PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns’ list of disappointments in the 2010-11 season grew Wednesday night when the Suns lost to the Charlotte Bobcats, their fourth straight against the Eastern Conference foe.
The loss extended the Suns’ losing streak to three games following a five-game winning streak and signs of desperation began to show at Thursday’s practice. The team’s off-day practice, originally scheduled to end at 11 a.m., went an extra hour and some players stuck around even longer.
“Obviously we’re disappointed with the season overall and last night was no different,” Suns point guard Steve Nash said. “We had a good stretch, now we’re having a bad stretch. We’ve got to find a way to end this as quickly as possible.”
Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby and Managing Partner Robert Sarver were on hand for the practice, meeting one-on-one with players and staff to discuss what can be done to turn the season around.
For Nash, getting back on a winning track is a matter of team focus.
“There’s been moments where we get caught thinking instead of fighting,” Nash said. “We don’t finish plays sometimes or we’re not as competitive as we need to be. We lack discipline at times.
“I don’t really care about inconsistency of shots or performance type things. I just want the effort to be there every night and the concentration. If that happens, things take care of themselves.”
Nash didn’t attribute a lack of focus to individuals, but rather the team as a whole. With Wednesday’s loss, the Suns fell to 20-24 overall and sat four games out of the playoffs.
“I suppose it could be attributed to a lot of things, but whatever it is, we’re all capable and we just need to fight for that little bit of extra something that gets us over the top,” Nash said.
Suns coach Alvin Gentry pointed to the Jan. 22 loss to Detroit as a key game in the team’s recent struggles.
“The Detroit loss really hurt us,” Gentry said. “I think it kind of made us take a step back because I think we were feeling good about ourselves. If you win that game and come back 4-1, I think our psyche would’ve been a little bit different, but those are the kind of things you’ve got to put behind you and move on.”
Nash too took a stance of putting the past behind him, refusing to let the team’s rough stretch get him down.
“It’s disappointing and a struggle and a fight when you’re losing, but there’s no reason why we can’t enjoy it still,” Nash said. “I’m not going to sit here and get my head down. I’m going to look forward and it starts with tomorrow night.”
More changes in the works?
Gentry said that while he remains patient, he will not sit by and watch his team’s struggles continue.
“We have to be demanding as far as play on the court,” Gentry said. “If that’s not going to happen, we have to look to make changes.”
The Suns have already used 12 different starting lineups this season and the rotation has seemed to change with the wind, often leaving multiple players out for long stretches.
Gentry said he’s been disappointed with the team’s lack of consistency and constant need for adjustment, but said more changes could be very close.
“I wanted to establish a constant starting five and then a rotation,” Gentry said. “At some stage, if it’s not working out, obviously as the head coach it’s my responsibility to maybe look elsewhere personnel-wise and maybe make some changes in the lineup and our rotations. That’s what you have to do when you’re not getting done what you expect to get done.”
Gentry gave no specifics as to what changes could happen or when.
Nash rumors given new life
Babby has consistently held that Nash will remain with the Suns this season despite the team’s struggles and seemingly endless speculation that he could be moved if the team isn’t contending.
Nash has also said continuously that he is committed to playing in Phoenix, even if it means playing on a rebuilding team.
ESPN’s Chad Ford, however, threw more fuel on the Nash rumor fire Thursday when he put Nash on his list of top 10 players to watch at the trade deadline. Here’s what Ford had to say:
Suns president Lon Babby has been adamant that he’s not trading Nash. That’s why Nash is at the bottom of the list and not at the top. But there are GMs who believe Babby’s stance may soften as we get closer to the deadline.
The Suns are no longer a contender and are on the verge of a major rebuilding project. While Nash has said publicly he’s standing by the Suns, it doesn’t make much sense for either party to keep going this direction.
Nash is still playing like an All-Star and could have a chance at winning a title elsewhere. More importantly for the Suns, he’s their only major asset right now. The other players on their roster don’t have a lot of trade value, but several teams would give up a lot to land Nash. If the Suns are serious about rebuilding, it may be time to say goodbye.
Dowdell gets 10 more days on Planet Orange
Guard Zabian Dowdell practiced with the Suns on Thursday after the team signed him to a second 10-day contract. The Virginia Tech product appeared in two games during his first Suns stint.
Dowdell, along with center Marcin Gortat and guard Goran Dragic, stayed after practice Thursday for about an hour to get in extra work.