Breakneck Mountain: Phoenix Suns to Revive the Seven-and-Shoot Tonight Against Clippers Tuesday and Wednesday

This just in from Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver and general manager Steve Kerr:

Oops. Our bad.

Terry Porter, we hardly knew ye. Here's a sack full of cash to salve your wounds.

Amar'e -- ha ha. Those trade rumors? We were just kidding. Ya know we love ya, ya big lug.

The rest of you guys, run like hell. Well, except you, J-Rich.

(Shooting guard Jason Richardson, still paying penance for a pre-Christmas DUI, needs to slow waaaaaay down after being arrested in Scottsdale for doing 90 in a 35 zone on All-Star Sunday -- with his 3-year-old son unrestrained in the back seat.)

"Speed thrills" is the message Suns bigwigs are sending players and fans with the elevation of Alvin Gentry to interim head coach. The four-year Suns assistant and former NBA head coach, who was officially named to the top post when Porter was sent packing Monday, is the staff's only holdover from the Mike D'Antoni administration. On his first day in charge, Gentry never uttered the words "seven seconds and shoot" -- his term for the Suns' "new" philosophy is "breakneck pace" -- but if it runs like D'Antoni and guns like D'Antoni, it's either a steroidal duck or the return of the seven-and-shoot.

Defensive proponent Kerr uttered some mild defense of defense following Gentry's "breakneck" remark, but D is for the playoffs, and the Suns gotta get there first. So, for now, Gentry's firing up the afterburners and putting the ball back in Steve Nash's court. Time's a-wastin', as are the Suns' playoff chances.

With 31 games remaining -- including Tuesday's and Wednesday's back-to-back games against the Los Angeles Clippers -- Phoenix sits in ninth place in an eight-horse race for the Western Conference playoffs. The 28-23 Suns are a full game back of Utah for the eighth seed, and two and a half behind the next closest team, Dallas. That's not so bad, huh? Especially since the Suns' next three games are against the lowly Clips and Oklahoma City.

Well, you'd think. But there are a couple of minor rubs. One, the Suns have dug themselves a Grand Canyon-size crater by losing to the likes of Chicago (twice), New Jersey, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Charlotte, and Golden State. In a tight squeeze like the West, you don't get those gimmes back. (Consider this: If the Suns had won even half of those eight choke jobs, they'd be 32-19, in fourth-seed position, and Terry Porter'd still have a job.)

The second itsy-bitsy issue is that, in an 11-game span following the back-to-back against the Clips and a contest against Oklahoma City on February 20, Phoenix will play Boston, the Lakers (twice in four days), Orlando and Miami in Florida, Houston and San Antonio in Texas, Cleveland, and Dallas.


Oh, yeah. There's a third teensy-weensy problem lurking in the weeds. Not only do the Suns have to win, they have to win a lot, starting tonight sans Jason Richardson. (Sarver/Kerr suspended J-Rich one game without pay for his latest traffic-related transgression.) Eight is not gonna be enough, 'cause the eighth seed plays the one, one is gonna be the Lakers, and that's gonna mean an automatic first-round bounce for the Suns.

It's tough to say what would be tougher on this team's (and town's) psyche, another poor opening-round showing or no showing at all. Either outcome has the ring of fatality about it for quite a number of people in this organization, presumably including Mr. Gentry.

To his credit, Gentry's standing straight up to Sarver and Kerr. He's broken out the D'Antoni-style stopwatch and the hopped-up waterfowl. If he's going down, this dude's going down shooting.

The Suns host the Clippers at 7 p.m. tonight at US Airways Center. TV: FSN AZ. Phoenix travels to L.A.'s Staples Center for an 8:30 p.m. game on Wednesday, February 18. TV: My45 (cable 9). Both games will be broadcast on KTAR-AM 620.