Welcome to the starting lineup, Dudley. Make us proud. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
I'm not sure if the starting lineup shakeup was prompted by the fact that the Suns lost to New Orleans on Friday, keeping the Suns three games away from the eight seed with just eleven games to go, or if Gentry has just grown tired of the lack of production from the aforementioned starters. I'm not sold on the fact that the Suns are completely out of the playoffs yet, but at this point, I would almost prefer it. Robin Lopez isn't 100%, Vince Carter has been rendered almost completely ineffective essentially since he scored his 20,000th point, and this team does not strike fear into the hearts of almost any NBA teams.
I understand the benefits of making the playoffs, both for the fans and for the franchise, but at this point, the Phoenix Suns have to wonder if it's worth it to push their aching joints and old bones over the hump, just to make it as an eight seed. With tonight's game against the long-locked in Dallas Mavericks, we'll find out which route the Suns are going to take.
In recent years, the Phoenix Suns have never been a pushover team. Sure, they might not have the size to bang with the Los Angeles Lakers or the depth to handle some of the younger, more talented playoff teams, but when healthy, they have hung in almost every game. This is the prime reason there is so much mystery surrounding just what this team intends to do for the final eleven games.
If there's a lockout next season, do Steve Nash and Grant Hill retire? If so, is this their last hurrah as they ride into the sunset? If there's no lockout next season and the Suns miss the playoffs, do they try to get whatever juice Steve Nash has left in the tank (which is a lot) or do they retool, using their lottery pick as hope for the future? Or, do the Phoenix Suns do what they've done all season - dig deep, scratch and claw for a chance at victory?
While those scenarios are all thoughts for another day, we will get a good look at what the Suns intend to do in the closing stretch of the season with tonight's game against the Mavericks.
The Dallas Mavericks officially locked up a playoff seed long ago, and they currently sit at third in the Western Conference, six games back from first and one game back from the second seeded Los Angeles Lakers. We will more than likely see limited minutes from players like Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, two players invaluable to the success of the team who need to be fresh for the playoffs.
If that is the case, that leaves the door wide open for players such as Jason Terry and JJ Barea, two players who seem to put up big numbers against the Suns. We'll also likely see more Shawn Marion, who even in his aged state, is the type of defensive, rebounding player that can do damage against the Suns.
Add in the fact that the Mavericks are nearly just as good on the road (25-10) as they are at home (27-11) who has beaten us both times they've faced us, and we're looking at what could be a wire to wire victory for the Mavs.
- Marcin Gortat will be starting in place of Robin Lopez, despite the fact that he has a broken nose. He has opted to wear tape on it instead of a plastic protective mask.
- Caron Butler (ruptured patella tendon) and Dominique Jones (foot stress fracture) are both out for the Mavericks.
- As Seth covered recently, Robin Lopez still has not fully recovered from the back injury he suffered near the end of last season. Couple that with being demoted as a starter (not that he was playing much anyway), and we will likely see a bit less of the ailing big man. Let's hope the rest and bench play will be a good thing for what has been a disappointing season for the third year player.