, Steve. Behind the scenes, Steve Simon has been working closely with Pacers Sports and President Rick Fuson for five years — “He knows more about the dollars and cents than I do,” Herb said of his son — and met this week with several department heads.

“If anything happens to me, he’d be taking over,” Herb said, adding that father and son are on the same page: The Pacers are staying in Indianapolis.

Good. That is as it should be.

Indiana is part of America’s basketball heartland, and it should have a team. Pacers fans are smart and loyal, and the team has a long history going back to the ABA, running from Mel Daniels and George McGinnis through Reggie Miller and up to Myles Turner (hopefully he can be on the level of the rest of them someday). They play in the coolest basketball building in the league, one with the history of the sport wolven in.

Indy is the nation’s 27th largest television market, bigger than San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City and other successful NBA franchises. There is no reason the Pacers cannot thrive, so long as ownership is committed.

They are. Which is excellent news for Pacers’ fans.

Stan Van Gundy speaks out again in support of protesting athletes

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy used his team’s trip to Washington to again voice his support for athletes who kneel during the national anthem and his opposition to President Donald Trump.

Van Gundy was asked before Friday night’s game against the Wizards what he hoped would result from the president’s criticism of NFL players who refuse to stand for the anthem and the resulting national dialogue about political activism by professional athletes.

“I don’t know what good can come out of anything the president has said,” Van Gundy said. “As far as the athletes’ protest, I hope people would pay attention to the issues that caused the protest in the first place and realize that we have problem disproportionately with police brutality towards men of color.”

Van Gundy also criticized fans who have booed those athletes because they believe the gesture is disrespectful to the United States military.

“I thought that one of the things the military is fighting for is the American way of life and our values, which I think starts with freedom of speech,” Van Gundy said. “Our country was founded on protest. Otherwise, we would still be a colony of England. You would think people would appreciate non-violent protests that will be made.

“If you don’t stand for freedom of speech and you don’t think those players have the right to freedom of speech, what American values are you for?”

It was not the first time Van Gundy has spoken out on these issues. When Trump was elected last November, Van Gundy told the Detroit Free Press it was the first time he had been “ashamed” of his country.

Last month on the team’s media day, he read a prepared statement in support of athletes who use their visibility for political purposes, including protests during the anthem. The NBA has a policy requiring that players stand for the anthem.

The Pistons’ visit to Washington was their first since Jan. 21, one day after Trump’s inauguration.

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