(Sports Network) - Bottom feeders in the Pacific Division meet for the second
time this season Wednesday night as the last-place Phoenix Suns pay a visit to
the Sacramento Kings.
The well-rested Suns will have a new look on the bench with former NBA player
Lindsey Hunter handling interim coaching duties. Hunter, who was the team's
head of player development and won two NBA titles, takes over for Alvin Gentry
after he guided the Suns to a 13-28 record. Suns assistant coaches Elston
Turner and Igor Kokoskov were also considered for the job.
"He was the right guy to give us a jolt," Suns general manager Lance Blanks
said. "Certainly there were other qualified and safe candidates you could
really make a case for. We felt that Lindsey would give us the type of
leadership that we wanted.
"We felt like the things that we heard from the players in terms of
accountability and things that they felt they needed, he fit well with that.
And we felt like we could partner with him."
Hunter certainly has the pedigree to run an NBA team, having learned under the
likes of Larry Brown, Doug Collins and Phil Jackson. Hunter said he is a
defensive guy and wants the Suns "to be a tough, nasty, defensive-minded
team." Hunter will take over a Phoenix squad that is near the bottom in
defense and allows 99.7 ppg.
Phoenix has just two wins in its last 15 games and suffered a rare 98-84 loss
versus the Milwaukee Bucks last Thursday. Shannon Brown paced Phoenix with 20
points off the bench and Luis Scola chipped in 16 and eight rebounds for the
Suns, who had won 24 straight over the Bucks at home.
"You have to be able to make plays down the stretch to win games, especially
close games. They made them, and we did not," Gentry said after the Suns
squandered a double-digit lead in the second half and scored only 38 points
over the final 24 minutes.
Jared Dudley posted 13 points in a losing effort. Scola is averaging 16.8
points and 7.1 rebounds in his last 11 games.
The Suns are in the midst of playing 14 of 20 games outside the desert and
sport a lowly 3-17 ledger away from home. On a brighter note, the Suns can win
back-to-back road games for the first time this season Wednesday. They
defeated Chicago on Jan. 12 at the United Center.
Sacramento is back in California's capital city and went 1-2 on a three-game
road swing through Memphis, Charlotte and New Orleans. The southern junket
came to a close with Monday's 114-105 setback to the Hornets as DeMarcus
Cousins did his part in defeat with a game-high 29 points and 13 rebounds.
Isaiah Thomas contributed 20 points, while Tyreke Evans finished with 16
points and four assists for the Kings, who had won three of four games and
almost rallied from a 64-39 halftime deficit.
"I was proud of the way the guys came back in the third quarter," Kings coach
Keith Smart said. "It would have been easy for them to pack it in, but they
came out and made a game of it."
Cousins has been doing his part in trying to keep the Kings on the right path
and has posted five straight double-doubles. Cousins is averaging 20.7 points
and 12.2 rebounds in his last 14 games. He and Warriors big man David Lee
are the only players in the league to average at least 18.0 ppg and 10.0 rpg
Since returning on a consistent basis because of a balky knee, Evans has
averages of 14.0 points and 4.9 rebounds in the previous eight contests for a
Kings squad rumored to be moving to Seattle.
According to several reports on Sunday, the Maloof brothers, principal owners
of the Kings, reached an agreement with a group headed by Chris Hansen and
Steve Ballmer to move the franchise to the Pacific Northwest. This reported
deal would mean the Kings would relocate to Seattle, possibly as early as next
The Kings will coincidentally host Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder
on the brief homestand and have a 12-10 record at Sleep Train Arena. The
Thunder were formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics.
Sacramento suffered a 101-90 loss at Phoenix on Dec. 17 and is only 4-16 in
the past 20 meetings between the Pacific inhabitants.
The Sports Network