Level-headed Suns not putting too much stake in blowouts

PHOENIX — After the Phoenix Suns started off the season losing three of their first four games, there wasn’t a whole lot of panic coming out of the locker room. Even the shortened season is a long one they said, and the team followed up a 1-3 start in December with a 3-1 record in January so far.

The players’ attitudes haven’t wavered as they’ve begun to find their mojo.

“To be honest, I don’t think we’re getting ahead of ourselves,” point guard Steve Nash said on Monday. “We’re just trying to execute the gameplan and so far we’ve had some success. But we have a long way to go.

“We’re going to face some better teams, and we’re going to have to do a better job of rebounding, and being sharp on our rotations and keeping people out of the paint.”

Phoenix appears to be back on track, especially in the past two games. Blowing out the Portland Trail Blazers and Milwaukee Bucks at home, the Suns realize that it’s about wins period, not necessarily who they’re winning against.

Then again, they know they’ve got to take advantage against tired teams at home. The now 6-2 Blazers lost to Phoenix in the second game of a back-to-back. The 2-6 Bucks were also in a back-to-back situation, not to mention that they were playing their last game of a five-game road trip. Milwaukee didn’t win one of those games.

Simply put, the Suns know home games against tired teams are must-wins. The blowouts were the icing on the cake.

“That’s the games you have to take advantage of and you have to close those out,” head coach Alvin Gentry said. “Steve and those guys, they haven’t played in the fourth quarter the last two games and obviously any rest they get is a big plus.”

No, the Suns haven’t proven that a defensive rating that stands at 100.6 points allowed per 100 possessions — that’s good enough for 12th in the league — combined with a suddenly good-looking offense can thrust them into the playoff picture. But as of now, they probably have proven they can take care of the teams that most other decent NBA teams should have no business losing to.

With the Los Angeles Lakers on deck Tuesday, Phoenix won’t put too much pressure on themselves to beat a difficult opponent, but it might be the first opportunity to determine how close this squad is to competing against upper-tier Western Conference playoff teams.

“It’ll give us some idea where we are,” Gentry said.

Hill finding his legs

Forward Grant Hill hasn’t been his old self this season. His usually-automatic, mid-range jump shot hasn’t connected with consistency, and Gentry said Monday that Hill is working to get his legs back under him. He’s shooting 37.5 percent from the field and has hit only 1-of-11 three-pointers.

But Hill’s defense hasn’t needed to find itself.

“He was ecstatic that he made the corner three last night,” Gentry said of Hill’s first three-pointer of the season. “On some of his drives and some of his finishes, he’s just not quite there yet. Defensively, I think he’s done a great job. The job he’s done on Monta Ellis, you go back, the job he did on Dirk (Nowitzki) … Stephen Jackson is a guy that has given us a ton of trouble over the years. I think we did a good job.”

Hill tied for the highest plus/minus on the Suns last night with a +28 and held Jackson to only eight points. Earlier this season, the Suns’ starting small forward held Ellis to 6-for-16 from the field and held Nowitzki to 7-for-17.

Morris had a good word put in for him

In all circles of life, they say it’s who you know that will get you places, not necessarily how good you are.

For Phoenix rookie Markieff Morris, a good word put in by his former coach, Danny Manning, may have helped urge the Suns to pick him 13th overall.

“Obviously we spent time visiting with Danny about him,” Gentry said when asked whether Morris’ three-point range was surprising. “He said he thought he could be a trail guy on the break and make three-point shots. He proved he could do that.

“I think he’s been a little better defensively than we anticipated from the standpoint of playing and not getting himself in foul trouble lately,” Gentry added.

Gentry and Manning, Morris’ assistant at Kansas, go way back and were both with the Jayhawks when they won the 1988 NCAA championship. Gentry was an assistant under then-head coach Larry Brown and Manning was the star forward for Kansas.

Gentry still loves Tebow; Nelson … not so much

Following Gentry’s glowing speech about Denver Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow, the Suns’ head coach was back at it after Monday’s practice, wearing a worn Broncos baseball cap that was complete with a “Tim Tebow #15″ signature on the brim.

It wasn’t authentic.

Meanwhile, Nash said athletic trainer Aaron Nelson, a diehard Steelers’ fan, hadn’t shown much emotion after the Broncos beat Pittsburgh in overtime.

“Yeah, he’s pretending it doesn’t bother him,” Nash joked. “It’s the first sign of a meltdown.”

  • http://jtshoopsblog.blogspot.com JT’s Hoops Blog

    I must say the Suns have certainly proved me wrong as I was already planning their funeral arrangements for the season.

  • A-ROCK

    Beautiful,I am seeing some promise in the Suns with this win and they should make the playoffs with this type of playing, even though it was only the Bucks we’ll see how we size up against the lakers with both teams being rested, French Fry just think if you make shots like that every game you won’t be on the Most Hated Suns List, and as far as Fropez is concerened he won’t even make the list because he is booboo, kaka, he flat out sucks, his effort is just flat out ugly to watch, the guy doesn’t even try to meet people at the height of their jump to block shots he just fouls and slows the game up like he doesn’t watch tape on anyone, he plays like he is a rookie. As far as the rookie of the year in Morris I have been saying it from day 1 he is a player, keep up the good work, as long as you stay out of foul trouble the sky’s the limit bruh :)

  • Lloyd I. Cadle

    I want to pay a compliment to Coach Gentry. He is good with the x’s and 0′s, has the team prepared to play, and uses his bench.

    Another good thing that Gentry has done is bring in a coach to coach defense-something that Mike D’Antoni was too stubborn to do.

    Gentry is as good of a coach as any in the NBA.

  • Scott

    @A-ROCK -

    I never gave up on Frye’s shooting, and he’s never been anywhere near my hate list. I saw him play as a college freshman once, and I thought, “Someday I want him to be on the Suns.” And I kept tabs on him once he became a pro, and when he was with Portland I was posting on the message boards that the Suns should look into getting him. And once the Suns got him, he was better than I thought he would be.

    Having said that, history tells us he’ll have at least one more dry spell with his shooting this season. But when he’s on, the Suns should pass him the ball and let him shoot. :)

  • shazam

    “Yeah, he’s pretending it doesn’t bother him,” Nash joked. “It’s the first sign of a meltdown.”….priceless bwahahahaha

  • Al

    Who knows, maybe Frye has started taking 3 point shooting lessons from Markieff during practice. That would be hilarious. The rookie has complete improved the 2nd unit tremendously. Morris is third in efficiency behind Nash and Gortat. He is having a great start and hope he keeps it up for the entire season. Morris needs to acquire some strength and develop post up moves and he’ll be set for the starting position.
    @A-Rock I agree that Lopez is the one that is playing more like a rookie than Morris. (11 fouls altogether in the last 2 games. Cm on). He needs to bounce back. If he doesn’t, Phoenix should try to pull a deal with the Hornets for Chris Kaman. Robin Lopez, Josh, Childress, 2nd rnd pick + cash for Chris Kaman is a good deal for NBA office to accept.

  • Scott

    BTW, at the moment the Suns are in the top 10 defensively, according to Suns.com.

    • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

      Technically, they are tied for 11th in terms of defensive efficiency. Not bad for the Phoenix Suns!

  • A-ROCK

    @ at scott
    so are you telling me this because of one game because I know already and all he does is shoot 3′s and not saying he is a premier 3 point shooter or even clutch like a ray allen, he is French Fry hard when he is knocking down 3′s but soft in the middle. Everyone know’s if he ain’t hitting 3 balls he needs to be on the bench. I call him a specialist on the specialist lol no pun. The guy is weak, and I am not going to allow you to upset me and have me going in on French Fry tonight! Oh and Robin is BOOBOO @Al yes a trade will be nice I don’t see him improving, he is probably watching cartoons right now that buster. He needs to get his face out of them comic books and start acting like a super hero or get shipped outta hear. I wouldn’t be surprised if he even went to the D-league! P.s I don’t find that remark funny about French Fry taking lessons from the rookie.

  • A-ROCK

    @ Lloyd I. Cadle
    not so fast buddy, this guy hasn’t impressed me yet, pump your brakes sophomore, he does use his bench though whatever that means, his play calling is horrendous, or is it because Nash runs the teams plays, we will see when the game is on the line about his x’s and o’s pal. so far the suck!

  • Scott

    Regarding Hill, apparently a factor behind his lack of conditioning was a knee surgery he’d had in Sept., and this added a little drag to him getting into basketball shape.

  • steve

    If we could have been top 10 in defensive efficiency back in the Amare days, I think Nash might have a ring or two on his fingers. It’s good to see the Suns finally starting to take defense seriously. Hopefully this trend continues, and the philosophy of the Suns changes from “We’re going to score more than you” to “We’re going to score more than you ever could and humiliate you in the process by holding you to a season-low in points.”

  • Zak

    It takes time to develop a defensive attitude on a team like the Suns that for years just tried to outscore other teams. D’Antoni never cared about more than playing token defense. I think Porter tried to change things too fast during his brief time as head coach. He wanted to slow the game down and increase the emphasis on defense… but he tried to make too many changes too quickly. Gentry has used what he had in players and made the best of it by adapting his coaching to the style best suited to the players he had on the team. But the Suns have been evolving over the years and I’m glad to see that defense is becoming a priority. Every player and every team has off nights on offense but defensive breakdowns are much rarer for both players and teams.

  • Scott

    I always wondered why the Suns didn’t get a defensive coach, and was glad when they finally did, because it makes sense to have a specialist come in for that without disturbing the main core of what’s made the team successful.