The Suns need a lot more defensive effort like this demonstrated by Marcin Gortat.

In late December, 2010, then-newcomer and unproven Suns backup center Marcin Gortat committed the bold, controversial act of publicly and bluntly criticizing his teammates for poor defensive effort. Gortat had been a member of the Suns for less than 2 weeks when a 123-110 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers (at the time, a team with a worse record than the Suns) set him off to challenge his new teammates with statements such as:

"We have to be more serious about everything we do. When you pass through that door up front over there, this is time when you pack it in and are getting ready for the game or the practice. We got to read the scouting report, which guy likes to do what, and learn it. It's a lot of work."

Is it time for Gortat, now a team leader, to again speak up publicly about the sloppy lack of effort we've seen from the Suns this season?

As Seth Pollack noted at the time of Gortat's quote 13 months ago:

He specifically calls out his teammates for lack of preparation and attacks the very culture of the Phoenix Suns. This isn't a team used to wearing their game face all the time. This is a team who wants to play loose and have a positive, upbeat attitude.

Gortat was also indirectly but undoubtedly calling out team leaders Alvin Gentry, Steve Nash and Grant Hill. Who else had set this tone and culture that Gortat found unacceptable? For a team that had made the conference finals only 7 months prior, led by these same men, to be called out by a newcomer and a backup was a remarkable situation.

There was some immediate short-term success as the Suns held their next three opponents under 100 points, but old habits and better opponents returned and the Suns surrendered 132 points once in January of 2011, and 121 points two other times en route to a season total 25th place out of 30 in DRtg.

This year's edition of the Suns is currently 24th of 30 in DRtg after last night's 122-99 shellacking at the hands of a Dallas Mavericks team that was missing its starting point guard, Jason Kidd.

It can be said then, that Gortat's words didn't have much impact to the bottom line. Sadly, the Suns stink even worse overall since then and are about the same level of failure on defense. We can debate whether the Suns persistent defensive woes are due to scheme, simple lack of talent or lack of effort and intensity.

It's a combination of these things, but the Suns have lost 4 games out of 20 so far by at least 20 points, including 2 of the last 3. They've lost to fellow bottom-feeders the Raptors, Hornets, Cavs and Nets at home. We can say the Suns lack talent, need another scorer or two, etc. But is this roster truly only capable of winning 1 game out of 20 against a quality opponent, at home over a Blazers team that had played the night before?

Even the Warriors have been able to defeat the Bulls and Heat so far, the Wizards beat the Thunder, the Bucks beat the Lakers, etc. Yet the Suns have, nearly without exception, been destroyed when facing good teams. Are they truly giving maximum effort? Or are they starting to tune out the coaching staff and pack it in for the season, especially as soon as games get out of hand?

Back to Gortat, he also had this to say in December, 2010:

"I'm trying to get some rebounds and stops, but unfortunately there is not too many opportunities to rebound because the 76ers are scoring 120-something points. It is just frustrating. It is frustrating as hell; I'm not going to lie. It is a reality check for me, going from a team who is winning to a team who is losing and we are the worst defensive team in the league."

That frustration he felt right there is healthy. He wasn't used to being on a team where defensive collapses happen regularly, and didn't intend to become used to it. But, has he now become used to it after over a year on the Suns? Is he speaking out privately like this, but no longer publicly?

Gortat has been the most dependable Suns player this season, so there is no questioning his desire and effort to win. What I'd hate to imagine is that the fail all around him has numbed him to failure. I want it to still piss him off. Whether it would do the team any good or not, I'd be happy to hear Gortat rant about the BS happening around him on the team. And besides, the Suns look like they've already resorted to the "throw darts at the board and hope something works" stage of the problem-solving process this season, so what the hell? Why not?

Rant on, Marcin! I hope that you're mad as hell, because a lot of us fans certainly are.

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Should Marcin Gortat publicly criticize his teammates' effort in an attempt to motivate them?

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Still the best dunk in recent memory.

Let's take a break from the misery that is the Phoenix Suns 2011-12 "No Fight" season where the team is 3-7 over their last 10 games with an average margin of loss of -15.6 and an average margin of victory of just 4.3. There's no fun to be found there, but fortunately we have Blake Griffin to ogle as he throws down a SAVAGE dunk on Kendrick Perkins.

Not surprisingly given our short attention span and the media's constant need to stir up trouble, Blake's dunk is already being called one of the best ever. Hold on, folks.

Blake's dunk was awesome but does it really stake up to Vince Carter's dunk over a 7-foot Frenchman? No.

Does Griffin's dunk stand up to Dr. J's dunk over Michael cooper? No.

How about Kevin Johnson's dunk on Hakeem Olajuwon? Close, but no.

How about Jared Dudley's dunk over the rim? Duh.

The real question is how does Blake Griffin's dunk over Kendrick Perkins compare to Amare Stoudemire's dunk over Anthony Tolliver?

Hit the jump and check them both out...



For my money, Amare's dunk is far better. It came in the fourth quarter of a close game and literally turned the tide and gave the Suns the win.

Game situation aside, Amare gets far more power on his dunk whereas Blake barely gets his finger tips on the rim. Both guys did go through a defender and Perkins is more formidable a road block than Tolliver, but Anthony had more force moving towards Amare while Kendrick was jumping straight up.

No contest, Amare's dunk wins...and also makes us remember just how much fun this Suns team used to be.

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Who's dunk was more awesome?

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Ugly. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Dallas Mavericks proved once again they can win against the Phoenix Suns without Dirk Nowitzki. Although Dirk actually played tonight, he was a non-factor. The Mavericks didn't need the big blond man as Vince Carter and Delonte West combined to shoot 10-13 from beyond the arc.

This was not a fun game to witness. The Mavericks were scorching all night long and held the Suns in check defensively converting their rare misses into buckets. With Steve Nash sitting, the Suns never had a chance tonight.

The Mavericks dropped 10 of 16 threes in the first two quarters, including 6 straight to end the half. Once again a former Sun did major damage. This time it was in the form of Vince Carter (cringe), who went for 15 points on 6-9 shooting, including three out four 3-pointers. The Suns were out rebounded 23-13, with the Mavericks scoring 15 second chance points. While the Suns looked decent from a numbers standpoint: 48% fg, 4-7 from beyond the arc, and only 5 turnovers, missing 5 of their last 6 shots to end the 2nd quarter left them down by 18 at the break.

Said Suns defensive guru, Elston Turner: "..We blew assignments and allowed too much dribble penetration..."

Sound familiar? Need to read any further?

In the second half, things got no better for the Suns. The Mavericks extended their lead to as many as 26. The Suns had a couple of late runs, but it was too late. Late enough for Robin Lopez to get playing time.

Duly Noted:

  • The Mavericks went 14-27 from beyond the arc and shot 55% overall
  • The Mavericks scored 20 points off of 10 offensive rebounds
  • The Mavericks outrebounded the Suns 44-33 and out dished the Suns 31-21
  • Former Suns Vince Carter and Shawn Marion went for 41 points and +36 combined
  • Marcin Gortat led the Suns with 17 and 10. Jared Dudley scored 15, and Grant Hill added 12.
  • Sebastian Telfair played well in garbage time. It would be nice if he played as confident when the game was close.
  • Josh Childress scored 9 points, grabbed 4 boards, and added 2 assists and 2 steals. It appears he's back in the rotation.

Quotes

Alvin Gentry

"They shot the heck out of the ball tonight...It's hard to play catchup against that team especially when they're locked in like they were...They force you to get into rotations...You gotta try and double Dirk...he opens up other guys and they shot the ball extremely well...Their 18th in the league in shooting and we forced them to make shots and they made them...You have to play the averages..."

On Josh Childress

'He's playing well. he's a true professional. He came every day and he worked...We gave him an opportunity and I think he did a great job."

Jared Dudley

"...We played really bad on defense tonight...they made us pay. They got hot early and they kept it going."

Depressing Thoughts:

  • Alvin Gentry sounded tired and somewhat apologetic of his players when commenting on this game. Without Steve Nash, the odds are stacked very high against the Suns this season. But tonight there was much talk about the defensive rotation, how helping out Grant Hill defend Dirk Nowitzki left the Mavericks with a lot of open shots. They just happened to hit those shots. Steve Nash most likely wouldn't have made much of a difference in defending the Mavericks onslaught tonight.
  • Gentry sounds rational, you play the averages. I get it. But maybe after two quarters when you give up 66 points you ditch the averages when you see it isn't working. What do you do to contain Dirk? On a normal day in a normal season I would have been more concerned about him. But this is not your normal Dirk whose averaging 17.1 ppg, his lowest average since his rookie year. This is tired Dirk. Dirk who had to take a week off because he was out of shape. Maybe you rough him up with Frye, Morris, and Warrick. That's 18 fouls you have to give. Then again Dirk's a decent free throw shooter.
  • Although I'm not much of a fan of Tom Chambers commentary, the guy seemed to disagree with Alvin Gentry: "You can't allow 55% from the field. You can't allow a team to shoot over 50% in threes." While Gentry seemed resigned at his team's defensive performance, Chambers had a different view as did Jared Dudley. Odd?
Next Up, New Orleans Hornets, @ LA

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Do You Think Alvin Gentry's Job is in Jeopardy?

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PHOENIX — Three Dallas players roasted the Phoenix Suns for 20 or more points, and the the Mavericks used the three-pointer to open up a lead that ended in a 122-99 blowout on Monday night. Led...

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Some notes from Gentry's office:

  • Nash won't go (but you knew that already). He couldn't "contract" or "push off". Price will start so we'll get to see Marcin Gortat in some different situations. Gentry said that if it were a playoff game Nash could have "gutted it out" so don't expect him out for long.
  • Gentry said key for Price is to not try and be Nash. Suns will run less pick and roll and more movement. Gentry compared Price backing up Nash to the QB for the Colts having to play behind Peyton Manning.
  • On Frye's poor shooting, Gentry said he's getting good shots and shooting with confidence. He just needs to keep at it.
  • Gentry said Jason Terry does not get enough credit for hitting big shots in clutch situations (he hit a big one lat night against the Spurs).
  • Gentry stressed that everyone knows there roles on this team. He wasn't asked about that but wanted to make sure we wrote it. Apparently someone, somewhere either wrote or said something about that. Whatever.
  • Gentry said he would like to lock down a nine-man rotation but the guys aren't playing consistently enough for him to do that.
  • Coach said the Suns were too slow initiating their zone offense against the Grizzlies. They need to get the ball moving earlier in the clock to create openings in the zone.
  • Oh, and remember when Shawn Marion hit a bunch of threes against the Suns when they last played and Dirk was..."injured"? Gentry said he's fine w/ Trix taking threes but we should remember that Shawn can make threes. He just hopes his players close out on him with a hand up.


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