Time: Spurs 108, Suns 99
Lindsey Hunter, 2-0 as a head coach, will likely face another undefeated coach Saturday when the Phoenix Suns play the Spurs in San Antonio. Spurs acting head coach Mike Budenholzer sits perfect in four games in place of Gregg Popovich, and chances are he’ll be leading San Antonio against the Suns.
Popovich is keeping his flu bug away from his team, according to the San Antonio Express-News, and the Spurs could again be without Tim Duncan, who has an ailing knee. Duncan is listed as questionable.
The Spurs are still plenty dangerous.
Manu Ginobili got rest for the entire second half of last night’s win at Dallas, and Tony Parker is arguably having as good of a season as last year, when he was a legitimate MVP candidate.
With the rosters as is, the Duncan-less Spurs resemble the Suns to a degree. Each team has a double-double capable center in Tiago Splitter and Marcin Gortat, and a passing power forward in Boris Diaw and Luis Scola. They have defensive-minded wings in Kawhi Leonard and P.J. Tucker, and a spot-up-shooting two-guard in Danny Green and Jared Dudley. And each team’s best player is at the point.
The similarities end at how those pieces work together to find success. The Spurs are the second-highest scoring team in the NBA and average the most assists per game. Phoenix’s record speaks for itself.
Nevertheless, the point guard matchup will be the thing to watch. The Suns’ Goran Dragic has been playing with a reckless abandon since seeing his mentor, Alvin Gentry, leave the team. Dragic’s 18-point, 9.5 assist averages through two games is only telling of Hunter’s confidence in his young point guard.
Body language might be the key issue for Dragic’s growth, and Hunter’s push for more accountability has so far been juggled well with giving him even more freedom. It’s been the same story for Luis Scola, who is averaging 17.5 points, eight rebounds and four assists in two games under Hunter.
“He gives us everything he has, every night, every practice,” Hunter said of Scola after the win against the Clippers on Thursday. “He and Goran are our guys that we’re going to build our culture around.”
Lance Blanks talks with USA Today about Suns coaching change
Suns General Manager Lance Blanks discussed the coaching switch with USA Today’s Sam Amick, and most notably, he claimed the Hunter hire was not predetermined.
“Why would I put myself and the organization and our front office under so much scrutiny if it wasn’t a pure decision. Why do that? That’s stupid. So at the end of the day, I did what I thought — along with Lon and (director player personnel) John (Treloar) — what we thought was the best decision for the organization. Lindsey Hunter had no idea we were going to interview him until four or five hours before we interviewed him.”
Of course, those words don’t help Blanks’ cause considering Hunter was the name being thrown around the rumor mill as a candidate to coach the Suns well before Alvin Gentry was fired.
Suns fall to 13th in Forbes’ list of NBA value
The Suns fell to No. 13 in NBA value this season, and according to Forbes, the franchise is worth $474 million. Phoenix has seen a decline in ticket sales for three straight seasons, and its 37 percent rating on Fox Sports Arizona is the worst in the NBA.
The ranking is a drop-off from last year’s No. 10 rank in the NBA, though the value has increased from $395 million in just a year, according to Forbes.
The New York Knicks are valued at $1.1 billion to lead the NBA while the Los Angeles Lakers are second at $1 billion.