Is teaching effort simply the Suns' euphemism for change?

PHOENIX – The remaining portion of the Phoenix Suns’ 2012-13 season dictates two things clearly. It will dictate development to young players like Kendall Marshall, who the team drafted in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft. The final eight games will also determine Phoenix’s place in this upcoming draft.

But future player personnel moves are overshadowed by those two obvious points of emphasis.

Lindsey Hunter waxes poetic about teaching effort and building a culture, and there’s a good bet he truly believes in what he’s teaching. Yet, anything the Suns’ interim head coach might say about teaching his younger players about playing with 100 percent effort, 100 percent of the time might as well be euphemism.

“I think a lot of times they don’t understand, you know, what that means a lot of times,” Hunter said before the Suns’ loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. “We have to show them, we have to teach them. We have a make sure this is what we mean by maximum effort. This is what we mean by not giving up on a play.

“A lot of guys have never heard that before or never seen or never had a coach tell them, ‘Just because you hit a screen doesn’t mean the play’s over.’”

It’s obvious that Hunter is correct. Where he goes out of his way to praise Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and P.J. Tucker and their consistent fight, Hunter said that he can’t always have all of the players tagged as effort guys on the floor at the same time. Such is the reason for the peaks and valleys in the Suns’ performances of late.

Yet, it’s becoming more evident that the upcoming games will not be so much about building a culture.

Dragic, Scola, Tucker, and veterans like Jared Dudley and Jermaine O’Neal can create that culture – they’ve been in the locker room all year, after all. So the key moving forward is evaluating which players aren’t going to fit well with the mentioned names.

Hunter says he’s seen flashes of the Suns taking on his bulldog identity that made him as a player.

“At times, at times,” the Suns interim coach said. “I think I’m a little chippier. I think they understand how I am.”

As hard as he tries, teaching effort is a questionable practice.

“It’s got to be in you – point blank, period,” Tucker said earlier this month. “You can’t teach somebody that. Go out there. Pride. Go out there to represent yourself, organization, team, what we’ve been fighting all year for.”

Hunter knows it’s all semantics about future player personnel decisions. He’s mentioned that he’s needed to press players to fight for their jobs. Effort has been a constant issue for Phoenix, maybe even moreso than the NBA’s worse teams in Charlotte and Orlando, who are undermanned to even greater degrees.

“You can’t teach effort. You can never do that,” Dudley said. “That’s through player personnel. That’s for (Hunter) to decide. If he ever feels someone’s not giving effort, that’s where substitution comes.

“We’re at a point now of developing guys,” Dudley added before more bluntly tacking on, “working on who’s going to be here next year.”

Hunter on his future

The Suns’ season, as can be expected, has been a wild one within the locker room. No matter the belief among some that Hunter wasn’t the right choice to follow in Alvin Gentry’s footsteps, it’s been a whirlwind for the interim coach.

Hunter said he’d love to take the job full-time, but that’s far from his focus at present.

“Every day brings something different so you’re always working,” Hunter said when I asked him if he’s had time to reflect on his growth as a coach. “I haven’t had a chance really to just sit back and take everything in. I will. But right now, it’s all about working and me improving as a coach and trying to get our guys to improve also.

“If I’m blessed enough to get the job I carry on,” he added. “If not, I move on.”

Tags: Lindsey Hunter

  • Scott

    I think the real issue is consistency, which is what most players are learning.

    All players have some degree of effort, but they may have some bad habits. Hunter is right that by practicing effort you can improve effort. Tucker and Dudley are right in that by the time most players enter the NBA, their fundamental traits are already baked in, and effort is a fundamental trait.

    So the answer lies in between. Players can learn to provide better effort if that’s a focus of practice. However, that’s not the same as having a high motor by nature.

  • Azbballfan

    I would love to see every player give 100 percent on the floor, but thats an ideal, and clearly some players on the suns prefer to think about what club their going out to instead of being engaged

    But it is what it is, a bad team that goes 100 pecent of the time is still a bad team

    the NBA is so competitive, and when the team your on is going through whats now more than a 3 year skid after making the WCF, i can understand the get it over with feeling

    I dont know if the Suns can reach Beasley and make him become a more efficient player

    people with his talent usually figure it out by now or they are out of the NBA

    I wonder what Beasley would do in a better situation he has always played on crap teams

    Minny was bad, the Suns are bad and Miami had to be bad to get him 2nd overall

    i think losing wears on you, but in the same vein a player like Beasley is still cashing his 6 million a year.

    Beasley career low of a year has to sting, but thats kind of the way everything has gone this year

    Babby and Blanks are gonna have to own up to their signings and drafts

    If Sarver pays any attention to his own team, i dont see why Babby and Blanks get to keep their jobs

    Maybe Hunter, but this team has gotten worse ever year that they have ran the team

    The Suns have 3 lotto picks that they chose, the Morris Tiwns and Marshall

    The best case scenario seems to be for them to quality starters but at this stage they all look like career backups, at best.

    if i did a crappy job at my place of employment for 3 years they would show me the door and say dont let the door hit you on the ass on the way out

    this is the 2nd worst season in the Suns 40 something year history, and considering where we were summer 2010 to spring 2013, its been a joke

    you could make the case that the Suns got almost nothing out of the last 2 drafts and free agency period other than Dragic.

    i think the players share responsibility for this season, but not as much as you would think

    Talent and Chemistry are not there and you cant expect teams with almost zero in both catagories to win

    I think Babby and Blanks just need to go and someone like Nate Mcmillan needs to come in

    when the entire front office and coaching staff has “rental” attached to them because of contract situations and the general chaos of the season, most players i am assuming just tune them all out at some point

    I cant say i blame them, very little thought has gone into these last 2 and a quarter years

    the fact that they though they could make the playoffs after getting role players in their 30s is laughable

    Have they looked at the western conference?

    Dragic, JO, and Dudley and Scola are quality players on a veteran team

    they cant carry a team by themselves

    and if the goal of this year was to make the 8th seed in the playoffs, and thus make rebuilding take even longer, than why even try?

    making the 8th seed in the playoffs means you get bludgeoned usually 4-0 and lose out on a lotto pick

    they know that only one team in NBA history has ever been the 8th seed and made the finals? the 1998-1999 Knicks

    thats the other thing, most poeple who didnt worship at Sarvers feet knew this team would be bad

    but Blanks and Babby had to sell something, anything

    i feel bad for Scola and JO i bet they cant wait to get outta here

  • Forever is2long

    Yep AzBBall, virtually nothing from the past two lottery drafts and Sarver has to decide if he will trust the blind mice with one top 5 lottery pick and perhaps a second lottery pick.If Steve Kerr could allegedly be forced out after a run to the Western Conference Finals, then these stooges should not have any problem being given directions to find the same exit door. Just my opinion but they need to go before their DNA is found on this year’s lottery.

  • DBreezy

    Babby extended for two more years according to Coro. I thought he would have gotten a one year extension to match Lance, but in any case the saga will continue.

  • Forever is2long

    I suspect anywhere but Phoenix the fans would not tolerate perceived consistent sub par performances by upper management.

  • Andrew
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