PHOENIX — Count Lindsey Hunter among those not hoping his team “wins” in June by losing in March or April.
While most fans in the Valley might not object to Hunter resting his key players over the final few weeks of the 2012-13 season in order to ensure the best possible lottery position, the Phoenix Suns interim head coach has more on his mind than ping pong balls, like say his job.
“I can’t control any of the perception of what people think about the ping pong ball situation, resting guys or not playing guys, whatever,” Hunter said Saturday. “The fact that I’m the interim coach is what it is. If I’m blessed enough to get the job next year, then I carry on. If not, then I move on.”
Hunter is well aware of the Suns’ standing in the Western Conference (23-51), their current six-game losing streak and the nightly battle he’s had to wage in an effort to motivate his team to play with consistent energy at both ends of the floor.
The former veteran point guard understands that job security in his profession is ultimately based on wins and losses, though he admitted that he hasn’t exactly taken the time to evaluate his own progress over the past few months.
For him the goal until April 17 is a simple one: keep fighting.
“I hate losing, and I’m sick to my stomach every night we do,” said Hunter. “But I digest it, look at the film at home and get over it. And I come back the next day with the same fight.
“I wasn’t raised to lay down for anything, and I never do that. So until my time is over, I’ll fight, that’s what I do.”
When Hunter inherited Alvin Gentry’s old job on January 20, it was clear his situation would be less than ideal.
Phoenix certainly had talented, veteran guys he could work (Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and Jared Dudley) with. However, the task of channeling their hustle and energy, while still looking to develop the unknown (Kendall Marshall, Michael Beasley, Markieff Morris and Wesley Johnson) has been an uphill climb, to say the least.
After Saturday night’s 112-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Hunter sits at 10-23 as the interim head coach and the Suns appear to be crawling their way to end of the regular season.
For a man who made his living in the league scrapping, clawing and finding new ways to stay relevant for 17 years, don’t expect Hunter to take the team’s final eight games lightly. They might be the final eight games of his tenure in the Valley, then again they might not. Either way, he plans to get the most out of his team, win, lose or draw.
“This is what it’s about,” said Hunter. “At this point you are playing for not only your own pride, but your career. You still have a lot to prove. I think in this league if you look at it that way and you want to get better then you go out and you prove it.
“Guys aren’t able to just flip the switch and say ‘I won’t play.’ It starts now. It always starts when you have a chance to improve.”
So again, count Lindsey Hunter among those not concerned with the Suns’ summer plans just yet. After all, his future is very much tied to the present.