The Phoenix Suns are officially moving in a different direction at the head coaching spot, as the team reportedly cut ties with Jeff Hornacek on Monday. Hornacek took over the reigns for Alvin Gentry over two years ago and immediately fielded a competitive team that looked ready to get back into the playoffs. That didn’t happen during Hornacek’s time, but the team really fell apart this year, stumbling to a 14-35 start to open up the 2015-16 NBA year.

The last straw was likely the Suns’ 19 losses in their last 21 games, as Hornacek was unable to turn things around despite rumors of his possible firing starting to circle the team in early December. It’s arguable that Hornacek never really stood a chance, however. The team has made major roster changes in the 2.5 years he’s been in Phoenix, with both Isaiah Thomas and Goran Dragic being dealt in trades, as well as versatile forward Marcus Morris being shipped to Detroit in another trade.

The lack of continuity on the Suns would have been difficult enough to deal with, but the trading of Marcus Morris rubbed twin brother Markieff Morris the wrong way – so much so that it impacted his play and eventually even his role with the team. Morris’ mood and play became a central distraction, while at the same time robbing Hornaceck of a quality starter in the rotation. Phoenix also failed to land prized free agent LaMarcus Aldridge this past summer, and were left with aged center Tyson Chandler as a consolation prize.

Then injuries struck, with star point guard Eric Bledsoe going down with a knee injury. Brandon Knight, Mirza Teletovic, Tyson Chandler and even Morris himself all missed time this year with ailments, as well. Needless to say, Hornacek entered Phoenix with a suitable roster and almost got them to the playoffs two years in a row. The talent and chemistry deteriorated from there, and as early as last season there were whispers that he could be on his way out. Hornaceck wasn’t able to rebound from a slow start this year and with the losing getting out of control, it’s hard to fault the Suns from deciding to go in a different direction in the new year.

The Suns certainly have a lot of work to do to get competitive again, as their best player won’t be healthy until next year and whoever their interim coach ends up being – likely Earl Watson or Corey Gaines – the search for a long-term replacement is likely going to be delayed until after the season.

Little progress can be made until the Suns start looking to the future and trading away disgruntled players that don’t want to be in the desert, though. Morris absolutely needs to go before February’s NBA trade deadline, while veterans like Tyson Chandler, P.J. Tucker and Mirza Teletovic could help out contenders elsewhere. The Suns have some very nice young talent to continue grooming in Archie Goodwin, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren and Alex Len, so mission A needs to be actually making the most of their time throughout the rest of the year.

None of this makes the Suns a fun try in NBA betting, and we surely won’t be seeing a magical turn around into a playoff contender this year. Considering the Suns got rid of a solid head coach who got them to nearly 50 wins in his first season, it’s unlikely anyone will do a much better job right away next season, either. That being said, the Suns have a lot of good talent and should make some trades to put the wheels in motion to land even more talent going into next year. If the franchise plays their cards right, they could start building towards a playoff return within the next 2-3 seasons.

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