PHOENIX – When Suns head coach Alvin Gentry stepped to the podium after Tuesday’s season-crippling loss, he made it his mission to look into the cameras and tell the people the Suns’ season isn’t over.
Gentry was barely a sentence into a two and a half minute rant before he reminded the assembled media and fans watching at home that the Suns aren’t done, contrary to popular belief.
He repeated that message again out of the blue while answering a question about the Suns’ inability to contain Dirk Nowitzki.
Gentry was more on point than Barack Obama, and he did what any good coach would do after his team loses three straight games that players labeled as must wins and a season-high five overall.
He had to give this performance to show the public he still has faith in his team, even when seemingly nobody else does. He had to show them he believes in them and believes that they can do the impossible.
Before heading off for the interview room, Gentry told his team that obviously it’s a tough loss but that there’s still 18 games to play, so although there’s “very little margin of error,” the season isn’t over.
Then Gentry gave an impassioned speech to the media that made me want to suit up and win one for the gipper:
“Obviously it was a real tough loss. It was a tough loss, and we are really disappointed, but before I go on we still have 18 games left to play. This wasn’t the difference in us being in the playoffs and not being in the playoffs. I mean we still got 18 games to play, and we are going to play them all, and we’ll see what happens from there.
“It’s a tough loss in that obviously this is the team that we are chasing, and like I said it’s almost like two losses. They have a tough schedule, we have a lot of games that we can win. As I told the guys in there, ‘Tough loss, really disappointing, felt we played with great effort.’ …
“We are still going to keep our heads up, we are going to play hard. You’ll see, we’ll come out Thursday against Cleveland, and we’ll play hard. Whoever we play after that, we’ll play hard. We’re not going to give up. This is not a team that has quit in them. We still believe that we can make the playoffs, so that’s not something I’m just throwing out there. I still believe that.
“There’s a lot of games left on our schedule that we can win. We’ll do what we need to do, and then we’ll see what happens from there, but this is not a hang your head night and ‘oh boy the season is over.’ That’s not what we’re about. We have 18 games left to play, we’re going to play them all like they’re the seventh game of the series, and we’ll see what happens from there.
“I’m disappointed, the players are really disappointed, the fans are disappointed, and I’m sure you guys are disappointed. That doesn’t mean we’re going to quit. We will come out and show up, and we will play the last 18 games like I said, and we will play them with a lot of intensity, and we will do everything we can to see if we can position ourselves for the playoffs, … and if it doesn’t then it won’t be for lack of effort.”
If the Suns have anything going for them it’s that two of their players were also members of the 2006-07 “We Believe” Golden State Warriors, who stormed into the playoffs before upsetting top-seeded Dallas.
Matt Barnes and’s Warriors were 33-39 at one point, but they trailed the Clippers by just two games at the time, a far cry from the eight elite West teams the Suns are looking up at, starting with Dallas 5 1/2 games up.
From that point forward, the Warriors reeled off nine wins in their final 10 games to charge into postseason play, starting with a J-Rich-led win over the Suns in which he scored a game-high 36.
Barnes and Richardson glean hope from that special run, but the miracle of that stretch was knocking out Dallas, as all they had to do was go .500 for the season to best the Clippers for the final playoff spot.
“There’s definitely hope,” Richardson said. “I’ve been in a situation like this before. The last 18, we have to win at least 15 of those 18 games to make it. We believe in each other, and we’re going to make it happen.”
Shaq denies wanting out
Another day, another Shaqtroversy.
This time the Big Cactus had to answer questions about an LA Times report that Shaq “is saying privately he wants out,” reportedly upset either about being in trade talks around the deadline, the Suns’ return to an up-tempo system or both.
Shaq was more than aware of the report, and the big man was none to pleased about it, saying he will deal with any issues he has directly with Suns GM Steve Kerr.
“If I’ve got something to say to Steve, I’ll call Steve personally, just like when Steve has something to say to me he’ll call me personally, so hoopshype.com and people writing BS stories, didn’t come from me,” Shaq said. “I’m not going to negotiate anything through you guys. It’s not how it’s done, that’s not how you take care of business. I’m a business man, and I do business straight across the board. I’ve been doing that my whole career.”
Shaq denied ever saying such a thing as wanting out before adding he would like to stay in Phoenix next season, where he’s under contract at $20 million before his deal expires.
“Of course, why wouldn’t I?” Shaq said. “I’ve got (head athletic trainer Aaron Nelson) and the guys, great city, great group of guys, of course.”
The Shaqtus also at least pretended not to know that he passed Elvin Hayes for sixth on the all-time NBA scoring list in Tuesday’s loss, although the US Airways Center crowd gave him a nice ovation after his reverse layup in the second quarter topped Hayes’ career mark of 27,313 points. Play then stopped for a few moments as O’Neal stepped to the line to attempt a free throw.
A dash of
Nash put up his fourth straight 20-10 game on Tuesday, his longest such streak since January 2006. Of course, the Suns have lost each and every one of those 20-10 games, so what good did they do anyone?
Nash now has five such contests in 10 games since the break after recording just four in the first 51 games of the season, and he has now gone for 20 and 10 in eight of the 16 games he’s played against the Mavericks since leaving Dallas.
Also, Nash’s 13 assists were just two fewer than the entire Mavericks squad.