Beasley’s struggles highlight importance of ball movement


PHOENIX — The third quarter of the Suns’ loss to the Dallas Mavericks Thursday could arguably have been one of the more abysmal stretches for the Phoenix offense this season. The 1-for-14 shooting to begin the third was the tipping point to what could be the second change to the starting lineup of the year.

Head coach Alvin Gentry said Friday that any changes would be finalized Saturday morning before Phoenix faces the Los Angeles Clippers, but it’s clear that Michael Beasley is the most likely candidate to find himself on the bench.

“I’m contemplating a lot of situations there. That’s one of them,” Gentry said. “Maybe him coming in with the second unit and having a little bit more freedom might help, too.”

It’s hard to say if that move will be the only one, and with P.J. Tucker’s injury, it’s possible that move doesn’t happen just yet. Though it’s certainly fair to criticize him on both sides of the floor, Beasley is taking the blame for a team-wide problem on offense.

Like last year, there isn’t much room for error when there’s no go-to scorer. And it’s not about just Beasley after his 3-for-12 shooting night. Holding the ball and pulling up with his toe on the three-point line despite having a mismatch, his frustrating offensive possessions spread like a virus in the third quarter against the Mavericks.

Goran Dragic was 1-for-4 in the quarter, Marcin Gortat was 0-of-3 and Beasley went 1-of-3.

Ball movement was the reason.

“We’re not a hold-it, ISO team,” Gentry said. “When we passed the ball in the first half more than three times, we shot 68 percent. 68.8 to be exact. And when we passed it less than twice and shot it, we were 5-for-15. It’s pretty obvious in the stats that we need ball movement and we need to move the basketball.”

In somewhat of a football analogy, the Suns were going three-and-out often. Quick shots were taken often during the dry spell, and the resulting long rebounds gave the Mavericks nine fastbreak points in the third alone.

Gentry said that transition opportunities can be taken away even “by shooting poorly, but you also have to have court balance.”

And with so many games coming down to the wire for Phoenix, without the “Kobes, LeBrons, or even O.J. Mayo’s” as Gentry frighteningly put it — those who pushed for the Mayo signing may wince now — the Suns have a complicated time scoring. While Gentry said he was happy with Dragic’s look at a layup Thursday, and Beasley’s missed layup against the Philadelphia 76ers, ball movement is still something much needed in the starting lineup and in the clutch.

Gortat’s affinity to prove he’s a post scorer may also be hurting the starting lineup. Whereas Luis Scola and Jermaine O’Neal are only so threatening in the post, their willingness to pass out when the help comes could be one of several reasons that Gortat isn’t finishing games — and defense might be another.

“All we’re trying to create is a situation in a post-up where they may help like they did in Cleveland and we’re able to swing the ball and Goran gets two open threes,” Gentry said. “So you know, it’s a little more than what you usually do in a (clutch) situation because you usually have that guy where you go, ‘Here you go. Go make a basket and make a play.’”

In the end, poor shooting for Phoenix — in the clutch or otherwise — all comes back to the same problem, one that has led to Beasley’s offensive ineptitude.

“We’re not a hold-the-ball, ISO team,” Gentry said. “That’s not who we are. We’ve got to get away from that.”

P.J. Tucker day-to-day, Jermaine O’Neal’s status unknown

Reserve wing P.J. Tucker left Thursday’s game with an MCL sprain, but he was at Friday’s light walk-through with a brace on his knee shooting free throws, a good sign the injury isn’t too significant. Gentry said he was day-to-day.

Meanwhile, Jermaine O’Neal was visiting with team doctors after getting poked in the eye and didn’t participate in practice. Gentry said he wasn’t sure of the center’s status.

Quotable

Gentry on the Suns playing every possession: “I told them we lead the league in ‘my bads,’ where I’ll forget to rotate, … I’m a step late or something like that.”

  • Polish_fan

    Don`t You all think that we are talking about the same think since the beggining of the season?

    No team (chemistry) play, no passes, individual plays, bad shooting per centage.

    What else we can say? Everyone knows what`s all about, now we need to look at the person – coach – if he`ll do something about that.

    Maybe he should work on that ball movement, let them loose 2-3 games just to treat it like a practice games and work on that stuff? They are loosing anyway at the moment maybe it would help?

  • Voqar

    Gentry on the Suns playing every possession: “I told them we lead the league in “my bads,” where I’ll forget to rotate … I’m a step late or something like that.”

    …or be out of bound receiving a pass, or travel for the 100th time this season, or not paying attention when passing and giving up unforced turnovers. And on and on it goes.

    I guess it’s good that Genry is aware of the problems and is trying to make something happen. He doesn’t much to work with, that’s for sure.

    “Beasley’s struggles highlight importance of ball movement” – that and the fact that his signing was a mistake. He shows flashes but the ratio of good to bad is abysimal. His ball hog isolations infect the team with stupid. His shot selection is horrid. Jack up bad long shots or take and mostly miss erratic layoups.

    Scola was the featured post player on his last team and he can actually do that role. Maybe bring beas off the bench since he has trouble competiting against anything but an empty court, and start scola instead so you have some kind of semi-reliable offensive option other than dragic.

    Morris started off really shaky this season but has stabilized a bit. He hustles on d, is reducing his boneheaded moves, and sometimes he does good things on offense (with less beas-like idiocy). And he does make some nifty passes.

    Sadly, the whole pass thing has never embedded in Gortat’s brain and isn’t rubbing off from scola or morris. He only passes when he gets the ball on the perimeter and they’re swinging it at the start of a play, and even then it looks like he’s hesitating and considering jacking up a 20 ft brick.

    Too bad Jermaine can’t possibly handle the rigors of starting (he can’t handle bench play without recurring bumps) since he’s so much of a more complete player than Gortat a much more dangerous post threat.

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    Couples solid flashes from Morris make me think he’s with Dragic as one of the few guys I think the Suns won’t want to move going forward.

  • DBreezy

    Glad to hear its not serious for Tucker, he’s making the most of his opportunity here. I wonder if it’s smart to only play him in one game of the back to back or hold him out all together with 3 days off after Sunday? It could ease the intiral transition to the bench for Beas or provide a chance to get a look at Johnson in meaningful minutes-I don’t expect the latter but what do they have to lose at this point?

  • Polish_fan

    or maybe try to play Scola Morris Gortat? that would be interesting …. good post game and scola has a nice shot. better than beas ..

  • Tony

    I don’t understand the apparent refusal to criticize the Dragic-first offensive strategy? Not just on this site, but other Suns-related sites, it seems as though Dragic is immune from scrutiny and the blames falls on either Beasley or Gortat.

    Now I understand and agree with the criticism directed toward Beasley as he has had more than a fair shot at succeeding in Gentry’s system. This simply cannot be said for Gortat, whom after a career season, has been relegated to the fourth option offensively and is rarely used in 4th quarters. Watching last night’s brutal game, it was very evident how little he is being currently utilized. I don’t know if it’s Gentry’s strategy or Dragic’s inabiity to pass to the roller off a p&r, or some other reason, but Dragic usually either goes around the screen and tries to find his own shot or he passes the ball back out to the perimeter instead of inside to Gortat rolling.

    Although Gortat should not have been so vocal publicly about his frustrations with Gentry and the team, he has a right to be upset. And make no mistake about it, it’s rare to find an NBA player who remains as motivated and engaged on the defensive end if they are under-utilized on the offensive-end of the floor. Thus, it is only natural for Gortat to lose his focus defensively as a result of not being featured at all in the Suns offense.

    Lastly, not to be too harsh about Dragic since he’s still young and this is really his first NBA season as a featured player on a team; but I questin whether he really can become a trusted leader of this team. In the last two games, he’ regresses in critical moments. In last night’s game, he missed an easy layup that would have tied the game up and the night before, in addition to missing key FTs, it also didn’t seem as if he really wanted the ball in the 4th quarter.

    But again, Dragic’s young and probably still maturing, so it’s not fair to be too critical of this aspect of his game. But it does bear watching to see how he handles himself and how assertive he is in clutch situations.

  • john

    I like Tucker. I like it when guys can get multiple chances to prove their worth. However, he’s not very good. Granted, he’s played better than anyone else at his position thus far, but that’s not saying much considering how the other SF’s have done for PHX. Maybe this can be a blessing in disguise. Hopefully so, because Phoenix will go nowhere with Tucker getting a large portion of minutes on a nightly basis.

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    @Tony

    I agree that Dragic actually doesn’t handle the pick-and-rolls all that well. Sometimes it’s almost like he’s not looking to hit Gortat rolling. Yet, that might just be something he can’t do well at this point — just as it is that Gortat isn’t a good ISO post player. From my observation, it might be something about not using the screen correctly and getting the angle to pass it.

    Anyway, Dragic has been about the only consistent (or closest to it) thing for the Suns. For me, I guess human nature is to talk about the really bad things when a team is losing rather than the kind of bad things :)

  • suns68

    Getting stripped and shut down by the defensive power duo of Vince Carter and Shawn Marion!

    Beasley’s worse than Carter. Worse than Hedo. As bad as Earl Clark.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Some D-League News…
    The other night, Kendall Marshall played 32 minutes for Bakersfield against Reno.
    Marshall had 4 pts…7 rebs…5 assists & 6 turnovers (2-10 from field & 0-3 from 3 pt range) in a blowout loss.

    My boy, Tyler Honeycutt, the 6’8″ sg/sf from UCLA who the Suns could probably get for next to nothing, had 18 pts…12 rebounds & 4 steals…8-11 from the field & 2-2 from 3 pt range.

    As for Beasley….he’s been a major disappointment….far too tentative & passive.
    As DBreezy said, the opening game, when Beas was yanked by Gentry was an ominous harbinger of things to come.
    What we have now is a player who shoots when he should pass & passes when he should shoot & is playing with ZERO confidence.
    This team HAD to have Beasley come up big to have any chance at a decent season but instead it’s just another Suns dream turning into a nightmare.

  • bill.thomas

    R U kidding me? Vince Carter is Bill Russell in a shooting guard’s body !!

  • m.i.milliman

    @ Tony @ Kevin

    Here’s the thing with Dragic, he’s not a point guard. The Suns have a good swing man already in Dragic, they need to get a pg. He is undersized for sure at the two but it would suit them, and him, so much better and everyone would say what a great passing two guard he is and he should look for his shot more.

    As for Beasley, he is what he is. I have a hard time getting down on the guy because he seems to want to be that guy that everyone says he is. But he’s not. It’s obvious that he was vastly over rated coming out of collage. I would get down on him more if he didn’t own up to it, but he’s aware of it, he’s talked about it. It makes be want to root for him, but that’s kinda like rooting for my lotto ticket to hit even though the winning number has already been called.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    hello guys,
    bad time for us fans of suns … eh?
    Unfortunately (or fortunately …) I am not seeing the games this year because Sportitalia (an Italian television that the free pass) this year is not broadcasting the NBA … so I rely on the highlights on the official website of the suns. .. that is definitely a few things to consider precisely what is happening to our team …
    So I would have some questions for you that will surely been following the games of our suns in a better way:
    1) It seems to me that Gentry is a little confusing … still has not found the quadrature of the team … I think Gortat and Scola should be starting … in your opinion?
    2) B-Easy for me is a great talent, but always with great potential and unexpressed damn … why? It seems to me that he lacks the “fire” inside when playing … do you think? (there is nothing worse than wasted talent … scriveteglielo of any cartel to the U.S. Airways Center, please).
    3) Why Wesley Johnsonn not playing that??
    4) moves for the future: do you T. Evans of the Kings will be a good target for us?
    5) Fantasy Basketball: NBA 2k13 I traded in Gortat-Brown for West-George …. what gives me more room under the salary cup to hire a good free-agent (not renewing the contract of West for next season ) … do you think the reality is this possible trade?
    I ask this because I think a player like George in the role of guard is just what this team needs in the real world …What do you think of George?

    I thank you in advance for your answers!

    ps: I’m a little disappointed in the beginning … I was expecting more from this roster!

  • DBreezy

    To me it’s not that Dragic isn’t a pg, but that he isn’t the kind of pg the Suns have been used to traditionally where they throw the ball to him, do a few S/R’s and things automatically open up for everybody. While some of that has to do with who ‘everybody’ is on this squad, some probably has to do with this team’s traditional approach to offense. It’s been either hand the ball to the pg or Barkley, space out and wait for almost 25 years.

    That’s one of the things that struck me when I went to the Hornets game. Both teams were/are supposedley running the corner offense, but only one seemed committed to it and seemed to be scoring fairly easily with lesser players in general. The Suns have gone back to more of their traditional sets after Marcin compained, but they’re pretty much right in the same place they were in offensive efficiency and that’s including a lineup change.

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  • john

    @Elviro

    I’m glad to see you’re still following the team in these rough times all the way from Italy. That’s commitment.

    I’ll give my brief input on your questions/points:

    1. In my opinion, Gortat should be traded. It’s not because he’s a bad player. He’s a good player. The reason I feel he should be traded is because I don’t feel his game fits well with the other players on roster, and some of Gortat’s public comments have been somewhat demeaning to his teammates. It’s just time for him to wear another uniform.

    2. Beasley lacks two things. A brain and a will. He has every tool necessary to be an all-star, but he seems to be content where he is at. A lot of guys like Beasley have come and gone through the NBA, and a lot more guys like him are still to come.

    3. Wesley Johnson isn’t very good at basketball. I admit that no one playing ahead of him is very good either, but I believe Wesley Johnson might be exactly like Michael Beasley. All the tools, none of the brain/will.

    4. I’ve been interested in Tyreke for a couple of seasons now. He isn’t the type of player who could instantly turn this team into a contender. I don’t even know if he would make the Suns better, but at least it would be change and Tyreke has proven he can score well at the NBA level.

    5. I am not really into trade speculation, so you’ll have to defer to some of the other guys on this site who love to talk about that stuff.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com T

    A lot of these comments were good, and and a lot of them make me wonder how long you’ve been a fan of the game. Great stuff peeps. Lets keep the hope alive. Funny how I’ve seen no negative comments pertaining to Jared Dudley…that is interesting seeing how he was the initial piece to this pie.

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