With nine new faces on the roster heading into the 2012-2013 season, Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said he would not be afraid to go off of feel in late-game situations, rather than playing traditional rotations.
Through nine games, the veteran coach has more than kept his word.
In the Suns’ 112-106 loss to the Chicago Bulls in overtime Wednesday night, Gentry relied on four players off his bench — Sebastian Telfair, P.J. Tucker, Shannon Brown and Markieff Morris– along with a combination of Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola down the stretch.
And while Phoenix’s valiant comeback effort was thwarted in the extra period against Chicago, Gentry has not shied away from the unconventional.
In Monday night’s win over the Nuggets, Gentry looked to a completely different set of players, as Michael Beasley, Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley and Markieff Morris paced the Suns to victory in the waning moments.
During their 4-5 start this season, the Suns have not closed out a fourth quarter with the same five-man unit in consecutive games.
It begs the question: can Gentry’s mixing and matching be sustainable across an entire 82-game season?
“It’s actually very sustainable, because it’s upfront and honest,” Suns radio analyst Tim Kempton told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Thursday. “It’s visible, you can see it. What more do you want from him? He’s not playing games with them, he’s not talking behind their backs.”
Although the Suns have received huge individual performances off the pine late in games this season — whether it be from Brown’s three-point shooting, Tucker’s energy on the glass or Telfair’s ability to space the floor — Phoenix has still made a poignant effort to find a closer, but consistency has been lacking in that department.
As a former player, Kempton said Gentry should be respected by his team for the job he is doing in the fourth quarter of games, not vilified for it. Without a closing lineup set in stone, Phoenix’s coach has chosen to give playing time based on merit and merit alone.
“From a player’s standpoint, I would love [what Gentry’s doing],” said Kempton. “Hey, if he’s giving me a chance, all I have to do is bust my butt, and I am making my time.