Suns News

Newsroom Notes: The 2010-11 Season Finale

Frye and Gortat were named by Gentry as two of the bright spots this season.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: April 13, 2011

The season finale of 2010-11 couldn’t have better illustrated how dramatically a season can change from one to the next in the NBA. After sweeping the Spurs in the playoffs and marching to within two games of the NBA Finals last year, the Suns found themselves facing a Spurs team that finished atop the Western Conference in the season finale.

But for a night on Wednesday, the Suns and the Spurs returned to who they were last April.

Although it may have seemed that tonight would be a dreary night, the Suns seemed to find themselves for a night, knocking off their longtime nemesis with a 106-103 home win. It demonstrated that out of the dreariest of clouds, there is always a silver lining.

So as the 2010-11 season sets on the Suns, Phoenix is left with its first losing record since 2003-04 and a litany of questions. The first of which is how does this franchise find its way back to where it was just a year ago?

Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry believes the key will be establishing consistency night-in and night-out with both the first and second units. In order to do that, Gentry hopes to build around the positive aspects from this season.

Those slices of silver lining include Steve Nash, Channing Frye, Marcin Gortat and Grant Hill. Nash led the team in scoring and the league in assists.

"Steve is still playing at an incredibly high level,” Gentry said. “The only time he's struggled is when he's been physically hurt. He probably played 12 games where he shouldn't have even been out there, but you know Steve and what kind of competitor he is."

With another year left on his extension, Nash publicly went on Sports 620 KTAR to say that he wants to be back in Phoenix next season. Although he doesn’t put a number on how many more years he will continue to play, Nash has always contended that he’ll play as long as he feels healthy and enjoys the game. And he's not ruling out another two years after next season.

“I’ve been banged up a little bit these last few months, but I felt great prior to that,” Nash told KTAR. “I feel as though up until the All-Star break, I played as well as I’ve ever played this year. I’m not thinking about retiring, I feel more than anything inspired and motivated to overcome this season and work hard this summer to be in great shape.”

As far as all the rumors circulating about his future in Phoenix heading into the offseason, Nash let everyone know where he stood.

“I don’t really feel like playing with anybody else,” he said. “I want to play with the Suns, and I want us to get ourselves back to where we were a year ago, turn that corner, make the Finals and try to win it. At least we could have a fighting chance, and that’s all you can ask for.”

For his part, Frye has posted career highs in scoring (12.6), rebounds (6.6) and blocks (1.0), while drilling the second-highest amount of three-pointers in the NBA over the past two years.

“Channing has improved tremendously on defense and with his rebounding this season,” Gentry said. “He is probably one of the most positive things to come out of this season.”

Not only did Frye take a step forward this season, but so did Gortat, who is receiving consideration for the league’s Most Improved Player. Since coming over in that blockbuster trade with Orlando, Gortat has averaged 12.9 points and 9.3 rebounds a game.

In addition, “The Polish Machine” set the Suns’ franchise record and had an NBA-best 17 double-doubles off the bench. Once moving to the starting lineup, he totaled 23 on the season.

“Having never been a rotation guy, you have to be impressed with what he’s done this season,” Gentry said. “I think it’s been fun to watch his growth as his minutes have increased. I think he wants to be a really good player, and that he wants to win.”

Last but not least is Hill, who became the first Sun to win the Majerle Hustle Award twice in his career on Wednesday. The Suns' co-captain also became one of only six players in NBA history to have averaged at least 13 points at 38 years or older.

If the voting plays out as expected, Hill might also find himself on one the NBA’s All-Defensive Teams. His coach frequently lauds him for versatility, pointing out that he has guarded the 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s of opposing clubs.

“I think the way he played this year may have even exceeded the already high expectations we had for him,” Gentry said. “He’s been really good on the court, and even better off the court in terms of the leadership and constant competitiveness that he brings. You get to coach a player like him once in your life.”

Wish Comes True

Working around sports every day, it’s easy to forget how much it can change someone’s life. But for anyone who saw Jaden Lambert meet his idol Steve Nash earlier in the day, they'll remember.

Lambert, 13-year-old kid from Murray, Utah, has been suffering from Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare disease in which cancer cells are found in the bone or in soft tissue. And it has been his dream to meet his favorite athlete in his favorite sport.

So after shootaround Wednesday, Jaden shuffled down to the Suns’ practice court and was introduced to the Suns’ star point guard. After chatting for a few minutes, Nash escorted Lambert upstairs, giving him an autographed jersey and signing a ball autographed by the entire team.

“He’s cool,” Lambert smiled. “A couple of years ago, I saw how he’s a good leader and a good teammate. He can lead a team and that’s what I like about him.”

It’s obvious that Lambert is an exceptionally smart kid. Despite being from Utah, he’s a huge Suns fan.

He and his mom, Michelle, and her sister, Melissa, all attended the Suns’ season finale.

Playoff Predictions

Although out of the playoffs, Coach Gentry is still keeping a watchful eye on the postseason. After facing everyone at least twice this season, Gentry has developed his opinions on who will capture the NBA Championship this season.

“The Lakers are the team to beat,” Gentry said. “Obviously, whatever is happening with Andrew Bynum’s injury becomes a factor.”

His dark horses to come out of the West are the Thunder and the Trail Blazers. In the East, he likes Chicago, but he feels the Heat are too tough to pick against.

“They live to get to this spot right here,” Gentry said. “It wouldn’t have mattered what they did. They were going to be criticized and scrutinized like no other team ever.

“But now I think they’re in a situation where they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. They can see a championship now. I think what’s going to happen with them is that when they hit a little adversity, how they react to that is going to be key.”

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