Alvin Gentry mum on lineup changes, Dragic talks ‘blackouts’ in focus


PHOENIX — Suns head coach Alvin Gentry didn’t reveal his hand on Tuesday after he said there would be changes to Phoenix’s lineup. He would only issue a hint that there will be changes made to put better combinations of players in the game together.

“You’ll know tomorrow,” Gentry said when probed to reveal a new starting lineup. “As I said, certain guys play better or differently with different guys. As a coach, I think my job is to find the combination of guys that are consistent. We’ve struggled in the first quarter and we’ve struggled in the third quarter. So it’s the combination of people we have out there … we’ve been pretty good in the fourth quarter and been pretty good in the second quarter.”

Gentry added that there shouldn’t be a hoopla made over which players find themselves riding the bench for Wednesday’s tip against the Portland Trail Blazers. He said that “it’s not so much that whoever’s not in the lineup is responsible for the way we’re playing.”

A sure bet for the starting lineup would be point guard Goran Dragic, not a surprise for a player that Gentry said has been the most consistent member of the team through 11 games. And despite Marcin Gortat’s complaints over how Gentry is utilizing his skills, it’d be a surprise if the Polish center were benched.

“As a coach, I got to try to put us in a position where it’s best for us to win,” Gentry said. “Obviously he was a part of that and he still is a part of that. The one thing I realize as a coach is, guys are never really … Kobe complains about shots. It’s just one of those things you understand as a coach, and you make sure he understands exactly what you’re trying to do as a coach.”

Gentry doesn’t think Gortat’s comments are a problem

Gortat’s comments about Phoenix’s current offense didn’t appear to bother Gentry on Monday, and on Tuesday the head coach again alluded to no changes being made to spoon feed Gortat. The two would find common ground, Gentry said.

And as far as the situation being a distraction to the team, that also appears to be a non-issue. Gortat again eluded reporters on Tuesday, but both Dragic and Gentry made clear calls for team unity being the key to success as the season rolls on.

“Every day we learn something new about our teammates,” Dragic said when asked about the season as a whole. “We have to be positive and work hard. I mean, in every season, some teams have a bad stretch. The good teams, they find out, they have these situations. We have to stick together as a family and battle ourselves out.”

Gentry meanwhile called for a “bunker mentality.”

“We’re in this together,” Gentry said. “I can trust the guy next to me, and I can trust the guy behind me.”

‘Blackouts’ plague the Suns

Phoenix is still attempting to fix the issue of allowing opponents to go on backbreaking runs. Although the lineup changes might be one obvious fix, Dragic said it is simply about focus.

Turnovers and defensive lapses have been the main culprits.

“Every time when (opponents) make that break, like 10 points up, 15 points, it’s our bad decisions, especially turnovers and communications on defense,” the point guard said. “If they played pick-and-roll we didn’t go under like we said in the meetings — we go over. Those blackouts, I don’t know what the reason is about that, it’s just the focus.”

Gentry said there’s no excuses in learning new defensive schemes at this point.

“What we do is very simple defensively. It’s not a real complicated thing,” Gentry said. “On the side screen-and-rolls we do a certain thing, on the high screen-and-rolls … it’s the execution of it where we seem to be struggling. We’re half a step or a step late on our rotations.”

  • Tony

    Not for nothing, but isn’t possible that the reason the Suns struggle in the 1st and 3rd quarters is because opposing teams simply play harder at those times and then, after getting a big lead, subsequently have the tendency to lose their focus and then allow the Suns back into the games?

  • http://none Rob

    The Suns need to focus on the defensive end. All you can really control is the defensive intensity which leads to easy fast breaks. Just ask the Spurs!! They’ve been doing that for years. Shots are gonna start to fall for for streaky players. Which the Suns have plenty of. Suns have to start their defensive players and at least keep the games close.

    1st team Dragic-Telfair-Tucker-ScolaMorris -Gortat

    2nd team Brown-Dudley-Beasley-MorrisScola ONeal

  • jones

    According to the numbers on NBA.com, the Suns haven’t been killing teams when Scola is on the floor.

    We all realize the plus-minus stats can be grotesquely misleading. But grotesque can be fun.

    OK, based on the website’s analytics, the Suns’ best lineup includes starters Gortat, Goran Dragic, Dudley, Michael Beasley and back-up power forward Markieff Morris. This awesome five-some checks in at a gaudy plus-17.

    http://www.foxsportsarizona.com/pages/listgallery?gid=25243&gf=517
    —————————————————-

    Somehow, I don’t find that surprising at all

  • jones

    @Bob

    That first team won’t score enough to keep up with most teams.

    You don’t need to change all your starting lineup into defensive players to compete. Just need one good defender that will cover a multitude of sins in the lineup and whose job is just to defend.

    Perhaps Morris for Scola is all that we need. Or PJ at SF and Beasley to PF.

    Ultimately the future of this team depends on what they can get out of Beasley/Goran on the offensive side. We can mitigate their shortfalls on D with better complimentary defenders who can also contribute offensively.

    Morris for Scola is the obvious choice.

  • Dave

    I don’t think its too much about numbers and deep statistics after 11 games. If a lineup like the one mentioned by Jones is in the game its usually because of a certain situation and matchups. So in my mind you have to think about what a coach would go with on the floor for team cohesion. Everyone is granted their own opinion . So here’s mine. I think a lineup with Dragic,Brown,Dudley,Scola,Gortat would be best with . Scorers like Beasley,Johnson, Morris,Telfair and O’Neil to come off the bench and add points without worrying about defensive stops and play a run and gun style . Brown, Beasley and Morris can’t share the court together , no flow and the ball sticks . With Brown starting With Dudley ,they have already showed they play well together from the end of last year . Brown was more under control and didn’t have to play the hero role when he started last year . Dudley will go back to his natural position and will find his self open more often with bigger,not as quick guys guarding him . And Tucker can stay who he is the garbage man ,and come in the rotation and defend and rebound,when needed.

  • Serek

    @Jones

    stretch 4 = less people in the paint = win?

    Just like the old times with Nash. Is that so simple?

  • Scott

    The stretch 4 idea would work better if the Suns had a legitimate 3 pt threat at PF who could also defend. Are we that confident in Morris right now? His 3 pt % for this season is .286. His PER is 11, and that’s mainly in play against softer 2nd units.

    BTW, Brown is posting a PER of 16.75, which is awesome for him.

    PER leaders (above average PER):

    Dragic 21.97
    Scola 18.94
    Gortat 17.75
    Brown 16.75

    PER laggards:

    Telfair 13.28
    Tucker 12.49
    Morris 11.2
    Beasley 10.2
    Dudley 9.32

    (O’Neal has a PER of 17.61 in limited minutes, so that might skew in either direction.)

    Going by PER, the starters should be Dragic, Scola, Gortat (or O’Neal), Brown, and either Tucker or Telfair, depending on match-ups.

    Against Portland, it would make sense to start with Tucker, as Batum has a PER of 22.15 at SF. An early substitution might be to bring Telfair in for Brown, with Dragic on Matthews (PER 14.78) and Telfair on Lillard (PER 18.8), as the Suns wouldn’t want Dragic picking up fouls.

    According to PER, Dudley and Beasley should be moved to either the 2nd unit (with the expectation their PER would rise against inferior opponents), or kept on the bench.

    To put the PER of Morris, Dudley, and Beasley in context, back when Dragic was traded, IIRC he and Dowdell had a PER of 11-12. When Brooks played, his PER was also in the 11-12 range.

    Any legitimate NBA player ought to have his PER be at least 11, and that would be a 3rd string player.

  • john

    How studly is Dragic? A 22 PER? If he can keep this up for the whole season, I won’t be missing that Steve guy at all.

  • Scott

    BTW, just for laughs, the actual PER leaders of the Suns are Garrett (42.2) and Zeller (35.94).

    Those figures are skewed, because Garrett has played just 5 min in garbage time, and Zeller about 10 min.

    The bottom of the PER barrel for the Suns is taken by Marshall (7.65) and Wes Johnson (0.36!!!).

    What’s particularly bad about Johnson’s number is that he’s had about 30 min of game time, which is substantially more than anyone else on this page.

    As players log more minutes in more games against realistic opposition, their PER normalizes.

    Despite the cumulative low PER of 38.73, I’d still be interested in seeing what a squad of Marshall, Dudley, Johnson, Beasley, and Morris could do as a 2nd unit. Maybe they should play against the higher PER players in practice to put a sharper edge on their game.

  • Brandon

    We need to trade Gortat while he still has value, it’s become painfully obvious that Nash made him into a mirage. While he is a servicable center, his value is overblown right now and we should get top value for him while we can.

  • john

    @brandon – through the first five games of the season, Gortat was better than last year. It’s a bit hasty to be making those kinds of proclamations.

  • melon man

    IIt is hasty but I agree. RoLo looked pretty good for a stretch in NO but he petered out too. Get rid of Gortat.

  • Scott

    FWIW, Robin Lopez has a PER of 16.47.

    If he was with the Suns, he could start. ;)

  • B. Cray Z.

    Good write up.

    Suns won easy with changes.

    Dumb Antoni would never change anything.

    Good luck Lakers. MUST keep Alvin as our coach.