Phoenix Suns center Robin Lopez went through his first full practice Sunday morning since tearing ligaments in his left knee against the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 14. After a positive showing, the...

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The Suns bench has been a disappointment this season, look for Gentry to tighten the rotation down to nine men to try and find more consistent play.

More photos » Christian Petersen - Getty Images

The Suns bench has been a disappointment this season, look for Gentry to tighten the rotation down to nine men to try and find more consistent play.

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The Phoenix Suns are stuck in rotation hell. They have ten to twelve players who when healthy could or should be getting minutes for this team with five or even six of them playing two positions -- shooting guard and small forward. 

This was a potential issue for the Suns identified very early in the summer after all the roster moves were made but it was one that Coach Gentry brushed aside with a standard cliche, "I would rather have this problem then look down the bench have no one."

His tune, along with his approach to who he plays, has taken a noticeable turn over the past few games.

Against the Grizzlies on the second of a back-to-back on Wednesday, Gentry inserted Goran Dragic as the back up shooting guard to play along side Nash. Gentry followed up with that again on Friday against Portland, giving about half of Josh Childress' minutes to Dragic at the two. It worked well and looks like a sign of things to come.

"We've got too many guys in one spot and sombody's going to have to suffer. We're trying to play five guys in two spots. You've got JRich there and Grant there and we've got three other guys we're trying to play there and just mathematically it doesn't work out," Gentry said after practice on Sunday.

Jason and Grant are going to play about 30 minutes each which only leaves 36 minutes for three other guys (Turkoglu, Childress, and Dudley) which Gentry said doesn't work well. He doesn't like to play guys six or eight minutes.

Going into this next part of the season with 1/4 of the year already gone, the Suns want to find a group that can play well together and stick with it. It may be the same nine guys each game but it could also change based on match ups. What's clear is that somebody is going to have their minutes cut. 

"We've got some hard decisions to make here soon," coach said.

The problem Gentry seems to be focusing in on -- poor bench production -- is backed up by the numbers. 

Below is the five-man unit production figures from which shows just how bad the Suns bench has been. 

The following numbers are from seven different five-man units the Suns have used this season that have played at least 38 total minutes.

 Nash-Richardson-Hill-Turkoglu-Frye 152.0  1.18  1.11  +28   8   6  
 Nash-Richardson-Hill-Turkoglu-Lopez 118.6  1.16  1.18  -3   4   4  
 Dragic-Childress-Dudley-Warrick-Frye 97.7  1.03  1.02  -6   4   5  
 Nash-Richardson-Hill-Warrick-Frye 86.1  1.13  1.04  +17   8   5  
 Dragic-Childress-Dudley-Turkoglu-Warrick 62.8  1.06  1.17  -20   2   6  
 Nash-Richardson-Hill-Frye-Barron 50.6  1.21  0.99  +21   3   0  
 Dragic-Richardson-Hill-Turkoglu-Frye 38.1  1.00  1.36  -31   0   2  

  • Every unit that is in the positive in +/- includes Steve Nash while none of the "non-Nash" groups have performed in the plus side
  • The feeling is that this is less about Dragic playing well then about the players he's on the floor with not providing sufficient spacing or not knowing the plays and being out of position
  • The Suns have to find a way to get better bench production and they are not going to stop playing Dragic or Frye.  That means either Dudley, Childress or Turkoglu is likely to see their minutes cut. 
  • Dudley's intangibles and effort and floor spacing are important to this team. Turkoglu has the biggest salary and has shot the ball well from range but has yet to fit in well with the team. Childress isn't defending the perimeter as well as hoped and he doesn't give the team the floor spacing although he does rebound and score in the paint.
Other Notes:

The Suns had Saturday off but were back in the gym on Sunday. They scrimmaged a lot and did situational stuff like 3:00 on the clock and behind in the game, etc. Gentry said the team worked hard and had a spirited practice but still had fun. He says this team has to play loose, have fun and play hard. That's the personality of this team.

"There's no reason why you can't get your work done and yet have fun doing it."

The big news is Robin Lopez approaching his return. The full story is here. There is some reason for hope as it seems the extra time off rehabbing the left knee has help his right leg recover as well.

Robin Lopez Has Good Practice, Close To Returning For Suns - SB Nation Arizona
"The nerve damage down my right leg, that was kind of a lingering problem and that takes a little while -- dating back to the back injury -- it takes a little while to heal from. Obviously, there's more time, more distance between the (back) injury and now, so it's getting better," Robin explained.

The Suns have to have Robin playing at a high level to be a really good team. That's no surprise.

His loss over these 14 games has been big and getting him back and working at full strength will make the Suns a much better team -- if he really does come back and gets back to that level after a few more weeks of playing his way into shape.

With Robin back, I would look for Frye to continue to start at power forward but he can be backed up by Hakim Warrick which allow Fyre to also play with bench which helps that group defend the paint on one end and space the floor on the other. 

It's the season of giving, Rob. Help us out. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

More photos » Ross D. Franklin - AP

It's the season of giving, Rob. Help us out. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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The Yuletide is upon us people, and I want the world to know that this year I've been quite a giver. Friends, family, wounded animals, homeless people. I've been nice, I've been good. And like any other Suns fan, I've taken a few shots of the kool-aid and I've watched and listened and read and written. It is no secret this team has some serious shortcomings. And that is why I believe I (we) deserve a present for our rabid fandom, love and suffering. So I'm writing my wish list to the Phoenix Suns organization.

I must apologize in advance, I no longer believe in Santa Claus, Hannukah Harry, or Miracles. I do however, believe in EFFORT, DESIRE, AND  INTEGRITY. So, my Phoenix Suns, I ask for a bit more of that as I decorate the plastic palm tree in my living room with stringed lights and cheap ornaments purchased from the Dollar Store.

Robin Lopez- Get healthy and get your head straight. I've heard the excuses and it's nothing but your coach and teammates trying not to throw you under the bus. Lopez's first several games weren't so hot as a whole. Nevertheless the Suns go nowhere without a healthy, focused RobLo. If he's healthy enough to play, he's healthy enough to lead the team in rebounds and be a defensive force in the middle. If not, stay on the DL and let's hope Rich Kelly or Rick Roby are feeling spry.

Hakim Warrick-Change your name officially to WarMachine ala Ochocinco. Right, there's nothing similar in you two, but I assume if you have WarMachine on your back, you'll have a great reminder to play some defense and at least act like the 4 the FO thought you could be. Oh and maybe wear a rubberband around your wrist like Charles Barkley. Missing free throws hurts the team, the fans, and it should her you.

Earl Clark- sigh...#1 stop tweeting until Jared Dudley gives you a 3 credit lecture on what to say and what not to say. Tweet about your tough workout, tweet about your love for your team and teammates. Stop tweeting about chicks. That's what text messages are for. I'm sure someone can get you in touch with Brett Favre and give you some tips. #2, do you see what you have in your hands? The opportunity that millions would kill for? Earl? Earl!!? Are you listening to me? #3, play like a number one. Can you? Ugh, nevermind.

Jason Richardson- Stop thinking. stop shaking your head. Play some video games, watch MSU football. You're pressing man, let's get some yoga and deep breathing exercises going. You can do this, we believe in you.

Steve Nash- Stay golden, stay healthy, please. We all know without you, the Suns may win 35 games max, miss the playoffs, and there will be zero reason to show up at a game or turn on the TV to listen to Leander and Bender's ridiculous verbosity.  

Grant Hill- I can't ask anything more of you. I just wanted to include you.

Goran Dragic- Stay patient, stay sharp. Why not send some texts to Vujacic's girlfriend while you're waiting for your chance on the bench.

Hedo Turkoglu-Accept the fact that you are a 31 year old role player who needs to come off the bench and NOT play a new position 12 years into your career. Not your fault. Enjoy the sun, you got a fat contract and fans and teammates who want to see you succeed. 

Jared Dudley- Use your new found diet and physique to pick up the ladies, not change your game. 

Channing Frye- Um well, keep it up, man. They said you couldn't play D, but you're doing alright. But let's end those Fry's commercials, man. Unlike Nash, you have zero future in acting or movies or commercials for grocery stores. And your grandma looks like a man. 

Josh Childress-Get healthy, stay aggressive. The Suns need you, I need you. When all this craziness ends maybe we can get an apartment together that smells of rich mahogany. Alright mancrush aside, we realize you ain't the real Josh with a broken digit.

Earl Barron- You're shooting 22%. Make a shot, man. Forget it..Here's some advice: Maybe don't extend the lease on your apartment. Go month to month if you get where I'm going with this.

Suns Dancers- thank you. That is all. Oh, can any of you play a lil' D?

Alvin Gentry- Can you create a defensive oriented 4 out of legos or clay or something?

Lon/Rob/Lance- MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN! Lance are you alive? Do they allow you to speak? Lon: what have you done for me lately? Yeah, thanks for delivering Hedo, a 3 you somehow sold everyone was a 4. Not cool. I know you've been working the phones feverishly and evidently no one wants to help the Suns improve. Try a British accent or something. Bob? Have you been to a game? Did your wife wash your orange foam finger? Those things shrink in the hot water. Nevermind. Look, your job ain't done. How about a little presence, a speech to the fans who are questioning why you picked up 2 3's and an undersized, defensively challenged 4 as an Amar'e replacement.

What did I miss? Help me out BSOTS. Wishes can come true.

Did You Ask Santa to Help the Suns?

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