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Marcin Gortat (MAR-chin GORE-tot) has burgeoned into a very solid, if not spectacular, NBA player. After posting impressive numbers of 15.4 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last season, he comes into this season as the Suns' most proven commodity. His average of a double double put him in an exclusive club with Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum as the only centers in the league to accomplish the feat.

Yet questions and criticisms abound. Can he score as effectively and efficiently without Nash? Can he withstand the rigors of an 82 game season? Can he shed his tissue soft label stemming from enervated episodes of gently laying the ball in attacking the basket?

Gortat's mission to quash the critics and silence the pundits begins now. To be frank, I don't think that Gortat even lends credibility to many of these aspersions by acknowledging them. What I do think is that as a byproduct of the high level of play I expect out of Gortat this season that many of these issues will be resolved indirectly.

Next isn't starting now for Marcin. He's already been at the forefront of ushering in the new era for some time now. Media Day gave him an opportunity to vocalize what makes the hammer swing.

Another question coming into the season is how the dynamic between Gortat and new power forward Luis Scola will unfurl. The agglutination of these two players may be pivotal to the team's success. Gortat addressed this issue on Media Day.

"I'm a really big fan of Scola," said Gortat. "Back in the day I was watching him in Europe. When I was playing in Germany he was playing in Spain. I really thought back in Europe he was one of the best big men."

"He's a great passer. He can read the game very well. He's very smart," Gortat continued. "It's going to be a pretty good mix."

I think this is a fairly balanced and accurate analysis. Scola seems like the type of teammate that can assimilate into a new system and adapt to what is requested from him expeditously. I've been a huge assailant proponent of the Scola waiver claim from day one. Given the recent unfortunate circumstances I believe that the tandem of the Polish Hammer and the Ice Cream Man will need to bring it this season.

Of course there was the compulsory question about life without Steve Nash and what changes Gortat might need to make to adjust to an existence deprived of his majesty (because Gortat was completely dependent on Nash, right?).

"I'm not going to change my game at all," Gortat responded to questions about how his role would be different this season. "I'm going to try to prove that I'm a better post-up player this year than I was last year. I believe that 20 games in the offseason with the national team helped me."

That's what we want to hear Marcin. Don't change a thing (except for sprinkling in a few more savage dunks). Suns fans (generally) understand what you bring and diligence in improving that contribution is all we ask.

Gortat responded to queries about the potential of the defense by stating that the team has younger guys, hustlers and a full training camp to improve the defense.

You heard it from Gortat first. The Suns are the new hustlers of the NBA.

Gortat feels he is in great shape, but that he basically didn't get any rest this summer. He thinks he may hit a wall after about 30-40 games. He better run right through that wall. There was speculation last year that Gortat's declining production in the second half of the season was a result of lassitude. A similar trend this season could exacerbate the ire he draws from purple and orange faithful.

The best answer of the interview came when Gortat replied to a question asking what he learned from being the go to guy for Poland with a very terse yet profound response of "What I learned was that you've got to make a basket."

Has he been listening to Eddie Johnson?

Gortat echoed the sentiment that the Suns will play run and gun basketball with little change from previous years. He also said that hopefully Goran Dragic will be the Suns' new Steve Nash. Gortat even pronounced Goran Dragic's name correctly (GORE-on DROG-ich) (no small feat considering how often it's stated incorrectly - just think Dragon).

Gortat seemed almost as sanguine about the possibilities of the upcoming season as I am. I think he acquitted himself admirably.

Take a look at the live footage we shot of Gortat from media day below. The sound is faint for the first 20 seconds, but then becomes perfectly audible. Alex sneaks in a question about the defensive scheme at the end of the video.



PHOENIX — Upon entering Monday’s media scrum, it took exactly five seconds before starting point guard Goran Dragic was posed a question with the words Steve Nash and big shoes attached...

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The Suns are officially embarked on two-a-days for the next several days learning the playbook (12 new players).

Post links to all the Suns stories this week, and even some from around the NBA as well, while we gear up for the NBA season.

Let's go!


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Of the 17 players who began training camp today, only six have played for Alvin Gentry and this coaching staff before.

And none have commanded Gentry's offense for more than 20 minutes at a stretch. That's the way it is when Steve Nash is your point guard for eight seasons.

But entering the 2012-13 NBA season, someone else has to step up and lead the team. Partially by handling the ball, partially by passing and creating open shots and partially by leading the team through tough stretches. That won't all be encapsulated in one person as it used to be. Now those tasks must be shared among the players.

So far, Gentry's plan is unchanged. Well, mostly unchanged. Play fast and loose on offense. Try harder than ever on defense. The new guys just have to get up to speed.

"At one time, everyone was a student. It's a pretty simple system, really," Gentry said. "The guys are excited. We'll have a full month to get ready, before our first game against Golden State. You have got be in really great shape, and play the basketball you've been playing your whole life. We're going to be up-tempo."

Expecting Goran Dragic, who has been described by himself and everyone else around him as totally different and more confident than when he left the Suns in 2011, to run the team the same as Nash did would be folly.

The play calls may start out the same, but Dragic runs the pick-and-roll totally differently. He will use the screen to attack the basket, and either finish at the rim or feed the ball to open players after the defense collapses.

But Dragic cannot do this all by himself, and Gentry knows that. He is grateful for another offseason addition.

"The difference is Scola," he said at Suns Media Day, per Paul Coro of azcentral.com. "We don't have anyone since Boris (Diaw) that's been him. He can pass. He can score in the low block. I could definitely see us running through him."

And that is not all. Oh no, that is not all.

"Then you have Beasley, who is probably our best offensive player who can score from the mid-block kind of like a Carmelo (Anthony). The thing with him is once he starts scoring, can he make other players better? We know Scola can."

So Beasley can score from anywhere, but everyone knows he has so far not shown an ability or desire to lead a team.

Scola can lead a team, but he is not talented enough to carry them all game long.

Dragic can run a team, and play as many minutes as it takes while doing it, but can't do it all by himself and is certainly not as gifted as Nash in creating shots for others.

None of this fazes Alvin Gentry.

"We're still going to try to lead the league in scoring. We'll play nine or ten guys consistently. We'll still try to lead the league in field-goal percentage and assists."


At Media Day, Jim and I caught up with second-year power forward Markieff Morris in an exclusive interview to talk about his rookie season and what he expects this next year.

He spent most of the summer in Phoenix, only returning to Philadelphia a few times, to work on post moves, rebounding and becoming a more "defensive-minded player." Markieff spent much of his gym time right alongside brother Marcus, making up for lost time during their rookie seasons.

"I watched tape of defensive possessions last year, and I saw I played defense with my hands too much, Morris said. "So I got to do a better job, and I worked on that in the offseason."

Assistant coach Elston Turner, who we caught up with in a separate exclusive, concurred.

"We spent a huge amount of time this summer working with him," Turner said. "He has all the tools. If you can move, if you can run, if you can jump. [Compared to his college reputation as a defender] it's a different league for him. A lot of guys at his position are bigger than him, and he's ... going to have to man up. That shouldn't matter - you just play a certain way no matter who you're playing against."

What does Morris need to work on the most?

"Playing 'til you're uncomfortable," Turner said, after a moment of thought. "There's a comfort zone if you're used to playing a certain way where you came from, that's the way you play when you get here.

"But we want him to play a little bit more upbeat, a little bit more energetic. He has a tremendous amount of talent. I am expecting him to outrun most bigs that are guarding him."

Morris has also been working on his post moves, which he showed off a bit in July summer league. He wasn't finishing at a high clip, but he was aggressive on both ends of the court. The Markieff Morris of the summer league can really help this Suns team in 2012-13.

"We are expecting big things from him," Turner said. "On both ends of the floor."


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