PHOENIX — The adage goes that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
But for Alvin Gentry and the Phoenix Suns, the complete opposite may be true these days.
Stuck in the middle of a seven-game losing streak — the franchise’s longest since February 2004 — Gentry has proven that he is willing to do whatever it takes to find a winning combination.
Wednesday night when the Suns host the Memphis Grizzlies (14-4), they will trot out their third different starting lineup in as many days. While Sunday’s change had to do with an under the weather Goran Dragic, Wednesday’s move — as has been the case twice before this season – was made strictly due to struggling personnel.
Gentry announced Wednesday morning that Luis Scola would go back into the starting lineup in favor of second-year forward Markieff Morris.
The timing of Wednesday’s move is probably not completely coincidental. Eight days ago, in the Grizzlies’ 108-98 overtime victory over the Suns, Memphis’ early-season MVP candidate, Zach Randolph, had his way with Morris in the paint en route to 38 points and a career-high 22 rebounds. While Morris wasn’t the only to blame for Randolph’s gargantuan night, Scola would seemingly provide a little more at the defensive end of the matchup the second time around. Although the move was not made to just produce short-team results, if the buck is to actually stop Wednesday night, why not make the move to Scola before Z-Bo goes off for another career evening?
“I just think that guarding Zach Randolph, [Scola] is a veteran guy and will have a little bit better feel of what’s going on,” Gentry said. “That’s just a coach’s instinct.
“I also don’t want to see [Morris] get two quick fouls, because I want to use him in the first and second quarter. So, I don’t want him to guard Zach and get two quick fouls.”
Scola, who previously started every career game he played over in the previous five seasons with the Houston Rockets, was replaced by Morris in the starting five before the team’s 114-87 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on November 21. While the move appeared effective in the short-term — as the team went on a mini two-game win streak — it has not panned out over the last few weeks.
Since Scola was sent to the pine, Phoenix has fallen on hard times, going just 3-8. Despite the perceived demotion — although Gentry said the move was not made based on Scola’s lack of merit — the first-year Sun scored in double digits in eight of 11 games. During that same span, Morris showed flashes — recording a career-high in points (24) against New Orleans Hornets on Nov. 23 and a career high in rebounds (17) against the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 13 — but couldn’t sustain a level of consistency at both ends of the floor.
In comparison to Scola, Morris had only five double-digit scoring efforts over the last 11 games.
According to NBA Media stats, Wednesday’s lineup — Goran Dragic, Shannon Brown, Jared Dudley, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat — has played very little together through 22 games. In just seven minutes of playing time, the group has shot just 36.4 percent from the field and has a plus/minus of -7.3.
As a starter this season, Scola was rather effective despite the team’s 4-7 record. In 11 starts, the Argentinian averaged 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
The move is the second tactical one made by Gentry over the seven days. Before Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Suns head coach reinserted Jared Dudley into the starting lineup replacing a struggling Michael Beasley. The team has not responded, though, going 0-2 over the weekend against Clippers and the Orlando Magic. Dudley combined for 23 points and seven assists in the two losses, while Beasley contributed 24 points and six assists.