Q&A with Alvin Gentry
If you haven't followed the Suns since they were eliminated by the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, you've probably missed a few things. Suns.com sat down with Head Coach Alvin Gentry, who is in Las Vegas for the NBA's Summer League, to get his take on all of the trades and free-agent signings that have transpired over the last two weeks.
Suns.com: There have been a lot of changes since the season ended six weeks ago, from the front office to the roster. Are you surprised how many changes, or were you anticipating this?
Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry: Well, we would’ve liked to have brought our whole team back, but obviously through free-agency things change.
Suns.com: The biggest change, in terms of the roster, of course, was Amar’e Stoudemire leaving to New York. What are your thoughts on him signing with the Knicks?
Gentry: Amar’e (Stoudemire) is gone and he had a great run here. He did such a good job for us and we have nothing but respect for him, and wish him nothing but the best. We hope that he does extremely well, except for the two games that he plays against us (laughs) and I think he will. It's time for us to move on and we had to look at our team, and see what we could to try to revamp it a little bit, and stay at a real high level. I think that’s the thing that we really wanted to be able to do. We wanted to stay at a real high level and be able to compete, and I think that with the moves that we've made, we’ll be able to do that.
Suns.com: You and Amar’e had a great relationship and you coached him for a long time. What did you appreciate most about him? What are some of your favorite memories of his career with the Suns?
Gentry: He’s just a tremendous finisher; the best finisher in the game. You could see that on ESPN, because you know that every night a few of the dunks that he had were going to be on there. I think he grew so much as a person, which I really thought was a great thing. He became such a good teammate, a great dad and a great person. I thought that we had a great relationship. He wanted to be the best player in the league. He worked hard at it, worked on his game and like I said, I wish him nothing but the best. It was just a situation where it was an offer he couldn’t refuse and I understand that. Sometimes that happens with free agency.
Suns.com: Speaking of free agency, the Suns were able to resign Channing Frye to a five-year deal. How important was it to bring him back?
Gentry: We need Channing (Frye) as a spacer. He made 20 threes his whole career, before coming to Phoenix, and then made over 160 for us last year. So that’s a huge number for a guy. I think what he does is open up avenues into the lane to not only drive to the basket, but to drive and kick, and set up guys for three-point shots. So we’re excited about having him back. We’re going to ask him to rebound a little more for us this year and to play a little more physical, but we know who he is and we’re going to play to his strengths.
Suns.com: Phoenix was also quick to sign forward Hakeem Warrick. What are your thoughts on his game, and how will he fit into your system?
Gentry: I think he’s a little like Amar’e in that he can roll to the basket and finish with some power. We don’t expect him to be Amar’e, but I do think that he can bring a lot of things to the table. He can play up on the elbow, where we do a lot of stuff, he’s got a great, quick first step and he’s also another great guy for the locker room. We think he’ll be a real positive for our team.
Suns.com: The moves didn’t stop there. The Suns have also worked out a couple of trades this week, acquiring veteran forward Hedo Turkoglu and guard Josh Childress, and sending Leandro Barbosa to Toronto. First off, how much will you miss LB, just as a person? Like Amar’e, he’s been a fixture with the Suns for a long time.
Gentry: LB's had a great run here. He’s won many a game for us. If I could have one highlight that I remember the most, it's the game Raja Bell was suspended against the Lakers (2006 playoffs). It was the sixth game and we were down 3-2. It was a game that we had to win and I think he ended up with 24 or 25 points in that game, and just played great. This is just one of those situations where he just felt like he wanted to be in a different place and have an opportunity to play more minutes. With J-Rich (Jason Richardson) playing the way he is and Goran (Dragic) coming on, he thought it might be best to be moved and play somewhere else. I understand that. There’s no hard feelings and we wish Leandro nothing but the best, and I think he’ll be successful wherever he is.
Suns.com: What will Turkoglu bring to the club? He’s obviously a very different type of power forward than Amar’e, but has a good all-around game.
Gentry: As far as Hedo, he’s such an impact player because he can do so many things. We look at him as a two, three and four. We look at him as a guy that can run screen-and-rolls, and facilitate our offense. We think it will help Steve (Nash) tremendously because we think we can take Steve off the ball and make him a shooter. One of the things we haven’t been able to utilize over the years here is Steve’s ability to be a shooter. If he’s not the best shooter in the league, he’s in the top two or three shooters. We like for him to be the guy off the ball some coming off screens and I think Hedo will allow us to do that.
Suns.com: We hear that you’ve been a fan of Childress for a long time. What do you like about his game?
Gentry: Well, he’s been talking about coming back from Greece for a while. We knew the situation with him through his agent. There were a lot of teams interested in him and he thought that he’d fit in great with the way we play. He’s more of a slasher/scorer and a real smart player. He’s a tremendous defender. He’ll be one of those guys that we ask to defend Kobe (Bryant), Paul Pierce, Dwyane Wade, LeBron (James) and guys like that, and do the best job that he can. But he also just fits in with our guys in the locker room and we’re very fortunate to be able to have him.
Suns.com: With a bench of Frye/Dragic/Lopez/Warrick/Childress/Clark, is it possible that this team is deeper than it was a year ago?
Gentry: We’ll keep trying to develop that. I do think that it’s important that we be able to play 10 deep because one of the things that we’re going to try to do is pick up on our defense this year, do a good job of guarding the ball and see if our team defense can get better. Obviously, we feel like that’s the key to winning a championship.
Suns.com: Nash is known for making players better. How much do you think he will help guys like Warrick, Childress and even Hedo?
Gentry: He’s done it with everyone we brought in here. Every single person we brought in here, when they left they’ve been a better player. They pretty much had career stats, really. That’s who Steve is. Warrick as a slasher/roller/finisher, I think you’ll see his stats go up. Hedo will help Steve and I think Steve will help Hedo. I think both of those guys can be ball handlers and facilitators. Hedo had a great year a couple years ago in Orlando, where he made every big shot, so just having him out on the court gives you another ball handler and I think he’ll do a great job.
Suns.com: What do you think of how young players such as Earl Clark and Gani Lawal have played thus far in summer league?
Gentry: I think they’ve done a good job. Earl is going to have to move the ball a little bit more and I’d like to see more of him as a lockdown defender when he’s playing. Gani is just a young kid that’s learning. I love his energy level and I love the rebounding and the shot blocking that he’s brought to the table out here. I think you’ll see him improve more and more as he learns the pro game. This is what the summer league is for. Those guys get five opportunities to go out and play against pretty doggone good basketball players and see what they can do.
Suns.com: Do you expect any more changes in the next couple of months, or do you feel like your roster for 2010-11 is now pretty defined?
Gentry: I would never say "this is it," but we’ll just have to see what happens. We like the basis of what we’ve done so far. We think we’ve got a situation where we can go out and compete with almost any team.
Suns.com: With the new additions, how encouraged should fans be that this team will be a contender once again next season?
Gentry: Well, we’ll see. It always looks good on paper. We’ll see with the chemistry and how everybody comes together. I think we've got a good group of guys and usually that means we’ll compete, and do a really good job.
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