Suns return to Small Ball roots


Leandro Barbosa

PHOENIX – Remember that 1997 Suns team that played a lineup of Jason Kidd, Kevin Johnson, Rex Chapman and Wesley Person with a certain rookie by the name of Steve Nash off the bench?

Get ready for Small Ball Circa 2009.

The Suns will start out that way in the first game since Amare Stoudemire underwent potentially season-ending eye surgery by starting Leandro Barbosa in Amare’s spot, pushing Grant Hill to the four and J-Rich to the three.

Yes, Small Ball is alive and well in Phoenix.

Head coach Alvin Gentry would not commit to starting LB every night, saying he might try out Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley once in a while. He plans to take it “on a game-by-game basis” depending on matchups and still plans on pushing the ball and playing the Suns’ pace regardless of who’s on the floor.

He also expects to eventually settle into an eight- or nine-rotation after a bit of tinkering, and he doesn’t expect Courtney Sims to be a part of that for now at least.

High-scoring games should become the norm as I almost confused Gentry for Mike D’Antoni when he said, “We’re not a team that’s really going to try to adjust to the other team, we’re just going to play the way we want to play. If they’re too big maybe we double team or something like that, but we’re not going to change the way we play predicated on the other team.

“I’ll say it like this, and Mike said it best, ‘I’ve never seen a team win a game 0-0, but you can win it 120-118, 130-129.’ You’ve got to have to be able to score the basketball.”

So much for the Suns trying to win with a semblance of defense and grind-it-out basketball, but I think we already learned that wasn’t going to work with this club.

“We want to at least run as much as we have, and if we can run more obviously we’ll do that,” Gentry said, “but we still want to push the basketball, we still want to be in the attack mode, we still want to take quick shots if they’re good shots and they’re open. We’re not going to change our style of play. The end result might be it’s not a dunk at the end, but it might be a layup. It still counts for two points.”

Gentry told the players today they can either look at Amare’s injury as a “woe is me” situation or just understand that’s life in the NBA, a league in which another star seems to go down with a serious injury every day.

“Somebody has just got to step up on our team, and it doesn’t have to necessarily be one guy,” Gentry said, “but it might be a guy who has to get a few extra rebounds and another guy might have to come in and make a few extra shots and things like that, but we have to look at it from the standpoint of this is our team, this is who we have, now what are we going to do to try to win games?

“We feel sorry for Amare because he was playing great. We don’t feel sorry for us.”

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