The Phoenix Suns have a chance to begin their ascension from the ashes this summer. With one lottery pick safely earned among the top five and another still possible — unless Kobe Bryant is intent on dragging the Los Angeles Lakers’ lifeless carcass to the postseason for a public funeral at the hands of San Antonio or Oklahoma City — the first seeds for resurgence are at hand.
But if the final 40 games of this season have done anything — and this is the only thing they have done — they have proved that Lindsey Hunter is not the man to coach the Suns back to competitive status.
After watching Hunter for 40 games, there is very little to differentiate him from Terry Porter, the last great coaching mistake of the Robert Sarver era. The Suns are 11-27 since Hunter took over, and while I’m not sure if Phil Jackson could get this team much closer to .500, it’s not so much what the Suns are doing but the way they are doing it.
The Suns aren’t just losing, they are being embarrassed. They’ve lost by 20 points or more nine times. The offense takes, quarters, halves and sometimes entire nights off. They’ve shot 61 percent — for the entire game — and lost. They’ve lost on a goaltending call on a 3-point shot at the buzzer. They’ve also scored less than 70 points. These are things that happen once in a blue moon, league-wide, but the Suns have crammed them all into a three-month period.
While comments from Michael Beasley that he has stopped listening to his coaches can be chalked up to just the latest in a long series of head-shaking statements by the team’s resident head case, when Luis Scola admits that the team has no direction and simply aren’t being taught the simple basics of effective basketball, it’s time to change course before permanent damage is done.
Yes, losing Marcin Gortat hurts a lot. But that doesn’t explain everything. There are moments such as calling a guy like Marcus Morris a cornerstone one week and benching him the next; complimenting Beasley for his attentiveness on the court, as if it’s a step forward for player in his fifth year and on his third NBA team.
Goran Dragic continues to thrive. But Dragic — who, with all due respect to journeyman P.J. Tucker, was flat-out robbed of this year’s Dan Majerle Hustle Award — would run through a wall for anyone. That’s his DNA. Had the Suns hired Rachel Hunter as their head coach, he’d find a way to put up a double-double in six-inch heels.
The rest of the Suns are either running in place in development or have regressed. If the organization truly feels they have the foundation for a winning team on this roster — and that is certainly up for debate — they need a coaching staff that has the respect and ear of that nucleus.
Nice to see Carlos Quentin is still out there helping the Diamondbacks.
So in the wake of Thursday’s “brawl” between the Dodgers and Padres that left big-money pitcher Zack Greinke with a broken collarbone and Quentin with an even worse reputation than he had, now we can all look forward to several days of hype leading up to the Padres-Dodgers rematch in Los Angeles this coming week, where absolutely nothing will happen.
Baseball scores like this are never settled when everyone, including the league office, is watching. These two teams play 18 times a year and justice will be served on down the road, when all the memo warnings against retaliation have mellowed and Quentin naturally re-assumes his stance in the middle of the strike zone.
In the meantime, I might suggest shoulder pads for the Padres starting rotation.
Quentin has been hit 92 times in his career. If Greinke has a vendetta against him, there is a long list of brethren who feel the same way. Or maybe, Carlos, you are asking for it.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.