Coach Alvin Gentry is signaling another round of lineup changes for the Suns. Fair enough. They’re 7-13, have lost five in a row, including to the Pistons (by 40!) and Raptors, Gentry is searching for anything close to a good fit after a summer roster renovation, and this season in Phoenix is for developing rather than the playoffs. So search away.
But a possible demotion for Marcin Gortat? Now we’re talking signs of trouble.
Gortat was the biggest certainty of the entire roster at the start of camp, a double-double man in 2011-12 in his first full season there, one of the underrated centers of the game, a sign of consistency on a team slowly moving forward without Steve Nash and Grant Hill. Gortat and Luis Scola, one of the main newcomers, were supposed to be the tandem of veteran bigs who would keep the transitioning Suns in telescope range of respectability. Among several looming problems in Phoenix, center wasn’t one of them.
Except there was Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic noting Friday that Gortat was a candidate to be pulled from the starting lineup along with small forward Michael Beasley, an obvious choice at 37.4 percent from the field. If so, this goes well beyond the planned hunting for the right lineup combination.
But, wrote Coro:
Lineup moves might not be isolated to the Beasley situation. After a sensational start, Gortat’s play has dropped off drastically to the point that veteran Jermaine O’Neal went from rotation fringe to a departure from the team for his aunt’s death to playing crunch-time minutes instead of Gortat. Against Dallas, Gortat made an alleyoop on the Suns’ first play and then missed all seven of his other shots. The Suns rallied without a center (Jermaine O’Neal after taking an eye poke), as Luis Scola and Markieff Morris teamed for 28 points and 26 rebounds.
Gentry already made one set of moves earlier, putting Morris in for Scola at power forward and Shannon Brown for Jared Dudley at shooting guard. Now Gortat is at 11.3 points and 8.2 rebounds in 31.1 minutes, while shooting 52.2 percent, and the Suns are looking at the possibility of turning over the entire front court before the season is a quarter old.
Gentry is saying, according to the Republic, that it is “more than likely” Beasley will be going to the bench, as soon as Saturday against the Clippers and probably in favor of P.J. Tucker, if Tucker is ready after spraining his right knee Thursday. If an accompanying switch comes at center, the options are not as clear. The Suns could go with O’Neal or try to keep playing small with the Scola-Morris pairing that worked well the last game.