Posts Tagged ‘Alvin Gentry’

Beasley Will Walk Thin Line With New Suns

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Ryan McDonough, the 33-year-old rookie general manager of the Phoenix Suns has been on the job for some 80 days and already he’s showing some moxie.

Since drawing some blank stares as if his pick of Maryland big man Alex Len at No. 5 was a desert mirage while Kentucky 7-foot center Nerlens Noel, long projected to go No. 1, or Kansas scoring guard Ben McLemore stood in plain view, McDonough has now begun to rattle the thin roster he inherited.

He turned solid, if unspectacular, guard-forward Jared Dudley and a second-round draft pick into potential All-Star-quality guard Eric Bledsoe and veteran forward Caron Butler. Now, McDonough is on the verge of unloading fast-declining forward Luis Scola, an ill-fit in new coach Jeff Hornacek‘s favored up-tempo offense, in a trade with Indiana that will reportedly net lanky and athletic journeyman Gerald Green and project center Miles Plumlee, plus a lottery-protected first-round pick.

Not that those trades will launch the Suns into playoff contention, but the additions fill two key areas on McDonough’s list as he remakes the roster: athleticism and a fundamental work ethic. Which delivers us to the doorstep of the one player on the roster [note: my speculation only] McDonough would love to jettison if only he could: Michael Beasley.

Asked during the Las Vegas Summer League if he believes the always tantalizing, but troublesome 6-9, 235-pound power forward can be a positive force during this important transitional season, McDonough answered with a team-wide message — one that should resonate loudest between Beasley’s ears.

“I guess what I’ll say generally about that is we’re going to treat everybody the same,” McDonough said. “There won’t be any special treatment for anybody on the roster and as Jeff [Hornacek] and I told all the guys coming in, we don’t care how much money you’re making, where you were drafted, how long you’ve been in the league, what, if anything, you’ve been promised in the past. We’re going into this as an open competition, and when training camp comes, guys who buy in and play the right way and play hard will play, and those who don’t, won’t.”

In a league brimming with bright, young talent, Beasley, 24, has been far more raging headache than headstrong virtually since the day the Miami Heat drafted him second overall in 2008. Last summer, inexplicably, the gracious Suns, Beasley’s third team, handed him a three-year, $18 million deal. Still, Beasley ignored the cue that this was his big shot at a second chance, an opportunity to turn around his selfish and tiresome act, as well as his floundering career.

Former Suns coach Alvin Gentry benched the unproductive Beasley last season in fourth quarters as early as December, and finally stripped him of his starting job. Following the fired Gentry, interim coach Lindsey Hunter had no answers for Beasley’s inattention to defense or just about anything else.

Imagine if the Chicago Bulls had selected Beasley No. 1 over Derrick Rose? The Heat at No. 2 could have drafted No. 4 Russell Westbrook, No. 5 Kevin Love, No. 6 Danilo Gallinari, No. 7 Eric Gordon or No. 10 Brook Lopez.

If Beasley doesn’t answer this wake-up call, he won’t be afforded another chance. He is fortunate the NBA is not the non-guaranteed-contract world of the NFL, where a player can be cut and his contract flushed in a moment’s notice. It’s the only reason he has a job today.

Beasley averaged career lows across the board last season. His poor play and worse attitude drained a club that was already outmanned on most nights. But it’s not just on the court that Beasley will be expected to reform. His inability to stay out of hot water off remains troublesome. In May, police were investigating Beasley in connection with a report of sexual assault at his home.

The 2013-14 Suns will need a lot to come together fast to contend for the eighth seed. But under Hornacek’s guidance and with blue-collar players like P.J. Tucker along with twins Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris — all three of whom played on the Suns’ summer-league squad — and the additions of the up-and-coming Bledsoe and a tough-minded, respected veteran like Butler, Phoenix will play hard.

Beasley will either take this last, flashing-neon-sign-of-a-hint that his career is on the line, or, as McDonough said, he won’t.

Report: Grizzlies Pick Joerger As Coach

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The coaching vacancies in the NBA are suddenly filling up fast. Hours after the Denver Nuggets tabbed Brian Shaw as their new coach and the Los Angeles Clippers pried Doc Rivers away from the Boston Celtics with a future first-round Draft pick, the Memphis Grizzlies found their man as well.

They have elevated former assistant Dave Joerger to become their new coach, according to ESPN.com. Joerger takes over for his former boss, Lionel Hollins, who could be at the top of the list to replace Rivers in Boston. The Grizzlies zeroing in on Joerger, however, is a move that has been rumored for weeks:

Joerger, who has spent the past six seasons on the Grizzlies’ bench, will succeed his former boss, Lionel Hollins. Hollins compiled a 196-155 record after taking over for Marc Iavaroni midway through the 2008-09 season.

The 39-year-old Joerger emerged as a favorite for the position after Grizzlies management granted Hollins permission to seek other coaching opportunities. Before turning to their longtime assistant, the Grizzlies formally interviewed former Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry and Chicago Bulls assistant Ed Pinckney for the post, and also entertained the idea of bringing on high-profile names such as former Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl.

Prior to the 2010-11 season, Joerger was tasked by Hollins to oversee the Grizzlies’ defense, which was ranked 25th in efficiency in 2009-10. In the three seasons under Joerger’s direction, the defense has improved from ninth overall in 2010-11, to seventh in 2011-12, then ranked second in the NBA during the Grizzlies’ historic 2012-13 season.

Before arriving in Memphis, Joerger coached in the International Basketball Association, the Continental Basketball Association and the D-League, where he won five titles in seven seasons as a head coach.

The fact that the Grizzlies passed on several more high-profile names, most notably Karl, the reigning NBA Coach of the Year, says something about the confidence the front office has in Joerger’s potential.

He’s taking over a team that improved dramatically in each of the past five seasons. They reached the Western Conference finals this season, where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

Hollins made it clear that he wanted to sign a new contract to continue coaching in Memphis, but a division between his style and philosophy and that of the analytics-focused front office did not mesh and Hollins was not offered a new deal.

Now we’ll see what Joerger, who is plenty familiar with the Grizzlies’ colorful roster, can do with this group that Hollins could not.

Report: Clippers Targeting Pacers’ Shaw



MIAMI – The Los Angeles Clippers might have solution to whatever problems have been created with prized point guard Chris Paul recently.

Former Lakers and current Indiana Pacers’ assistant Brian Shaw is at the top of the Los Angeles Clippers’ wish list, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, along with Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. One of these guys could help give the Clippers some much-needed stability in their coaching situation with free agency less than a month away:

Shaw is considered the team’s top choice at this point, multiple sources said. His youth, championship experience with the Los Angeles Lakers and player development skills, which have been showcased by his work with Indiana’s Paul George and Lance Stephenson, have intrigued the Clippers management and players. He also received strong reviews from Clippers forward Lamar Odom, who played under Shaw with the Lakers.

But since no candidate has formally interviewed for the position, or met with Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the situation remains fluid. The Clippers front office has done extensive background work on a handful of candidates: Shaw, Hollins, former Cleveland coach Byron Scott, former Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy and Denver head coach George Karl.

Van Gundy was previously near the top of the Clippers search, but talks with him have cooled recently, sources said. Karl is also still under consideration, but the Clippers have yet to formally ask permission from Denver to speak with him. Karl, the NBA’s Coach of the Year after leading the starless Nuggets to a franchise-record 57 wins, will enter the final year of his contract with a new general manager at the helm, following Masai Ujiri‘s departure to Toronto. A source said Saturday that his situation in Denver remains “unsettled.”

Convincing Shaw to leave the Pacers for the Clippers would be a coup for the franchise that has bungled the process since coach Vinny Del Negro was let go. But they have to move quickly where Shaw is concerned since he’s at the top of Brooklyn’s search list as well. Both jobs offer some interesting specifics for a first-time coach.

The respective owners, the Clippers’ Donald Sterling and the Nets’ Mikhail Prokhorov, have very different styles. And you better believe that will be a factor in Shaw’s decision-making process, depending on how quickly things process on both fronts.

Beasley Says He Can Rise With Suns

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DALLAS – As Michael Beasley slammed a chicken tenders basket at his locker about 90 minutes before his Phoenix Suns were to face the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, he seemed more pleased with the savory french fries than digging up the past yet again.

“These fries are good, man,” Beasley said between shoveling handfuls of the greasy goodness into his mouth.

Beasley’s first season with the Phoenix Suns, one promising a fresh start on what some might hail as an overly generous three-year, $18 million contract considering his past work history, has not been so tasty for Suns fans to digest.

The former No. 2 pick has been bad, so bad that halfway through the first half of the season he lost his starting job on what is now the worst team in the Western Conference. The saving grace at this point for the Suns and their leery fans would seem to be that the final $6.25 million on Beasley’s third season, in 2014-15, is non-guaranteed.

But Beasley, sounding as honest as when he critiqued those fries, said he wants to be the guy who helps turn this once-proud franchise that rose to great heights on the sturdy, trustworthy and fan-friendly shoulders of Steve Nash.

“That’s the plan,” said Beasley, who turned 24 earlier this month and remains a 6-foot-10, 235-pound and heavily tattooed enigma. “Hey, I definitely want the fans to support me and understand me, but I realize with my past, it’s a long shot.”

On Jan. 2, just two months into the season and three weeks after veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell tweeted that a Suns source deemed Beasley “toxic,” a headline in the USA Today screamed: “Michael Beasley has bottomed out in Phoenix.”

Already? Was it true?

“Tomato, to-mah-to, I guess,” Beasley said. “It really don’t matter. Only thing you can do is look forward to the future. I realize what I’m doing — career-low in every category. But it’s time to, like I said, I’m going to go hard. I feel like if I play hard, I have great games, not even great games, good games. I haven’t had a good game yet, haven’t had a great game in a while. If I play hard I have good games, we win most of the time.”

Interim Suns coach Lindsey Hunter, who served as director of player development before being promoted in the wake of Alvin Gentry‘s recent firing, said he worked closely in his previous post with Beasley and earned a mutual trust, yet he’s at a loss to explain the player’s early missteps when this was supposed to be a fresh start, a clean slate.

Yet, through Hunter’s words comes the depth of the task at hand to transform this young, often troubled player who has no practical foundation of discipline or even organization to build upon, into a cornerstone of a franchise, or at the least, a reliable teammate.

“He’s still growing. He has a lot of room to grow and I think he’s willing to do that. And we’re challenging him,” Hunter said. “He’s been on a couple of different teams and people have given up on him. We feel like if we give you all the tools you need to get yourself together than we’re giving you a great opportunity and you should take advantage of it. And he has.

“He’s wanting to change, wanting to get himself together, get himself, like, have a schedule for himself,” Hunter continued. “Those are things we take for granted, but Mike has probably never done that in his life. And so once we get him to understanding that, hey, put all this together and basketball will be easy, then he’ll be great.”

That day seems far away as the Suns’ front office is faced with no easy answers.

Beasley, as he attests, is averaging career lows across the board: 10.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 21.5 mpg and a 39.3 field-goal percentage. After rifling through the chicken finger basket and dressing for the game while rapping out loud the inaudible lyrics streaming through his headphones, Beasley managed 12 points on 4-for-10 shooting and four rebounds. He recorded a team-worst minus-17 in 20 minutes and the Suns lost for the 30th time in 45 games.

Beasley’s game was particularly disappointing coming off the previous night’s 25-point effort as the Suns went toe-to-toe with the Spurs in San Antonio before wilting late. In fact, in the previous six games, Beasley produced some of his best-scoring games of the season such as scoring 20 points in a win at Chicago after having gone five consecutive games with two points or less, and then 19 points in another rare road win at Sacramento.

Ever since his one season at Kansas State, nothing is certain with Beasley. Will he change? Is it possible? Only Beasley can really know if it is.

“It’s life. My past is my past and mine’s not pretty. Nobody has a pretty past,” Beasley said. “Everybody in the world did things they regret, are not proud of. I get that a lot from a lot of different people saying, ‘Man, in my 20s, you’ve got a long way to go to mess up as bad as I did.’ I say that because we all have pasts, every single one of us. Nobody’s perfect.

“We all have things we’re not that proud of, things we wish we could take back. The great ones learn from them and that’s what I did, I learned from my mistakes. The lunatics just make the same mistakes.”

By the final year of his deal, and for their sake hopefully sooner, the Suns will for sure know which one they’re dealing with.

Suns Renew Their Search For Stability

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The change was handled so poorly that Phoenix management, the very people who decided it was time for Alvin Gentry to decide to leave as coach, seemed caught off guard when it happened. Gentry and the Suns “mutually agreed to part ways” last Friday, the front office that obviously didn’t have a next step ready interviewed candidates, and Lindsey Hunter was named successor on Sunday in a move so outside the box that players didn’t hide their surprise.

Gentry was out, Hunter was in after working the first half of the season as the player development coordinator sitting in the second row of the bench, and welcome to the statement about so much more than the coach. The front office appeared to get lost while handling its own decision. Sorry, while handling the mutual decision.

Lead assistant Elston Turner has not yet rejoined the team after being passed over. One of the other assistants, Phoenix icon Dan Majerle, essentially quit on the spot. When Hunter was asked Wednesday night when he learned what his staff would be for his debut, he said, “Probably the same time you found out.” Wednesday night.

Majerle didn’t mince words about leaving the Suns — who drafted him with the 14th pick in 1988 and saw him play eight of his 14 seasons in Arizona — and being passed over for the interim gig. He vented to the Arizona Republic‘s Paul Coro:

“It’s been a hard pill to swallow,” Majerle said. “The first thing that disappoints me is usually in a situation like this, the interim gets the jobs and that is Elston (Turner) with his 14 years of experience. Once he didn’t get it, I thought I deserved it. The thing I keep hearing management say on the radio is that hiring me would’ve been the popular and easy thing to do. I earned it. I deserved a shot if it’s not going to be Elston. I coached 5 ½ years. I coached the summer leagues. I didn’t need a favor. Picking Elston would’ve been the easy thing to do.”

Majerle told the team he did not want to return as an assistant under Hunter and received his full salary while Turner is still weighing his future, although he has not participated in the past three practices and did not join the team for Hunter’s first game as coach Wednesday night in Sacramento.

“They talk about integrity,” Majerle said. “To skip over two qualified people didn’t make sense. They chose Lindsey, a guy not even on the coaching staff and who they told us was only there to help us. I think they had their minds made up already before the interviews. I was going to lay low and not comment but I heard people from the organization get on the radio and say I would’ve been the popular and easy thing to do and that’s a slap in the face.”

Majerle said he felt bad to leave the players, who he felt had worked hard despite the losing. He discovered that he had a passion for coaching in the past few years, saying it put the competitive fire back in him. He said he would have stayed with the Suns as an assistant for his career if the head coach opportunity never came.

“I’m loyal to a fault,” Majerle said. “I’ll do anything for the Suns. It was a kick to the stomach when I got passed over. I heard that they wanted discipline and accountability and that’s what I’ve been all about since I was a player. Everyone in that organization knows that. There’d be no doubt that I’d hold players accountable.”

Finally having a game was just what Phoenix needed, especially after the anomaly of a six-day break since losing to the Bucks in the Gentry farewell, the reports that veteran big man Jermaine O’Neal had a confrontation with GM Lance Blanks (later denied by O’Neal) and patching together a staff for the rookie coach Hunter. It was especially good for the Suns, too, because it ended with a 106-96 win over the Kings at Sleep Train Arena, a positive start for Hunter with a lot of input from carry-over assistant Igor Kokoskov.

The last few days had been, Hunter said, “a whirlwind.” (more…)

As Suns tab Hunter as interim coach, Gentry seeks a hobby


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The Phoenix Suns either are fast-tracking their hiring process in replacement of former head coach Alvin Gentry or they’re punting.

As noted here at Hang Time Friday, Lindsey Hunter – the Suns’ player development coordinator and longtime NBA guard with the Detroit Pistons and four other teams – was named interim head coach Sunday morning, with the requisite news conference scheduled for noon Phoenix time.

What isn’t clear yet is whether Hunter got the job over three Suns assistant coaches because president of basketball ops Lon Babby and owner Robert Sarver are veering hard toward player development, with Hunter eventually firmed up and afforded significant time as part of the club’s rebuilding. Or whether Hunter truly is an interim, as in a placeholder for a more permanent hire to be made in the calm of the offseason.

There is a third possibility, of course: Hunter might be a brilliant head coach-in-waiting whose potential was too enticing for Babby and Sarver to pass up. That too could explain why more experienced coaches Elston Turner, Igor Kokoskov and Dan Majerle were leapfrogged in Sunday’s move. (Noel Gillespie, another Suns assistant, apparently was not a candidate for this opening.)

Turner was Gentry’s lead assistant and a veteran of 14 seasons working NBA sidelines. Kokoskov has been an assistant for 13 seasons, bringing Euro cred as the first full-time non-American to serve in the capacity with the L.A. Clippers and Detroit.

Majerle is a popular former Suns player working from the bench since 2008 who handles head coaching duties of Phoenix’s summer league entries.

Hunter worded for the Suns in scouting before being hired in August to the player-development post, a job he held briefly with Chicago. Drafted out of Jackson State in 1993, the No. 10 overall pick played 17 season in the NBA, mostly with Detroit. He averaged 8.5 points and 2.7 assists in 937 games, earning championship rings in 2002 with the Lakers and in 2004 in a return stint with the Pistons.

Meanwhile, Gentry – a whole two days into idleness – took to Twitter in an attempt to fill his time. (He was due for some anyway with a five-day gap between Suns games – they don’t play again until Wednesday in Sacramento – but now that will be Hunter’s minicamp.)

So fire away with suggestions on two fronts. One, as long as the Suns are using that “interim” tag, what should they do regarding a permanent head coach? And two, how might Gentry spend his free time beside blobbing on the coach to watch two football games.

Gentry Out In Phoenix





HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Phoenix Suns became the fourth team to undergo a coaching change this season, parting ways with head coach Alvin Gentry on Friday.

Alvin Gentry, by Noah Graham/NBAE

Alvin Gentry, by Noah Graham/NBAE

Gentry took over for Terry Porter in the middle of the 2008-09 season, took the Suns to the Western Conference finals in 2010, and compiled a 158-144 record with the Suns. But in the wake of Steve Nash‘s departure, the Suns put together a flawed roster. After Thursday’s loss to the Bucks, they’ve lost 13 of their last 15 games and stand in last place in the West at 13-28.

Despite some offensive talent, the Suns rank 23rd in offensive efficiency and have the league’s worst offense (95.8 points per 100 possessions) since Christmas. Defensively, they rank 26th, though they were decent on that end of the floor whenever Michael Beasley was on the bench.

Paul Coro from the Arizona Republic has the report from Phoenix

The Suns have parted ways with coach Alvin Gentry after the team posted its worst record for the first half of a season in 25 years.

An interim coach was not immediately known, although lead assistant coach Elston Turner would be the next in line and has been a finalist for other league head coaching jobs.

The Suns lost at home Thursday night to Milwaukee for the first time in 26 years to fall to 13-28, the franchise’s worst midpoint record since the 1987-88 team went 13-28 coming out of the drug scandal.

Gentry, Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver and President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby had a late-night meeting but Gentry was not let go at that time. A decision was made Friday morning.

Gentry follows Lakers coach Mike Brown, Nets coach Avery Johnson and Bucks coach Scott Skiles out the door this season. Reports have player development coach Lindsey Hunter as the lead candidate to step in for Gentry.

Blogtable: It’s Tough Being A Coach




Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Week 11: Kevin Garnett is … | Encouraging signs for Lakers? | Next coach to go


Mike Brown, Avery Johnson, now Scott Skiles: Next? Please explain.

Steve Aschburner: Maybe we should note the specifics of those situations, with Mike Brown‘s firing a panic move, Johnson’s pink slip driven by unrealistic expectations of his bosses and Skiles’ departure a mutal thing set up by his lame-duck contract status. Then again, maybe those are distinctions without differences. Coaches topple every season and someone surely is next. Hate bandying about a fellow’s job security but I wonder how patient the Maloofs will be with Keith Smart in Sacramento (with DeMarcus Cousins as an X-factor in this dynamic). I also wonder how much improvement John Wall really will bring in Washington – without a big bump, Randy Wittman could be getting cross-eyed looks too. Guess I’m going with one of the former Hoosiers not named Mike Woodson.

Fran Blinebury: The obvious choice would seem to be Randy Wittman as the Wizards wallow at the bottom of the standings, but it’s happening without John Wall.  So here’s a wild thought.  If the Lakers continue going completely over the cliff, how long can they keep selling Mike D’Antoni as the answer?

Jeff Caplan: I’m not going with probably the most obvious name, Washington’s Randy Wittman, because of all the injuries. I think he’s used like 15 different starting point guards already. And, hey, he’s worked wins over Miami and Oklahoma City. Let him get John Wall in there and see if they can catch a spark. In the East, of the teams in the playoff mix, Milwaukee and Brooklyn have already done the deed. The teams out of the playoff mix have relatively new coaches. And then there’s Byron Scott in Cleveland, who in my estimation is running neck-and-neck with Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry in the West.

Scott Howard-Cooper: I guess we’re not saying Vinny Del Negro anymore. In that case, Randy Wittman. Once John Wall returns, possibly by the end of the week, the Wizards need to show considerable improvement. It’s one thing to be on 12-win pace with a beat-up roster, but quite another if this path continues for much longer.

Sekou Smith: Plenty of coaches should be worried now that guys whose teams are playing .500 or better are getting their walking papers. Judging a coach based solely on his team’s record, however, seems like a thing of the past. There’s so much more involved these days, what with all of the advanced metrics involved in the game today. It takes a very particular set of circumstances for a franchise to make a coaching change. We could pick on Alvin Gentry in Phoenix or even Randy Wittman in Washington, guys who have been in place for a while now and still haven’t been able to guide their teams out of the basement of their respective conferences. Skiles going was a bit of a surprise. But Brown and Johnson came into the season with more pressure on them than any other pair of coaches in the league. The expectations for both teams were enormous. So you knew if they struggled or failed to measure up to those expectations, there was a chance they could get popped. Beyond those obvious situations, however, there aren’t any glaring candidates for the coaching hot seat right now.

Who’s Sitting On A Hot Seat Now?


HANG TIME, Texas — Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.

In the NBA that familiar line from the holiday classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” has a different twist.

Every time the bell rings a head coach gets his walking papers and a handful of others start looking over their shoulders.

It’s a tenuous life.

Of course, this season has already been quite unusual with Mike Brown fired by the Lakers after just five games. But now that the schedule has reached the one-third mark and claimed Avery Johnson, it’s time to look at some others down around the bottom of the standings.

Randy Wittman, Wizards (3-23) – No, he hasn’t had John Wall all season. Yes, he’s had to play at times without Nene and Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal. But the Wizards are the only group in Washington that makes Congress look competent by comparison. After a recent 100-68 thumping by the almost-as-hapless Pistons, even Wittman seemed to have enough. “That was an embarrassment, and I apologize to our ownership and to our fans,” he said. “I especially apologize to anyone who watched that entire game. I would have turned it off after the first five minutes.” It would seem to be a matter of when, not if.

Monty Williams, Hornets (6-22) – It’s hard to see the Hornets turning right around and cutting Williams loose just months after giving him a four-year contract extension. There has been the matter of Eric Gordon’s injury and the fact that No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis was on the shelf for 13 games. But there are rumblings in New Orleans about his constantly changing rotations and collapse of his defense, which ranks 29th.

Byron Scott, Cavaliers (7-23)
— The Cavs are likely headed to their third straight trip to the lottery under Scott, but that doesn’t mean that he’s headed to the exit. The key to his previous success at New Jersey and New Orleans was having a top-notch point guard and Scott has an excellent relationship with maybe the next great thing in Kyrie Irving. This was always a long, heavy lift from the moment LeBron James bolted and that has not changed.

Mike Dunlap, Bobcats (7-21)
– What a difference a month makes. After beating the Wizards on Nov. 24, the Bobcats were 7-5, had matched their win total from last season and their rookie coach was getting praised. Now 16 straight losses later, Dunlap is preaching patience with his young core of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker, Byron Mullens and Jeffery Taylor. He has earned that. A dozen of Charlotte’s 21 losses have come by 10 points or less, a dramatic change from the historically horrible last season when the Bobcats were rolled in one-third of their games by 20 points or more.

Lawrence Frank, Pistons (9-22)
— Frank insists that his Pistons are a better team than they were a year ago. The record — identical then and now — does not back that up. He says that his club now is more competitive, but just doesn’t know how to finish games. Some of the players have grumbled that there is also a failure of coach to make the right calls and adjustments when games get late. When push comes to shove, it’s the coach that gets nudged out the door.

Dwane Casey, Raptors (9-20)– Another one of those seasons when the Raptors were supposed to turn things around and make a push for the playoffs in the lesser Eastern Conference has gone south. Injuries to Andrea Bargnani, Kyle Lowry and Linas Kleiza. Amir Johnson gets suspended for throwing his mouthguard at a referee. G.M. Bryan Colangelo says the talent is there, but the Raptors lack focus and attention to detail. The Raps’ offense is mediocre (ranked 17th) and their defense just bad (27th). Even in Canada during the winter, that all puts Casey on thin ice.

Keith Smart, Kings (9-19) – Smart got the job to replace Paul Westphal specifically because of what was perceived as an ability to work with the mercurial DeMarcus Cousins. So he turned Cousins loose last season, let him do just about anything he pleased and got enough results to earn a contract extension. Now that Cousins has abused his free-rein relationship with his coach and another season is sinking fast, it would be easy to just blame Smart, which the Kings eventually will do. But this is a bad team with a knucklehead as its centerpiece and ownership that can’t tell you where they’ll be playing in two years.

Alvin Gentry, Suns (11-18) — It was at the end of a seven-game losing streak when Suns owner Robert Sarver told ESPN.com that Gentry’s job was safe. “We’ve got confidence in our coaching staff and we’re not considering making changes,” he said. Of course, that usually means start packing your bags. It was all about starting over in this first season post-Nash in the desert. He’s changed lineups more than his ties and the result is usually the same. Gentry is a good bet to last out the season, but it’s probably going to take a big finishing kick to return next year.

More Lineup Changes Expected For Suns

 
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.