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Remember winning a game? (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Tonight the Boston Celtics pay a visit to the Valley of the Sun for a matchup against our beloved. At 35-10, the Celtics have some things on their minds that are much different than our Phoenix Suns, namely Championship Basketball. While the Suns were doing a much needed Kumbaya yesterday, the Celtics were most likely pondering which finger a potential NBA title ring goes on.
True, this is a game of two squads heading in different directions. True, these squads have one small similarity going into the game tonight: lineup and rotation uncertainty. For the Celtics, Shaquille O'Neal may play or may not play, depending on the condition of his hip. Paul Pierce left last night's game against Portland with a knee injury and is also questionable. For the Suns, Grant Hill is questionable as is the rest of the squad, with the exception of Steve Nash, who has double-doubled his way through January in all but a handful of games.
Here's a hint that the Suns could be changing things up yet again, even if Grant Hill can go tonight:
"I wanted to establish a constant starting five and then a rotation. At some stage, if it's not working out, obviously as the head coach it's my responsibility to maybe look elsewhere personnel wise and maybe make some changes in the lineup and our rotations. That's what you have to do when you're not getting done what you expect to get done..."
The starting five of Nash-Carter-Frye-Hill-Lopez and bench of Dudley-Dragic-Gortat-Warrick worked out for 5 games and then took a monstrous dump at the end of the East Coast trip and beyond. So who is left? Who will get a shot at rotation time and perhaps a crack at the starting lineup if Hill can't go tonight? Here are some amature ideas:
- Josh Childress: All man crushes aside, why not give Chill 5 games in the rotation with 20+ minutes? We know we will get effort, hustle, and the culmination of it all, the all important GRIT. Childress has calmly waited on the sidelines for his chance. Time to get him some consistent minutes and see what the Suns have.
- Mikael Pietrus: AKA, the chukker, Pietrus can D it up and on occasion, catch fire from the outside. Again, time to see what the Suns have with this guy.
- Jared Dudley: Personally I'd like to see Dudz starting next to Nash. Personally I don't care if Vince Carter plays another game for the Suns let alone in the NBA. Nothing personal, but what does Vince really have to play for? A legacy? He's not going to the Hall, and rumor has it he's retiring at season's end. Is there a small market for his "talents" to a contender down the stretch? Yes he can put up 20 on any given night, if he wants to. But sitting him or reducing his minutes doesn't exactly equate to losing out on getting rid of him for some kind of return. Further, the Suns are in experimentation territory (as they were from game 1 this season). Dudz has shown with larger minutes comes larger numbers. Give him 30+ and bring Vince in later, or um, like send him out to Mrs. Fields and see if there's time for a little basketball when he gets back. Who cares anymore?
- Goran Dragic: Another option to start or play significant minutes alongside Nash in VC's absence. His aggressiveness has been encouraging the past couple times out. It's all confidence for Goran, and if he can find it and maintain it, then maybe you find a way to get this guy more consistent minutes whether running the point or off the ball. Like Dudz, more minutes usually equates to more production.
- Garrett Siler: No, no, no he doesn't deserve minutes. But maybe you send a message to Lopez: "Hey pal, 7 foot centers are supposed to rebound. Put the comic books down and start watching some old Wilt Chamberlin vids. Hell, watch some Brooke Lopez vids." And the ultimate insult would be to drop the Silo in to take some Lopez minutes. How the hell else does one motivate Lopez? Doubt anyone knows anymore.
Just some ideas, perhaps desperate, perhaps failures in the making. But if Sarver isn't just spinning the whole "we're a playoff team," which is a very good possibility in order to continue selling tickets (and in my eyes a knock on Gentry), then there must be a combination that can produce some W's.
On To the Game
48 minutes of heart, grit, determination, freakin' pride. And most importantly offense and defense. Compete, man, compete. Maybe some of the Phoenix Suns players will consider that their fans have suffered through 10 home losses thus far this season, some more pathetic than others. Give them some enjoyment, return on their investment. Why not knock of an elite squad from the East? One night of enjoyment for your people.
Other than that Suns can hope for absences of Pierce and O'Neal, and a gassed Celtics squad that played last night. Oh and maybe the trust tree exercise from yesterday did something positive....
[Note by Seth Pollack, 01/28/11 2:40 PM MST ]
Marcin Gortat Respectfully Calls Kendrick Perkins A Little Dog - SB Nation Arizona
Grant Hill and Shaquille O'Neal Both Expected To Play
Grant Hill, who wasn't able to finish the Suns last game on Wednesday due to a knee sprain that was aggravated when a Bobcats player fell into it, will play according to Coach Gentry.
Shaq, who injured his hip when he slipped on the ice and has missed the Celtics last three games, is also expected to play as per a member of the Celtics media (Comcast) who travels with the team.
Onward, to the Game Day Links:
The team gathered in a circled on the practice floor, sat down, and Sarver had each player turn to the player to his left and say something nice about him. This per one Suns player who participated.
And while it might seem a bit unusual to pull a team building exercise out of a management book (or maybe from an episode of The Office), it really doesn't compare to Sarver's approach two years ago.
After talking in generalities about how physical the Celtics are, Gortat went to a pretty interesting place when it came to center Kendrick Perkins. He literally compared him to a little dog but managed to do it in a way that both made sense and wasn't offensive. At least I didn't think it was offensive.
When the team loses, it's generally because of their always-porous defense and because Steve Nash's offensive help disappears, as was the case for most of the last week. As a result, not a lot of the Suns players are what one would consider "hot." So again, this week's thermometer is more a scale of least bad to most bad.
Some excellent gems in this one, including:
"At this point, Steve is still playing at a very high level and is a very important part of the franchise," Sarver said. "I don't see us making a trade (involving) him this year. I just don't see it.
Been waiting to hear about the inevitable NBA team meeting?
Something must change. The Suns failed to take advantage of the soft part of their schedule and now face Boston, the East leader, Friday and New Orleans, the NBA's hottest team, on Sunday. Given how the Suns lost seven of their past 13 games against teams with losing records, facing elite opponents is cause to circle the troops.
One thing hinted at by Coach Alvin Gentry is some tweaks to his lineup or rotation that would probably mean more time for Mickael Pietrus while trying to cut back on minutes for Grant Hill to help prevent running the poor guy into the ground in what has basically become a lost season. Hill left the game on Wednesday versus the Charlotte Bobcats with a knee injury. No word yet on his status for tonight.