PHOENIX — Miami Head guard Dwyane Wade will sit out tonight’s game against the Suns with a sore left knee.
Former Sun James “Junior” Jones will start in his place, which clearly is a major victory for Phoenix although perhaps a letdown to some Suns fans who wanted to see The Big Three in action together.
This evens out the injury matchup with Vince Carter’s quad tendon strain keeping him out until at least Sunday.
LeBron James and Chris Bosh are still impossible to handle, but they will be that much easier to load up on without the threat of Flash slashing to the hole. However, expect LeBron to turn up his game a few notches and try to take over like he often does when Wade takes a rest.
“If Wade’s not there then I think LeBron’s going to be counted on even more,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said. “That’s what you deal with when you’ve got three great players.”
When asked about possibly using new acquisition Mickael Pietrus to defend LeBron, Gentry said, “Either him or a couple guys from the Cardinals. I just think you’ve got to try to do the best job you can with him. One of the things you’ve got to do, you’ve got to try to keep him out of the open court. If he’s not the best open court player in the league then he plays with the guy that is, so it’s a disaster turning the ball over against this team. It’s almost a guaranteed layup or a dunk or a highlight. They’re that good in the open court.
“With him I think you try to do the best you can to keep him in front. You’ve got to have good team defense. The teams that do the best job on him are the teams that have really good team defense.”
If the Suns win this one it will likely have to be in shootout form because their league-worst defense (yielding 110.6 points per 100 possessions) isn’t likely to play much team defense when a couple of their rotation players have all of two practices under their belts.
The Suns figure to eventually start climbing up those defensive efficiency rankings with the additions of Marcin Gortat and Pietrus to their rotation, but it’s too much to think they will build the kind of defensive wall needed to slow down LeBron when they are just learning their defensive responsibilities.
“You’d like to be able to do it in training camp,” Gentry said of integrating new players, “but it’s not what we have so you just do it and try to figure out as quickly as you possibly can what guys can do, and then hopefully at some stage you hit a stride.
“It’s not going to happen overnight. We’ve still got to try to piece this thing together, but I think we’re excited about the guys that we got and what they can do.”
With Steve Kerr back in the house announcing the game for TNT for the first time since leaving his post as Suns general manager, LeBron in town likely to put up insane numbers without having to defer to D-Wade and Gortat and Pietrus set to make their Suns debuts, the atmosphere will be electric in US Airways Center.
But win, lose or draw, Gentry does not plan on drawing any conclusions from how his team plays against the Heat.
“We win I wouldn’t ask where the Larry O’Brien trophy is, and if we lose I wouldn’t say that our season is over,” Gentry said. “It’s a good test against a real, real talented team that’s playing great basketball.”
Gentry said that Carter is “feeling a lot better” and “dying to play.” The team will evaluate him before Sunday’s game against the Clippers before making a determination on Carter’s status for that one. Jared Dudley started in his place against the Heat. The Suns also stuck with their big man starting lineup duo of Channing Frye and Robin Lopez, with Gortat coming off the bench.