PHOENIX — With an accident on the 51 on my way to the game tonight, I almost felt like I was stuck on an LA freeway. As I arrived to my usual parking garage I noticed parking was about double what it normally is. And as I walked to the stadium I noticed a disturbingly high number of Lakers No. 24 jerseys.
Yes, this is no average night in Phoenix with the Los Angeles Lakers in town.
However, in tonight’s contest the Suns of course will be without Channing Frye, suspended a game for throwing a punch Saturday against Indiana, and that means Alvin Gentry will have to switch up his big man rotation. Along with Amare Stoudemire getting a bit more burn, Gentry said he will look deeper to his bench, possibly calling on Jarron Collins for a few minutes, saying the Suns will need to be able to rebound the ball against “the longest, most athletic team in the league.”
As for what the Suns lose with Frye sitting at home, Gentry said, “We’re going to miss Channing because he’s a big part of what we’re doing. It’s like a great receiver. At the end of the day he caught two passes. Yeah, but he probably was responsible for the other wide receiver catching five passes because with Channing you have to guard him out on the floor, so it opens things up. We’ll miss Channing, but we have to find a way to compensate for that.”
Below find some highlights from the rest of Gentry’s pre-game talk with reporters:
On Kobe: “The big thing for us with him is to try to keep him off the line. Usually he has the monster games when he’s shooting 12, 15 free throws. If you can make it so he’s making all jump shots and he takes 25 shots to get 30 points, you’ve done a great job.”
On the Lakers: “They obviously struggled a little bit on the road, but I don’t think any team out there if they had to play them now and beat them four out of seven games, I don’t know if that’s possible, and they’ve got a completely different agenda than what we have. We’re trying to play ourselves into the playoffs. They’re trying to get themselves ready for a championship run. Whatever happens in the West, it’s still going to go through LA. I still say whatever happens you have to win some games in LA to get to where you want to get to.”
On the strategy against Kobe in a game-winning situation: “He’ll have to make a shot over four guys, which I’m not saying that he can’t do that either.”
On practice this week: “We didn’t do a whole lot from the standpoint of really hard practices because we had Steve trying to recover and we had LB and we had Goran and we had J-Rich also. We did a lot of things from the standpoint of trying to clean up a few things defensively and also executing offensively. It was good for us as a recovery thing more so than having practice. At this point in the season you’re not going to go in and make it like a training camp.”
On if Nash feels better: “We hope so, he feels better I think. We’ll see how it all goes, but obviously he’s very, very important to our team. He’s the engine that drives our car, so we need for him to be healthy.”
On the health of the Suns: “Everybody’s fine. Goran feels good. I think the ankle is pretty healthy. J-Rich has had a few back spasms, we just kept him out one day. I think health-wise we’re in pretty good shape. Amare has a little trouble with his toe, but I think Joe Dumars said it best. He said, ‘You’re 100 percent your first day of training camp your rookie year, and then you’re never 100 percent again.’ That’s probably true from the standpoint of just the little bumps and bruises, you always have something, but you just play.”
Gentry is not sure yet if Leandro Barbosa will return Sunday against New Orleans. … The Suns have won 14 straight against the Pacific Division at home, including a perfect 7-0 mark this season. They have won their home divisional games by an average score of 117.3-101.0 this season … That means the Suns have not lost a divisional home game in 478 days since the Lakers beat them back on Nov. 20, 2008. Besides Phoenix, only the Lakers and Bulls are undefeated at home against their own division. … Amare Stoudemire has not scored 30 or more in four straight games since Dec. 20-28, 2004, a feat he can accomplish tonight. STAT is averaging 27.3 ppg in March, fifth-best in the league. … Grant Hill has scored 16 or more in four straight, which ties his longest streak as a Sun. … Gentry will coach his 500th regular season NBA game tonight.