Amid Amar'e Trade Speculation, Phoenix Suns Lose Fourth in Row. Next up: New Jersey on Wednesday

We wouldn't want to be Suns Coach Alvin Gentry.

Amar'e Stoudemire trade talk has bubbled up again.

The wheels have come off Gentry's team.

And he's gotta do something to fix it.

The Suns just went 0-4 on a road trip that took them to Indiana, Atlanta, Charlotte, and finally Memphis.They were humiliated by the 20-19 Bobcats, dominated by the 14-26 Pacers and the 22-18 Grizzlies, and wound up unbelievably losing to the 26-14 Hawks by a point at the buzzer after a couple of bungles in the last 10 seconds of the game.

They're 24-18, but their fast start is but a distant memory, as another dismal season looms. Many in the media are speculating that Phoenix looks to be a one-and-done team in this season's playoffs. But at the rate they're descending, they'll be lucky to make the post-season tournament.

We've dwelled on the first three games on the road trip already so let's just cut to yesterday's chase. And a chase it was, as in the Suns played catchup with the Grizzlies all afternoon long. The Purple & Orange Gang managed to tie the score at 94 early in the fourth quarter, but the Griz outgunned them after that to win 125-118.

One big reason was the buzzsaw called Rudy Gay, 31 points; Zach Randolph, 27 points, O.J. Mayo, 26 points, and Marc Gasol (brother of the Lakers' Pao), 19 points.

Another was the subject of those trade rumors had a 12-point night and was dominated on defense by Memphis' big men. Stoudemire did have nine rebounds, but he was underwhelming when he needed to be a monster in the paint.

We said we wouldn't want to be Alvin Gentry, but we would like to make his hefty (by mortal standards anyway, if not by the standards of most of his players) NBA salary. But the guy who must figure out how to end the Suns' sorry skid should be making the big bucks.

Gentry's attempt at an answer yesterday was to bench center Channing Fry and shooting guard Jason Richardson and start Robin Lopez and Leandro Barbosa. Fry had pretty much vanished from the offense, and Richardson was struggling. They had three and eight points respectively off the banch against Memphis -- making Gentry look like a genius. Well, smart, anyhow (his team did still lose).

Because the seven-foot Lopez had an NBA career night with 19 points, seven rebounds, and three blocked shots in 28 minutes, Barbosa, still not 100 percent after coming back from an ankle injury, had 14 points in 24 minutes.

Then there were the ageless Steve Nash, with 22 points and 12 assists, and young super-sub Lou Amundson, with 10 points and eight rebounds. Amundson's toughness and trademark hustle kept the Suns in the game with the improving Grizzlies.

Other factors in the loss were 16 Phoenix turnovers, including two in the crucial minutes at the end of the game when the Suns were within three points of Memphis. Nash and Barbosa were forced to shoot desperation three-pointers in a futile attempt to close what became a seven-point gap.

Though the Suns had 46 rebounds to Memphis' 42, second-chance points off offensive boards accounted for 18 points for the Grizzlies to 11 for the Suns.

If Stoudemire had played serious defense under the baskets, along with Lopez and Amundson, the Suns could have taken the game. Amar'e was the bottom line in the loss.

Next up: the 3-37 New Jersey Nets at US Airways Center on Wednesday night. The only thing we'll note about the miserable Nets is that they feature Robin Lopez's twin brother Brook, who's averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds a game in (like Robin) his second year out of Stanford. We pray the more physical Robin kicks the opposing center's ass in this contest.

Don't look for this to be a laugher for the home team, because the Suns have proven that while they can beat anybody (the Celtics, the Lakers, the Magic), they can also lose to anybody (the Pacers, the New York Knicks).

Tip-off's at 7 p.m. TV: FSN-AZ. Radio: KTAR 620 AM. For more information, go to www.nba/suns.com.     


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