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At 7:24 during the third quarter of the game against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Phoenix Suns clawed their way out of a thirteen point deficit to take a ten point lead. Their inspired play angered me because they were ruining our plans to move up the draft order.

Never fear, these are our Suns!

From that point on, the Suns managed to do what they have consistently done this season – quit.

They quit guarding Monta Ellis. They quit attacking the rim aggressively while allowing Larry Sanders to gobble up swats. They quit helping on defense. They quit on each other. Little by little, the lead they had so valiantly fought for was chipped away by a team that seemed to want it more.

As I was watching this disgrace of an effort, I couldn’t help think about what the fallout might be. In fact, I distinctly remember typing a post in our game thread that stated “this game is going to be the nail in Gentry’s coffin. I guarantee he is fired tomorrow.”

But prior to pressing “post”, I thought about my comment and decided to delete it. It was not that I changed my mind, but that I felt my comment would be mistaken for some sort of call to action, and I did not want people to get the wrong idea. I did not want Gentry fired.

Yet it was clear to me that this game was one of those games. This game was one in which it was obvious the team is completely disjointed and are all acting on their own agendas. This game was the final example that nothing Gentry has or can do will make a difference. Their performance in the third and fourth quarter was a slap in Gentry’s face, and while I do not know yet whether Gentry was fired, or if he stepped away, my guess would be that he had had enough.

Heck, we all have.

The Suns are sure to hold a press conference to provide a smattering of details that may or may not be true. Words like “time to go in a different direction” and “mutual decision” are sure to be uttered.

Yet the real truth has been played out in front of us over and over again for all to see. This team fits together like a fat guy in a little coat [RIP Chris Farley]. The word synergy gets thrown around quite a bit, yet that word does not exist with the Suns locker room. It also seems to me that these individuals really do not like each other all that much, at least in the basketball sense. When you have a group of individuals on their own agenda, it is nearly impossible to find a way to be cohesive. Every missed pass, shot or defensive rotation boils up an avalanche of anger and blame. At that point, there is no hope but to make a change, and thus why I believed that Gentry would be the one under the bus.

Yet is this Alvin Gentry’s doing? Should he shoulder the blame for the failures of a team that many mistakenly considered “talented”? Did Gentry not make enough adjustments to try to turn things around?

I am of the belief that Alvin Gentry is, within the fraternity of all NBA coaches, a decent coach. I don’t think he is Greg Popovich, but I also don’t think he is Magic Johnson. The fact of the matter is, Gentry’s contract was up, and IF, IF he was fired, that says everything you need to know about this team’s front office and owner. Firing Gentry now makes little sense. It is simply change for sake of change, another move by this franchise that lacks clear strategy. But we don’t know all of the facts, so we cannot make the assumption that Gentry was fired.

If Gentry decided to step down now because he realized that he has lost this team for good, then I can respect that decision. As someone who has had teams that were lost causes, I understand Gentry’s pain. You beg, plead, coddle, scream, beg some more and yet nothing you do makes a difference. At some point you realize that your personnel simply are not capable of getting their act together and no coach on the planet is going to be able to change that. I might question why he does not simply ride this season out, but he would have his reasons and I don’t begrudge him for that.

I guess we will find out more once the press conference is held. Until then, all we can do is speculate on what happened, and start the rumors about who replaces him. And to the man who does, I feel for you. Oh sure, for a brief period of time there will be an uptick in effort and enthusiasm that typically follows a change in coaching. But that never lasts and those teams always fall back to their norm in time. This team will be no different and I feel for any coach coming in mid-season trying to take over this mess.

The Suns have officially announced the "mutual decision" and scheduled a press conference with Lon Babby for 3:30pm. Kris Habbas will attend and cover the event.

PHOENIX - The Phoenix Suns and Alvin Gentry have mutually agreed to part ways after his five-plus seasons as head coach, the club announced today. An interim coach will be named in the next 24-48 hours

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When your team goes 13-28 to start the season it's not a huge surprise to see the coach get axed. At the same time, this roster is seriously flawed and that can't all be blamed on Alvin.

Gentry's contract was set to expire at the end of this season and it looks like Robert Sarver and Lon Babby didn't want to wait that long. Of course, Babby's contract is up at the end of this season as well so we'll see what happens there. As for Alvin, perhaps he'd simply had enough losing and didn't see the need to stick around for the rest of the season. We'll see what they all have to say soon enough.

No word yet on who will slide over and finish of this mess of a campaign. It could be Elston Turner, who was hired under the Babby regime, or perhaps Thunder Dan Majerle will get his chance. I'm sure that will be answered soon enough and honestly, does it really matter?

Alvin will be fine. He's got plenty of friends in the media and won't take much blame for the Suns situation. He's been very effective over the years and maintaining the proper distance from personnel decisions. If he wants to coach again, I'm sure he can.

Meanwhile, the Suns under-performed their meager talent level this season and are a complete mess and when that happens, heads typically roll.

Jude LaCava was first with the news:

Alvin Gentry is out as head coach of the Suns

— Jude LaCava (@judefox10) January 18, 2013

John Gambadoro quickly followed on Twitter with more details.

Here's more on Gentry's career:

Alvin Gentry, Suns to part ways, according to report - SBNation.com
Gentry assumed head coaching duties in 2008-09 on an interim basis and led the team to an 18-13 mark over 31 games, and he eventually assumed full-time duties with the team. In his career, Gentry owns a 335-370 record as a head coach (.475 winning percentage). His best season with the Suns came during 2009-10, when the team went 54-28 and advanced to Western Conference Finals, where they lost in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

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It was another tough loss, but one that easily should have been a victory as the Suns held a double-digit lead late and found a way to lose late.

On the season the Phoenix Suns (13-27) have done a good job at home in the second match-up against a team that beat them on the road. The record is not flashy, but 3-5 is a much better mark than what they have done on the season as a whole.

Why does this matter?

With the Milwaukee Bucks (19-18) coming to town they have another opportunity to get some semblance of redemption on the season. Look for a close affair like the other eight games this season that have been in the same category as this one, which are on average tight, defensive struggles, where they hold opponents to 94 points per game.

Part of that is the theme of the team playing very good defense at home, or at the very least a slower team, but in the end they play better at home.

History Lesson

In the first match-up of the season the Bucks showed a gear that the Suns didn't have in the second half cruising to a win. Thanks to an array of Brandon Jennings three-point bombs the Bucks created separation in the third and pulled away in the fourth. The teams are very even across the board and typically play closely contested games.

Head-to-Head (past four seasons)

Suns: 104.5 PPG (seven wins)

Bucks: 98.3 PPG (two wins)

Ellis vs. Suns: 19.2 PPG 4.2 APG 43.3 FG% 32.2 3PT% (26 games)

Jennings vs. Suns: 30.4 PPG 5.0 APG 36.0 FG% 32.4 3PT% (7 games)

Dragic vs. Milwaukee: 8.2 PPG 2.8 APG 43.2 FG% 23.1 3PT% (6 games)

With that there are three things that are very evident. One, because of the familiarity of being a former divisional rival the Suns can hold Ellis in check to his career averages. Two, Jennings absolutely murders the Suns individually, but has only two wins to show for it in seven games.

Three, Dragic does not perform well against the up-tempo and explosive Bucks guards. Granted there is only one start in there, this season, but he generally does not fair well against Milwaukee's Best.

Starting Line-Ups

PG - Goran Dragic v. Brandon Jennings

SG - Jared Dudley v. Monta Ellis

SF - P.J. Tucker v. Luc Mbah a Moute

PF - Luis Scola v. Ersan Ilyasova

C - Marcin Gortat v. Larry Sanders

Potential Suns Inactives: NA

Potential Bucks Inactives: NA

Key Match-Up

Gortat vs. Sanders

With all the attention on the guard play the battle in the paint could very well define this game. Over the past 13 games Sanders has been a machine averaging nearly a double-double (8.4 PPG and 9.8 RPG) while amassing 3.5 blocks per game. Gortat is capable of the same type of performances, but has been inconsistent all season. Both centers can control the paint with their shot-blocking and rebounding abilities, who will win the battle?

Interesting Stat: No. 1

The Bucks are the top shot-blocking team in the NBA led by Sanders and will make it even harder for the Suns to get points in the paint, where they only get 33% of at anyway.

Meaningless Stat: 2-2

Kendall Marshall is right now 2-2 against his former North Carolina Tar Heel teammates. He logged 2:33 combined in all four of those games. There is that.

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