Postgame Central: Suns vs.Hornets - December 26, 2011
Box Score & Stats
41The number of double-doubles that Steve Nash registered last year. Nash starts this season with a double-double as he netted 14 points to go with 12 assists in Monday's loss.
Suns Drop Opener, But Show Promise
By Jeramie McPeek
�A work in progress.�
Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry used that phrase twice in his postgame press conference Monday night, once to describe his team, following an 85-84 loss to the New Orleans Hornets, and once to describe his rookie Markieff Morris.
The 6-10, 245-pound power forward, who was the 13th pick in the draft out of Kansas last June, impressed teammates and fans alike in his NBA debut. Although he missed a curling Steve Nash with a pass on the final play of the game, Morris made his presences felt with a team-high nine boards, seven points, two steals and two blocks in 24 minutes off the bench.
�He�s going to have good plays and he�s going to have plays where he struggles, but I think you can see he�s going to be a pretty good player,� said Gentry of the 22-year-old. �He has a comfort level out there, that he belongs. I think he�ll get better at things and continue to improve.�
Nash, who only vaguely remembers his own rookie debut � �It was decades ago,� he joked � was quick to put his arm around the rookie once the buzzer sounded following the broken play.
�I just told him that it�s a tough play and we haven�t really played together,� Nash told reporters in the Suns� locker room. �I said, it�s as much my fault as it is yours. Not to worry about it� He made a pretty decent pass, we just had our signals crossed a little bit.
�I thought Keef played great. He did a really nice job. He brought a lot of energy, he�s physical, he rebounded and made some shots, and he hustled.�
Long time Suns fans might remember the nickname �Schleine,� given to the short-lived tag team of Danny Schayes and Joe Kleine, who split time at center during the 1994-95 season.
If game one of the 2011-12 season is any indication of things to come, the Suns might once again have a two-headed monster in the middle. The question is, do we call it �Gopez� or �Lotat?�
The pivot pairing of Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez combined for 34 points and 12 boards in the Suns� loss to New Orleans. �That�s pretty doggone good,� said Gentry, as he looked over the box score.
Gortat, who suffered a broken thumb in his shooting hand at Denver last Tuesday, started in the season opener Monday night, and played well, despite the discomfort from his bandaged digit.
�It was uncomfortable to play with that tape on my finger,� said the 6-11 center from Poland. �I had some positions, where the ball just bounced off of my finger and I missed a rebound, I missed an easy layup� But I�m going to play through it. It�s not going to go away in two or three days. I�ve got to play through it for the next few weeks.�
Thankfully for Coach Gentry, the Suns appear to have a second strong option at center in Lopez, who scored a team-high 21 points, more than any game last season. Although he didn�t discuss it often or make excuses last season, the fourth-year center struggled throughout his 2010-11 campaign to come back from a bulging disk in his lower back.
�I think that�s a major part of it,� said Gentry of the difference between this year and last. �I think that he is actually healthy now. You know, he lost eight inches in his vertical leap (last season) and he�s got almost all of that back. So I just think he�s in a much better place than he was, and I think mentally, he�s been really focused and locked in on what we�re trying to do.�