More photos » Christian Petersen - Getty Images
Get up and take it to the rack, Vince. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Tonight, the Phoenix Suns give their 75% rebuilt selves a shot at winning a game versus arguably the worst team in the league, the Cleveland Cavaliers. How bad are both of these teams? Why not compare?
Cavs: 8-28 15th in the EC...3-16 on the road....Lost 9 in a row, 9 of their last 10
Suns: 14-20 12th in the WC ...8-9 at home...Lost 3 in a row, 8 of their last 10
Cavs: 39.2 per game (26th, NBA)...-3.64 differential (27th, NBA)
Suns: 38.3 per game (30th, NBA)....-6.18 differential (30th, NBA)
Cavs: 94.0 ppg...ppg differential:. -9.48 (30th, NBA)
Suns: 105.7 ppg...ppg differential: -2.74 (20th NBA)
Cavs: 43% FG... (30th NBA)...FG% differential: -.046
Suns: 47.5% FG...(2nd NBA)...FG% differential: -.010
Woah. Quite a battle shaping up here. Two teams who can't defend or rebound. Two teams mired in the Winter doldrums of defeat and emotional deflation. Two teams seemingly going in the same direction-down the dark hole that is the toilet of franchise reconstruction. The Cavs lost LeBron. The Suns lost someone of substance too.
Not getting y'all excited for this one? Well how about a quote from one of the Suns new acquisitions, Vince "Vinsanity" Carter to lift our spirits:
"There's so much talent in here and ability," Suns guard Vince Carter said. "It doesn't matter about size. If we stick to what we do and be who we are, we should be OK but we've got to believe it.
"I think we can do it. I really do."
quote via AZ Republic (Paul Coro)
How's that? Feeling better, Suns fans?
Keys to the Game:
Win dammit. Play some D. The Suns have been letting scrubs and youngsters have career nights against them (76ers anyone?). Body up Jamison, keep Varejao from controlling the boards, and get a hand in the grill of Gibson and Williams. On the offensive end, stop settling for long fall away 3's (Vince). Start by working the ball inside to Lopez/Gortat. Attack the rim. Who do the Cavs have to stop buckets in the paint? Make them defend.
It would be ridiculous to make a remark such as "the Suns need a win to get back on track." But as Supreme Czar of the obvious, I'll go ahead and make that statement. The Suns have a lot of problems to deal with right now, but winning a game here and there could help the psychological segment of the problem. Of course getting a win-against anyone would take a remedy of the other problems. And what is really accomplished with a W versus the worst team in the league? I suppose more than a loss.
Mr. Alex Laugan created an excellent exercise in what I think they term "rosterbation," and with that in mind, I wonder what the lineup will be tonight. My preference is to put Frye at the 4 and leave him there indefinitely. He's the only semblance of a 4 on the squad, and shuffling him in and out of the starting lineup hasn't helped him out. In 33 games as a starter, Frye has shot 45% and averaged 12 and 6. In 13 games as a substitute, he's shot 35%, averaging 9 and 4. Less minutes and opportunities? Probably? Playing without Nash hurting his game? Yes.
Frye is only one piece of the equation. Robin Lopez presents another conendrum of sorts. His suckitude of late is a contributing reason why the Suns are struggling. First off, is Robin healthy? I assume so. So if he is, there are no excuses. I did notice a little something int he game logs. Lopez hit the skids after a nice 18/14 performance versus the Lakers in which he played 32 minutes. From there on out, the most he played was 18 minutes versus Sacramento. After Lopez's stretch on the DL, he returned and registered 4 double digit scoring efforts out of 5 games. In all of those games he played at least 21 minutes and never registered more than 4 PF's, averaging nearly 6 boards a game.
What's my point? Lopez is a headcase. He's young, prone to extreme stretches of confidence and frustration. The trades have messed up his flow (like everyone else). But it's time to give him an extended shot to get himself back into rhythm. Start him, and give him an extended look (5 games?) and a chance to get back on track.
The Cavs know a thing or two about falling from NBA's graces as well. When LeBron James took his talents to warmer weather and into Dwyane Wade's arms, the Cavs went from a 61-win team to the bottom of the barrel. Their season was always going to be an uphill battle without James. But since LeBron and the Miami Heat stomped the pride out of his former team on December 2, the Cavs have only one game in their last 19 tries. Ironically, their single victory came over the New York Knicks on December 18.
[Note by Seth Pollack, 01/09/11 12:28 PM MST ]
Alvin Gentry Vows Changes For Sinking Phoenix Suns - SB Nation Arizona
"Last year we could play guys whenever we wanted to, who was going good, things like that. I think I've got to find a way to develop some consistency in the rotations and who's going to play and when they're going to play and them have a good feel as to when they're going to come in the game and stuff like that. This team's not a team that can play ten guys. I do understand that now. There's going to be three, four guys that are not going to be in the rotation."
Gentry will start Robin Lopez, Channing Frye, Grant Hill, Vince Carter and Steve Nash tonight and said that he would stick with that starting unit for the next ten games and stop trying to adjust to what other teams were doing.
Here's a couple of fun links looking at Vince Carter (video breakdown) and Earl Clark
In the Suns' 121-96 blowout loss to the Knicks last night, Carter spent a lot of the third quarter pointing. Usually a player will point for props, but there aren't many to be given out in a blowout loss. And since Carter was on the losing side, he surely couldn't have been pointing at the scoreboard. So, what was he pointing at?
Orlando Magic 110, Houston Rockets 95: Locker-Room Notes - Orlando Pinstriped Post
"I think that Earl is going to be a really, really good player. I really do," said Van Gundy.
"He's offensively very talented: he's got great quickness, he can shoot the ball, he can put it on the floor. He is a very hard-working guy. He's the first guy in here every day. He comes in on every off day. Every game he doesn't play in, if you go in the gym afterwards, he's in there working out after games [at] 10 o'clock at night."
More photos » Christian Petersen - Getty Images
PHOENIX - JANUARY 07: Head coach Alvin Gentry of the Phoenix Suns talks with Steve Nash #12 Vince Carter #25 Goran Dragic #2 and Channing Frye #8 during the NBA game against the New York Knicks at US Airways Center on January 7 2011 in Phoenix Arizona. The Knicks defeated the Suns 121-96. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Suns have cancelled their schedule practice today, taking the day off after a horrible, nightmarish showing AT HOME against their former/future selves.
I expect Steve Nash will spend some time playing with his kids, Grant Hill will spend time with Tamia and fam (for a while, but then will likely head to the arena for a workout because he always does), and everyone else will either hang out in their hotel rooms or houses... all trying to forget what happened but figure out a solution at the same time.
Gentry, for his part, will likely spend the entire time with his coaching staff trying to figure out what the hell will work.
Let's do that too.
Before you scroll down to the comments section, please do me a HUGE favor:
For the purposes of this post, please do me a favor. Assume the trade deadline has already passed, and THIS is the team that's stuck together for another 49 games. Don't suggest trades. Don't talk about next summer or the draft. Take the day off from wishing the team was comprised of something else.
Talk about what can WORK for this team, this season. Hunker down, don't look around the league. Just look at this current team as if you're Gentry. What should he do, right now with what he has?
Hit the jump for my take (or not, your call), and then add yours.
Alvin Gentry is in a big pickle. What to do with this roster of overly-similar yet mismatched parts?
(again, the roster is the roster. For this post, it's not changing)
Two Guaranteed Starters
Gentry has used 11 different starting lineups. The only constants, so far, have been Steve Nash and Grant Hill. Should that change? Assuming the roster stays the same, then no.
There's 2 starters down, 3 to go.
Let's take the next easiest one: Shooting guard.
Your choices are an 8-time All-Star who is in steep decline and doesn't know the scheme at all vs. a bunch of career reserves (Pietrus, Dudley, Childress, Dragic) who for sure will be good one game, bad the next.
None of the options look great, but you can't really justify any decision besides Carter. With him, you'll get consistency. Sure it's maddening sometimes (a lot of the time), but at least it's consistent. Gentry knows he's gonna get 13-20 points every game on somewhat predictable shooting (45%). Defense is optional, but at least Gentry knows this too.
Dudley, Pietrus and Childress are all very similar, yet different at the same time. Understandably, Gentry can't figure out who to play consistent minutes since he can only really play 2 of these guys a game. They are, talent-wise, interchangeable. He tried to vote Childress off the island because he needs the other two's scoring, yet the other two can't hit the broad side of the barn often enough to justify that benching.
Now on to the next easiest, simply because there are candidates: Center
Gortat provides a modicum of defense, seemingly consistent effort, and the chance at rebounding. Yet, since he's stepped into the lineup the Suns have been out-rebounded immensely despite his own okay totals. Not sure what to make of that, but I don't think it's all Gortat's fault.
Robin Lopez provides the most potential and defense but can't rebound well, and he's playing worse than Jarron Collins right now. If you start him and give him 25 consistent minutes, he MIGHT re-blossom or he might contribute to a continued team meltdown.
Channing Frye is... well... missing. How can Gentry get his Channing back? Who knows, and this is extremely frustrating if I'm the coach. Frye was a great last year and somewhat consistent till the playoffs, yet all season he's been unpredictable. That's killer to a coach.
If I'm Gentry, I go with Gortat as the starter and Lopez as the backup. Simply because they are quality players who can't play any other position.
But I'm giving each of them a minimum of 15-20 minutes a night. They need consistency and predictability, no matter who the opponent is.
Finally, we have to play someone at the Power Forward position.
There's Hakim Warrick, who at least has played that position his entire career even though he basically sucks at it except for the occassional dunk. But at least he seems to understand the concept of rolling to the basket and floating to an open area for a Nash dump-off. On defense...well, there is no defense here.
After that, we're down to giving these minutes to a talented player who plays another position. Channing Frye has to get 20-25 here, doesn't he? Even though he's missing a lot of shots, you've got to play him.
If you're not sold on Warrick deserving more minutes than the loser of the Childress/Dudley/Pietrus fight for the 2/3 minutes, then you're down to a runoff for the final PF minutes.
That's why Gentry tried to go with Hill here. He figured (as he previously had done with Hedo) that a veteran could handle it, could make it work based on sheer effort.
But Grant Hill is not a PF. Neither is Childress, Dudley or Pietrus.
Still, Gentry has no choice. He has to mix and match till he finds gold.
So if you're Gentry and you're stuck with this current roster, what would do you? Can you see why there's been 11 different starting lineups? I sure can.
Gimme your options, and WHY.
One last time:
For this one post, please stick to the topic and just discuss the current team from the eyes of the coach. Pretend you have to coach THIS team for 49 more games.