Mike D'Antoni regrets leaving Suns; Kendall Marshall to D-League

After a 40-point drubbing at the hands of a team that’s mediocre at best, it’s easy for fans to wistfully remember the good old days.

It’s not as common for a head coach of a current championship contender to do so by publicly acknowledging he made a mistake leaving his old job before it was time, yet that’s exactly what former Suns boss Mike D’Antoni admitted to ESPNLA’s Ramona Shelbourne in an article posted on Wednesday.

“I shouldn’t have gone to New York,” he says, looking down at the sideline in Memphis, pacing on that unstable right leg.

“I should have stuck in there and battled. You don’t get to coach somebody like him [Nash] too many times. It’s pretty sacred and you need to take care of it. I didn’t.”

D’Antoni has never told Nash this.

It feels good to confess.

“I think we got frustrated and I got frustrated. That’s why I left. We were there, it seemed like we deserved it, and then it seemed like something happened all the time. Maybe we weren’t good enough either. We have to understand that.

“I probably irrationally made a decision right when the season was over. You should take a month to figure it out. I shouldn’t have left. That was my fault.”

It’s long been thought that the parting was fairly mutual with D’Antoni and general manager Steve Kerr being unable to agree on an increased emphasis on defense both in terms of a specialist coach and more practice time devoted to that side of the ball. In this article, the coach places the blame firmly on his own shoulders.

“No. It was me,” D’Antoni admits now. “I initiated it and I probably shouldn’t have.”

This won’t make any Suns fan feel better about how things ended, but it always did seem strange for all reasons aside from financial ones that D’Antoni would up and leave a superb situation in Phoenix with the best possible player to run his system and a contending team that had been knocking on the door of a title run for a mess of a situation in New York in which the organization was gearing up for free agency two years away.

D’Antoni downgraded from a 34-year-old Steve Nash to Chris Duhon, and in a very real way he learned that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I’m sure many other key figures from that era who left in hindsight likely would have preferred to stay, but it’s refreshing to here D’Antoni at least wish as much.

In that same article, Nash also reveals some of the pain he still holds from the missed opportunities from that era:

His voice gets a little deeper as he runs through the details. There’s pain there.

“I do remember those things,” Nash says. “But I don’t look back on them. That’s life. You move on. We never got to the Finals, we never were a championship team. But we also accomplished a lot and had a lot of success.

“We also never played with a defensive center. We were a flawed team that got pretty dang close to our potential and maybe it was never quite good enough.”

He looks up at me to make sure that last part sinks in. It’s not a line. It’s his truth.

Marshall sent to D-League for nine-game stint

The Suns have assigned first-round pick Kendall Marshall to the D-League to get some regular run after playing just 34 minutes over six games, 16 of which came in Wednesday’s Pistons blowout when he scored his first seven career points.

According to a source close to the situation, Marshall will arrive today with player development coordinator Lindsey Hunter for a nine-game assignment with the Bakersfield Jam. Hunter is expected to stay with Marshall for the duration of the assignment that will last until Dec. 19 or 20, a time in which the Suns will play 10 games, making him likely to return for the Dec. 22 matchup in Portland. Marshall isn’t expected to suit up tonight and thus should make his Jam debut on Monday against Santa Cruz.

This is no surprise, as we knew Marshall was going to log some time in the D-League, especially being that he’s currently out of the rotation. The only way he’s going to get better is by playing in real games, so in some sense this should be seen as normal development time rather than the demotion that the D-League implies to some. I expect Luke Zeller and Diante Garrett to spend some time there as well.

The Jam, Phoenix’s D-League affiliate, have just played two games thus far so it’s likely this has been planned for some time rather than being any sort of reaction to his play in garbage time.

“I’m trying to look at it as a positive — a time to get better, get reps up and stay in shape,” Marshall told Paul Coro. “I don’t know if anybody thinks of this as a possibility coming out of college but, for some people, it’s part of the process and everybody has to take a different path.

It will be interesting to see how Marshall fares against lesser competition and how much he can improve his defensive and shooting deficiencies.

The Gortat situation

I don’t find it that big of a deal that Marcin Gortat clarified comments he made to a Polish reporter to Coro by saying he turned down a multi-year extension from the Suns in October.

 “We just said we’re going to wait,” Gortat said. “I want to finish this contract, and we’ll see where I go from there. It didn’t even bother me or change anything in my attitude or performance. The thing I’m concentrating is coming back to dominating the game and getting back to being a defensive spark.”

As Dave King from Bright Side explained, Gortat has a major financial incentive to wait until his deal expires as he could essentially only accept a below-market extension from the Suns for two additional years at this point, and we know that’s not going to happen.

Good for the Suns for offering it because it would be nice to re-sign him at an affordable price, but they surely knew he was going to want to wait for free agency rather than be locked into a questionable situation at that price.

I have gone into further depth on the Gortat situation here and here, and I stand by that. In short, I still feel the Suns would be smart to see what they can get for him on the open market because his price tag in 2014 might not fit their rebuilding plan. As for Gortat wanting to wait for free agency, it’s hardly news since it was as expected as the Suns declining to exercise Wes Johnson’s $5.4 million option for next season.

Stats from the Detroit domination

In a game in which the other team completes runs of 28-2(!), 19-4 and 15-5, you know the stats won’t be pretty.

Since they lost by 40, it surely makes sense that they were outscored by 43.1 points per 100 possessions, per the NBA’s stats tool, after scoring 79.5 per 100 and yielding 122.6.

By contrast the Suns gave up 79.0 Tuesday in Cleveland, which means the defense was about 55 percent worse the following day. Needless to say, that’s a pretty stunning turnaround in one day, especially against a Pistons squad ranked No. 23 in offensive efficiency entering the game.

Per Coro, this was the third-worst defeat in franchise history, missing the worst loss in team annals by four points. That was a 151-107 loss at Seattle in 1988.

Tags: Kendall Marshall Marcin Gortat Mike D'antoni Steve Nash

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