Capitals

Staggering Suns 'part ways' with coach Gentry

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Staggering Suns 'part ways' with coach Gentry

PHOENIX (AP) Alvin Gentry had a successful run with Steve Nash and the previous version of the Phoenix Suns, leading them to the 2010 Western Conference finals.

Gentry didn't mesh quite as well with the new bunch at Planet Orange and it cost him his job.

Unable to get a revamped roster headed in the right direction, Gentry and the last-place Suns agreed to part ways on Friday, ending the five-year run of one of the franchise's most popular coaches.

The team said an interim coach from within the organization is expected to be named in the next 24 to 48 hours.

``Alvin Gentry is a good coach and a good person,'' Suns vice president of basketball operations Lon Babby said from the US Airways Center. ``He was the perfect coach for our previous group. But with the current group, all of us, including Alvin himself, realized that it just wasn't working, the pieces just weren't fitting.''

Phoenix's head coach since Terry Porter was fired at the All-Star break in 2009, Gentry got the Suns back to the freewheeling ways of former coach Mike D'Antoni, his one-time boss.

Led by Nash, a two-time league MVP, the fast-paced style worked early on, with the Suns going 54-28 and reaching the Western Conference finals in Gentry's first full season as coach.

After that, Phoenix had mixed results, struggling to find a go-to scorer when power forward Amar'e Stoudemire turned down a deal to return to the desert and signed with the New York Knicks.

The Suns underwent a complete overhaul over the summer, when Nash went to the rival Los Angeles Lakers in a sign-and-trade deal, All-Star forward Grant Hill left for the Clippers and nine new players were added to the roster.

The new-look Suns struggled from the start and went into a deeper tailspin over the past month or so, losing 13 of 15 and four straight at home. Their 13-28 record is the worst in the Western Conference and leaves them 18 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers in the Pacific Division heading into Friday's games.

After a 98-94 loss to Milwaukee on Thursday night, one that ended the Bucks' 24-game losing streak in Phoenix, Gentry met with Babby and Suns managing partner Robert Sarver, coming to the conclusion that his tenure in the desert should end.

Gentry went 158-144 during his stint with the Suns.

``After nine years with the Suns, the organization and I came to a mutual agreement to go in different directions,'' Gentry said in a statement. ``I have the utmost respect for Robert and what he's done with the organization. It's unfortunate that I was unable to accomplish what I set out to do here.''

Gentry, who was in the final year of his contract, has been in coaching for three decades, including stints as head coach of the Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat.

He came to the Suns as an assistant to D'Antoni and stayed on Porter's staff when D'Antoni left for the Knicks. Gentry was named interim coach when Porter was fired and stayed on as the permanent head coach.

He had some success with the up-tempo style D'Antoni had championed, but the Suns lacked a true scorer and struggled defensively, missing the playoffs the previous two seasons.

When Phoenix opted not to sign Nash with an eye toward rebuilding, Babby and general manager Lance Blanks blew up its roster. Gentry continuously tried new lineups to find a spark, but nothing seemed to work as crowds at the once boisterous US Airways Center started to dwindle.

Gentry recently said it might be better for the team to turn to its younger players and look toward the future, but now it will be without him at the helm.

``It wasn't that we weren't winning enough games so much as a feel that we weren't progressing, that we were regressing,'' Babby said. ``We can't have that. We've got to have our closure moving forward. We didn't feel like we were moving forward and I don't think Alvin felt like we were moving forward.''

The Suns don't play again until Wednesday, when they're at Sacramento.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

The wait is finally over. 

After two decades, the Capitals are back in the Stanley Cup Final. 

After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals are in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. They'll be facing off against a handful of familiar names, with former Caps GM George McPhee, fan favorite Nate Schmidt, and ex-Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fluery are just a few of the names that'll be suiting up for Vegas. 

What will the X-factors in the series be? Who will be the unexpected heroes of Game 1? The action is almost underway, and here are all the details you need to know.

Game 1 Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES?

Game 1 of the Capitals-Golden Knights 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 1 between the Capitals and Golden Knights is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

5:00 p.m. — Caps Cup Preview
6:00 p.m. — Caps GameDay Live
6:30 p.m. — Caps Face Off
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 1 Capitals vs. Golden Knights
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1?

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.