Phoenix Suns practice report: Robin Lopez’ struggles, Steve Nash still committed to Phoenix

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns are 2-6 and quickly falling out of NBA relevance since their six-player trade with the Orlando Magic. Although the entire team is searching to find itself, no one has drifted into oblivion more than center Robin Lopez.

With Marcin Gortat quickly surging up the depth chart, Lopez has become a ghost, playing 13 minutes or less in five of the last six games. He’s looked slow, lethargic and out of position night in and night out, as he’s averaged only four points and two rebounds in 12 minutes over his last five games.

“Obviously he’s not playing to the level we anticipated right now so I’m going to sit down with him now and talk about it,” said head coach Alvin Gentry after Thursday’s practice. “We’d like to get his level of play up obviously because he becomes very important to us because we’ve seen it before.

“He’s had a successful run here before and before he got hurt a year back he was playing great basketball for us and we’d like to get him back to that level.”

Added Nash: “I don’t know if it’s just physical or if there’s something else going on.”

Lopez said he feels healthy, it just hasn’t translated into productive play on the court. He looked energetic and active after returning from a knee sprain earlier in the season, even scoring 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting against the Thunder.

But since Gortat became a regular rotation player, Lopez went into his disappearing act and is floating out of the rotation. You would think he would play heavy minutes against a big Lakers team, but he played only 12 minutes after starting next to Gortat.

The Polish Machine, on the other hand, played 35 minutes against the Lakers, scoring 12 points, grabbing nine boards and limiting Pau Gasol to six points (3-of-10 shooting) and nine rebounds — something the Suns have never been able to do.

“I thought Gortat did about a good of job as you can do on Pau,” Gentry said. “Pau’s been a guy that’s really hurt us and I thought the way Gortat played him, we kind of neutralized him and we hadn’t been able to do that.”

The Laker game was the first time the Suns had ever played Lopez and Gortat together, which went fairly well defensively but limited the Suns offensively at times. Nash said there were some spacing problems from time to time, but only because the Suns’ bigs missed some “bunnies” inside that would have opened up the lanes more.

Both Nash and Gentry both said they’ll only play that big lineup when they’re playing teams with two bigs down low, meaning that if Lopez continues to struggle, Gortat (11.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks in 32.6 minutes in his last five) may very well take over as starting center.

“He’s doing well, I think potentially he could do better,” Nash said of Gortat. “Obviously he’s very capable. He’s got good hands, he’s athletic. I don’t think he’s that comfortable yet catching and finishing because I don’t think he got a lot of opportunities in Orlando so we’ve got to give him time.

“I don’t think he’s played this many minutes, gotten this many opportunities or played in the fourth quarter so you’ve got to give him time to get comfortable. But he’s definitely capable.”

Nash committed to Phoenix

With the Suns falling out of the Western Conference playoff race (14-19), the first thought becomes: Will Nash be traded? The national media posed that question and threw out possible scenarios, but president of basketball operations Lon Babby assured Nash he isn’t on the move.

“He told me a month ago when it first sprung that he had no plans to move me,” Nash said.

“I think I’m at the stage of my career now where I’m not going home, worrying about trades and stuff like that. I really, genuinely don’t think about it when I leave here,” Nash added. “And yet to be honest I’m the last to know, I don’t usually follow closely. I usually find out from you guys and get a sense of ‘Is something going on?’”

Nash said he’s obviously frustrated with losing but made it clear that he still believes in the Suns, and is committed and happy in Phoenix.

“I signed up for this. I’m committed to try to build a team here. Last year was a phenomenal year. Tied 2-2 I thought we could win a championship, like genuinely believed it, that we could win it,” Nash said.  “It’s tough to be in this situation six months later but I’m still committed to it. I love the guys. I think we’ve got potential. I just think we’ve had so much change and haven’t been able to put it together.

“I’m still happy. I just want to try to win games for these fans and for our team. That’s kind of the most frustrating thing is that we’ve been in a lot of games that we haven’t won when last year we’d find a way to win most of those.”

Tags: Robin Lopez Steve Nash

  • justinf

    i love steve nash’s optimism but it just seems unlikely that this team can turn it around like the mid 90s team that started 1-15 and went on a 12 game wining streak in the middle of the season and almost upset seattle in the playoffs.

    the suns need to use this season to evaluate who they want to keep and who they can trade/buyout/whatever and build a future core that can play defense.Its almost unbelievable that a pro team can play defense this poorly. Defense is an effort stat as well as strategy we should see suns players flyng at people on rotations. i love nash but its time to rebuild if it dont turn around before the allstar break.

  • lawrence

    Go My Phoenix Suns!! I just love a player like Nash (my fav all time player) who is just so committed and fatherly to his team. The Suns will make a run, believe it. I’m a Suns Fan, and iv’e seen great basketball for a number of years. You can’t fool me. This is going to be a great team. I don’t care what anyone says. All the pieces are there, now they just have to put it together.

  • The grandson of the Lady who designed the Suns Logo .

    Ive been cursed with being a suns fan since i was born, and all i can say after all these years, Steve Nash is one of the most talented and **Stand Up** guys i have ever met and seen where a Suns Jersey. I am proud to have him wear a Suns jersey, as should the rest of phoenix. If you want the defention of class it would be Steve. I hope he plays his last days as a nba player here, it would be a honor to see that. On the other hand, i hope our slightly challenged owner sells a few of his ferraris and makes a move to aquire a legit PF so we can make another run for nash. Josh Smith for Vince’s expiring, josh childress, and 1st round anyone?

  • Mel.

    RoLo seems to be making a case for the trade block, considering how badly he’s failed to step up in the wake of the Gortat signing. Sad that Channing and the Polish Hammer posed a thicker on-floor threat than a guy who prides himself on being a physical (Albeit woefully clumsy) force in the paint.

    Also, I think I got more anti-Laker posts in on the DDL last night than I have in a year and a half of attendance. Thank you, Mr. Schwartz. :D

  • Paul wilson

    I been a Suns fan since 1976 when i saw that tripple overtime game against the celtics. The best player i saw when i was a young child walter davis and Paul westfall.When i got as auldult it was Charles Bartkley.Now iam a older man i love the way Steve NaSH PLAYES I fill the suns can change the season around just need a power forward in a trade,

  • DAG

    Free Steve Nash

  • DoIt

    Jordan Hill (rebounding PF) + Chase Budinger (spacer) both from AZ for Lopez + Lawal …

  • Kenton

    You have to appreciate Nash’s sportsmanship. These days stars are concerned about fabricating a team and being collected like puzzle pieces or trading cards rather than BUILDING a team through commitment and dedication to a club (Im not just talking about Miami either, I felt the same way about Ainge’s Celtics when he got KG, and Allen together with Pierce, and still do). There is something to be said for a player who not only seeks to win on the court through talent combined with camaraderie. It takes ingenuity to make a good team out of what you’ve got now, and Nash’s abilities on the floor have always been ingenious. And if this team doesn’t get over. 500 this season, it wont be for the first time in this franchises history, nor will it be the last. Im just glad our team doesn’t thrive off of locker-room diva-drama (Lakers), no one on our team has ever been associated with scandals (and even J.Rich when he was here seemed remorseful), and our staff has revitalized the careers of Nash and Hill in tandem. My appreciation of this team is not indicative of wins produced, but the quality and characters of the players and staff as I see them. The wins are a bonus. Im just pleased that we have (and have had) Nash here in Phoenix, and that he is happy to be here. Cheer for that, because in my mind, that’s what true professional sports and team affiliation is about.

  • KJ Loyalist

    Kenton – except what you are saying about teams like MIA and BOS describes PHX 100%. This team has done the exact same thing that those teams have except a title hasn’t been brought home. That is the only difference really.

    If Nash really feels the way he does via those comments, then it should be him that goes into the front office and tells them to stop; get rid of a couple of players that would bring back yet another draft pick, and build what is here in preparation for next season.

    Seriously, no team can win a championship every year and no team can contend for one every year.

    If they’d simply settle on a set group of players and work it out now, they’d be ready to attack next season with the young guns coming in and being able to contribute and grow slowly while a concrete rotation of starters holds it down.

    Also, if Nash really wants to win as much as possible, he should be demanding that JMZ and Frye start with Gortat, Hill, and himself.

    RoLo, at this point, is a bench player and really that isn’t bad. For the most part, he’d have advantages against most second unit centers and should stay out of foul trouble a bit more. He is decent on the screen and wouldn’t have to worry about his footwork as much because if he sets a great pick, Dragon is going to attack the rim.

  • joms

    Nash is definitely a class act in basketball.Just like Bird and Olajuwon.I still believe he can turn things around for the suns this season.All they need to do is to play fierce.I say spirit and grit!