Time: 6 p.m. MST
PHOENIX – The rotational questions surrounding the Phoenix Suns and their forward-heavy roster was supposed to be cleared up once Marcus Morris got a few practices under his belt. As of now, it appears it’d be the smart thing to put that talk on hold.
Lindsey Hunter said before Phoenix’s game against the Boston Celtics that he hadn’t gotten close to thinking about how the rotations would be planned out. At the time, it felt like it just wasn’t something Hunter needed to do with the newest Morris not expected to see playing time on Friday night.
But after he did play and the final buzzer sounded, it was clear that what Hunter said before the game was very true. Whoever earns playing time will see it – no set rotation needed as the Suns move on to face another team that has a rich tradition of winning.
“If guys don’t have to play that think they’re entitled, then they won’t play,” Hunter said after playing point guard Goran Dragic to the end of a foul-tasting 25-point loss. “That’s part of why I left Goran in, because he didn’t want to come out.”
The San Antonio Spurs visit U.S. Airways Center on Sunday in the first meeting of a two-game series against Phoenix.
Since Hunter took over for Alvin Gentry, the Suns have gone 5-10 and lost by 20 points or more in four games, a sign that the young head coach’s in-game motivational tactics perhaps could use some tinkering. Hunter guaranteed after the Boston game that he’d coach effort if need be. He also promised that that only those who show fight will see playing time, and he threatened to play third-string point guard Diante Garrett 30 minutes per night, a sign that the Suns’ season is already appearing to be trending toward a more painful final 26 games than most could have comprehended in the preseason.
Within single games, the Suns have often fallen behind like they did against Boston, but in the Hunter era, runs by other teams have snowballed more than ever before.
Forward P.J. Tucker said that memories of the game against the Celtics must be dropped, and quickly.
“The schedule is not getting easier. We can’t harp on it,” Tucker said on Friday. “We’ve had games like that. We’ve had games where we come back from deficits of way more than tonight (early on). Tonight I don’t know what it was.”
San Antonio is coming off an overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors, and a nine-game rodeo trip will end, fittingly, in Phoenix before two days off before their next game, a bout against the Suns in Texas on Wednesday.
The Spurs are overall healthier than the team that Phoenix last saw on Jan. 26, when Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan sat out in a 108-99 San Antonio victory, but without perennial darkhorse MVP candidate Tony Parker, could be even more vulnerable. He is out with a triceps contusion.
Leery, the Spurs are looking to finish their rodeo trip on a high note.
“If we win in Phoenix, it will be a very, very nice road trip, but it’s important to not get ahead of ourselves thinking about getting home,” Ginobili told SpursNation.com. “Let’s get Phoenix and then, yes, it will be nice to be back in San Antonio for all those games.”