Gentry Faces Practice Conundrum

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
By Stefan Swiat,
Posted: Jan. 27, 2012

When it comes to practice, Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry finds himself stuck in the midst of a Catch-22.

Due to the condensed 66-game schedule, practice time has become a valuable commodity, with very few moments available between games to schedule a full practice. On one hand, Gentry would like to use practice as a way of improving any team weaknesses, but on the other hand, he also doesn’t want to burn his players out.

When the Suns Head Coach does find a day for practice, he doesn’t want to overwork his players, so certain cuts are being made from a normal practice to keep his players fresh. WIthout the luxury of limitless time, the coaching staff is being forced to zero in on the most pressing issues.

“We try to work on what we need to work on most,” Gentry said. “I’m a little frustrated right now because we’re only out there for an hour and a half and that’s it.”

If Gentry had his druthers, he’d add about an extra 45 minutes to the normal practice. But when a game is looming the next day, he can’t justify putting his guys through a hard two-and-a-half hour practice the day before.

“It’s not that we’re any different from any other team,” the Suns Head Coach noted. “All the other teams are facing the same situation.

“But in our case, it’s really imperative that we have time on the court and work on execution and try to get Shannon Brown, Sebastian Telfair and Michael Redd integrated into what we’re trying to do. I think the timing is off with our execution and it hasn’t come together like it has in the past.”

Take this past week as an example. On Monday, the team wrapped up a nine-day, five game road trip in Dallas before flying out late Monday night to play a game in Phoenix on Tuesday.

After a back-to-back set of games and coming off a long trip, the coaching staff were all but forced to give their players a day off to recuperate. After an off-day Wednesday, the Suns held a full practice Thursday before flying to Portland for their game against the Blazers on Friday.

After that game concludes, the team will fly back to Phoenix late Friday night so it can prepare for its game against Memphis on Saturday night. So in an entire week, Gentry and his staff only had one practice to make any sort of adjustments.

“We don’t have the practice time to go through what you need to go through from an execution standpoint,” Gentry said.

In order to optimize practice, the coaching staff has had to minimize the amount of time allotted to play sets, defensive rotations and 5-on-5 scrimmaging. With Steve Nash turning 38 years-old within the month and Grant Hill already 39, Gentry is trying to monitor their practice time, as well.

In lieu of practice, the coaching staff has remained steadfast in scheduling film sessions and pregame walk-throughs to make the players aware of their mistakes and to scout the upcoming opponent. But when it comes to improving team deficiencies, walk-throughs just don’t do the job like practice can.

With that being said, Gentry is not going to make any excuses.

“We’re just in a tough situation here but we have to find a way to work ourselves out of it,” Gentry said. “No one is going to feel sorry for us and they shouldn’t.

“And I don’t want them to. The only way you work yourself out of this is to continue to play hard, play better and make shots.”

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