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Whether big or small, SOME kind of change to the Suns starting lineup is coming tonight against Portland. It could be as benign and obvious as swapping Shannon Brown and Jared Dudley. Or it could be as crazy as swapping out the power forward and center too, though a change that sweeping would certainly be a temporary "message" more than a permanent change.

Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry has not yet named a new starting lineup, but he has dropped a couple of ambiguous statements the last couple of days that could be twisted and loosely interpreted as "clues".

"[Morris] can get anything he wants," coach Gentry said about second-year power forward Markieff Morris to suns.com either yesterday or Monday, "If it would make him continue to play well and be as aggressive as he is."

Gentry was not talking about playing time. He was referring to his invitation of Morris for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, and whether Gentry should buy an extra turkey just for his extra-large guest.

Yet, you could twist and turn that comment into a huge vote of confidence for Morris, and even conclude that Gentry would gladly give Marcin Gortat's and Luis Scola's servings of turkey to the Philly boy if he plays well in his new starting role on Wednesday.

But no one would make that leap of faith and logic from such an innocent comment about a national holiday, would they?

"He will be in the game when we need stops," Gentry said of P.J. Tucker, when asked if Tucker's spot-minute role will change going forward.

On the surface, the comment implies that any lineup change would exclude Tucker from consideration. Gentry likes what Tucker brings when they need that extra boost of defense and hustle.

However, one could look closer at the lackluster play of the team when Tucker is NOT in the lineup as well as their last-in-the-league defense, and conclude that Gentry needs Tucker the whole forty-eight minutes. In that scenario, Gentry was telling us that Tucker is not only a starter but he's irreplaceable for even a minute a game.

Right?

"Gortat's 88-game starting streak could end at tipoff against the Trail Blazers" - Paul Coro on azcentral.com

Paul doesn't attribute any quotes or inside information to this statement in his article on azcentral.com after practice yesterday, but Paul always has scoops on player moves before they happen. He called the signing and keeping of fourth-PG Diante Garrett and PF longshot Luke Zeller last month, to name two very recent examples. He also called the drafting of Kendall Marshall and just about every Suns draft pick in the last eight years he covered the team.

Would Gentry actually start Jermaine O'Neal ahead of Marcin Gortat? If so, would that be a permanent change or just a "message" to the Polish Gazelle/Hammer/Machine? Most likely, the latter. O'Neal does not have the stamina to play starters' minutes, so he'd most likely play the Lopez role of 2010-11 - taking up the first few minutes of the first and third quarters, with the rest of the game up to the player working the hardest that night.

"__(crickets)__" - Gentry on the small forward and point guard positions

Neither tongue in cheek nor pointed message have blown in the direction of the small forward (Beasley) or point guard (Dragic) positions in any context since Gentry proclaimed upcoming changes.

One could take that as a sure sign Dragic and Beasley will have their names called tonight.

One could also twist and turn that silence into a sure sign that Gentry can't trust himself to keep a secret, so he's not even mentioning the ACTUAL changes he wants to make tonight.

A few potential starting lineups, then

Dragic/Brown/Beasley/Scola/Gortat

Dragic/Tucker/Beasley/Scola/Gortat

Dragic/Dudley/Tucker/Scola/Gortat

Dragic/Dudley/Johnson/Scola/Gortat

Dragic/Dudley/Beasley/Morris/Gortat

Dragic/Dudley/Beasley/Morris/O'Neal

Dragic/Dudley/Beasley/Scola/O'Neal

Dragic/Brown/Tucker/Morris/Gortat

Dragic/Brown/Tucker/Morris/O'Neal

Telfair/Brown/Tucker/Morris/O'Neal

... (and so on and so on)

We don't know if any of these changes will happen, but SOMETHING will change tonight.

"We'll take one guy or two guys or three guys or four guys out of the lineup, and we'll replace them with other guys who have played and done the same thing," Gentry said. "How many or what we're going to do, I don't know yet, but we're definitely going to do something.

"We've just got to be much more gritty, if you want to use that word, and much more resilient at the start of games."

And then yesterday:

"I think we've got a good feel of what we want to try to do and the reasons that we'll do it," coach Alvin Gentry said. "We'll see if that works and if not, we'll try something else."

Can you guess the new lineup?


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After eleven games, I believe it is pertinent to discuss who might be in the running for the first annual Gomer Pyle Award. So to see who or what is the biggest "surprise, surprise, surprise!" so far this season, I give you the leading candidates.

But first, some other early award updates:

The NEO BULLET DODGING AWARD:

Currently leans toward Lon Babby for dodging the Eric Gordon signing. Not only did Babby accidentally avoid maxing out a salary to a player that makes Kevin Johnson look durable, but he also avoided having to give up anything else in a sign and trade deal. He is "the one!"

The NATHAN THURM "I KNEW THAT. IT'S SO FUNNY THAT YOU THINK I DON'T KNOW THAT" AWARD:

Is headed to Minnesota and their fans for obviously knowing the obvious about Wes Johnson. It was said on many a blog that Johnson will never outplay anyone to get on the court. ‘Sota fans stated that other than his great smile, the Suns won't ever reap any benefits of having Wes on their team. Many speculated that he was a throw in that would be dumped fairly quickly.

I knew that! It's so funny that you think that I didn't know that. I mean the guy's option was not renewed and he hasn't seen the court. I knew that.

The AMELIA EARHART AWARD:

If we could find him, Jared Dudley would get it. Does he still play for the Suns?

The AMAZING KRESKIN AWARD:

We already know who wins this, you know what I mean? It is going to the BSOTS followers for predicting a wholly mediocre season and below .500 record. We are certainly on pace. Or could it be we are as flawed as Kreskin himself?

The KE$HA "WE ARE WHO WE ARE!" AWARD:

This one is currently a four way tie between Michael Beasley, Shannon Brown, Wes Johnson and Luis Scola. If you were asked prior to the beginning of the season to describe each players future contributions in detail, that description would be a word for word review of how each has contributed so far. Scola has been the cagey veteran that can't play D, tires out quickly, gives the occasional crafty move and is useless in crunch time. Johnson hasn't seen the floor [see above]. Brown has enticed with flashes of brilliant, albeit lucky play only to reveal his true inefficient self. And Beasley has confounded us with stretches of quality promise, only to see equal stretches of baffling lack of focus and intensity and being relegated to the bench in fourth quarters.

And now, your GOMER PYLE AWARDS candidates:

TUCKER'ED OUT

We loved his hustle and enthusiasm during Summer League, enough so that his signing was resoundingly approved. Yet none of us realistically thought he would get too much run, let alone be a factor in any games. The most we expected of him was the occasional "Lou" moment. Yet Tucker has shown that if you are willing to dedicate yourself to defending, rebounding and being active, all while abandoning any idea that you might have to provide anything offensively, you can stay on the court in crunch time.

The jury is still out on Tucker's sustainability, especially in light of Gentry's lack of enthusiasm for inserting Tucker into the starting lineup. Yet the fact that he has forced Gentry to sit guys that clearly were a priority for the Suns future in the fourth quarter so early in the season has surprised everyone.

DUDLEY DO-WRONG

In a complete reversal of everything we have ever known about Dudley, at present, Jared seems he can do no right. We can all accept missing shots - it happens. In fact, if you polled all of us here in Orangania [?], my guess is that we would overwhelmingly vote that eventually Dudley's shot will return to form with no worries.

The most surprising issue with Dudley is his apparent lack of energy and effort. While he has always been slow footed, he made up for it in sheer hustle by sticking with plays, always making sure he is a factor on the defensive end. Whether being in the right help position, or trailing his man and ultimately getting a hand in on the play, we all loved Dudley for his effort, IQ and consistent impact on the game.

So far this season, Dudley has been 100% AWOL. PJ Tucker is the living embodiment of what Dudley used to be [yeah, we know PJ is more athletic]. Having Tucker only illustrates the loss of Dudley as we knew him. We can only hope for a zombie apocalypse and have Dudley rise from the dead - but one of those super-fast zombies from "I am Legend", not walkers from Walking Dead. They are slow and un-athletic.

B-EASY ON HIM

Counter to what everyone thinks, and even counter to what I think, after thinking about it, I am more confused as ever. Huh?

Yes, we all knew about Michael Beasley. He of the pot smoking. One who never passed up a hit or a shot. The guy who was drafted #2 overall but plays like a second round pick. They describe him as the Carmelo Anthony-like, just not as talented. He was said to be a bigger drag to his team than the monster on the wing of that airplane!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQkngCMZUGU

Yet after watching Beasley so far, I am not sure that is all true. Well, it is true that Beasley is not as talented as Carmelo. Yet from what I see of Michael Beasley, ha also is not a malcontent chucker. While I will delve into this matter in more detail in another article, I think Michael Beasley is misunderstood and misused. He has shown a surprisingly concerted effort to pass the ball. He has done so while passing up shots. In fact, he has made some of the nicest assists so far this season. I really think that he is not so much a malcontent who selfishly wants to put up numbers, but simply is a guy that doesn't really understand the game, is very soft, and is unfocused.

So the surprise here is that I don't actually dislike Beasley for what I thought I would. If used correctly, I believe he is of some use.

Surprising?

TEL-GOOD, NOT JUST FAIR

In drafting Kendall Marshall, the Suns clearly sent a message to fans that we are moving out of the Nameless Player Era and into our future. Marshall was clearly thought of as a future [down the road] cornerstone piece of the franchise. Even with the Dragic signing, it was thought that this would help Marshall come along without the pressure of having the team on his back.

So far he has played eleven minutes in three blowout losses. Surprising as that is, what is even more shocking is the reason why Marshall is pining away - Sebastian Telfair.

Yes, we all loved how Bassy played last season. He adequately supplied backup minutes [although not enough in my view] to rest Nameless. We loved his hustle and determination to show that he indeed belongs in the NBA.

Yet this season, Bassy has not only supplied quality minutes, but has actually impacted this team in a dramatic way. While his numbers are not dramatically different, what has been noticeable is his intensity and effort defensively, and his ability to spark runs. Telfair has even taken over a few games and been invaluable in his effort this year. He has impressed Gentry so much that Gentry hasn't even thought about giving Marshall any run.

This is great news. It is great for Telfair as his hard work is being awarded. But it is equally good for Marshall, because he is getting a great lesson in how to be a professional basketball player. Marshall is learning that he better work hard this offseason or some journeyman scrub throw away will take his job.

TOUGH LOVE

While it is not surprising to hear Marcin Gortat bitching about his role, it certainly seems a bit early in the season for it. Gortat waited a whole 11/82nd of the season to start questioning his coach and calling out his teammates for sticky hands. While we all expected him to implode at some point, we certainly didn't think so soon. And to think we all thought Beasley was the malcontent.

What is even more surprising is Alvin Gentry's response. Typically when confronted by a media onslaught perpetrated by players, coaches pull out Roget's Clicheasaurus. They claim that they understand their player and that the player is somewhat right. They coddle and soothe that player so as to calm the situation. Basically they lie, hoping said player thinks the coach is on their side, only with the hopes to manipulate said player into changing his attitude.

Gentry was having none of that. In a response any parent can take note of [as a model to how to tell your kid they aren't as keen as they think they are], Gentry basically told Gortat to stick it where the sun don't shine. Calling out Gortat's lackluster play in the post and telling everyone point blank that nothing will change, Gentry slammed down the tough love on Gortat. It was exactly what Marcin needed to hear, and in fact, was exactly what every kid in the nation playing basketball needed to see. You aren't getting touches because you simply aren't playing hard enough, and I am not rearranging our philosophy around your play because you aren't good enough. Is that what you hoped to hear Marcin?

Maybe not, but it is what you needed to hear.

And that is the most surprising thing I have seen in the NBA for 20 years!

Poll
Who is the biggest surprise of the early season?

  161 votes | Results


PHOENIX — Suns head coach Alvin Gentry didn’t reveal his hand on Tuesday after he said there would be changes to Phoenix’s lineup. He would only issue a hint that there will be...

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Today, fans, players and management will not settle for the time it takes to develop success. Rookies are busts unless they perform out of the gate. Coaches are losers unless they win right away. Teams are doomed during the pre-season. Players are disgruntled after one minute of play without a “touch”! Fans no longer jump on and off the bandwagon, nowadays they blow it up with an IED.

No longer will we wait for the results of our work, mostly because we don't actually want to take the time to put in the work to get results. Players walk into the gym feeling entitled to everything. Coaches feel the pressure to get instant wins from GM's that cannot wait for success. Fans want heads to roll before the pre-season even finishes. In today's landscape of basketball, you better win fast or you aren't going to be around for very long.

Nowhere was this more evident when Mitch Kupchak waited all of five games to fire the head coach. After an off-season makeover that had the world abuzz and engravers at the ready, Kupchak waited patiently as the Lakers took their time to gel, went through some early season ruffles and ultimately won the NBA championship... Wait! What?

Maybe that is what he should have done?

While nobody except his wife really likes Mike Brown as a coach, a five game leash after a complete makeover seems a bit drastic.

Five Games? Gasol didn't even have time to start sulking. Ron Artest [I refuse to call him that stupid name] hadn't even changed his name to "Flaming Hot Cheeto". Heck, Kobe hadn't even called out his teammates yet. Kupchak probably anticipated all of the above and decided that since he was already going to fire Brown at the all-star break, he might as well just get it over with.

And so it goes in this new age world we live in. Quick to anoint and quicker to hang.

Jeremy Lin got three weeks of unabashed lust from the world, only to be quickly cast aside like a package of undies from Mom on Christmas morning. James Harden was traded, put up MJ numbers in his first couple of games, was nominated alpha dog status, only to fall back to earth and declared "at-best" a #2 [as in a #2 guy, not poop]. If Lebron James had a bad game, I would expect the world to rip his crown off and stomp on it, only to feel really bad about after the next game where he has a quintuple double [although the bad feelings would dissipate within an hour].

We here in Phoenix aren't immune.

Shannon Brown goes all "microwave" on us in one quarter and everyone in Orangeland gets giddy, never mind the fact that Brown also dug us the whole he had to carry us out of. One moment we are lamenting his abhorrent play, the next moment we are solidifying him as our go-to all-star shooting guard, only to finally look for our shovel and measure the size of the trunk in our car. It is dizzying, confusing and exhausting.

This leads us to Gortat.

His ridiculously stupid comments to a foreign language publication are a perfect example of our disinterest in the virtue of patience. Rather than working hard and giving this team an opportunity to gel together, Gortat went the route of a petulant, entitled child. While there is usually a nugget of truth contained within anyone's rants, that truth is overshadowed by the mere fact that we are only eleven games into a season with a roster makeover that makes the Lakers look like they have been together longer than the Temptations.

Gortat's willingness to throw his entire team and coach under the bandwagon only shows impatience gets you nowhere fast. His bomb-dropping comments did little to improve his or the team's situation. Instead of showing up with something to prove, his chose to talk as if his words would get him what he wants.

Well, talk is cheap.

From the fans standpoint, I get it. Fans have always been impatient. We want to win now. We don't have time to wait and watch as some rookie goes through the growing pains of learning the game. We don't want to sit idly by as lineups are tweaked and players adjust to a new system. We don't want to deal with new players figuring each other out while we lose winnable games.

Win baby, just win.

But what of those who are supposed to be professionals? What happened to people in the know who have experience and truly understand that it takes time and patience for success to come? Since when do GM's and players start griping after a couple of pre-season games?

The problem stems from what we are teaching young people. What does a child want? They want their way. They do not have the patience to wait. They don't understand how to earn it. They believe they deserve whatever "it" is and if they don't get it, they throw a fit. As a parent, nobody likes tantrums. They are infuriating, excruciating and embarrassing. You just want it to stop and your first instinct is to do whatever it takes to get it over with. When the noise subsides, you feel instant relief; maybe even feel successful that you were able to manipulate your child to stop their tantrum.

Well, I have got news for you: what you think was a great move on your part, only ingrained misbehavior into your child's repertoire. Rather than enduring the wrath of your child's disgruntled outbursts, you chose the path of least resistance by reinforcing a tantrum as the path to obtain what your kid wants.

Great job parents!

In the world of sports, parents are doing no different. Believing that their child is of unlimited ability and can do no wrong, parents spend their entire effort advocating for their child by fighting their battles, pushing for their way, and reinforcing their kid's belief that they are entitled to things without earning them.

Now we have grown up millionaires who never learned to cope with disappointment. These rich babies have never faced an obstacle in their life that couldn't be eliminated with a well-placed tirade, a pointed finger of blame in the other direction, or the threat of transfer/trade.

Marcin Gortat is a little kid throwing a tantrum. He wants to play, wants the ball and will kick and scream to the media unless someone does something about it. He believes he is the top talent that can bring us to the promise land despite no actual evidence to support it. He believes that this is both a problem with coaching, as well as teammates who clearly don't get "it".

What a big gargantuan wealthy child!

Rather than waiting patiently to let his teammates figure out their roles, he complains. Instead of realizing that it takes time for a coach to work out strategy with new players in the fold, he points fingers. He could have shown up to work ready to prove himself through maximizing his effort, but that takes work. No, it is easier to complain your way into getting what you want.

I applaud Alvin Gentry's response to this. As the "parent" in this situation, Gentry said "NO" to the child. He didn't placate Gortat by coddling him and telling him what he wants to hear. He didn't substitute something that would make Gortat happy enough to stop his tantrum right then and there. Gentry did what every parent should do, tell your child "that is nice kiddo, but you suck in the post and I am not giving you jack squat. You have to earn it!"

Kudos to you, Dad!

Tough love is necessary, but it doesn't provide immediate results. In fact, when you say "NO!" usually the noise gets louder and the tantrums get more pronounced in the immediate. Sometimes that is hard to take. Losing is hard to take, but someone has to have the cajones to understand that the process of growing and learning takes time.

We as fans should pay attention. Our grumblings push front office types to make hasty decisions like bad parents. Rather than understanding the value of patience and making quality choices to develop fundamental foundations for success, GM's are pushed by feeling the need to meet the unrealistic expectations. Coaches make drastic moves in order to get in front of things before they are blamed for the failure. None of this is a recipe for success.

After eleven games, we have already gone from proclaiming Marcin Gortat our most valuable asset that would require a superstar and multiple high draft picks in return for a trade, to someone we need to dump. After eleven games, our most beloved hustle guy and in-house basketball genius Dudley has played his way to being a throw-in on a trade simply because he has disappeared. We have already written Luis Scola's obituary, written off Kendall Marshall, have determined Beasley is bad for us and know that Wes Johnson is useless despite not even playing.

Remember the thing about the nugget of truth. Well, that is the sad part of it all - that it may be all true. But what we have lost in all of this is the fact that we haven't even given any of these guys a chance to figure it out. We have not given them any time to make adjustments and deal with their obstacles. We haven't allowed them to work at it to see if they can earn our respect.

Which brings us back to Prudentius . The guy was right: Patience really is a virtue.


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Randy Hill is a guy who covers the Suns on a daily basis and on pure basketball knowledge is THE most technically insightful source of information on the team. The guy is a legit basketball coach/scout who both knows this team and the game of basketball.

Here's what Randy has to say.

Fox Sports Arizona
It also should be noted the Suns' recent shift away from a heavy dose of the Corner-series offense probably has quite a bit to do with Gortat's inability to function within its parameters. Because the system has two post players operating near each elbow, newcomer Luis Scola – a more accomplished passer – was supposed to spend considerable time on the strong side of the formation. But Gortat sort of whined his way off the weak side, where an enterprising offensive player could use deft maneuvering in the off-ball, two-man game to create shot opportunities.

There's more there. You should read it.

Kyndra de St. Aubin of Arizona Sports 620 is the first reporter to talk to Marcin since his comments. Read her full story.

Suns center Gortat admits he must play better - ArizonaSports.com
"The way I play, I definitely don't think I can help the team to win the games and that's frustrating, definitely," he said. "Hopefully with the season and with the next few games, things are going to change."

Alvin has already said he doesn't see things changing in regards to how Marcin will be used. So...

On a completely unrelated note, there's this.



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