If a player isn’t playing well, or at the very least, playing to the liking of head coach Alvin Gentry, he will find himself on the bench. It doesn’t matter who it is.
It’s only been one game, but already Gentry has displayed the way he is going to coach the Phoenix Suns this season.
“We’ve always been that way here,” Gentry said after his team’s 87-85 loss to the Golden State Warriors Wednesday. “When guys are going good, they stay in the game.”
In the past, once a game hit a crucial point, there were players that would have to be on the floor: Steve Nash, Grant Hill and even Amar’e Stoudemire.
The argument can be made that Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and Michael Beasley, the core of this Suns team, should absolutely be on the floor in crunch time.
Gentry doesn’t think so.
The fifth-year Suns head coach proved that no one is safe from the bench when he sat down Beasley, the player expected by many to be the man this season, for the entire fourth quarter. Even when the game was on the line and a three-pointer would have won the game, Beasley, arguably the best perimeter shooter on the roster, was on the bench.
In just over 22 minutes of play, Beasley shot 2-of-9 from the field and had eight points, but he had a +/- of -6. The small forward had success early in the game going to the rim, but settled for some long jump shots and couldn’t seem to find the bottom of the net on any of them. He just wasn’t bringing the energy that Gentry needed on the floor.
Enter P.J. Tucker.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pounder who last played in an NBA game for the Raptors in the 2006-07 season, came into the game and brought energy, hustle and even points.
In 23 minutes of play, Tucker went 5-of-9 from the field for 10 points, with a +/- of +5.
However, it wasn’t the points that kept Tucker in the game, it was his intangibles.
“P.J. Tucker did a great job,” said Gentry. “I think [Tucker] is going to be the kind of defensive guy that can guard multiple positions.”
According to Gentry, the former Texas Longhorn played great defense on Klay Thompson, one of the Warriors’ key offensive weapons. Tucker also ran the fast break and generated two turnovers with a block and a steal.
If this opening night shake-up proves anything, it is that Suns fans shouldn’t expect any player to be handed playing time this season. The coaching staff is going to ride the hot hand, regardless of whom that puts on the bench.