Court Report: Putting All the Pieces Together
After a month and a half of team workouts, training camp and practice, Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry believes the true gauge for a team doesn’t come until the games begin to count. The opening-night loss to the Golden State Warriors proved that the Suns are still figuring out who will step up in certain situations. On Wednesday, it was reserve forward P.J. Tucker, who used his toughness and hustle to help spark a Phoenix run that nearly led to victory. Gentry’s continual goal leading into tonight’s 7 p.m. game at US Airways Center against the Detroit Pistons, remains developing a group of new players into the makings of a total team. But he’s also focused on these things going into the second game of the season:
1. Shifting Focus: Gentry proclaimed all Suns “healthy and ready to go” after shootaround on Friday morning, but he also said that the Pistons will offer a much different challenge than what the Warriors posed on Wednesday. He is focusing on Detroit’s ability to score in the paint, but he believes that it’s not only his opposition’s bigs who pose that problem.
Sure, center Greg Monroe and power forward Jason Maxiell can score down low, but Gentry looks at guards like Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum as guys who drive hard to the hoop to either score, draw a foul or set up the aforementioned Monroe and Maxiell. The Suns’ response will have to come from fellow big man Marcin Gortat, who led the team with five blocks in the opener.
“We need to have basket protection and rim protection,” Gentry said. “You know, I thought (Gortat) did a good job with the five blocks. Obviously, we like to see that.”
2. Rotation Creation: The way Suns players were utilized on Wednesday against Golden State was under “special circumstances,” according to Gentry. That special circumstance boils down to P.J. Tucker forcing the coach’s hand by scoring 10 points off the bench, grabbing a couple rebounds, creating a steal and blocking a shot in 23 minutes.
While the head coach believes the rotation to be stable, he admits that it’ll be tinkered with to find the best possible options. Also, he loves having guys like Tucker, Wes Johnson, Michael Beasley, Jared Dudley and Goran Dragic, who can all play multiple positions.
” I think all of the really effective teams – if you look around the league – have guys who can play multiple positions,” Gentry said. “You can play LeBron James at the point guard, the two guard, the three man or four man. And I’m sure he could sell popcorn if they wanted him to.”
3. Dragic’s Encore: Speaking of the versatile guard, it was apparent to Gentry after Wednesday’s game that Dragic was disappointed in the loss and his own effort. Perhaps, that was because he wasn’t able to get a potential game-tying or winning shot off against the buzzer.
But in the bigger picture, Gentry saw a performance he was happy with, and he reminded Dragic of that.
“I thought he did a good job,” Gentry said. “At the end of the night, he ends up with 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds. That’s a pretty good night. I just think that he felt he could’ve done better, and that’s a good thing.”
4. This is Our House: Forgive Gentry for getting a little ahead of himself, but after a season in which his Suns rallied only to fall just short of the playoff, the head coach isn’t taking anything for granted this season.
And that begins with a home loss to start the season. Gentry’s keeping track and he wants his team to bounce back with a home win tonight at US Airways Center.
“All home games are big,” the coach said. “I just think that in our league, the teams with the best records usually have the great home records. It’s really difficult to win on the road in this league, so you want to try to protect your home court.”
5. Marquee Matchup at the Point: After a rookie season in which he averaged 12.8 points, 3.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game, Knight has a game that is maturing. The Kentucky product has impressed Gentry with his quickness and ability to get into the lane.
So for the second straight game, Dragic will have a marquee matchup – after he drew the Warriors’ Stephen Curry on Wednesday.
“I think both of them are really good players,” Gentry said of Dragic and Knight. “We’ve been watching tape from Brandon Knight, and I think he’s come a long way since last year. It’ll be a good challenge for Goran, but the same goes for the other end.”