On his weekly call-in to KTAR, err arizonasports 620, Phoenix Suns interim head coach Lindsey Hunter was asked why he's had such a tough time shoring up the Suns defense. Hunter replied that they have had to spend a surprising amount of time on basics, rather than fine-tuning.

"One of the things in particular is that guys didn't understand the strong side and weak side," Hunter said to Burns and Gambo. "The strong side is where the ball is, and the weak side is where the ball isn't. If I turn and go the other way, then I become the weak side.

"I see why sometimes we don't rotate the right way, it's because we don't understand the difference between the strong side and weak side."

Wow. How is this even possible, that guys don't know a difference like that? You learn that pretty young, I believe.

The radio guys periodically went back to this story on Friday, Doug Franz even calling his elementary school daughters (who answered the question wrong too) and suggested a potential motivation for Hunter to say something so unbelievable was to make himself look better.

Hunter has no filters, doesn't know what's right to say and what's wrong to say. He's just a guy trying to coach a team, and when they're playing bad he's not afraid to say why. Even if it means throwing his players under a bus.

Whether he's trying to make himself look better, I doubt it. He's not really cared what the media think. He knows that fans are frustrated with him mainly because of the results, and that they will be back when the team is winning again. He's not Alvin Gentry, who garnered media and fan loyalty even in a losing situation.

Part of the reason fans loved Gentry was because he coached the last winning Suns team. The same would be true of any coach. If the Suns are winning and Hunter is this honest, fans will call it endearing and refreshing. But when the Suns are losing and Hunter is this honest, fans call it annoying and disrespectful.

I digress. Back to the strong-side/weak-side revelation.

Maybe Hunter is just cluing us in to the realities of coaching kids who came up through the AAU circuit and weren't taught as many basics as we might think.

When I heard the interview, it sounded to me that Hunter was talking about the live-action nuances of having to recognize as quickly as possible when you change from strong to weak. All it takes is the ball swinging away from your side of the court. When a player passes cross-court, the positioning and rotation you were just executing changes on a dime. Now you're defending the weak side. Then the ball gets popped into the middle and you have to decide - did I just become a strong-side defender or am I still a weak-side defender?

But I'm not a coach, so I enlisted the help of a fellow media member, Randy Hill, who has coached and developed players for decades in California and Arizona. Hill has made observations all season from the little that the media is allowed to see.

I didn't hear the interview with Lindsey, but reading the text and having talked with him about Xs and Os in general leads me to believe his frustration has more to do with certain players not comprehending what strong-weak adjustments should be made in the immediate aftermath of ball reversals, dribble penetration, blitz-type action when the Suns go "black' on PNR, etc.

Hill, guessing that the biggest focus of BSotS readers would be on Beasley and the Morri, went on to say that Bill Self (Kansas) and Frank Martin (K-State) would have drilled the concept of "strong" and "weak" sides in college just fine, but that every defensive system has different reaction to each action.

Hill went on to say that Hunter's defensive scheme is a lot different than the system under Alvin Gentry, and that Hunter appears to have more of a defensive plan than the previous regime.

I do know the pack-line-style defense he's attempting to implement in the middle of the season has significantly different rules for help responsibilities than the (cough) system the Suns used before Alvin left the building. According to some of the more experienced Suns, Hunter does spend considerably more practice minutes attempting to install these concepts.

Alvin Gentry's staff spent more time on offense, and less time on positioning and footwork of the defense. The Suns organization has never been a defensive juggernaut, and Gentry didn't really attempt to change that perception.

When I asked a veteran perimeter player if these things were drilled in training camp, the player said he didn't really know -- bigs and guards rarely worked on specific defensive maneuvers on the same end of the floor.

We can debate ad nauseum the merits of completely changing a defensive scheme mid-season, but it is what it is. The Suns were one of the worst defensive teams in the league the last few years, so I can see why Hunter might want to scrap what they used to do.

With the younger guys, that's apparently been a battle. We've observed the fight between Hunter and Michael Beasley, and Hunter and Marcus Morris. There have probably been others that didn't leak to the media, but we can note that Markieff Morris - while still out of position a lot - has garnered more minutes in the past month than either his brother or SuperCool. Kieff seems to have committed.

Hunter is holding them accountable, and basing playing time more on their focus and effort in practice than we might think is warranted.

The results are poor, that's for sure. But Hunter did have the Suns at 8-13 before Marcin Gortat went down to injury and Jermaine O'Neal started missing time. It's tough to implement Hunter's defense without a post, rim-protecting presence down low and without a committed rotation to the coach's schemes.


Last Week's Predictions:

In last week's NBA Draft Lottery Watch, I predicted the Phoenix Suns would remain in the 3rd lottery spot "ahead" of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although The Suns' record is what I expected, the Cavs managed to win only one game last week (instead of going 2-2 like I thought), which now effectively ties them with Phoenix for the third spot...more on that in a bit.

In regards to the 8th seed playoff race, the Lakers also did better than expected going 3-1 on the week with two gritty 4th quarter comebacks against both the Portland Trailblazers and the Golden State Warriors. Although the Utah Jazz did their part by going 2-1 on the week and only losing to the Thunder, The Lakers are in control for the time being and ahead of the Jazz by one game with only two games left to play. But with Kobe now officially out for the rest of the season, and two games left against Western Conference playoff teams, they are still anything but safe.

The Bottom Five:

Today, the Phoenix Suns are currently tied for the third position for the 2013 NBA Draft. Here is a look at the bottom five teams and their current records, as well as a look at their final upcoming games, and some predictions on where they could end up.

5. Detroit Pistons: 28-52

Final games: 4/15 vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 4/17 @ Brooklyn Nets

Last week the Pistons went 3-0, including a surprising win over the Bulls. However, the Pistons now face two tough teams to finish off the season, and should lose them both either finishing in the 5th or 6th lottery spot depending on the Sacramento Kings.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers: 24-55

Final games: 4/14 @ Philadelphia 76ers, 4/15 vs Miami Heat, 4/17 @ Charlotte Bobcats

The Cavaliers have continued their losing ways even after the return of Kyrie Irving. They are now tied with Phoenix for the 3rd lottery spot, and if both teams end up tied will split their chances and flip a coin to determine who gets 137 or 138 chances in the lottery. However, with their final game against the Bobcats, the Cavs would be hard pressed to lose even if they tried, so assuming they go 1-2 in the final games of the season, they should finish in the 4th spot if Phoenix loses out.

3. Phoenix Suns: 24-56

Final games: 4/15 vs. Houston Rockets, 4/17 @ Denver Nuggets

The Suns are now in the home stretch of their disappointing year. And with two games left against quality opponents, we have likely seen them win their last game. If the Suns lose out and Cleveland wins just one game, they will be in the 3rd lottery spot. If the Suns and Cavs both lose out, they will split the difference with the smallest advantage being determined by a coin flip, as explained above.

2. Orlando Magic: 20-60

Final games: 4/15 vs. Chicago Bulls, 4/17 @ Miami Heat

The Magic are are as bad as ever, and unless the Heat decide to rest all of their starters during the final game, they have little shot of winning another game this season. They likely finish 20-62, good for the 2nd place in the lottery.

1. Charlotte Bobcats: 19-61

Final Games: 4/15 vs. New York Knicks, 4/17 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Although the Bobcats actually won a game last night, they are still at the bottom. They have two games left to play and will likely lose both of them. Keep an eye on that final game against Cleveland, the Suns need the Bobcats to lose in order to sit alone in third place...Not that they have much chance of doing otherwise.

The Race for 8th

Right now, the Los Angeles Lakers are one game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the 8th and final spot in the Western Conference Playoffs, with the Dallas Mavericks now eliminated from the race. However, with two games to play for the Lakers with no Kobe, and against some stiff competition, the Jazz are still very much alive.

8. Los Angeles Lakers 43-37

Final games: 4/14 vs. San Antonio Spurs, 4/17 vs. Houston Rockets

The Lakers are still a dangerous team even without Kobe. They still have the best rebounding and defensive center in the league, along with a skilled 4 who can score from anywhere. The other things they have going for them is both of these games are at home, and they have either one or two days of rest before them as well. That said, they have not been good at all this season against Western Conference playoff teams (or the Suns)...and the effect of losing their fiercest competitor and best player cannot be minimized. Still, I expect the Lakers to go 1-1 and finish the season 44-38, good enough to better the Jazz and make it into the playoffs as the 8th seed.

9. Utah Jazz 44-38

Final games: 4/15 @ Minnesota Timberwolves, 4/17 @ Memphis Grizzlies

The Jazz are now in desperation mode. They basically have to win out to make the playoffs while hoping the Lakers lose at least one of their remaining two games. The good news for the Jazz is I believe the Lakers will lose one game. The bad news is they have two road games ahead of them...one against a Minnesota team they barely beat at home on Friday night, and the other against a very good Grizzlies team who is in a dog fight with the Clippers and Nuggets for the 3-5th playoff spots. The Jazz could actually lose both of these games. Still, I think they get a win against Minnesota but will lose to the Grizzlies. If the Lakers win at least one game this week, which I think they will, that won't be enough to get in the playoffs.

Feel free to voice your opinions and predictions in the comments below!

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The Suns sprinted out of the gate with Wesley Johnson scoring the Suns' first seven points. The lead ballooned to 24-14 before the Wolves clawed back to within six to end the period. Johnson led all scorers with 11 points. Scola grabbed seven of Phoenix's ten rebounds. Ricky Rubio got the early edge in the point guard battle with eight points, four assists and three steals. Score: Suns 28, Timberwolves 22

The Suns maintained a tenuous grip on the lead in the second quarter, with Minnesota attempting to chip away with J.J. Barea, seven points, as the catalyst for their offense. Scola helped the Suns from relinquishing their lead with eight points in the quarter. Minnesota managed to tie the game at 50 after a frenetic sequence of events that was equal parts pandemonium and poor judgment, but Markieff Morris ended the half with a three pointer to give the Suns back the lead going into intermission. Score: Suns 53, Timberwolves 50

The point guard matchup at the half:

Dragic - 4 points (1-5), 9 assists, 2 steals, 0 turnovers

Rubio - 13 points (6-11), 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 2 turnovers

The slight nod goes to Rubio.

Luis Scola led the Suns in points (12) and all players in rebounds (8), but committed SIX turnovers. This prodigal nature led to a 14-6 deficiency in the turnover department for Phoenix. Despite outshooting the Wolves 55.6% (20-36) to 42.6% (20-47) the extra possessions Minnesota garnered from the Suns carelessness allowed them to keep pace. Here's another fun tidbit: The Suns had less points in the paint (14) than the Wolves had fast break points (15).

Minnesota regained the lead from the Suns early in the third period at 60-59. It was their first lead since 5-4 in the game's opening minutes. The teams then began bartering buckets for the next several minutes before Minnesota was able to take a four point edge headed into the final quarter. Derrick Williams dropped eight to lead the Wolves surge, while Markieff went for seven to build on a solid game with 17 points and eight rebounds through three quarters. The Suns continued to be plagued by turnovers, with eight more in the period, as total for the game bulged to 22. Score: Timberwolves 77, Suns 73

Minnesota began to open up the lead at the start of the fourth quarter, taking a 90-80 lead. The Suns tried valiantly to fight back and got within six (94-88) on a breakaway layup by Dragic, but couldn't get any closer as Rubio helped the Wolves seal the deal with nine consecutive points down the stretch. The Suns managed just seven points in the final 6:15 as they fell short. Final Score: Timberwolves 105, Suns 93


Player of the Game:

Ricky Rubio. 24 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 steals.


Comments of the Game:

That follow by Scola was the most acrobatic move since that one time he dunked


This game is uglier than Kirilenko's hair right now.


Wasn't Derrick Williams being shopped pretty hard?

Kind of wish the Suns got him. He has a lot of upside.


Only the Suns can get a shot clock violation after a time out


*This section has been truncated due to the Suns not being good enough to draw a strong following on the thread. Sigh.

The Good:

Dragic continues to be a dynamic distributor, dropping 14 dimes as he danced around the defense. His 13 games with double digit assists since the all-star break gives him the most of any player in the league over that stretch.

Markieff Morris had a sparkling performance during a season where he's had a dearth of such games. Markieff led the Suns in scoring (20) and rebounds (9), but also contributed four to the turnoverfest.

The Suns may have been hard on the eyes tonight, but they competed... which is all you can ask for from a team that is overmatched on a nightly basis.


The Bad:

The Suns may as well have only suited six players for this game. Dudley was the only person off the bench who didn't have a pernicious effect on the game.


The Ugly:

Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers. I guess I could type this 24 more times to reach the Suns ignominious total of 27. Scola (8) and Dragic (6) were the main culprits, combining for more than half of that total by themselves. The Suns allowed 33 points off turnovers compared to just 11 by Minnesota. Guess why the Suns lost the game...


Final Thoughts:

The Suns on a Saturday night used to be a hot ticket. Not anymore. This game had a somber and funereal tone. The pace of the game may have made it more enjoyable if it wasn't for the egregiously sloppy play... especially by the Suns.

This used to be the time of year when the Suns were preparing for the postseason. Then they were fighting down the stretch to sneak in. This year the most satisfying part of the season for many fans will be when the nightmare ends with the final buzzer in Denver. Since this game was a little bit earlier, though, it can be classified as a day terror, but still encompassed under the umbrella of the Suns general suckitude.

The most entertaining part of this game was the Mario Brothers coin block sound the PA plays when Minny makes free throws... and I'm not kidding. Sigh.

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