Suns' new toys to get Heat-tested

Published Dec. 22, 2010 9:33 a.m. ET

By Randy Hill
Dec. 22, 2010

After shaking the boxes for a couple of days, Alvin Gentry will be allowed to unwrap a couple of his presents two days before Christmas.

With a limited schematic at his disposal, we'll see if the Phoenix Suns coach can put enough of the pieces in place before the Grinchy ol' Miami Heat visit Thursday night for a nationally televised party.

"It's a great challenge," Gentry, the Suns' head coach, said of taking on a Miami team that's also scheduled to slug it out with the Lakers in Los Angeles on Christmas Day. "These are the teams you can use as something of a measuring stick."

Or something of an ugly stick.

When the Suns and Heat squared off in Miami last month, the team from Phoenix was treated to a 123-96 annihilation. Since then, Miami has experienced a losing skid that provoked finger-wagging around the league, a players-only meeting and an affirming 12-game winning streak that ended Monday when the Dallas Mavericks came to South Florida.

The Suns, meanwhile, engaged in a convincing stagger through mediocrity that inspired their leadership to enlist the Orlando Magic in a joint do-over built around Hedo Turkoglu.

Two of the three gifts from Orlando