Refusing to check out: Suns say they'll continue to fight

PHOENIX — Recently, the Phoenix Suns have turned in drastically different ball games against very different teams. Just last week they’ve blown out the Los Angeles Lakers at home, then been on the receiving end of such lopsided games against Washington and Minnesota.

Interim coach Lindsey Hunter has pointed toward effort as the being the reason for such embarrassing defeats, especially in poor first halves in the two losses.

“You see the names on the backs haven’t changed, right?” Hunter said Friday. “It’s the same team. It’s part of being young, it’s part of trying to learn how to deal with some small success. It’s a number of things we’re going through and hopefully one day we look back and say, ‘Hey, we don’t want to go back to doing that’ – and it means something.”

The locker room frustration is rearing its head. Hunter said he’d “climb in a foxhole” with Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and P.J. Tucker, but after that, as might be guessed, he wasn’t going to say any one player has consistently been putting in the work.

The locker room may not be fractured publicly, or at all, but no matter the status of the team’s solidarity, the Suns aren’t going to face anything but adversity against most everyone they face.

Against the Timberwolves most recently, their frustration in the huddles and on the sideline was a stark contrast to the atmosphere of the T-Wolves bench. Coach Rick Adelman hardly acknowledged poor calls against Minnesota during the game, players laughed off their own mistakes and even a break as the referees went to the replay monitor resulted in Adelman cracking a joke to break the operating crew into laughter.

Of the few Suns available to the media on Friday, both Wes Johnson and P.J. Tucker refused to believe their teammates had punched out with 12 games of the season left, simply wishing it were over.

“Everybody still wants to play, everybody still wants to compete,” Johnson said. “It might look like it by the outcome of the score, but everybody still wants to play.”

Hunter would like to believe that. It’s his job to prove he can fix a broken ship that’s only getting in worse shape over the past few weeks, though injuries haven’t helped a bit. The interim coach is at the very least fighting for a future job for himself elsewhere, and he only hoped that his players weren’t mailing in the first 12 outings.

“That would be a shame,” he said. “They’re still getting paid. Nobody’s checks are late, so they should bring that effort every night.”

Meanwhile, Tucker, one of the Suns whose intensity rarely wavers, also wasn’t going to point fingers.

He’s one not to mince his words on the court, yet he certainly wasn’t biting when asked on Friday about his teammates checking out either. He and Dragic, who often refuses to throw teammates under the bus by telling the media to “ask coach,” said it’s only about digging deep within themselves to find answers.

“We got five people out there,” Tucker said, refusing the guess that a thin bench contributed to Phoenix’s 117-86 loss to Minnesota. “We ain’t undermanned, no matter how the size is. We ain’t never undermanned. I heard it all my life and it ain’t stop me yet. So I ain’t going to hear it today.

“I’m a competitor,” he added, “I hate losing. I hate being in positions where … I got to do these interviews.”

It’s only a matter of if and when Hunter and his staff can find answers. Against Minnesota, for example, the Suns got run out of the gym in the first half despite going with a small-ball lineup and without a true center.

So then it truly might be effort. Indeed, beating a Lakers team that is struggling as is and without Kobe Bryant at the beginning of the week could make the win misleading.

But that was inspired ball.

“It’s easy against the Lakers,” Tucker said. “It’s not hard to get up for the Lakers, for the Knicks, for the Clippers, for the Thunder … we got to find a way to do the same for the Charlotte games, the DC games, Minnesota games.”

  • GeorgeSteenburgh

    Well we are getting out coached. Someone please talk Jerry West into coming to the Suns and clean house.

  • bill.thomas

    There are enough good players and even so-so players in the league, who are willing to consistently make the effort, that frankly it will be difficult to trade some of our underperformers.

    So we may be stuck with any carrying guaranteed contracts for quite some time.

    And of course, that concept includes Blanks too.

  • Ty-Sun

    As far as getting out coached, I doubt there is or ever was a coach that could have squeezed more than a half dozen more wins out of this team. With the exception of Dragic, Scola, O’Neal and Gortat, the team is made up of role players and career backups.

    Really, the main reason that I see Hunter returning as head coach next season is that I doubt any good coach would want to take over this mess unless Sarver was willing to pay them 2-3 times what they could get elsewhere… and we all know that isn’t going to happen.

  • bill.thomas

    Yeah, Sarver’s penchant is for personnel who will take part of their pay in the form of pastrami sandwiches.

  • Polish_fan

    next year will be also a tanking year but with an extra draft player who hopefully can show some skills though

  • Scott

    I like pastrami sandwiches. Pastrami and corned beef are also a good combo.

    As for the Suns checking out … I don’t think they’ve checked out. The Wizards went on to beat the Lakers; the Wiz are a tougher team now, and hopefully they’ll win more and clear out space for the Suns to rise in the lottery.

    Minnesota is still missing a few injured players, but they’re not as gimped as before. With O’Neal and Dudley out, they were able to put out more talent than Phoenix.

    Having said that, I think some of the newer Suns – Wes Johnson, Hamed Haddadi, and Marcus Morris – are struggling to adapt to suddenly playing more minutes, and might be losing focus or getting some brain fog. Brown, who was brought in after riding the bench for a long while, while energetic he was not in scoring rhythm. Garrett has seen a few spotty minutes, but it looked to me like the coaching staff hasn’t given him a clear role in the offense (which they should do).

    So I don’t see the Suns checking out. I see one failure on the part of the coaches (re: Garrett) and the rest is normal and expected.

  • bill.thomas

    I’m wondering about the Morris Bros.’ probs. w/getting the ball in the cup. Tonight they’re a combined 3/14 so far with no foul shots to their names.

    Anyone have any insight on this?

  • Patrekr

    The suns need the Gortat of the first 3 weeks of the season….WHERE DID HE GO? Where are the five blocks a game and the fierce dunks of weeks 1-3?

    Beasley? Where did he go? I saw so much potential in him yet he gets rattled and just disappears when he’s not on the money.

    Dragic is good. Dudley is good. Tucker is good. O’neal is good but old and starting to show a lot of wear. The Morris brothers have potential but where did Keefe go? The man was outstanding last year…now he’s a glorified backup with flashes of ability….and his brother is not doing much better.

    Shannon Brown? Hello? He had some great games…why is he not in the lineup anymore? Is he hurt? Scola is a great player but can be inconsistent….but he hustles at least.

    I like all of the players on this team. They have class and they are good guys….but there is a major issue with chemistry ever since Steve Nash bailed and went to the Lakers…

    It’s sad how far the team has fallen since the big trades of the Shaq era.

  • bill.thomas

    I think we need to hire ‘Majestic Maids”. Need a housecleaning !!