Bill Kostroun - AP
Go Go Goran! (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
More photos » Bill Kostroun - AP
Goran, who's there to back you up? (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Forget moral victories. I'll take beating Cleveland ugly on Sunday and hopefully the Nets tonight over a loss any day of the week.
It's gotten so bad for the Phoenix Suns that the Nets' actually appear to be a tough matchup. PG Devin Harris has made the All-Star game and is a lifelong Suns killer. PF/C Brook Lopez is a much better player than his brother. PF Kris Humphries is a Suns killer as well, just on a smaller scale. He played for Dallas and Toronto previously and the fact that I even know his name tells me to beware. SG Anthony Morrow and backup PG Jordan Farmar, and even backup-backup PF Troy Murphy all seem to have had good games against the Suns in recent seasons.
Ugh. This is what its come to. Hand-wringing over playing the 10-27 Nets.
Just pray to basketball heaven that the Nets don't go on a 10-0 run - or even an 8-2 run that gives up a lead - at any point in the game. Cuz if that happens, it's over. This Suns team has ZERO fight in them. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
And I'm not just talking about the score. Blowouts happen. Hit the jump for what I'm really talking about.
I'm talking about not one player stepping up to Goran Dragic's side when JR Smith and then Kenyon Martin bullied him like a schoolboy (youtube video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdFWUnQAqZE&feature=player_detailpage). I'm talking about not one hard foul against JR Smith after he laughed at Dragic and showboated a 'pull the chair' defense under the basket.
Early in the fourth quarter, Dragic was fouled on the perimeter as he attempted a drive. Two more steps and a whistle later, JR Smith gave Dragic an intentionally hard foul on a swipe at the ball. Then - as Dragic was turning to confront Smith - Kenyon Martin grabbed Dragic and, literally, picked him up off the ground by pressing his hands into Dragic's chest and back, carrying the young man three feet before setting him back down.
What did the other Suns players on the court do in support of Dragic? Well, Warrick stepped up from behind Martin to hold HIM back rather than in between them to separate them. Gortat walked Dragic off to the other end of the court. And that was it. No one else stepped in at all.
And on the next Phoenix possession, Dragic posted JR Smith under the basket. Smith pulled thechair, stepping away from defense entirely and... Dragic travelled. Turnover.
And both times, the Nuggets bench was laughing, as was JR Smith.
I have never seen such a horrible display of teamsmanship in my life. Yeah, I don't actually know if that's a word. I maybe made it up.
Someone please tell me if I got this all wrong.
Now maybe Dragic said something really mean to Smith, prompting Martin to carry Dragic away from Smith for safety reasons. Maybe Dragic was to blame for all this. But I highly doubt that.
Anyway, deep breath. Back to the game tonight.
Here's the Nets lineup. They've been resting and prepping for 2 days.
Harris or Lopez? Sure. But I'm talking about someone else too. The Suns lately have been letting nobodies play like All-Stars. Farmar had 20 and 10 subbing for Harris in their last game. Humphries is averaging 9 points per game on the year. Maybe the rookie - Favors - will have a career game like DeMarcus Cousins did a week ago.
Yet, maybe tonight the tide will change. Maybe tonight the Suns play with some fire. Maybe the Suns as a team play like they care to be there, and will fight back if the Nets make a run.
We'll see. Unfortunately for me, I'm too much of a fan not to watch. It's like watching a car wreck over and over. You want to look away and you know you should look away... but you just can't.
This more than anything encapsulates the way we feel right now…
“The greatest blunders, like the thickest ropes, are often compounded of a multitude of strands. Take the rope apart, separate it into the small threads that compose it, and you can break them one by one. You think, “That is all there was!” But twist them all together and you have something tremendous.
Now let's get's serious and jump into this...
Right now with the Suns season doing its best imitation of the Hindenberg, even the most open-minded of Suns fans are starting to see Alvin Gentry as a flawed coach. Give him good players in a working system and he’ll produce…Give him a challenge and he’ll fall flat on his face…They point to the odious 15-21 record, the Suns lethargic play, the lack of cohesiveness, and of course, the questionable play-calling and substitutions.
Some of this might actually have merit, but he doesn't get enough credit for winning fifteen games this season with a roster filled with more than a few jelly-soft players who don't own a backbone. To all those who have lobbed the high-explosive rounds at him this past month, you’re doing a good job, as the rising crescendo of outrage in Suns land may eventually see him fired. All I can say is be careful what you wish for…you just may get it.
But is this all really Alvin’s fault or is it just the circumstances that have produced this setback for the Suns? Look at it this way, when players fail—or even just perform poorly—owners or front office types typically place the blame outside the players themselves. The standard rationale is that the players don’t understand the sets, schemes, or plays; or the player isn’t driven to succeed, is inundated with over-information, or given conflicting directions. Whatever the reason, the boss often assumes that the problem isn’t the players’ fault—and therefore, by default, the coaches’ responsibility.
But is it? The answer, of course, is sometimes “maybe.” Looking at the Suns, it’s obvious that some players are simply not up to their assigned tasks, and never will be, owing to lack of knowledge, skill, or simple desire. But sometimes (and I would go so far as to say often) a player’s poor performance can be partially blamed on an imperfect fit. Perhaps blamed is too strong a word, but it is directionally correct. Hedo Turkoglu was a perfect example…looking at his play with the Magic compared to his play with the Suns, it is obvious that he wasn’t a perfect fit in Phoenix.
While it would be hard to get “hard research” that supports what I am about to say, but I believe that owners & management (albeit accidentally and usually with the best intentions) are often complicit in a players’ lack of success and their corresponding impact on the team…. How? By creating and reinforcing team dynamics that essentially sets up perceived weaker performers to fail. Arguably, all the players that we have brought in have failed to live up to expectations or have not brought synergy to the team....
I can hear you saying…”WTF are you talking about?” Well, think about the Suns and their players this year...Right now there is as a dynamic in which formerly capable players who are now categorized as mediocre or weak performers and live down to these low expectations. In my experience, coaches have contributed to such a dynamic at one time or another, but much of the fault lies with management for not doing due diligence before bringing a player in….In other words, they didn’t do their homework on some of these guys and how they would affect the team. Bottom line - what is their prognosis for performance with the group of guys we already have?
Therefore, a lot of our failures this year can be traced directly to our leadership group—Bringing in Hedo Turkoglu, the knee-jerk Hakim Warrick signing, bringing in no real power forward, glut of wings, no rebounding, no go-to scorer, no toughness etc, etc…..Really, the aim of hiring a General Manager and all these other Front Office schmucks is to illuminate the mechanisms involved with player development and bringing in new personnel. They were supposed to provide the necessary platform to interrupt downward spirals and, ultimately, to prevent them from taking hold. I sincerely hope that they are up to this task…at this point, I am not so sure…
This brings us to Alvin Gentry…The hard thing about the NBA coaching ranks is that it doesn’t have to be your fault…you just got to deal with it…Has Gentry dealt with it, well?…maybe, maybe not, I just know that it hasn't been an easy job this year-- Different line-ups, getting beat down on the boards, terrible defensive efforts, trading of JRich, etc.. I also know that if the Front Office perceives that Gentry has lost this team, change may be coming. At that point, where do we go from here? An interim coach Dan Majerle would be stuck with a squad that has a frustrated but still determined Steve Nash & Grant Hill, a gaggle of underachievers, no collective heart, and one has been partially hijacked by a handful of mercenaries (Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus…).
Bottom line is, that coaching in the NBA might be the world's toughest profession. It also might be the one where it's hardest to figure out who goes and who stays. Would the Headlines read “The Phoenix Suns have dumped Alvin Gentry" one season after he got to within two wins of play of reaching the NBA Finals? Last year, Miami Heat management twiddled its collective thumbs while Eric Spoelstra drifted through a miserable season…why? Because they knew the "end game." Think how different Gentry' life might be if Phoenix right now had won it all last year and Amare Stoudemire hadn’t galloped off into the sunset….Oh, to have an endgame…!
I just feel Alvin has been setup for a setback.....