Tag: Alvin Gentry

Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets

Markieff Morris is slipping out of the Suns’ rotation

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Markieff Morris, a rookie forward the Suns selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, began the season with a level of competence that was above expectations. But as this lockout-shortened season has worn on, while the Suns have finally started to find themselves by winning seven of their last nine games, Morris has faded. And he may soon find himself out of the team’s regular rotation because of it.

Morris’ production level has gone from acceptable to great, average to dismal. As this Suns team has locked in recently, giving maximum effort to claw back from double-digit deficits in five straight home victories, Morris hasn’t been able to keep up — which has the team’s head coach, Alvin Gentry, ready to move on to other players if things don’t change.

Hakim Warrick provided a spark from the end of the bench in a win over the Mavericks on Thursday, so it was only natural to ask Gentry if Hak would once again get the call against the Grizzlies on Saturday. Gentry said they’d still like to stick with the rookie, but only if it’s warranted based on the results he can provide when he’s out there.

“I still think that we’ll try Markieff,” Gentry said. “But the one thing that I talked to him about today is that you have to produce. As a bench player, that’s what it’s all about is production. You get an opportunity — and I’m not really talking about making shots, or whatever — but there’s things that you can do to always help the team. I used Channing Frye (as an example), I mean last week Channing was 2-for-18 (in the win over the Clippers) but he played 30-something minutes because of his defense, and rebounding, and things like that.

“It’s not always about making shots, but you’ve got to have production when you’re out there, and if you’re not producing then you have to go somewhere else (as a coach). Because ultimately I’m responsible for the production of guys, and if you’re not producing, then I’ve got to look elsewhere.”

In six games this month — five of which were Suns victories — Morris is shooting a combined 3-for-25 from the field, while collecting just 14 rebounds in total. His minutes have dipped significantly the past two games, and in the win over the Grizzlies on Saturday, Morris logged just three minutes, but still managed to pick up two personal fouls and miss three field goal attempts during that very brief amount of time, while getting screamed at almost the length of the court by Gentry for being completely out of position defensively.

Gentry has shown a fearlessness this season when it comes to his rotations; he messed with the starting lineup on a road trip earlier in the year, and the bench minutes have seemingly changed on a game-to-game basis, depending on who’s bringing the results on any given night. So if Phoenix continues to respond with wins, and is able to make a push towards the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture, Morris may find himself learning from the bench, rather than the floor.

Whatever the result, there are no hard feelings on Gentry’s part, and he seems to be wide open with Morris — both in terms of his communication, as well as what the expectations are. Essentially, as long as the Suns have a shot at the postseason — distant as it still may be — Morris will need to produce if he wants to see the court.  What’s clear now is that he won’t be given additional minutes this season simply for player development purposes.

“He’s a good kid, but he understands that (with hitting the) rookie wall or whatever you want to call it, you’ve still got to have energy when you go out there,” Gentry said. “I still believe in him, and I think he’s going to be a very good player. There’s growing pains involved in whatever you do, but I think the energy thing is key.”

If Marcin Gortat can get 20 rebounds in a game, you’ll see him shoot three-pointers

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Marcin Gortat has a deal with the Suns’ coaching staff this season: get 20 rebounds in a game, do what you like. As you’ll soon see, this is a very serious and important matter to Gortat — so much so that he believes there might have been a conspiracy to keep him from reaching that number on Sunday.

Gortat has been solid on the boards all season, averaging 10.4 rebounds per game, while grabbing 15 or more seven times — including the 17 he got in a 96-88 win over the Kings. The rebounds are more important to Gortat than the scoring at this point, because if he can go even bigger and grab 20 or more in a single game, well … that’s where the fun begins.

Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said earlier in the year that if Gortat got 20 or more rebounds in a game, that he could do whatever he wants. To Gortat, that means getting the green light to jack up a three-pointer or two, and he thought he was close enough on Sunday to have a crack at it.

After tallying 15 rebounds through three quarters, however, Gortat rode the pine until the game’s final four minutes. That was due, of course, to the fact that the lineup Phoenix had in at the time was working, but Gortat jokingly accused the coaching staff of foul play afterward, saying that they intentionally sat him so that he wouldn’t get to grab that elusive 20th rebound.

“It was the third game (in a row) where we out-rebounded the other team, and if we’re going to continue doing such a great job on the boards, we’re going to put ourselves in a better position to win the game,” Gortat said.

“About me, 17 rebounds, I think coach kind of sniffed out that I’m getting close to 20 boards, and he didn’t really want me to shoot that three,” he continued. “That’s why he put me on the bench. I’ve got to talk to him. I’ve definitely got to have a meeting with him, today or tomorrow.”

Gentry happened to walk through the locker room after Gortat’s comments, and predictably laughed off the assertion. As for Gortat and whether or not he even has that kind of range, he’s 2-of-8 from downtown in his career, now playing in his sixth season.

No matter what the numbers say, Gortat says he’s feeling it from distance.

“I’ve felt that thing the last five years, since I’ve made it to the league,” he said while laughing.  “I really feel I can do that. I was really close, I guess somebody had to whisper to his ear that ‘Hey, he’s getting close.’ So it was time for me to rest.”

The Suns have lived with Channing Frye going 5-for-30 from the field over the past two games. I think they’d be more than happy to take their chances with Gortat from distance, especially if he’d earned that green light by pulling down those 20 boards.

Alvin Gentry blasts Suns for lack of effort after loss to Warriors

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Suns head coach Alvin Gentry was livid after Wednesday night’s loss to the Warriors, and with good reason. It had nothing to do with the fantastic game-winner that Monta Ellis knocked down with one second left, and everything to do with the way Phoenix sleep-walked through the game’s first 10 minutes.

The video above, taken by SBNationArizona, gives you an idea of the tone of the postgame presser, but picks up after Gentry had truly let his team have it.

“It’s unfair to the people, the fans in the stands,” Gentry said, as transcribed by SportingNews. “The way we approached the game sucked. And yeah, I said sucked. So what we do is exactly what I said we would do after the first timeout. We would dig ourselves a hole, and then we would have to play so hard to get back, it would be a perfect storm. And you know what? We end up defending the heck out of the guy at the end and he makes the shot and that’s not the difference in the game. The difference in the game was what happened in the first 10 minutes.

“I’m disgusted with the way we played. I’m disgusted with the fact that we had the chance to end the break with something really upbeat and positive and, instead, we just walked through the first (expletive) 10 minutes of the game.”

It was an unusually emotional tirade out of Gentry, but this Suns team has so little room for error that it might have been time for the players to hear it. Phoenix has just enough talent that if everyone individually plays focused basketball, especially defensively, they can compete with the majority of teams on most nights. When they don’t, they can get run out of their own gym and find themselves trailing by 17 points at the end of the first quarter — just as they did on Wednesday against the Warriors.

Steve Nash, Alvin Gentry defend decision to rest Suns’ stars

Steve Nash
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The Suns aren’t a team that’s stacked with talent; Steve Nash has said so himself at multiple times this season, going as far back as training camp last December. And given the team’s sub-.500 position in the standings, it certainly can’t afford to play games without its best offensive creator in Nash, and its best defender in Grant Hill. Yet Phoenix did exactly that on Tuesday in Denver, and did so on purpose.

Nash and Hill were late scratches against the Nuggets, and not surprisingly, the Suns dropped their second straight on the road by a margin of 17 points. Fans wondered if Phoenix was justified in sitting its two best players by choice — an action that equates to a virtual forfeit given the overall talent on this roster. But head coach Alvin Gentry defended the decision before the Suns lost their third straight on Wednesday, saying that preventing injury, and not solely resting his older players for the sake of comfort, was the reason why.

“I don’t think we have that luxury of resting guys,” Gentry said. “I mean, Grant and Steve sat out [Tuesday night in Denver] because they were a little banged up. I think you have to be smart enough to realize that, do you stick ’em out there and risk them actually getting hurt, where now they miss multiple games? Or do you just sit ’em out for a game? And I just thought that it was smart on our part, after talking with the trainers and everything, that we just sit them out for the game. Because I do think that when you’re playing three games in three days, or in our case four games in five days, there’s a chance that if there’s something just a wee bit wrong that it could end up being something that becomes even more so. I just didn’t think it was worth the risk.”

Nash was on the same page, and said that you’ve got to be careful with the schedule being what it is, while using the Achilles’ injury to Chauncey Billups as an example of what could go wrong if the proper precautions aren’t put in place.

“Honestly, you’ve got to be smart sometimes,” he said. “You see what happened to Chauncey Billups; you never know when something like that can happen. Usually injuries like that can come when there’s a cumulative effect of fatigue and something happens. The schedule’s been insane before this three-in-a-row; I think your ego wants to play, but at the same time, you’ve got to think of the big picture.”

Both Nash and Hill looked refreshed and played well in their team’s loss to Atlanta on Wednesday: Nash finished the first quarter with seven points and five assists, and Hill had nine points and two rebounds in the game’s opening period. Still, the Suns fell to the Hawks, losing for the third time in as many nights.

So, while the rest may be a necessity in Gentry’s eyes to prevent long-term injury, fans are going to continue to wonder if a team struggling to stay relevant isn’t just needlessly surrendering games — wins that the Suns desperately need to have to remain in the playoff hunt — by voluntarily sitting its two best players.

Josh Smith plays like an All-Star in Hawks’ win over the Suns

Atlanta Hawks v Phoenix Suns

After the reserves for the 2012 NBA All-Star game were announced last week, and after Josh Smith was once again left off of the Eastern Conference squad for the eighth consecutive season, he sounded off. Smith said politics were to blame for him not being named to the team, and that he apparently “didn’t know the right people” in order for him to get selected.

If the coaches in the East had seen the performance Smith delivered in the Hawks’ 101-99 win over the Suns on Wednesday, they wouldn’t have had a choice.

Smith put up a line of 30 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists, four steals, and three blocked shots, on a night when Atlanta’s actual All-Star, Joe Johnson, was virtually invisible. Johnson managed just six points on 2-of-10 shooting in over 36 minutes of action. But despite his poor performance, he may have had the most important impact on the game’s final outcome with his words.

“I was going to pull Josh out early in the 4th,” Hawks head coach Larry Drew said afterward.  “And right when I subbed Joe in, Joe said ‘Leave him out there, he’s young.’ I thought he was tired, I mean we played last night and he played quite a few minutes, so I just wanted to give him a quick blow. But he wanted to stay in, and I’m glad he did because he just played a phenomenal game.”

Early in the fourth, when Drew was contemplating giving Smith that rest, the Suns were still in control, but just barely. Phoenix had seen a 15-point third-quarter lead reduced down to one when the fateful conversation took place, just two minutes into the final period. From that point on, Smith scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds as the Hawks were able to run their lead to as many as eight, before holding off Phoenix to close it out.

“Joe saw where I was having a pretty good night and he was able to get in [coach’s] ear a little bit,” Smith noted afterward. “And he listened.”

Johnson was a little more direct in detailing what he presented to his head coach.

“He was going to take him out, but you got a guy rolling like that, man, he’s 24 or 25,” Johnson said. “He can handle it. He’s got some mileage he can put on that body, so ride him ’til the wheels fall off. We’ve got two days off, he can rest tomorrow.”

The Hawks have no games over the next two days for the first time in this lockout-shortened season. Rest is definitely on the agenda — for both players and coaches.

“I told the guys I don’t even want to see them tomorrow,” Drew said.

“I don’t want to see him either,” Smith said later, with a laugh. “I want to see the bed, the pillow, the covers. All that good stuff.”

This rest is well-deserved for Smith, especially after he put the team on his back to get this win by playing the entire second half, and almost 45 of the game’s 48 minutes in total. But next weekend, when the All-Star festivities are taking place in Orlando, he’ll get some additional rest — some that, many would be able to argue, he didn’t deserve at all.


– Joe Johnson was named as a participant in the three-point contest over All-Star weekend on Wednesday, despite his percentage from beyond the arc of just .356 which currently ranks him at 65th on the season. So, how did this happen?

“It was kind of something I’ve been wanting to do since I was here in Phoenix,” Johnson told NBCSports.com. “I did it when I was in Phoenix and didn’t have a good outing, so I thought if they needed a fill-in or what-not, I’d be that guy. I just kind of threw it out there, and they went for it. So here I am.”

– Steve Nash was whistled for somewhat of a phantom technical foul at a critical moment in this one, and the Hawks took their first lead since the first quarter on the technical free throw with 7:38 to play in the game. Both Nash and Alvin Gentry had reactions of complete shock and disbelief when it was called, which leads you to believe the refs may have misinterpreted something they heard or saw. Nash explained his side of the story afterward.

“It was tough, it really changed the momentum of the game,” Nash said. “Hinrich called ‘double fists’ which was their zone defense, so I went to the sideline and I really just mouthed to Alvin, ‘they’re in double fists,’ like asking him what offense he wanted us to run. And [the ref] thought I said, ‘They’re horrible.’ I don’t want to make any comment about the referees. I’ll just say it’s unfortunate he misinterpreted what was said.”