Coach Gentry closed the normal team huddle at the end of practice with a quote from the poem Invictus:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
His point which he reiterated to the media was clear, "We still hold our own destiny in our hands. We don't have to ask for anybody to help us or anything like that. It's totally up to us right now."
The Suns did lose a game in the standings to the Thunder during this 5-day hiatus but with 17 games left and a favorable schedule the point is clear: it doesn't matter what the other teams in the West do as long as the Phoenix Suns keep playing good basketball.
At the beginning of the season Grant Hill talked about how the Suns only need to make marginal improvements on the defensive end to achieve "good enough" status. With the Suns offensive prowess, he felt that a middle of the pack defense would make this team dangerous.
Since the current win streak (14-4) started with the win over Dallas on January 28th, the Suns defensive efficiency rating has improved to 105.9 which is good for about 17th in the league (for the season as a whole the Suns are at 107.7, 25th). Since the all-star break teams are only shooting 41.5% against the Suns in the second half of games and 8 times in the last 12 games the Suns have held opponents to under 100 points compared to 10 times in the previous 53 games.
There's no denying the improvement.
Grant Hill said that the while the team started the season playing good defense at some point after blowing a few big leads they lost confidence in the ability to get stops.The defense during that 30 game stretch in December and January was giving up 111.2 points per 100 possessions which is by far the worst in the league.
The turning point was the home loss to the Charlotte Bobcats in late January, "Really it was after that Charlotte game we watched film and the coaches were really passionate and talked about what we needed to do defensively and really since then coming out the next game against Dallas at home and winning with our defense effort and then going on that road trip before the all-star break really helped. Our confidence is up. Robin is in the starting line-up but we're just doing the little tings. We're competing, we're fighting and our rebounding has improved."
Healthy Steve, Happy Steve
Steve Nash was in really good spirits today. It was pretty obvious on his face that his mood was improved and the best I've seen in awhile. I asked him about that, "My mood? Yeah, you know I think just to be back on the court. It's tough when you can't get out there and you can't do what you want to do, it's depressing and you have to fight that everyday. Just the fact that I got to get out there and practice a little bit with the guys and I got through it is definitely a weight off my shoulders."
But with every good thing there has to be a down side. Right? That's rule somewhere I think.
The Coach and both Nash and Hill complained that having 5 days off in the middle of the season wasn't optimal and they seemed to be setting everyone up for a let down on Friday due to "lack of timing and rhythm". You just can't win with those schedule-makers.
Dragic practiced today and said that his ankle is about 85% and still a bit stiff and sore but said that's normal. He expects that once he gets out on the court tomorrow it won't bother him at all.
I didn't talk to LB but he was practicing and coach said he should be good. Reading between the lines though, I would think that Leandro won't play much. Jason had some dental work done this week and had back spasms a few days ago but he's fine.
Grant is in tip top form and seemed genuinely miffed about the extended time off. He wants to play.
[Note by Seth Pollack, 03/11/10 3:46 PM MST ]
While we are talking to Coach, Bob Young grabbed LB who said this:
Phoenix Suns' guard Leandro Barbosa says he's not ready for Lakers game
"No, I'm going to wait," he said. "I don't know how many games. I'm not strong yet with the (right) hand. It's still a little bit weak. I can't pass the way I want to pass. Hopefully I'll be back soon. I'm excited and wanted to play, but I want to make sure I get back right."
Seems like there's a little disconnect because Gentry was saying the LB was good-to-go right at the same time as Leandro was telling Bob that he wasn't ready. LB is a guy who needs to be 100% to contribute anyway so it's not a huge loss. And who knows, he might end up changing his time tomorrow.
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Leandro Barbosa's return to squeeze Phoenix Suns backcourt
"LB has won a lot of games for us," coach Alvin Gentry said. "He's been a heck of a player and a game changer. We have to find out if he still has that ability." So Gentry isn't sure yet how the rotation will fall out. "I'm going to have to kind of think about that a little bit," he said. "The problem we're going to have, with J-Rich playing at the level he is and Grant Hill playing the level he is, and obviously Steve is going to be out there. So somebody is going to get squeezed for minutes.
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