New Jersey Nets 110, Phoenix Suns 103 — Missing star power


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJiASURZkw0]

PHOENIX — Suns fans received their first peak of what life without Steve Nash and Grant Hill might look like Friday night.

Perhaps New Jersey’s 110-103 victory over the Suns exhibits why Lon Babby isn’t so eager to close the curtain on this illustrious era of Suns basketball.

But the problem wasn’t offense, even without the Suns’ quarterback, a player Jared Dudley compared to Peyton Manning. The Suns actually shot 51.9 percent and saw all five starters score at least 13 points yet lost their first game of the season when reaching triple digits.

The Suns even got the game of his life from Nash’s replacement Ronnie Price, yet it wasn’t enough as Deron Williams reminded them exactly the kind of difference a star in his prime can make.

Williams has struggled a bit this season for his standards — entering the game with averages of 16.9 points and 8.2 assists per game — before exploding for 35 points and 14 dimes on 11-for-18 shooting, including 6-for-9 on threes, to become the first player since LeBron on Feb. 18 of last year to put up those kind of numbers.

“He set the tone,” Dudley said. “They’ve been struggling — look at their record — and he knew that they needed a win and he took advantage of it.”

Added head coach Alvin Gentry, “I thought that Deron Williams just took over the game.”

The Suns adjusted their pick-and-roll coverage on Williams but that only created space for their lethal three-point shooters, as New Jersey knocked down 15-of-32 long balls for the game.

Phoenix just had no answer for Williams in the third quarter, when he ripped the nets for 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting and handed out four dimes. On the other side Price played the offensive quarter of his life with 12 points and five assists yet every time he made a nice play Williams would go down and answer.

That’s just what superstars do.

Price will never be confused with a superstar, but in scoring a career-high 18 points he looked like an ideal backup for Nash.

For a player whose pure point rating was so “unspeakably awful” last season, he looked every bit like a playmaker in dishing eight assists and doing a nice job setting up teammates for easy buckets. He certainly seemed to distance himself from Sebastian Telfair, who knocked down just 2-of-8 shots and didn’t run the offense quite as well as Price.

“I’m having the ball in my hands more than I’ve ever had it in my hands before,” Price said. “It allows me to work on some things and actually utilize some of the skills I thought I maybe had.”

However, Price refused to take any satisfaction from his impressive individual game being that it came in a team loss. Instead he lamented some mistakes and vowed to use this game film to improve.

It was a surprising night for Price on every level, starting at 5 p.m. when he found out Two Time would not be playing and that instead he would be receiving his first start since Feb. 22, 2010, against a star player he went head to head with every day in practice for the better part of four seasons in Utah.

One would think that familiarity would have led to a better defensive effort for the defensive-minded Price, yet he shone offensively instead while failing to limit a player he called a top-three point guard before the game.

The Suns received a predictably stellar game from Marcin Gortat (20 and 10 on 10-for-14), a nice all-around game from Frye (15 points, seven assists and six boards) and 18 points from Dudley.

However, their offensive prowess is certainly mitigated a good degree by the fact New Jersey entered the game ranked last in defensive efficiency so the solid offense without Nash would be much more impressive against a legitimate NBA defense.

Perhaps the opponent is one of the reasons the Suns felt comfortable giving Nash and Hill the day of rest.

Particularly with Two Time, the way he accumulates injuries we knew there would days he would just need to rest to stay fresher and more effective in the games he does play. It made perfect sense to try to get a banged-up Nash feeling good entering the road trip, but that line of thinking only works with a victory.

Everybody I interviewed postgame maintained a positive attitude and discussed the need to just improve. There was talk of having smart basketball players with good character who won’t get down on each other.

I buy all that, yet the Suns know they are staring down the barrel of a five-game road trip that Frye called “the toughest of anyone in the NBA,” a five-gamer in which Dudley said the Suns must “steal some games against teams that are the best in the NBA.”

The Suns understand what they are up against facing the Spurs, Bulls, Knicks, Celtics and Mavericks before returning home to US Airways Center. It’s the kind of trip that can bury a team that just let the lowly Cavs and Nets escape their building with victories.

“We’ve got to get some wins,” Price said. “This is a good opportunity for us to grow and actually show some type of bounce back on this road trip. I felt like we didn’t take care of home court the way we should, and now we’ve got to go get some wins on somebody else’s floor.”

If they don’t they could dig a hole that would be difficult to emerge from even with a prime Nash and Hill.

And 1

  • Josh Childress remained chained to the bench despite the injury to Hill, and Michael Redd scored just two points on 1-for-5 shooting in 13 minutes yet got torched by impressive Nets rookie MarShon Brooks, who scored 20 points. Gentry had to take Redd out early in the second quarter after Brooks scored two easy isolation buckets on him and then drew a foul to start the period.
  • Phoenix dropped to 10-24 (.294) without Nash since the start of 2004-05. … The Nets scored nine second-chance points in the first 10 minutes but then went 29 minutes without scoring another one. … The Suns recorded their highest assist total without Nash since February 2009 with 26 helpers. … Gortat is averaging 16.0 and 9.4 on 69.6 percent shooting without the splint on his shooting hand. … Kris Humphries received a smattering of boos all game. He scored 15 points and grabbed six boards.

Tags: Deron Williams Ronnie Price Steve Nash

  • Mel.

    Well. Safe to say that ugliness was predicted all-around, and ugliness was exactly what we wound up with; I don’t know what the hell it is with the Suns that have led to opposing superstars getting motivated to career-caliber performances lately, (Kobe’s 48. Kyrie Irving going to work with new highs in his statlines, and now Deron reminding everybody that… oh, right. He’s actually worth the marquee hype, when not laboring to drag his team to victory against an overmatched opponent) but… damn.

    This road trip’s feeling more and more like a five-way slaughter in the mail, even if Nash pulls himself up by his bootstraps. It’s good that the boys are upbeat, because there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about for those of us watching this mess.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    Terrible! Most terrible! And now 5 games at the end of which we could touch the bottom! You can not lose at home with the Nets! I understand: Nash and Hill are out but the others have proven to be a nobody!
    Price has not done badly but I still can not understand why a young talent like Dragic exchanged for Brooks (now, moreover, is “eating Chinese”).
    Childress what we keep doing? to warm the bench? Let’s change! for a future pick in the draft (it would be ideal) or a better player!
    What a disappointment this defeat!

  • Scott

    I see the foundations here of a long losing streak. The Suns aren’t playing up to the level of their talent, IMO.

    I’ve seen nothing so far that makes me want to change my mind about starting Redd, Gortat, and Lopez, and using Frye and Dudley to power the 2nd unit. I still think the Suns need to concentrate on playing faster, putting pressure on the defense, and having their players get fouled around the hoop.

    Lopez, despite being barely visible, was the team leader in free throws, making 4 of 4 (with Dudley tying him, and Price netting 3 of 3). But the Suns as a team had slightly fewer free throw attempt than the Nets, which points to the Suns as having less aggression than even a bottom-feeding team. (The Suns are now about 6 steps from the bottom of the league, themselves.)

    I want to see Gortat and Lopez work together to get points around the basket and get fouled. (Frye may spread the floor, but being so far away from the basket isn’t conducive to pounding in the paint.) I want to see Warrick coming in at SF for back door lobs and put backs. I want to see Brown drive for contact more (and hopefully he’ll get better at dishing to his teammates on broken plays). I want to see Dudley and Hill drive more.

    It’s great that the Suns are such a talented shooting team. However, the Cavs and Nets were both able to outscore the Suns, and that’s because in addition to their outside shooting they were more aggressive on getting inside.

    BTW, the +/- leaders in the game were Brown and Frye.
    The losers were Redd, Morris, and Telfair.

  • Scott

    Let me add that I like Price’s composure and what he brings to the game. I hope the Suns can keep him as backup PG, especially if he continues to grow into the system.

    I’m less positive about Telfair, but I appreciate that he made his 3s in the Nets game, and that suggests to me that he’s been working hard on his shooting. So hopefully he continues to improve.

    Telfair has a two year contract, with the second year as team option. If Telfair doesn’t demonstrate suitable improvement as the year goes on (remember, he was supposed to be better than Price, and “ideally” suited to the Suns’ offense), and assuming Brooks does not return, maybe the Suns can pick up Patty Mills, as Portland already has 15 players under contract.

  • shazam

    the suns are a losing team anyways..i thought it was interesting to watch the team try and figure it out with out the shadow of 2 time monopolizing the ball for 18-20 seconds per possession…there is a reason we havent found a back up for steve..he created a unique style that no one else can do…and it was fun to watch until it became apparent that it doesnt win it all because it gives back the same amount of points…ask doug moe and paul westhead…same philosophy (that didnt win) as mike diantoni…the only nuance was mike relied on his guard slightly more and shortened the rotation(on a running team haha) boggles the imagination

  • Ty

    I’m stumped on the team this year, one game they’ll look like they are finally clicking and I feel very positive about their chances, then I see a game like this where we just looked lost out there, granted we didn’t have Nash. I agree with Scott, our inside game is very minimal and without Nash there to feed the ball inside all I saw was a lot of guys standing around the 3 point line last night. Maybe I wasn’t watching closely enough but I saw very few pick and rolls, very few post ups, and overall just nobody on the floor moving. We’ve almost turned into a team that tries to play 1 on 1 with our offense and if that doesn’t work we kick it out for a 3. Gortat and Lopez need to toughen up IMO, they are too big to not be backing guys down and DUNKING the ball. But we did get within 3 points with about 2 min left before losing it. Which comes back to our old problem of a lack of defense. I understand that the superstars are going to get their points, that’s why they are superstars, but something needs to change on the defensive end, we have actually been playing close games recently but fail to get stops when we need them.

  • Scott

    @Ty -

    I think the concern expressed by many is that the Suns’ big men can’t back anyone down due to poor handles / moves. Which to me means you tell them to get down low and you throw them the ball, so they don’t have to go anywhere but up. And if they get a rhythm on their inside scoring, they’re more likely to actually develop handing / moves, whereas right now they’re like plan C or D and stagnating.

    Somehow the bail-out move – the 3 pt shot – has become the only move for the Suns. It’s hard to have consistent success with that.

    If you have 2 bigs inside – like Gortat and Lopez – you have them screen for each other and make short high passes or hand-offs to each other, so neither one has to put the ball on the floor. Essentially a very short pick and roll or lob at the rim from inside. Just one or two steps and they’re at the rim.

    For that matter, if you have two bigs near the hoop on any play, if a wing drives toward the hoop they can either get a screen from a big or throw the ball to a big, depending on where the defense is. At the moment, with just one big under the hoop and the other away in the corner, the Suns typically find on drives there are too many defenders at the hoop and no one to pass off to, often ending in a turnover.

    Having two bigs close to the bucket should improve rebounding numbers, as well.

    Both Gortat and Lopez can also make the short jumper, so a front court of the two of them should be more flexible and accommodating than others where the center is just a stiff, or the PF is mostly just a rebounder.

  • shazam

    scott the first times i heard you pitch lopez and gortat i thought it would create terrible spacing…ive come around now to agreeing with you…still wonder about spacing but we really have nothing to lose so might as well try it…i think we should package josh childish and robin loceiling in a trade before the league figures out they are pretenders

  • Zak

    Well, the positives are that Price showed he can step up and handle the PG duties (18 pts, 8 assists, 4 rebs & 2 stls), Gortat had another strong game (20 pts & 10 rebs), Frye also had a veryu good game (15 pts, 6 rebs & 7 assists), Dudley seemed to have a better game back at his natural 3 spot (18 pts, 4 rebs) and even Brown had a fair game (13 pts, 3 rebs and 3 assists). The sum of the negatives is that Gortat out scored and out rebounded them ALL and Frye made more assists than them ALL. BUT if you look at the totals, the Suns’ bench still out scored the Nets bench by 6 points, had 3 more assists and were only out rebounded 10 to 8. The fact is that Deron Williams’ 35 points and 14 assists killed us last night. His season average is 18.5 ppg this season and, if we could have held him to that, the Suns would have won. And as much as I love Nash, DW might have even scored even more with Nash guarding him most of the night.

    Yes, the Suns do need more driving to the basket but Brown seems to be the only one who has the drive first mentality but isn’t a great finisher or a great passer. The defensive lapses need to stop but I think that’s a personnel problem as much as anything. Most of the players the Suns have aren’t really aggressive on offense OR defense. If the Suns could get one really good, aggressive and VOCAL defender, that could help change the mentality of the team (much like Tyson Chandler did with Dallas last year).

  • Zak

    Oops! When I said that “Gortat out scored and out rebounded them ALL and Frye made more assists than them ALL”, I was referring to the Suns’ bench. Sorry for not making that clear in my original post.

  • Mel.

    “If the Suns could get one really good, aggressive and VOCAL defender, that could help change the mentality of the team (much like Tyson Chandler did with Dallas last year).”

    To be fair, I see a lot of that in Gortat, especially based off of the candor and hard-nosed mentality that he showed when joining the team last year. I think he’s got the potential to be that mouthpiece (Moreso than anybody else, at least based on his consistency and overall attitude), but Pietrus also had the same potential, and it seemed like the Suns spent the better part of the off-season trying to muffle the guy before scuttling him off to Boston (Which is… ironic, considering his shining moment in the purple and orange was squaring off against Garnett after “Nutpunchgate,” when last they played).

    I feel like a lot of the aforementioned has to do with Nash, and his personality. I love Steve’s sense of off-court chivalry and his soft touch when it comes to dealing with duress, but I also feel like it’s turned the rest of the franchise into a “meditation circle,” in a sense. Look at Channing and Dudley’s Twitter feeds to the right of this post; a three-game losing streak feels like it’s just “a minor hiccup,” and that the surest remedy is to “go out there and play well.” There’s no specific sense of urgency; no inquiry about playing harder, showing swag, WANTING those rebounds and missed opportunities. It’s almost as though any point-blank evaluation of the team’s mediocrity is seen as being seditious, and that “hard work and good feelings will (win out), in the end.”

    And to be fair, that’s worked for Steve over his career. He’s a warrior on-court and a Canadian Shaolin monk off of it; however, it does NOT benefit any other aspect of the team’s complexion at this time, especially with so many questions about where Two-Time’s going to find himself fitting in over the next few years.

    (It also occurs to me as I reach for the “Submit” button that Grant has a ton to do with this issue, as well; having the winningest “Good Citizenship” tentpole in the game–and a guy who’s defined grace over a tough career–as a co-leader of your team is NOT a recipe for promoting a smashmouth state of mental toughness.)

  • shazam

    nice guys have skinny kids

  • Tony

    Scott, I hope you were being sarcastic when you said the Suns are such a talented shooting team, because that makes absolutely no sense. They have one great shooter in Nash, two inconsistent shooters in Dudley and Frye, and the rest ugh.

    As much as I’m a fan of Nash staying on the Suns, if the Suns come back home 4-12, which judging by their upcoming road trip and the caliber of teams they have to play, the team’s playoff hopes will be finished and it will be counterproductive to keep Nash and Hill on the Suns. This is because the worst thing for the organization’s future will be to win games as the only hope the Suns will have will be to land a great lottery pick.

    I know the likes of Sun Rises, Big Duche, and Steve “who thinks Childress is a shooter” will disagree, but there’s no chance the Suns sign a top free agent next off season. D-Will and Howard, the best of the unrestricted free agents, are definitly not signing with the Suns, as they are looking for teams already very competitive and in large markets. As far as the top restricted free agents, such as Westbrook and Love, there’s no way their respective teams are not going to match any Suns offer.
    So, so long as Sarver is determined to remain as owner of the Suns franchise, the only chance the organization has to become contenders again is through the draft. As such, why not just get it started now and trade Nash and Hill, play the younger players the remainder of the season to develop their games and then bank on landing a top-3 draft pick?

  • Zak

    Mel, I agree that Gortat may be that vocal defender to a degree but I think he’s more the type to give direction than DEMAND perfection on defense. Dallas also had DeShawn Stevenson who was a great defender and a good 3 point shooter to boot. I think the Suns need someone who will get nasty with the other players when they screw up on defense, someone who will call them out and push them to be better by leading by example. And as much as I love his game,I don’t think Gortat is that guy.

    And as much as I hate to say it, the Suns might be better off trading Nash. He’s still a great playmaker but the Suns really don’t have anyone anymore for him to make plays with. Seriously, what good is a great ball handler and passer if he has no one reliable to pass to?

  • shazam

    if the suns could get one really aggressive and vocal anything we would be better off…offensive player,defensive player,coach,owner,fans,mascot etc.

  • shazam

    tony there will come a time in the future when i will turn on you (they dont call me the bi-polar bear for nothing) but today i agree with every word you say

  • sun also rises

    I don’t disagree at all Tony, I just think you’re a passive aggressive idiot who can’t string together two coherent posts without seeming like you’re five different people. And who loves putting words in other people’s mouths (fingers?) but who is so out of touch with reality that you couldn’t see a bus two feet from your face.

    But on topic there are maybe four or five possible desirable free agents that will be on the market in June. None of them are coming to the Suns. They weren’t before and they aren’t now, and that means that it’s more small moves and probably another good draft pick. You don’t have to be a crazy loser who humps a blow up doll with Robert Sarver’s face on it every night while crying yourself to sleep to understand that like it or not, rebuilding is already happening. I do wonder if Mr. Gentry is going to make it through the season tho. He doesn’t seem like he has any answers for this slump and like Scott said, they just aren’t playing up to the talent they have. This isn’t a finals team, but there ain’t no way they’re this bad either.

  • Zak

    @ Tony – “… so long as Sarver is determined to remain as owner of the Suns franchise, the only chance the organization has to become contenders again is through the draft.” I disagree. Sarver gives away our draft picks as though they were Tic-Tacs at a Limburger cheese tasting festival. Yes he’s an ass who only cares about the gate receipts but his biggest failing is that he hasn’t hired the right people to at LEAST keep the Suns competitive enough to keep those receipts up. Redd was a good acquisition at the price and certainly someone who would give the faithful some small measure of hope this season… but that’s all he is.

    As much as I love Nash and Grant, they are the past. The Suns need to move forward… no matter how ugly that move might seem in the beginning.

  • A-Game

    Seriously… How is this team thinking playoffs when they lose to two of the lower ranked teams in the NBA, at home – mind you. Disgusting!!!

    Kyrie Irving and Marshon Brooks are legit stars of the future. Holding on to Nash and Hill definitely destroys their chance of acquiring a potential star like them. Sarver and the FO just don’t get it.

    I’ve mentioned before and I’ll say it again, this team is not a playoff contender – If you’re starting players like Jared Dudley and Channing Frye how could you be???

    Kill this season and draft for the future. Just look at the T-Wolves, Cavs, and Nets – they all have very bright futures. The Suns…well….not so much.

  • Zak

    @ A-Game – You still have to make trades for equal value. To do that you have to find other teams that find value in the players you are trying to trade. Hill is pretty much untradible because of his age and the size of his contract. Trading Childress is next to impossible because he hasn’t had the chance to prove he’s anywhere near worth what the Suns are paying him. You might be able to “bundle” him off in a trade with Nash but how many teams would be willing to do that? Nash has a very limited future, and is a defensive liability, so how any teams might actually want to trade for him AND have the assets to do it? The Knicks have tied their hope to Baron Davis. The Lakers are holding firm in hopes that they can ultimately make a trade for Dwight Howard. The Bulls already have Derrick Rose. The Celtics have Rajon Rondo. Miami could only afford to trade for Nash if they were willing to include Wade, James or Bosh in the trade.

    If someone can come up with a team that really NEEDS Nash this season AND can afford to trade for him I’d love to hear about it.

    All the “trade Nash” hype means nothing unless someone can come up with a deal that actually benefits the Suns.

  • Tony

    Zak,

    I agree about Sarver selling draft picks, but at this point, unless he plans on just giving up and selling the team, I don’t see even him selling picks anymore. Although, if only we kept Dragic, the Suns could have solved their lack of scoring problems by drafting both Morris and the rookie Marshon Brooks as he was a number 25 pick!! Ugh…, so frustrating!!
    As far as Sarver caring about ticket revenue, as of now, the Suns are 22nd in attandance figures and are likely to go down further after the team’s upcoming road trip.
    I just don’t understand Sarver’s mentality or any owner for that matter who purchases a team without the desire to win a championship. And, if it was just about attendance and making money, then it seems to me that the best way to maximize revenue is by putting together a contending team. Look no further than the Clippers this season. Every home game is a sell-out and there’s a buzz about the Clipps this season that has never existed before. This “excitement” or whatever you want to call it, generates more income because people want to watch and are willing to pay to see that team play. The Suns had that for years but obviously not at all anymore.

    But Zak, you’re spot on about the Suns not having anyone with that nastiness or toughness that is needed to win. Frankly, even in the Suns glory years with Nash, they’ve never had that type of player and that was to their detriment. Just watching the Suns against the Nets the other night, Williams was coasting to the basket without any apprehension or fear. The Suns need somebody who’s willing to knock him down when he tries to drive to the paint not to hurt him, but to send him a message to stay out of the paint. Gortat is a tough player but even he doesn’t have that edge about him. Most players these days don’t in fact, but someone like a Kevin Garnett is needed.

    Sun Rises, besides your typical and childess insults, I’m going to disagree with the tiniest bit of substantive argument in your post. Gentry will not be fired this season as it makes no sense. Why fire him when, correct me if I’m wrong, he’s in the last season of his contract and the team, with its current talent level, will only be competing for a better lottery spot in the upcoming draft regardless of who the coach is. Furthermore, by firing Gentry, Sarver would still have to pay him for the remainder of his contract while paying a new coach simultaneously.
    I also disagree with you about their level of talent. The Suns have two legitimate starters in Nash and Gortat. Neither Dudley, Hill, or Frye would be starters on any good team. In addition, the offense has become so predictable without a talented secondary scoring threat. And Redd is clearly not the answer as he’s probably slower than Dudley and with the ball handling skills of Brown! Nash and Hill are clearly giving all they can to help this team win, but with so much dependent on them for the team to win, especially for Nash, it’s likely we will see Nash and Hill sit in subsequent games because of injuries.

  • Scott

    I think the Suns have given up on trading Childress, which is why they aren’t playing him even when it would make sense to do so. They didn’t play him against Kobe (to give Hill a breather), and they didn’t play him in either of the last two games when Hill was out. Yes, they wanted to give Redd some minutes, but if they’d had a little more defense, they might have won those games. Childress should have been an option to play against either Irving or Jamison, or against Williams or Brooks.

    And if the Suns were in a scoring drought with Childress on the floor, or if Childress simply wasn’t getting it done on defense, then pull him out and put in Redd.

    My feeling is that Redd should have had more like 10 minutes in each game, instead of 19 and 13.

    @Tony -

    No, I wasn’t being sarcastic. This Suns team has decent shooters aside from Childress and Telfair. If you take FT% as a guide, the Suns are often better shooters than their opponents. And Gortat – whom you failed to mention – has the highest shooting percentage in the league, with very few of them being dunks.

    However, the Suns’ overall game right now has a hitch in it like Barkley’s golf swing. I can understand if that breathtaking aspect distracts from the rest.

    @A-Game -

    Probably any quotes about the playoffs came directly after the wins against the Blazers and Bucks, where the Suns looked active and dominant. There’s been little to crow about since.

  • sun also rises

    Just to point out that you started up with the name calling first, Tony. I got no problem with your posts when they make sense like they do here. But don’t start crying us a river when you take the first swing and pretty much ask for a chin check.

    And I also didn’t know that this was Gentry’s last year on payroll. I thought he was extended through 2013 but if that’s true then I see the point of letting him sleep-walk through the next four months

  • Scott

    Here’s another observation to chew on …

    Dudley, as a reserve, is a tenacious hustle player who can also score. He’s a spark off the bench, a second unit leader, and an asset to keep. However, Dudley as a starter, where his game looks more disappointing, suddenly looks more tradeable …?

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

    I don’t think it makes him tradeable because the last thing this team needs to do is trade quality players on good contracts. But your point is well taken nonetheless. He’s essentially a sixth man masquerading as a starter. That doesn’t mean he’s an awful starter by any stretch, just that in a perfect world you would have a J-Rich starting and Dudley providing that energy off the bench.

  • Scott

    @sun also rises -

    Near as I can tell, Gentry signed an extension that takes him through the end of the next season.

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

    That is correct, Gentry’s contract runs through the end of the 2012-13 season: http://valleyofthesuns.com/2010/09/23/phoenix-suns-extend-alvin-gentry-through-2013/.

  • Scott

    @shazam -

    Paul Westhead’s philosophy did pan out for the Phoenix Mercury, allowing them to pick up more than one championship. Of course, you have to have great personnel too, and luck, which the Mercury did.

    As for D’Antoni’s success with a shorter rotation, my belief is that players almost always unconsciously hold a significant portion of their energy and focus in reserve. They keep saying they’re giving “110%,” but why do they keep saying that? Because the question keeps getting raised as to whether or not they’re doing it. And where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

    The trick is to motivate your players so as to get the best out of them.

    Because players unconsciously hold their energy in reserve, they rarely play to their full potential. In many cases where players only get onto the court for a few minutes, this problem gets magnified, because they reserve their energy when they’re not even expending much.

    Yet when players are chronically asked to play extended minutes, they tend to push themselves harder.

    Look at Portland the last few years with all the injuries. As the usable roster would get depleted, they’d actually play harder and better.

    I think whether you have a shortened rotation due to a perception of low talent levels, or a shortened rotation due to injuries, it can cause players to unconsciously reach deeper into their reserves and cause them to play harder than they normally would.

    D’Antoni almost certainly realized this, from his own experiences as a player and as a coach, but it’s not the kind of thing you can tell everyone, because once the secret gets out you can easily lose the psychological advantage over your players.

  • shazam

    agree scott except for late in the game and late in the season it causes injuries and shortens careers..remember the yankee manager billy marten ?he threw pitchers out with out rest all season long using that philosophy..sure they had some great seasons but only because steinbrenner kept buying new meat in bulk…if you are not in a position to do that then you will lose ..westhead never pulled it off in the nba where the d is tougher

  • Tony

    My mistake, I did not know Gentry had his contract extended through next season. With that being the case, it does make me wonder if Sarver fires him at the end of this season? I still think he’ll last the entire season, barring a total and catastrophic collapse of the Suns, which I still don’t expect with the leadership of Nash and Hill. Howevr, if Nash is not resigned, then that probably will lead to Gentry’s firing. And by no means does Gentry deserve to be fired. He is not a great coach by any means, in particular his in-game adjustments are usually too late, but with the talent level he’s been given by the front office, it’s absurd to blame him for the Sun’s record.

    Scott,

    Gortat’s becoming a very reliable mid-range shooter and his work in the off-season with Hakeem has markedly improved his offensive-post game. So, I agree with you about him. So that leaves Nash and Gortat. Who else do you consider good shooters on the Suns? Using the free-throw percentages as a judge to how well the team shoots does not provide a reliable inference that the rest of the Suns players are good shooters. First of all, you have to determine which player(s) are the ones taking the majority of free-throw shots. I don’t have the statistics in front of me, but it’s probably a fair assumption that Nash and Gortat have gone to the free-throw enough to skew any reliable indication into how well the other Suns players shoot. Secondly, being a good shooter is more than making free-throws. The biggest problem with decent shooters such as Dudley and Frye is that they are only effective shooters when they spot up and are open. Both are very unreliable when they have to put the ball on the floor and then shoot. Lastly, the Suns go to the line so infrequently, compared to the rest of the league of course, that it’s a tough argument to base their shooting ability on their free-throw percentage.

    Scott, if you think the Suns offensive-woes are just a hiccup, then this is going to be a 66-game hiccup.

  • Mel.

    In regards to JMZ, that’s a tough nut to crack; what the Suns have ostensibly done is to reward his hard work, improved conditioning and team-first attitude with a well-earned start… which, as you guys have pointed out, has put a serious dent in the qualities that made him such a great role-player to begin with.

    Question becoming: what to do? If you’ve promoted a guy based on merit, do you then admit that it was a mistake and put him back on the bench? I don’t see Dudz as being the kind of guy who gets bent out of shape by what his defined role is (Unlike VC, whose absurd insecurity in being looked to for a spark off the bench practically required the services of a psychologist, in Orlando… and certainly had an effect on his use on the Suns)… but the lack of a player like J-Rich really turns it into a muddy area.

    Would Shannon Brown adapt to a starter spot, and provide anything that Dudley isn’t? As high as I am on the kid, I can’t say that I see that as being a possibility.

  • shazam

    @ sun also rises…maybe tony did pound you first i dont have a dog in that fight…but i can say and prove that you and i have never communicated before yesterday and then bam out of no where you berate me in over the top word choices…just because i thought we should trade nash…( see yesterdays game preview)..your venomous tone was un called for and then to top it off i see your post on another site later that night basically spelling out my position almost word for word as though it was yours…bro i know your hater thing your trying for is coming along a little slow..take a step back and take the time to figure out how to nuance this character of yours..youre trying too hard..your interesting sentence to fluff ratio is pathetic..well ok thats the 800 pound gorilla in the chat room..its on everyones mind..im just the one as a friend who is telling you

  • Scott

    @shazam –

    I agree. I think teams need to have depth and use that depth. Kobe is one of the rare players who gets heavy usage and still manages to make it all the way through the playoffs to the end.

    IMO, the Suns have decent talent and depth. They’re just not playing to their potential, and I’d say that’s both due to psychological and coaching reasons which are probably not easily resolved. I’ve mentioned before that I think there’s a lack of “alpha” mentality in the personnel. I’m not sure how you solve that without either A) just getting lucky and having the players turn the page themselves, or B) changing the personnel, and hopefully making chemistry better and not worse. For example, I don’t think Brooks – who demonstrates more of an “alpha” mentality – was a good fit. He may, like Pietrus, have been a bit passive aggressive (if I’m using that term correctly) … misjudging their abilities and undermining the team if things weren’t going their way.

    As for Gortat and Morris helping to change the culture, I think that’s possibly going in reverse. I think Gortat was more outspoken when he was more recently of SVG’s system and mindset, but he’s more passive now that he’s been with the Suns. Likewise, Morris may be losing whatever winning psychology he picked up at Kansas.

    So I’m not 100% convinced that the Gortat / Lopez pairing would work, of itself. I think it CAN work. It could also turn out to be nothing more than two tall guys standing in the paint picking their noses, if there’s no will to make it work.

    If the Suns were more aggressive around the hoop, as a team, they would be more successful. Their game looks amazingly lopsided to me right now, as if there’s an electronic fence about 12′ out from the net that nearly always drives them back. A Gortat / Lopez pairing might not only produce more inside scoring and draw more fouls, but it could also draw in help defenders, thereby opening looks for outside shooters.

  • shazam

    “but it could also draw in help defenders, thereby opening looks for outside shooters.”…. @ scott it would have to do this or it couldnt work but you have sold me…i think it can…morris is tired hes not used to this sched…last night was his first back to back…gortat is overwhelmed because every time the suns have a hole with some thing they all lean on him now and he need role clarity and help….you used the word luck…there isnt a single path that will work with out some luck…..i think you nailed it pretty good bro and i learned a few things again from you…thanks and keep it up….gooooo suns

  • Scott

    @Mel -

    At this point I don’t see Brown as being anything but a rental, kind of like Tim Thomas years ago. He’s in a situation where he wants a good long contract, and I suspect that will probably be with another team. Either that, or he could wind up like Matt Barnes, perpetually moving from team to team.

    If he really improves this year, though, who knows. It could be that Hill spends this season in near perpetual injury and consequently retires, so the Suns might decide to keep Dudley and Warrick at SF, and sign Brown to play backup to Redd (which is projecting that Redd plays well enough, and that the Suns re-sign him after being unable to pick up anyone else in free agency).

    @Tony -

    IIRC, Gortat has one of the lowest free throw percentages on the team. I suspect that’s because at this point free throws are not within his normal game rhythm.

    And yes, I consider most of the Suns (basically, all but Childress and Telfair) to be able shooters. They’re not all elite shooters, obviously, because only a few players at a time can be elite, by definition. But I perceive them to be better than they were at the end of last year, if nothing else.

    The Suns are better shooters this year because they dropped Siler, who was not a good shooter, and they dropped Pietrus, who had lost his touch, they dropped Dowdell, who couldn’t hit a 3 (IIRC), and they dropped Carter, who had become less accurate yet who still enjoyed a high volume. They kept Childress (who to be honest could probably shoot if he tried), and they inexplicably added Telfair. It’s hard for me to give solid judgment on Brown’s shooting right now, as the season is young and he’s been inconsistent so far, but there is the possibility he’ll get steadier as we go.

    Furthermore, if Childress would stay in his spot when shooting, instead of floating forward or to the side, he’d probably be fine. And if Telfair continues working on his shot, before long he might be at long last a dependable shooter as well.

    If the Suns want to get what they can out of Childress, they probably need to have him practice shooting with someone standing in front of him with sharp stick, or perhaps shooting from within a bale of barbed wire, so he’d stay on his spot. :p

  • Scott

    A ring of fire would also work for Childress. ;)

  • Tony

    Shazam,

    I did not start calling out Sun Rises or anyone else. For some odd reason, Sun Rises, Big Dummy, and a guy named Steve are incessantly supportive of Sarver and they always take exception when I correctly identify him as the source of all the Suns misery. Sarver used to hire people to troll on his behalf, so I don’t know if that’s the case with any of them or not, but maybe so.
    So I’m not surprised Sun Rises did berate you for making a reasonable suggestion that the Suns trade Nash.

  • shazam

    i totally believe you tony..its obvious that hes very very young and is just trying to get his footing in this big old world..hey we were like that too at some point..i remember not giving any real thought to stuff and thinking i could get by just by being louder and more rude…its just a phase..im sure on other subject chat sites he yip yip yaps about how he hates his parents…no talking in the world will convince him right now that a more mature path is the one where a more complete happiness can be found..i have patience and faith..i even like the poor misguided little youngster…every great now and then he does come up with a sentence that deserves a B.. since hes barely more than a toddler i think we can agree that he might some day have some upside….sun also rises im your new big brother

  • sun also rises

    Maybe it’s the three beers talking, but this is the funniest ish I’ve read on here in just about forever. lolol

    But that’s cool shazam. I figured we were done after we both spoke our peace yesterday, but you got those emotional problems and I understand that it’s tough to keep it together. I appreciate the fortune cookie break off and all too.

    Though if you weren’t lying about going to Suns games since 1974, you’re a lil old to be my big brother. Probably more like 173 years old, which is about 143 years past when anybody should be trying to light up other people with insults for no reason.

    So we good. And stick with the positive, I don’t want to be responsible for your heart turning to dust or you breaking a hip when you get all sassy about something I say to somebody else.

  • sun also rises

    PS- unless you’re just Tony under another one of his multiple personalities, then I don’t wanna shoot hoops with you at the YMCA (we can even bust out a peach basket for you and Mel to live your glory days from the 1800′s with).

    If not, then we still good.

  • shazam

    and then you had to do the PS…youre trying too hard..oh god i sooooo used to be like you…focus on economy of words and clever..in a few years a few people will find you interesting..and it grows from there…trust me on this one little brother…i have faith in you