Phoenix Suns pregame notes: Alvin Gentry talks Ricky Rubio, Peyton Manning and NCAA Tournament

PHOENIX — With the Phoenix Suns set to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves at 7 p.m. MST in US Airways Center, head coach Alvin Gentry weighed in on Ricky Rubio’s injury, the recent play of Jared Dudley and Robin Lopez, his NCAA Tournament favorite, and Peyton Manning’s basketball skills.

A look at Minnesota without Rubio 

On Saturday the Timberwolves found out they lost their rookie phenom and floor general Ricky Rubio to a torn ACL. While the absence of Rubio’s offensive ability and passing prowess hurts Minnesota, Gentry said the Timberwolves will miss his defense as much as anything.

“That’s probably the thing that’s most underrated about him. He’s got great hands and he’s got great size,” Gentry said. “You’re talking about a 6-4 guy with a good wingspan, really, really quick hands. He’s done a lot for them. They will probably miss that as much as anything.”

Minnesota will also miss Rubio’s court vision, but Gentry said it makes the Timberwolves bigger and doesn’t change their offensive approach. Rick Adelman’s teams run their offense through the high post, and that won’t change without Rubio.

“They’re still going to play the same way,” Gentry said. “They run a lot of their high post with their bigs. Rick always does it that way. He did it with Vlade and Chris Webber and now with Kevin, Michael Beasley and Williams. What it does is take one point guard off the floor.”

Minnesota’s third point guard J.J. Barea, who’s been nursing an ankle injury, will suit up and play, according to Adelman. Barea will be limited, however.

Dudley’s improved play

Jared Dudley is averaging 18.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from three over his last five games. But Gentry didn’t point to Dudley’s offensive play as his only contribution as of late.

“He’s made some shots and that always helps but he’s been pretty good defensively coming up with plays, that’s what I like about the way he’s playing right now,” Gentry said. “He always gets us a few extra possessions.”

Lopez better emotionally

Although to a lesser degree than Dudley, Robin Lopez is also one of the reasons the Suns are surging after the All-Star break. After a disappointing first half to the season Lopez is averaging 5.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 12.8 minutes over the course of his last five games. Gentry attributed Lopez’s improved play to a more emotionally stable mentality.

“I think he’s playing with confidence. I think he’s much more under control,” Gentry said. “Emotionally he’s been really good in games when things haven’t gone exactly right for him. Because of that I think he’s been able to make some plays.”

Gentry on his NCAA Tournament favorite: “If I were to fill mine out I still think that Kentucky is by far the best team. I don’t think that they’ll win but I still think they’re by far the best team. I would never count Michigan State out with Izzo.”

Gentry on Peyton Manning to the Cardinals talk: “I watched his jump shot when I was in New Orleans and after that I don’t really care. I watched he and Eli shoot baskets and I don’t think either one of them is going to help us so, I think it’s great but they can’t help us. His crossover is much to be desired, too.”

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