Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 4/16/13
PHOENIX In his last in-person audition for Phoenix Suns fans, interim coach Lindsey Hunter presided over the teams second victory in its last three games. If the Suns can manage a win in Wednesdays finale at Denver, Hunter will like predecessor Alvin Gentry check in at 13-28. Anyway, Mondays 119-112 triumph over the playoff-bound Houston Rockets (45-36) may have compromised the franchises ping-pong ball aspirations a bit (especially with the Cleveland Cavaliers losing again), but a few glimpses of future competence certainly cant reflect negatively on Hunter. Well, they might if critics hold Lindsey accountable for not having coaxed Markieff Morris, for example, into providing more consistent evidence of solid play. Morris, one of four Suns to score 20 more points against Houston in this one, produced an even 20 to go with seven rebounds, five steals and six blocks. In the next-to-last game of Markieffs relatively disappointing season, the second-year power forward became the first NBA player since Antonio McDyess (1998) to post at least 18 points, seven rebounds, five steals and six blocks in the same game. Luis Scola went for 26 points and 15 rebounds and inspired Houston to go small just to contest him from mid-range. Defensive touchstone P.J. Tucker contributed a career-high 21 points, and the terminally-plucky Goran Dragic provided 21 points, 14 assists and three stitches. So, with a couple of solid efforts near closing time, the ultimate judgment of Hunters candidacy to remain on the job will occur when team owner Robert Sarver makes that particular call. But for self-assessment, Hunter speaking to reporters prior to the game with Houston did give himself credit for, at least, doing things differently. Im a tough guy, Hunter said in regard to his coaching style and how its been received by the players. Thats a little different than what theyve been accustomed to. So, although Hunter puts defense on the top line of his calling card, we also know he doesnt mind taking a shot or two at the previous coaching regime. A Suns player who, for the sake of self-preservation chose to provide his two cents in anonymous fashion did agree that defensive details werent exactly stressed to the same degree by Gentry. But to characterize the team or coaches as having a general lack of toughness over an extended time I dont think is fair, the player said. There were different points of emphasis, but I think the team played hard in relation to what our focus was. When asked what he would do differently if given the job on a full-time basis and with the benefit of training camp Hunter sounded like a serious stickler for details on the court and off. There will be a lot of things that I would do differently from the beginning, he said. I would change some things that were here all along that I was not particularly a fan of, but its been that way and you cant just tear the house down when you move in halfway through the year. Heres one example: I would change the way that we dress and the way we do things in the locker room, he said. In regard to how things have progressed on the floor under his watch, Hunters self-assessment sounded pretty strong. I think that weve gotten better on both sides of the ball, he said, leaning more on late productivity than long-range statistics. I think, of late, weve really seen some good things. Defensively, I think that you can tell by the way that were rotating and covering for each other that fundamentally the guys are starting to grasp what were trying to be. It hasnt exactly been easy for the rest of us to grasp what Hunters been attempting to build, but coaching consistent effort seems like an unnecessary chore (at least for a good team) at this level of basketball. With inconsistent focus from player to player and game to game changing strategic course in midstream can be daunting. With a commitment to details as part of his self-assessment, Hunter indicated that sacrificing the emphasis on little things for an extra victory or two was something he wasnt willing to try. You cant skip steps to make myself look good and get a job, he said.
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