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Gentry Says Nash Will Play Off The Ball ... But Not Too Much

When the Suns traded for Hidayet "Hedo" Turkoglu this summer, one of the first things we heard about was the pressure he was going to take off Steve Nash. Steve would be free now to play off the ball and use his fantastic shooting skills to drain threes while limiting the wear-and-tear on his aging body.

Not so fast.

Today at Suns' media day Coach, Gentry walked that back. I am sure he's had a chance to speak more with Mr. Nash and perhaps as a result, we are seeing a slight adjustment in the "Hedo as facilitator" storyline.

"I'm saying there are certain situations where (Nash) needs a break when he's handled the ball fifteen straight times or something. I think that's when Hedo or Goran and even J-Rich -- I think J-Rich sometimes can be somewhat of a facilitator," Gentry said.

Coach Gentry even joked about having Nash on the ball 92 percent of the time instead of 95 percent before chiding at least one writer (not me) to avoid using those specific percentages.

Semantics and percentages aside, Gentry, when given the opportunity, was quick to play up Nash's role and value as the team's point guard and downplay Hedo's role running the team.

"The problem that we have when we're talking about Steve having the ball less is that you're talking about really, in my opinion, the best point guard in the league. For the way we play, I wouldn't trade him for anyone," Gentry said.

"So to take him off the ball for an extended period of time doesn't seem like a wise thing to me. But there's going to be certain situations that we're going to ask him to become a shooter because he's also one of the best shooters in the NBA."

Gentry, for now, sees Hedo's role as similar to that of Boris Diaw when he was with the Suns. Hedo will get the ball in elbow isolations (as Amare often did) and but only occasionally on pick and rolls.

Turkoglu was most effective in Orlando when he was running the pick and roll and facilitating most of that team's offense. Will he be satisfied only getting limited chances to run the show?

Alvin Gentry is not a "My way or the highway" type of coach. He wants to try and keep his players -- especially his star players -- happy. Gentry doesn't force his will on guys as much as cajole them and push the guys who respond to being pushed and pull back from the guys who don't.

In both Nash and Turkoglu, he has two mature, strong-willed players who won't respond well to force. Keeping them both happy won't be easy.

The Nash/Hedo balance will be a big point of emphasis going into the season, with both guys wanting and needing the ball to be most effective. Turkoglu's primary gripe in Toronto was that he was being misused and not given the opportunity to facilitate the offense. 

Gentry implied that Hedo will be used in more of a primary ball handler role when Nash is off the court, but that will also eat into Goran Dragic's time and effectiveness at the point. 

And of course there's a question how much Nash will rest at all and he certainly didn't give any indication that he's ready to cut back his playing time.

"I feel great. I'm in as good as shape as I've ever been in. I don't feel like age is a factor, but I have to go out and prove that every night, though," Nash, who turns 36 in February, said.

The Suns strength headed into this season is their depth and versatility, but it has the potential to backfire as well if Gentry and Nash as the team's leaders aren't able to keep everyone (and themselves) on the same page. The hope is that the the Suns' vaunted chemistry will see them through the hard times.

"I think we should have great chemistry. We have great guys," Nash said. "We have unselfish guys that I think 'get it' and understand what it takes to be a good player and a good teammate and how important that is. I expect our chemistry to be one of our strengths."

Is Hedo Turkoglu really one of those guys and is he willing to sacrifice his game for Nash?