Posted on: May 29, 2010 8:12 pm
PHOENIX -- In responding to Ron Artest's assessment of Steve Nash's quasi-guarantee of forcing a Game 7 in the Western Conference finals, Suns coach Alvin Gentry launched into a light-hearted defense of Nash and channeled his inner Herm Edwards.
"I don't really understand that," Gentry said before Game 6 Saturday night. "What's he supposed to say? We're supposed to try to win the game. We think we're going to win the game."
Then Gentry paused, smiled, and said, "You play ... to win ... the game. Hello?"
It was a classic moment about an hour before Game 6, one that lightened the mood with the Suns facing elimination and one that inadvertently caused my worlds to collide. I covered the Jets when Edwards was the coach, and was in the press conference room when Edwards launched into his "play-to-win-the-game" diatribe in 2002. As his team was playing out the string in a lost season, Edwards was asked how he planned to keep his players from quitting. Given Gentry's light-hearted Herm moment Saturday night, it's worth revisiting the original rant. One of the iconic moments of my career, and one that I can take absolutely no credit for. Like Artest Thursday night at the buzzer, I was just in the right place at the right time.
Gentry's version was done in fun, and was sparked by questions about Artest's comments at practice Friday in which he said Nash's statement showed "no respect." Artest expanded his analysis to say that Gentry didn't respect him because he was leaving him open to shoot the entire series.
For the record, after the Suns lost Game 5 on Artest's wild putback of Kobe Bryant's airball at the buzzer, Nash said, "They held home court. We'll go back and do the same and we'll come back here for Game 7."
As Gentry said, what else was he supposed to say?
"We expect to win the game," Gentry said. "If that's guaranteeing it, then write it down, that we guarantee we're going to win the game. We're supposed to try to win the game. ... You guys really have run out of angles."
As for his strategy to concentrate on Bryant at the expense of leaving Artest open throughout the series, Gentry said good-naturedly, "Do you think Ron knows who I am? Listen guys, it has nothing to do with disrespecting Ron. It has everything to do with respecting Kobe."
Informed of Gentry's comment in the locker room before the game, Artest said, "I guess it's both. Respect and disrespect. Who knows? It's OK. We'll get our respect back."
Not to add fuel to the fire, but the Suns -- as they should -- absolutely believed Game 6 would not be their last of the season. On a white board in the Suns' locker room before the game was the following line: "Poker game @ 1 p.m. on Sunday on da PLANE."
You play poker to win the game, too.