As frustrated as fans of the Phoenix Suns might be -- and they are, as evidenced by comments in the Bright Side of the Sun game thread -- the coach and players are equally flummoxed. Unlike the fans, however, the team has to find some way to put a bad game, or series of bad games, behind them and stay positive and confident. Otherwise, what looks like a bad season will certainly become even worse. It's not an easy task.
"I would say we're not the most confident team right now," Coach Alvin Gentry said.
"I think what we're doing right now is that we're at the dike and we're plugging up one hole and there's another one that comes up and we've got to get the water stopped from coming at all."
Gentry is dealing with a myriad of problems that range from rebounding to defense to a lack of a go-to scoring option. Despite all that and a bag of losses to the Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Sacramento Kings -- who have a combined .306 winning percentage -- there's no choice but to try and stay positive.
"The thing is, we can't get too down. We've worked extremely hard the last four or five days. Ultimately, you're judged by wins and losses and we didn't get the win, but there were some positives and we've just got to -- one of the things we talked about last week -- we commit to trying to get better at playing defense and doing the things. We can't get discouraged," Grant Hill said after today's long and spirited practice.
One of the positives has been an marked improvement on the defensive end.
Since giving up 123 points at home to the 76ers, the Suns simplified their defensive scheme and shortened their rotation to take minutes away from players who weren't getting it done on that end of the floor. As a result, the Suns have had their two best defensive performances of the season, holding Detroit and Sacramento to a combined 38.75 percent shooting.
But as Coach Gentry said, the only thing that matters is getting the wins and "moral victories" don't show up in the win/loss column. In Sunday's loss to the Sacramento Kings, Gentry cited the need to play the full 48 minutes, avoid late game defensive breakdowns, and focus on offensive execution.
Overall, Gentry was pleased with the way the team played up until the final five minutes, where the Suns gave up a 19-2 run and blew a 12-point lead. He specifically cited defensive mistakes that allowed Omri Casspi to get open for two threes and failure to box out Francisco Garcia.
"Garcia, we didn't box out and he got two offensive rebounds. Casspi, you know the one thing on the scouting report that we said about is you can never ever be far enough that he can catch it and shoot it. We had two breakdowns in the last couple of minutes where he made two threes," Gentry said without naming Vince Carter, who was responsible for those mistakes according to this break down of the game.
Those are easily correctable mistakes according to Gentry, and the bottom line is they can't afford to keep losing games that are considered winnable. At the same time, there's a lot of season left.
"We went through a tough time last year. We were 12-18 over a 30 game stretch and some kind of way, we found a way to right the ship and we've got to do the same thing this year," Gentry said, trying to invoke some precedent for a potential turnaround to what's shaping up to be a disappointing season for a team that already had low expectations.