PHOENIX — Fresh off a disappointing season-opening loss to Golden State, the Phoenix Suns will host the Detroit Pistons tonight in an important game because of what a loss would mean.
Of course, no second game of a season is really all that important — for example, I think that 0-2 team with all the Hall of Famers in LA is going to be just fine — but if the Suns drop a pair of home games to the Warriors and the Pistons, that’s the kind of start that can set the tone for a losing season.
The Pistons could be better this season with Greg Monroe taking a step forward and rookie Andre Drummond potentially showcasing his uber-talent as the year goes along, but this is still a Detroit franchise that hasn’t been relevant since 2007-08. If you can’t win a home game against one of the worst teams in the East, who can you beat?
It’s true that the Suns open their season with five winnable games out of their first six (at Miami being the obvious outlier), yet while that sounds nice on paper it doesn’t matter if the Suns don’t win them. Heck, even a bad Suns team — if that’s what this is — should be able to handle the Pistons at home.
The big question coming out of the opener surrounded why the heck P.J. Tucker played more minutes than Michael Beasley, so it will be interesting to see how head coach Alvin Gentry handles his rotations tonight. An hour before tipoff, Gentry sat in his office and explained how he expects Beasley to become “the man” for this team, and I highly doubt he became disenchanted with his play in a matter of minutes.
But Tucker was going well, and Gentry’s always been the kind of coach who runs with the hot guy, even if that means leaving Amare Stoudemire on the bench for a crucial fourth quarter against Dallas a few years back or finishing a game with his bench when that unit’s hot.
“I’ve just never been a coach that says, ‘OK, these are my starters, this is our rotation,’” Gentry said. “What if the guy that’s supposed to come out just made seven straight shots? I’ve never been a pitch count guy. If a guy is throwing a one-hitter and he’s up to 118 pitches, maybe he’s having a great night. I’ve just never been a guy that believes it’s time for a guy to be subbed out because he’s played eight straight minutes or anything like that. I think you’ve got to do it on feel. That’s all a part of coaching. Generally you can have a rotation, but I don’t think it’s anything that you’re married to. I think you’ve got to do it on a per-game basis.”
The other question revolves around whether Wes Johnson will be starting the season as a deep reserve, or if Gentry just liked the matchup with Tucker. I expected Wes to be the primary backup at the three and for Tucker to take on that role at times when the Suns desired a different look, but perhaps P.J.’s tenacity will win him the former No. 4 overall pick’s spot in the rotation.
It will likely take weeks for Gentry to solidify a base rotation, and even then you will see him leave in a hot player or perhaps use a deep reserve when he likes a particular matchup.
That rotation will come, but now the Suns need a win before hitting the road for three. After all, if they start out 0-2 at home against Golden State and Detroit, what would that say about their chances for the rest of the season?