The Grizzlies continue playing on house money as the #8 seed taking their Western Conference semi-final series with the Thunder to a game 7. It will be a loud, charged arena in Oklahoma City today to watch these two teams settle it. Later in the Eastern Conference, the conference finals start today as the Heat, fresh off their win over the Celtics that left them celebrating as if they had already won a title, face the Bulls in game 1 of what promises to be an intriguing series.
Grizzlies at Thunder, 12:30 PDT, ABC. Series tied 3-3.
Heat at Bulls, 5PM PDT, TNT. Game 1.
Behold what I consider to be the best #8 seed moment in NBA playoff history.
Welcome to the Head Coach Edition of the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns Player Evaluations. We here at Bright Side of the Sun have assembled a cast of writers to put together alternative views and biased views and amazing views on the players, front office, and head coach. Your favorite and least favorite Suns will no doubt get plenty of attention, and the compliments or criticism they deserve.
In the world of sports, as your team goes, so does the general public opinion of its head coach. For the Phoenix Suns, the situation is a bit more complicated. Going from the Western Conference Finals and being one fateful putback away from potentially becoming an NBA Finalist to missing the playoffs altogether has the fanbase a bit perplexed. Was the team really that dependent upon Amar'e Stoudemire? Was Alvin Gentry the beneficiary of a team that played above its collective head? Was last season's success merely an aberration?
While the answer to the first question is a resounding "yes" - the jury is still out on our beloved head coach. Alvin Gentry has repeatedly shown that he has the tools to make his mark in this league as a head coach, but he comes with his flaws. He has shown an incredible ability to draw up plays coming out of timeouts, but makes confusing decisions when it comes to his rotations. Maybe it's all part of the bigger plan and maybe the lineups he rolled out there were really the best this team had to offer.
Fans are willing to give a pass on some things while the team is winning, but are more inclined to criticism when the team is losing. In a season where your team is underperforming (especially compared to last season), all the coach's moves are going to be put under a microscope. So, fans, after putting him under your microscope, is Alvin Gentry the real deal or is he a one hit wonder?
In a season where your team falls from being the third seeded team in a competitive Western Conference to the tenth place team with aging stars, one of them having the post supernova style of play*, there are going to be question marks. Part of the job description of being a head coach is to answer these questions to the masses, be it by interview or postgame press conference.
Unfortunately for Alvin Gentry, these two mediums did not prove to give us fans the insight we needed.
All season long, Gentry was preaching patience. He noted that it would take some time for the newly acquired Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick to really gel with the team. However, when the anticipated "few weeks" turned into a "few months," Hedo and Jason Richardson were shipped out for a merry band of Magic men - and the Suns were left with more players to try and integrate midseason.
Then, the past repeated itself: after a disappointing follow up to his breakout playoff performances, Goran Dragic was shipped out for the disgruntled Aaron Brooks. Again - it was another player Gentry had to try and figure out how to use in the middle of a season, while the team was desperately clinging to the hopes of the playoffs.
It's only natural to want to believe in something when a disappointing season is had. When looking back at the season, it's easy to sit back and think, "Wow, Gentry had a lot on his plate. He did the best he could." (I believe that he did, but we'll get to that later.)
While Gentry may get the sympathy vote from the peanut gallery, there were times in this season that had everyone scratching their head. After the Suns were officially eliminated from the playoffs, Gentry released the players he previously had nailed to the bench. Josh Childress was the main beneficiary of this, and he played his heart out. Gathering loose balls, nearly touching the ball on every possession from sheer effort, it was unclear how Alvin Gentry could not find a spot for his energy when players like Vince Carter weren't giving us any.
Gentry, from my perspective, is also a coach that enjoys consistency. Unlike the Don Nelsons of the world, Alvin Gentry likes to stick with the same starting lineup, regardless of their struggles. This mentality worked last season, where after a few rough months, the starting lineup started clicking and the Suns surged to the third seed in the playoffs. This season, however, had a different effect.
Vince Carter seemed to be stuck in the starting lineup by formality only. Robin Lopez was relieved of his duties on a nightly basis after a few, usually unproductive minutes, by Marcin Gortat. Gentry repeatedly told us that it doesn't matter who starts the game, but who can give the most productive minutes. This theory may work in principle, but after your starters are unable to give the production needed, the bench must exert more energy in the first half, leaving less energy and productivity late in the game.
However, while we can break down Alvin Gentry's rotations and personnel decisions all night long, the fact of the matter is that he was dealt a constantly changing hand and did the best he could with it. There might be some lapses in judgment and mistakes made, but no coach is perfect. Even the almighty Phil Jackson made mistakes, but his mistakes were generally able to be covered by his star players.
Everyone is human. The game of basketball is such an evolving sport that no two games will be the same, even between the same teams. Not every rotational decision will work, and not every player will be productive every night. The part that goes overlooked of being a head coach is being able to make these decisions on the fly. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.
I'm not saying something vague, like "Alvin Gentry deserves, at the very least, a pass because of the ever-changing and unpredictable nature of the game of basketball." I'm not even saying you need to give the man any praise at all. My theory, however, is that in a world of constantly changing lineups, front offices and coaches, it would be nice to have a little consistency.
In his first full season as head coach, Alvin Gentry showed that he can lead a team to surprising heights. He has proven to be good with the media, another admirable trait. On top of that, in all accounts I've read, the players enjoy playing for him. He may not be perfect, but he is our head coach. Much like the Arizona Cardinals didn't give up on Ken Whisenhunt after last year's dismal campaign, the Suns should not give up on Alvin Gentry.
* Yes, this player is Vince Carter. According to Wikipedia: "After the core of an aging massive star ceases generating energy from nuclear fusion, it may undergo sudden gravitational collapse into a neutron star or black hole, releasing gravitational potential energy that heats and expels the star's outer layers."
Welcome to the TWENTIETH (CAN YOU BELIEVE WE'VE DONE 20 OF THESE!?) piece of the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns Player Evaluations. We here at Bright Side of the Sun have assembled somewhat of a 'special' as in 'short-bus' cast of writers to put together alternative views and biased views and amazing views on the players, front office, and coaches. Your favorite and least favorite Suns will no doubt get plenty of attention, and the compliments or criticism they deserve. Please also comment a lot on Eutychus' posts and you must hit the REC button so that he can pay for graduate school and his addiction to Sour Skittles... even though he only imagines he makes money when his articles get rec'ed.
Until November 17, Steve Nash was playing at a level nearly above and beyond where he was when he captured his TWO MVP trophies... but something happened that forced Steve to end the season with a few wrinkles in his overall career stat-sheet.
This all sounds terrible right? Well guess what - he was still one of the best players in the NBA. I might have made all that sound bad but trust me - what is sub-par for Steve Nash is above and out of reach for most NBA players. He is a special Canadian and the reasons for his decline in some statistics this year is due to probably a couple of factors. Here's the first,most obvious and no doubt the primary culprit.
First, it was 'the groin'.
Then it was 'pubic symphysis'.
Then in an attempt to curb the giddy laughter of you immature folk out there and reduce the pollution of the air with the word 'pubic'... it was 'pelvic instability'.
Despite the injury's many description changes, one fact remained/remains the same - I have no idea what it is but if he says his man parts hurt then by golly he has all the sympathy I can offer.
The injury definitely affected Nash's performance on the court. He was still able to dish the ball and capture this year's assist title... but his shooting and mobility in general were absolutely hampered.
Here's a video that explains the injury and it's affects in great detail - props to Mike Schmitz and Valley of the Suns. (Oh, and by the way... I just picked up some video editing software and an HD PVR [Personal Video Recorder] he he = you here at Bright Side of the Sun might get some extra-amazing content for next season)
So if your pubic area is hurting BADLY all the time and especially when you move and do things like gee I don't know... play basketball, do you think you could still go out there and shoot nearly 50-40-90? I don't either... but Nash still almost did it. In fact he was the closest player to accomplishing that feat despite his injury that obviously greatly affected his play.
Now above I mentioned that his decline in stats was due to a couple of factors here's the 2nd.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion... and my opinion is that it would be nearly impossible for someone (even a Cyborg like Nash is) to NOT be affected emotionally and mentally by the stresses and rigors that accompany a divorce. Especially one involving children.
Now let me know if you felt the same way or not - but I definitely think this year I saw a more fiery - quick tempered - vocal - and edgy Steve Nash than I have ever seen. He was quick to pick up T's and sharp with his words towards the team and it's abilities. Not always the normal stoic and philosophic Nash we have been used to.
Now how can I link this to his decline in stats? I can't actually. But I can assume as a fellow human being that problems/issues like this at home can and usually inevitably affect a person's performance at work - even if your work is to play basketball.
I could also say that maybe the divorce actually helped Steve play better though! Because indeed until he sustained his mysterious injury the Nash Rambler was on track to surpass statistically by a large margin everything he had done during his MVP seasons and we all marveled at the way he was playing.
So maybe in reality the Injury was the primary and singular cause to his decline in some stats but being the creature of sophistry that I am I won't leave it out as a possible factor either.
So a weird thing is happening to Steve... his ability to recognize and execute plays while the shot-clock or game-clock are winding down is increasingly becoming FAIL status. I don't know what it is... and I can't link it to the injury because it has nothing to do with his pubic symphonies. Maybe his vision is going bad and he can't see the clocks? He's started this bad habit over the course of the last couple years too. I don't know what it is and I hope he figures out that it's a problem and spends more time at the park or in the gym like we all have done as children - taking shots and counting down to ourselves "He's got the ball at the 3-point line... time is ticking, for the victory... 3...2...1". Maybe that will help. A little coaching advice from Coach Euty. Put it on my tab homie.
Now on to the good stuff.
This year Steve Nash...
Alright you see all that junk that he did... despite a severe injury and missing 7 games? Now multiply the amazingness of it by 10 when you consider the fact that all those things were manufactured by Steve on team where he has NO ALL-STAR caliber players around him. No stars at all. Not one Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen or Paul Pierce. That my friends. Is amazing.
But no matter how amazing it might seem to us as adoring fans of The Great One... Sorry Gretzky, the other Canadian sports icon... it is all drowned out in the fact that the Phoenix Suns didn't make the playoffs and didn't even finish the season with a positive record.
40 - 42
That right there my friends... isn't going to get you recognition for JACK SH**. And it's too bad. But oh well, I'm a Suns fan and here's what I think -
According to my trapper-keeper full of Suns notes.. Steve Nash was pretty much snubbed twice this year.
As an All star - I'm just going to steal ussell Westbrook over Steve Nash in the All-Star Game? Really, Western Conference Coaches? Sure, the Oklahoma City Thunder (31-17) have a better record than the Phoenix Suns (23-24) but Nash's numbers are better overall and he's meant far more to his team. And fellas, how about showing a little respect for the older guy?
Westbrook joins Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Deron Williams, Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol as the seven reserves voted on to the 2011 NBA All-Star team. While Charles Barkley is losing his lunch on TNT talking about how Kevin Love being left off was the biggest travesty of all time, the real shame isn't snubbing the second-year double-double machine who plays on bad team at a fast pace. The real travesty is picking third-year Westbrook over Nash.
Nash is averaging 16.8 points, 11.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. He's shooting a ridiculous 52.6 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from three.
Westbrook is averaging an impressive 22.4 points per game playing next to Kevin Durant who sucks up all the opponent's defensive attention and he's only 43.4 percent from the field and a horrible 24 percent from three. Westbrook adds 8.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds to his line.
I congratulated the coaches for ignoring the shiny new toy in Minnesota (Love) but why couldn't they do the same for Westbrook?
And as a member of the All-NBA Team - I'll steal Paul Coro's words for this one...
Guard Steve Nash was the only Suns player to receive votes but his 17 voting points (no first-team votes) were not close to the 106 points that San Antonio's Manu Ginobili accrued to claim the final third-team guard spot. In fact, Nash finished 10th in All-NBA voting among guards behind Derrick Rose (593), Kobe Bryant (551), Dwyane Wade (392), Russell Westbrook (184), Chris Paul (157), Ginobili, Rajon Rondo (68), Tony Parker (27) and Deron Williams (19).
That is what a Suns record of 40-42 will do for you. Just ask Andre Miller or Mark Jackson. They are the only other NBA assist champions to be left off the All-NBA teams since the third team was added in 1989. Miller led the NBA in assists in 2001-02 for 29-53 Cleveland, and Jackson did it in 1996-97 when he split the season between 21-61 Denver and 39-43 Indiana.
Nash led the NBA with 11.4 assists per game but Rondo and Williams finished second and third and also did not make the teams.
The last sentence right there says something. Does the NBA and those who vote not care about the difficulty and lost art of passing the ball? Does the NBA praise and hail ball-hogging? Whatever... maybe it's a discussion for later, maybe I'm jealous that other teams have more athletically freakish players that they call 'point guards'. Maybe I'm just sick of watching Russel Westbrook continually pretend to be baby jesus and forget the fact that he has the greatest scorer probably ever to play the game to PASS to. Rant over.
If I have to give Steve Nash a grade for his performance this year I'd give him an A- only because of his injury which affected his play and also because of his declining ability to recognize an expiring clock, be it shot or game. Otherwise, individually Steve Nash was his usual self. AMAZING.
So... how many more years do you think Steve could play?
Or a better question - How many more years do you want Steve Nash to play for the Suns?