NBA PM: Gentry Was Least Of Suns’ Problems
The Phoenix Suns looked like they might just be a playoff team coming into the 2012-13 NBA season. A lot of things had to go right, of course, but there was reason to believe that enough things would go right that they could challenge for a postseason berth even in the wake of Steve Nash’s departure.
Sadly, things have not gone well for the Suns, and the first step in a new direction was taken today. Head coach Alvin Gentry and the Suns agreed to part company today. Gentry posted a record of 158-144 during his time with the team, but they are currently just 13-28 on the season and last in the Western Conference.
Remember, first of all, that it was Gentry who took the team from death’s door as the entire NBA gathered in Phoenix for the All-Star Game in 2009. The team was close to trading Amar’e Stoudemire following the firing of head coach Terry Porter, but Gentry’s impassioned plea kept that squad in tact, if only for a short time. He guided the Suns to a 28-7 record over the rest of the season and took them to the Western Conference Finals the following year.
Since then, however, the team around him has been dismantled piece by piece. Stoudemire was eventually traded anyway, Grant Hill and Nash are gone, as well, and with them any semblance of veteran leadership on the team. Management did bring in a strong combination of Goran Dragic and Luis Scola from Houston, but beyond that the Suns are a strange compilation of mismatched pieces and project players.
There was a reasonable chance that Michael Beasley would see the Suns as his last chance to prove he belongs in the NBA and put together a great season as a result. Instead, he’s averaging just 9.4 points per contest while shooting 37 percent from the field.
Wesley Johnson also showed some promise in the preseason and looked like he might evolve into the player the Minnesota Timberwolves here hoping he would be when they made him a lottery pick, but Johnson fell out of the rotation before the preseason ended and has been little more than a garbage time player this season.
Markieff Morris has taken a step back developmentally, Marcin Gortat has made himself the subject of trade speculation with his talk of not fitting in with the Suns and Jermaine O’Neal looks his age and then some. Then there’s rookie point guard Kendall Marshall, who has been a square peg in a round hole from day one.
In short, the roster moves made by the Suns’ front office have been resounding failures all the way around, and Gentry had all he could stand of the mess.
The job of interim head coach will now likely fall to assistant coach Elston Turner, according to AZ Central‘s Paul Coro. Turner has years of NBA experience, serving as Rick Adelman’s assistant for years in both Sacramento and Houston. It’s also being reported that Lindsey Hunter might be the long-term solution, and he could get tapped as the interim head coach.
Whoever gets the job certainly has their work cut out for them.
Conley: A Trade Would “Hit Us Hard”
Mention the Memphis Grizzlies and most NBA fans will immediately think of Rudy Gay or Zach Randolph. Maybe Marc Gasol. However, the player who keeps the team running is none of those oft-cited names. The NBA is a guard-driven league, and the driving force behind the Grizzlies is point guard Mike Conley.
There was a time when Conley’s future with the team was uncertain, when he was sharing point guard duties with Kyle Lowry, but when the Grizzlies traded Lowry to the Houston Rockets it gave Conley the shot he needed.
“I thought it was a big decision,” Conley tells HOOPSWORLD. “Obviously, me and Kyle were good friends, but one of us had to go, and for them to choose me to be the guy to run the team said a lot. Ever since then I think it’s helped my game just knowing that they were behind me and gave me that vote of confidence to be ‘the guy’ for the team.”
Now Conley has gone from a player whose future as a starter was uncertain to a floor leader capable of pushing his team to new heights. Under his steady leadership the team has become a contender in the Western Conference, and has been at or near the top of the West throughout the 2012-13 season.
“Every year Mike has been in the starting lineup he’s gotten better and better,” Rudy Gay tells HOOPSWORLD. “That’s a tribute to his hard work and what he does off the court and the kind of person he is off the court. He’s kind of been the glue of this team.”
As the glue guy, Conley recognizes the need for someone on the team to bring an edge night in and night out to keep the Grizzlies fighting through the ups and downs of an 82-game season.
“You’ve got a couple guys: you got Tony Allen, you’ve got Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol,” says Conley of the team’s emotional leaders. “You got a slew of guys that just bring a different kind of mentality to a game and can change a game just from the mental standpoint of it. … I think it’s big for us, knowing that we don’t get too high or too low on ourselves regardless of how games are going or if we’re winning or losing. We’ve got the same kind of attitude. We’re still gritty, and going out there and playing hard and being aggressive. That’s our basketball, and that’s the way we win games.”
The Grizzlies made a significant change to the second unit this season when they decided not to bring back sixth-man O.J. Mayo, and Conley admits he was a little worried when he heard about the decision.
“It’s always tough to lose one of your best players, but when O.J. left we knew it would be tough to fill that void,” says Conley. “I thought that management did a good job of bringing guys in that can do it. Wayne Ellington coming in, and Jerryd Bayless, guys like that, that we were able to pickup and have done very well for us so far. Of course we miss O.J., but obviously he’s doing well where he’s at.”
Rudy Gay’s name keeps coming up in the trade rumor mill, but Conley hopes that all the talk is just talk.
“You always want to see the team that you went through training camp with to finish the year with, and this team has been together for so long, it would be tough to see anybody go,” says Conley. “We’re like a family and we spend so much time together over the last few years, so for anybody to go it would definitely hit us all hard.”
Ricky Rubio Wants More
The story of the 2012-13 NBA season has been nothing but one injury after another as far as the Minnesota Timberwolves are concerned. Ricky Rubio started the season the shelf, Kevin Love has appeared in less than half of the team’s games, Brandon Roy lasted just five games, Chase Budinger made it six and even Josh Howard, who was brought in to bridge the injury gap, was lost for the season to an injury.
In the wake of so many injuries, with even head coach Rick Adelman out of action while his wife is in the hospital, there is a modicum of good news for the team. Rubio is back, and while he is far from 100 percent, he is ready to shoulder more of the burden for his ailing squad.
“I felt pretty good,” Rubio told HOOPSWORLD recently. “I think I’m ready to play more minutes. I have to work on my legs because it’s been a long time without working them and I can feel them, they’re not ready, but it’s going to come.”
The Ricky Rubio we’ve seen over the last ten games has hardly been the electrifying player who quickly won the hearts and minds of the Timberwolves’ faithful last season. He was healthy for 41 games of the 2011-12 NBA season and averaged 10.6 points and 8.2 assists per contest. His efficiency rating left something to be desired behind his 36 percent shooting, but he created so many easy baskets for his teammates that it was easy to overlook his own shooting woes.
This year, Rubio looks like a player who simply hasn’t logged NBA minutes for months. His offseason training regimen was spent doing rehab, and he is just now starting to get into NBA shape once again.
“It is frustrating, but that can’t affect me,” said Rubio. “It’s hard when you feel like you’re not 100 percent yet, and you want to do it and your mind is doing it but your legs are not. So we just have to, I just have to keep pushing again and it’s going to come.”
It’s easy to point to the injury and the extended time away from the game as reasons for Rubio’s 22 percent shooting this season, but he is quick to admit that his shot has needed work for some time.
“Yeah, I think, but I’ve been working a lot the last couple of years, and I’m going to keep doing it. It’s been nine months since I was able to practice hard so I’m going to try to do it as it comes,” said Rubio. “It’s hard because the games are on and you need to rest, but I’m going to try to find time to work on my shot.”
With Love now out for what could be another 10-week stretch on the injured list, someone’s going to have to step up and lead the team. It might be a lot to ask of Rubio, given his current condition, but it’s got to be heartening for Timberwolves fans that he is at least up for the challenge.
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