Phoenix Suns practice report: Alvin Gentry likes Vince Carter as late-game shooter

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PHOENIX — Early Tuesday morning fellow Valley of the Suns contributor Mike Schmitz listed out his reasons for Phoenix’s lack of success in game-deciding scenarios.

One point made was that the Suns still have no go-to guy down the stretch in a close game.

Schmitz went on to say the newly acquired Vince Carter could/should be that guy.

Well, from the sound of Tuesday’s practice, Schmitz has at least one person that agrees with him.

“[Carter's] been a great player and go-to guy in this league for a long time in his career,” said Suns coach Alvin Gentry. “For the last seven years we’ve had Steve [Nash] to create every play in every situation down the stretch. So to have someone to give the ball to in an isolation situation is really important, not just for our team, but to take some pressure off Steve.”

Yes, it’s true Carter has struggled at times in his three games as a Sun, but that doesn’t worry the coach.

“Obviously it’s not going to be a great fit right away, but now he’s played some games and I like what he brings to the table,” Gentry said. “The more comfortable we get with each other, the better we’ll play.”

Vinsanity isn’t backing down from the challenge either.

“I’m all for it; I feel confident in that position because I’ve been there before,” Carter said. “I’m not afraid to take the shot when it’s there; I’m just a sore loser when I miss it. I’m not afraid to fail. When the coach and the team has confidence in you, you can’t be afraid to take the shot.”

Carter has averaged 18 points in Phoenix, but is just 23-for-54 from the field.

“I’ve watched a lot of film of [Jason Richardson] and how he got his shots [while playing in Phoenix] and what they tried to take away from him,” Carter said. “But it’s nothing like going out there and seeing everything.”

If Vince is at, or even near, the top of his game, I’d have to agree with Gentry and Schmitz.

The Suns can’t continue to settle for jumpers at the end of games. They just aren’t the same team that made 41 percent of its long-range shots last season.

Instead, Carter can drive to the basket and try to get to the foul line or kick it out if the defense collapses on him.

Rebounding from the Sacramento loss

The 94-89 loss to the NBA-worst Kings Sunday capped off a terribly disappointing week for Phoenix.

“Are we sick about what happened in Sacramento? Of course we are,” Gentry said. “We’ve got a good group of guys but we’re struggling and we know that. We’re trying to play our way out of it and they are working hard. As a coach, that’s all I can ask my guys to do.”

The Suns lost to the Clippers, 76ers and the aforementioned Kings in a span of  eight days.

“We just have to make sure our psyches are okay; we can sometimes lose our confidence,” Grant Hill said. “The main thing is to stay upbeat. We’ve improved on the defensive end and there are still other areas to get better in but we can’t lose our spirit. We still have close to 50 games left.”

At first it was a lack of defense that was holding Phoenix back, but over the 19-2 run to end the game in Sacramento, it was second-chance points for the Kings and the lack of scoring on offense that killed the Suns.

Rebounding has been a problem for Phoenix all season long, but maybe not ever as much as it was on Sunday.

Carter pointed out that the lack of rebounding might have been what led to the Suns scoring just two points in the final five minutes of the game.

“We have a lot of transition shooters and guys who can get up and down the court,” Carter said. “But you can’t do that when the other team is putting the ball in the basket every trip down. It makes it hard to run and it makes our half-court offense need to be perfect. … The second opportunities killed us.”

Still, coach Gentry is far more concerned with keeping the defensive intensity up rather than worrying about fixing his offense.

“I hope the last two games are an indication of what we can do defensively,” Gentry said. “If we can continue to do what we did the last two games, than I think our offense will pick itself up.”

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