PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns will host a struggling New Orleans Hornets team Friday night as they attempt to build on their best game of the year with their new rotation.
This very well may have been the best time to implement such a change with two relatively easy home games following a three-day break after a brutal week of games in which the old starters got waxed.
I went into depth on how well the lineup worked in the Blazers recap, but essentially every Sun was in the positives of plus/minus and both the starters and reserves gained ground on Portland.
Markieff Morris looked like a different player with the first unit, and the floor was spaced better for Marcin Gortat in the new starting lineup.
In theory it makes sense for Luis Scola to anchor the bench as the go-to guy in that unit, but it did not happen too much on Wednesday as he took just five shots and dished one assist in 18:37. Michael Beasley was not much of a factor in 18:56, but 12 games in Suns fans are already plenty used to his inconsistency.
Especially now that some starter-caliber players are on the bench and vice versa, I expect Gentry to coach even more by feel. If Scola is rolling, he might play upper 30s to 40 minutes as he did in his standout performance against the Bulls, and same for Beasley. If Dudley ever gets back on track he could take time away from Brown, so it kind of feels like the “starter” designation is really just a title at this point for the Suns with the team seemingly intent on putting together the best units rather than starting its five best individual players.
Jared Dudley thought he was going to be the team’s main leader before the season, yet he’s turned into a player who really seems to miss Steve Nash instead. Dudley scored just four points on five shots in 20:27 as a reserve on Wednesday and on the season he’s averaging a mere 8.1 points on 42.6 percent shooting after putting up a career-high 12.7 on 48.5 percent marksmanship last year.
“We’ve got to find a way to get JD more shots, to try to manufacture some more shots for him,” Gentry said. “As a shooter, getting five shots, six shots, sometimes you have to get in a rhythm. He does need to have more touches and more shots. Maybe playing with that unit defensively they might come up with more steals to get him a couple easy baskets.”
Gortat broke out with more points on Wednesday (22) than he had scored in his previous three games, but Meyers Leonard was so bad defensively he got called out by his coach after the contest. He will be facing a slightly more motivated opponent with Robin Lopez coming to town for the first time since this offseason’s trade.
Lopez is coming off one of the more interesting games he’s ever played. He scored 21 points, pulled down 13 boards and came up with four blocks and two steals, but he missed 14 of 17 field goals and needed 15-of-17 free throw shooting to get those stats. No, that is not a misprint. Yes, I’m still writing about Robin Lopez.
Lopez did a solid job filling in for Anthony Davis when he was out with a concussion and for the season is averaging 11.2 points and a Lopez-like 5.8 rebounds a game. Lopez will likely be out to prove to the Suns they made a mistake trading him, and Gortat will have plenty of motivation going against his former sparring partner who he has noted is not exactly Dwight Howard.
The Hornets have lost five in a row after a 3-2 start, and star guard Eric Gordon (knee) still has not played a game since the Hornets matched the max offer sheet the Suns signed Gordon to over the offseason.
With a looming six-game road trip starting Sunday, this is the kind of home game against a bad team the Suns can’t afford to drop.
I joined Hornets247’s “In the NO Podcast” to talk Gordon and preview the game.