Interview: Suns' Gentry discusses defense, Blazers, TV inspiration

Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry spoke with the media Friday prior to practice at the Rose Garden in Portland.

Gentry on Phoenix emphasizing defense this season:

… As long as you’ve got Steve Nash and Amare (Stoudemire) and you surround them with some shooters, you’re going to be a pretty good offensive team. I just thought that in order for us to be a serious contender, and for us to have any kind of situation in the (Western Conference) where we were going to be a factor, we were going to have to be able to come up with stops. I never thought that we would be a great defensive team. But I always thought that we could be a pretty good defensive team, because we have smart players and we have players who were willing to work at it. And so all we basically did was try to work on it everyday in practice. We did something everyday in practice. And we simplified our whole philosophy defensively, where, if you weren’t in the right spot, then we knew it right away. And it wasn’t a matter of, ‘Well, I thought we were doing this.’ We simplified to the fact that, when they run screen-and-roll, you have to be right here. If there’s a drive from the wing, if you’re not there, then it’s your rotation. And I think because we simplified that, players started to hold each other accountable. And it wasn’t so much what we did as coaches. The majority of it was them holding each other responsible. And I think that’s when you become pretty good defensively.

On watching the defense come together:

We had our moments, but I think it was a little bit of a rollercoaster. We’d have three really good defensive games, and then we’d give up 55-percent shooting to a team. And then we’d have three more, but then we’d give up … But then, I think right after the All-Star break, we became pretty consistent. There are still going to be nights when teams make shots. (The Portland Trail Blazers) did it against us right before the All-Star break. They came down and, without Brandon Roy, I think they shot 55 percent in that game. That’s going to happen some nights when you’re playing NBA teams and they have talented guys. … But I thought overall, 85 to 90 percent of the time we were pretty consistent in what we were doing defensively.

On how the Suns’ improved defense has affected the series against the Blazers:

We’re trying to take away their two best players. And obviously Andre (Miller) is the key to what they get done. And you can see what happens when he plays at a high level — they’re really tough to beat. Then, with (LaMarcus) Aldridge, I thought we did a good job on him. He went 8 for 20, but it was the way he kind of got them. And we need to keep him a little bit off balance, so we go down and try and double him and make him give the ball up.

On Dallas’ Jason Terry saying Jan. 28 during a nationally televised game that the Mavericks should score against the Suns every time they touch the ball:

I played it for them in the locker room at the half. And he said that these guys are terribly defensively, we should score on them every time. And I played that for our guys. And I think they took that to heart. I told them, I said, ‘Hey, this is the perception of our team in the NBA. This is what they’re saying. This is a guy at halftime in a nationally televised game saying, ‘We should score on these guys every time.’ ‘

I think everybody has a little pride. We went on to win that game, and I thought that was in the back of our players’ minds, that, Hey, that’s the perception that we have; we better start working to change it.

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