Suns plan to keep things simple on defense


PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns are concocting a “simple” plan on defense after the Los Angeles Lakers shredded them in Games 1 and 2 when they went with more fronting and other gimmicks than they usually do.

That is, they plan on simplifying things and initiating some of the principles that worked for them during the regular season after altering things a bit early in the series to try to neutralize some of Los Angeles’ strengths on offense.

“We’re going back to what we know, what we’ve been doing,” said Suns forward Amare Stoudemire. “The first two games we went to something totally different, and it didn’t quite help us, so now we’ve got to go back to what we know and see if we can get some stops.”

Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said the team changed its usual strategy to try to force the ball out of the post area and to make things more difficult on Kobe Bryant.

“Don’t think that one worked out real good,” Gentry said of that defensive game plan. “As a coach you try to look at situations and see and try to put them in the best positions to see if they can execute and do some things that would help us defensively. Didn’t work, so we’ll try something else, and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll try something else.”

If that sounds like Gentry is a desperate coach, it’s because he’s trying to slow down a beast that has averaged 132.6 points per 100 possessions through two games in this series. His team has scored well enough to win — averaging 115.3 pp100, better than their league-leading season average — but it’s that darned defense.

One of the things the Suns tried to do was  make the Lakers’ role players beat them. But while Derek Fisher is just 3-for-11 in the series, Ron Artest is 12-for-23 after shooting 38.0 percent in the first two rounds and Jordan Farmar is 8-for-11 after shooting 39.0 percent in the first two rounds. Even Shannon Brown is 5-for-9 after shooting 40 percent in the first couple rounds.

“Artest was shooting poorly, and we decided to try to make him make shots, and that’s exactly what he did,” Gentry said. “That’s what you do as a coach, you try to figure out where you think they might have a weakness, and you’ve got to give him credit. He’s stepped up and made shots for them and played good basketball.

“To me we tried to do some things, and I thought we did a good job on Kobe, but it’s almost like being off the dyke. You stick your finger and plug up one hole and water comes out of another. We’ve got to have a whole lot of fingers, I guess.”

So here the Suns are, trying to plug those holes by going back to the basics. It remains to be seen if that simplified plan provides the Suns with the extra fingers the job might require.

The Suns’ ‘D’ in depth

TrueHoop’s Kevin Arnovitz and Bball Breakdown’s Coach Nick use video to illustrate some of the Suns’ defensive deficiencies:

Amare’s future

Amare Stoudemire is not exactly thrilled with Friday’s Chad Ford report, citing a source close to STAT, stating that Amare is unlikely to return to Phoenix next season.

When a reporter asked him if he’s starting to feel sentimental on his way to the arena (implying that this could be it for him in Phoenix), Stoudemire said he’s only focused on Game 3. He also said the outcome of this series won’t factor into his decision.

“It doesn’t at all,” Stoudemire said. “We’ve had a great year, and we still have a chance to do some special things here in the next two games. Overall this year has been phenomenal for us.”

When pressed further about why the Suns put him out on the trade block to begin with, Stoudemire said, “I think it was all economic reasons. That was the main reason the trade rumors were coming out. We’ll be all right.

“The communication’s always open. It’s been great. There’s always been love, there’s always been genuine love.”

At the same time he stopped short of making any definitive remarks about his future, as would be expected. Amare has all of July and at this rate all of June to sort that out. Right now his focus should be (and apparently is) 100 percent on the Lakers.

Amare was also asked about how Steve Nash’s age might factor into his decision being that Nash, 36, is unlikely to continue to play at an All-NBA level for more than a couple more years.

“You always want to play with a point guard,” Stoudemire said. “You’ve got to have a point guard who’s the quarterback of the team. Every team needs to have one to be successful. When he retires hopefully Goran can step up and be that next guy for us.”

Should Nash shoot more?

After averaging better than 15 shots per game in the San Antonio series, Steve Nash has taken just 18 total shots in the Lakers series (making half of them).

So that begs the question, should Nash look for his offense more?

“I don’t feel like it,” Nash said. “I can’t remember passing up any shots, if anything I feel like I forced a few. We don’t have the type of offense that says, ‘Oh, Steve isn’t getting enough shots, let’s change our offense to this, so he does.’ We play the way we play and people kind of choose the way to guard it, and it’s predicated on me making the right reads.

“It’s hard to really fault the offense. Our offense has been fairly efficient the first few games. I don’t think there’s as much of a margin for improvement as there is defensively.”

And 1

Amare is offering fans group buys on playoffs tickets on his Facebook page. According to a press release, Stoudemire is “the first celebrity to utilize online group buying as a means to reward his fans.” Discounts can be had for sharing the offer with friends, and as of this writing a $600 pair of tickets can be had for $305.16. … Speaking of tickets, the Phoenix Regional Sports Commission is offering a Willy Wonka-esque Golden Ticket, which includes season tickets to basically every team in the Valley, including the Suns of course. Raffle tickets cost $100, and only 500 will be available. They can be purchased through June 1. … Suns GM Steve Kerr was fined $10K for his tongue-in-cheek remarks joking about how he would like to sign LeBron James with the mid-level exception and then for later saying he wants to see LeBron wind up back in Cleveland. Just goes to show you there’s no joking around if you’re a league executive when it comes to LeBron. … Gentry said Leandro Barbosa is “fine” after his Game 2 collision with a cameraman.