Lindsey Hunter is in a tough spot right now. Photo Credit: Michael Dunlap, HoopsHabit.com
The Phoenix Suns and coach Lindsey Hunter are in a very difficult place right now. On one hand, they have a lot of personal pride and want to win every single night. On the other hand, they can’t make the playoffs and only benefit from sliding down the standings, in the form of a better chance to lock up the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
So what do they do?
First off, it’s not fair to the fans or to the integrity of the game to simply “tank”. For those unfamiliar with that term, “tanking” is the process of intentionally losing games so that a team can have a better shot at getting the top lottery spot in the upcoming draft.
The landscape of sports has greatly changed over the years and because of that, fans don’t go to games to unconditionally root for their teams. In this new world of free agency, where a player staying with an organization for his whole career is a rarity, we as fans tend to root for our favorite players.
If you’re a huge Goran Dragic fan who bought tickets to see him play recently, you probably left the arena disappointed the last two games. It’s one thing for a player to be hurt, it’s another altogether to be a healthy scratch. But, that’s what happened.
The Suns official response to those questioning sitting Dragic was that they needed to see how Kendall Marshall and Diante Garrett would handle a greater workload. There’s a lot of merit to that, as the Suns do need to evaluate their roster and decide who will come back next year.
Coach Hunter talked about Marshall’s last two starts:
"“He has to be put in situations that he’s uncomfortable in. That way we can see how he handles it. It’s good for him. He might not look at it that way, but we do.”"
Still, for those fans who didn’t get to see their favorite player, it’s hard to explain the bigger picture. The Suns want to win and everything they do is geared towards winning. On the surface, sitting Dragic while he’s healthy (and extremely hot) is a travesty. But, we need to look at that big picture.
By sitting Dragic, a few things happened. First, the coaching staff got to take a good look at Marshall and Garrett. Second, the Suns ended up “improving” their spot in the lottery.
Jermaine O’Neal A Gametime Decision
After playing an ineffective 15 minutes against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, O’Neal talked about how he should have listened to his body (which was telling him to sit). He participated in shootaround today, but will be a gametime decision for tonight’s matchup against the Indiana Pacers. The Suns do really need him, with Roy Hibbert manning the paint for the Pacers.
Marcin Gortat Nowhere Close To Ready
When asked if Gortat would be returning anytime soon, coach Hunter chuckled and quipped:
"“He can’t even walk straight, much less run. I don’t think he’ll be back anytime soon.”"
Even though the Suns are woefully thin up front right now, the smart money is on Gortat shutting it down for the year. The guy is a warrior and doesn’t want to “officially” state he’s done for the season, but watching him limp badly isn’t a good sign for those expecting to see him back in action this season.
Turning Negatives Into Positives
It’s been a rough season for the Suns, one that’s seen a coaching change, multiple trades and a plethora of injuries. Coach Hunter wants his players to see the silver lining amongst those dark clouds that currently hang over the organization.
"“It’s about opportunity for me. The guys can look at it and feel bad for themselves, but I want them to see that it’s their opportunity to get in there and play. The guys who take that opportunity are the ones I want here.”"
The Suns face the Pacers tonight at US Airways Center at 7pm.