At this time last year, we were all sitting around wondering if there was even going to be a season. The lock-out was in full effect and all basketball-related activities were put on hold. Unfortunately, that included Summer League play, which meant a lot of young players missed out on some valuable experience.
Thankfully, there is no lock-out this year and Summer League has already begun. These games provide an invaluable experience for so many players. For drafted rookies, it is an opportunity to suit up and play some professional ball for the first time. For second and third year players, it is a chance to showcase what they have been working on over the summer and continue to build on what they accomplished in their rookie and sophomore seasons. For undrafted players, it is a chance to get a training camp invite and possibly even make a roster. For veterans, it is a chance -- possibly a last chance -- to make it back into the league. There is a lot on the line in Summer League, especially for contests that are little more than glorified pick-up games.
The festivities kicked off last week in Florida as eight teams participated in the Orlando Summer League. The Orlando league, which included eight teams, is a bit of a precursor for the main event in Las Vegas, which began on Friday after the Orlando league wrapped up. 24 teams are in Vegas and 60 total games will be played.
The rules are a bit different than fans are accustomed to. The game consists of four 10-minutes quarters, rather than the 12-minute quarters used in the NBA. It also takes 10 personal fouls before a player is disqualified, rather than the customary six.
The Suns make their debut today against the New York Knicks SL squad at 1 p.m. AZ time. The game will be shown on NBA TV and will also be streamed online via the Summer League Broadband package, which you can purchase for $14.99.
Make the jump for a brief look at the rosters of the Suns and their competition.
For a full breakdown of the Suns' 15-man roster, check out 7footer's excellent work here. The year's lottery pick Kendall Marshall will be making his pro debut today and last year's lottery pick Markieff Morris will also be making his first appearance in Summer League play.
Those two rightfully headline the roster, but there are a couple of other players that will be playing for training camp invites with the Suns.
Former Ohio State Buckeye David Lighty is my pick for most likely to make the roster. He's a capable defender and a good 3-point shooter who chose to head overseas last year after going undrafted rather than waiting for the lock-out to end.The Suns are still a bit shallow on the wing, and Lighty could be a cheap way to fill out the roster.
Excluding Marshall, there are five other guards on the roster that can handle the ball and run the offense. It looks like the Suns may be looking for another guard to bring to training camp, although making the roster will be tough with Goran Dragic, Sebastian Telfair and Marshall already under contract. Because of that, my pick to emerge from the group is Matt Gatens, an undrafted rookie sharp-shooter and combo-guard from Iowa. Gatens visited the Suns twice before the draft, so the team has already shown some interest in him. I wouldn't count out Diante Garrett, though, a 6-foot-4 point guard from Iowa State who isn't a great shooter but can do a little bit of everything.
As for the forwards, Wisconsin's Marcus Landry was invited to the Suns training camp last season and could return again this year with a good week. However, I think Michigan's DeShawn Sims has a good chance to beat out Landry for that spot. Sims is a tough player who won D-League Rookie of the Year after going undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft.
The Knicks come into today after getting crushed by the Memphis Grizzlies 93-77 in their first game in Vegas. James White is the lone player on the team with a contract with the Knicks after the sign-and-trade for Marcus Camby shipped guard Toney Douglas and big men Josh Harrellson and Jerome Jordan to Houston.
However, their roster does feature three players who have siblings currently playing in the league. Chris Smith (brother of Knicks guard J.R. Smith), Jeremiah Rivers (son of Doc Rivers and brother of Hornets' lottery pick Austin RIvers) and Mychel Thompson Jr. (son of former NBA player and brother of Warriors guard Klay Thompson) should all see playing time for the Knicks. I know how much Suns fans love lesser brothers.
The Cavaliers will be without reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving after he broke his hand during a practice, but there is plenty of talent left on the roster.
Tristan Thompson is the biggest name after being drafted 4th overall last year an having a solid rookie season. Joining him are this year's draft picks guard Dion Waiters and center Tyler Zeller, both whom were taken in the first round.
Donald Sloan is a solid point guard who made the team last year after tearing it up in the D-League and filled in when Irving missed some time due to injury. Samardo Samuels and Luke Harangody are two more players who spent last year on the Cavs' roster.
However, their second lottery pick, Austin Rivers is still on the roster and he's joined by second round pick and crafty scorer Darius Miller. Shooting guard Xavier Henry, a lottery pick from a few season ago, will also participate, as will Jerome Dyson and Lance Thomas who made the team as undrafted free agents last year after playing in the D-League.
There are not many big names on the D-League select team. Chris Johnson is a long, athletic shot-blocker who has played for a couple of NBA teams in the last two years. Renaldo Major is a wily D-League vet who knows how to put the ball in the hoop. Point guard Mardy Collins is a name that some might remember as he spent four years in the NBA.
Memphis put the hurt on the Knicks in their first game and got big performances from 2011 first rounder Josh Selby as well as this year's first round pick Tony Wroten. Jeremy Pargo is another talented point guard on the squad who made the team lasted year and even started a few games.
The Grizzlies also feature a familiar face to Suns fans as Matt Janning, former Sun and 2010 Summer League sensation, is on the roster.
Just like the Phoenix Suns are turning over a new leaf with big changes by a management team that's been in the background for two years, so it goes with Bright Side of the Sun. Seth Pollack (formerly PhoenixStan), Wil Cantrell and East Bay Ray have all decided to move on to a life without blogging Suns basketball.
As a former Suns point guard put it recently: "This is a tough business and the only thing constant in life is change."
Taking over the best and brightest Suns blog in the nation is a daunting but exciting task, made much easier by the stable of experienced and wonderfully talented writers now joining me on the BSotS masthead.
So as we usher in a new era of Suns basketball, we also usher in some fresh changes to your favorite Suns sports blog!
Hit the jump for more details on who's authoring your Suns news these days.
Seth accepted a cushy corporate job all the way over in Washington DC at roughly the same time Wil and Ray decided their families and real jobs (like, whatevs!) were pullng their attention away from BSotS. So we had to devise a new team, including a new Blog Manager, editors and authors. While it may appear that I was the only one who didn't take a step back when volunteers were requested, that's not the case at all. I have been wanting this opportunity for a while now. Bwaahahahahaha!
SB Nation - the parent site and all-around visionary - is planning big, and I mean BIG, improvements to the website over the next few months before the 2012-13 season ramps up. I can't give you details of those as of yet, since I haven't even seen them, but our boy Seth is gushing about them offline. Our former overlord is right at the middle of all those changes. He's still got our backs, folks.
Who is your new management staff for Bright of the Sun?
Alex Laugan: Site Manager
I have officially been a member of this fun and creative website since March 2010, just as the Suns were ramping up their last run to the Western Conference Finals. As with most of you, I'd lurked for at least a year on a daily basis until realizing it was time to share my own thoughts on the Suns. Lucky for me, people liked reading those thoughts and I soon became a regular contributor.
Jim Coughenour: Editor, Author
How could we NOT add Jim to our literary rolls at some point, right? The man knows the English language almost as well as he knows basketball. Okay, maybe even moreso. He is a walking thesaurus who happens to have more common sense than most red-blooded bloggers, a big plus in my book.
My first memories of Jim involve haggling with him over the Hedo Turkoglu acquisition. Jim was actually skeptical of Hedo's ability to play the 4. Go figure. Oh yeah, and he didn't actually love the Childress or Warrick acquisitions either. Like I said, the man's got some common sense.
Omaha Sun: Editor, Author
We are lucky to have Omaha in the editing and writing pool after having been a contributor for nearly two years himself. Omaha also writes and edits for The Creightonian and Ridiculous Upside while hitting the books at Creighton. He really know his college basketball which helps shape our draft previews and keeps us up to date D-League prospects throughout the season. Oh yeah, and he lives and breathes Suns basketball despite being more than half a country away.
Leiland Tanner: Author and Social Media Master
Now, raise your hand if you know who Leiland Tanner is. No? Okay, I'll give you a hint: he's been a BSotS member the fall of 2009 and posted more than 5,000 comments and almost 150 fansposts and articles. Still no? Another hint: his posts stand out because they are so rich in multi-media content, often including homemade professional-grade videos on the Suns.
Still nothing! Leiland Tanner is...Eutychus! Yes folks, Leiland has come out of the closet and now writes under his given name. He's done so because he is ready for a larger role representing BSotS in the Suns community. While he has a full-time job and young family already, Leiland is going to represent our blog when possible at Suns events and on social media sites such as facebook and twitter. Leiland will work to expand our reach wider than its ever been!
7footer: Author and Season Ticket Holder
7footer joined BSotS about the same time I did - during the magical 2010 run to the Conference Finals. We've been trying to get him to write for us since then, and he's finally accepted the challenge. As a season ticket holder, 7footer brings a first-hand perspective to Suns coverage. Fold that in with great judgment, writing ability and a keen sense of reason, and you have an ideal author for the Bright Side. Few contributors provide such depth and logic to their posts - we just had to get the man to put his thoughts in their own stories rather than buried in the comments section!
Hey Alex, what about practice, game and press conference coverage?
Your new BSotS staff all have "other" lives, including full-time jobs and families. While we can carve out plenty of time for the blog, none of us are in position to cover the Suns fulltime as Seth used to do. However, all is not lost!
First-hand Suns coverage of press conferences, practices and games - including audio and video - will be gathered and shared by the great guys over at SB Nation AZ - Kris Habbas and Jess Root. So don't worry about losing first-hand news as it happens with the Suns. Kris and Jess have already been sharing audio of recent press conferences these past few weeks which has helped our coverage tremendously.
Please join me in welcoming the new BSotS management team!
As a group, we all have a sunny disposition. If you thought the site was fairly optimistic before, you won't see much change there. We will find our niche throughout the summer and be humming along when the season really ramps up.
See you on the Bright Side!
Many people are unsure of what exactly New Orleans Hornets' general manager Dell Demps is trying to achieve this off-season. The relationship between the Hornets and Eric Gordon showed obvious strain during his free agency recruitment by the Suns. The Hornets have pursued a glut of personnel at the positions occupied by their franchise players (Anthony Davis and Gordon). Demps has been a tough read.
We have gained clarity on part of his plan - which was indicated from the outset. The Hornets have matched the Suns' offer sheet for restricted free agent Eric Gordon, just as sources maintained they would throughout this process.
The decision doesn't come as a surprise. The Suns have been active during the 3 day waiting period, with the notable visit from unrestricted free agent O.J. Mayo on Friday. Presumably, this action was taken knowing there was a good possibility this would be the eventual outcome. All indications were that the following tweet was more of a formality than an announcement.
Hornets (taking the full 3 days to decide) announce---as expected, they have matched #Suns' 4-year, $58 million offer sheet to Eric Gordon— Craig Grialou (@Craig620) July 14, 2012
Now that the Suns are officially out of the running for Gordon, they will adjust their focus to other options to fill their current vacancy at the shooting guard position. Although Gordon was the most coveted name on the Suns' list of potential shooting guards, there is still other talent available. Two of the more popular names the Suns are reported to have interest in were mentioned again after the match on Gordon was confirmed.
Besides Mayo and Lee, the Suns may still have interest in bringing back their own free agents Shannon Brown and Michael Redd. This decision by the Hornets has not left the Suns without options. Phoenix also still has the matters of Robin Lopez and Grant Hill to attend to.
Don't be surprised if many of these pieces fall into place quickly now that the Gordon situation has been resolved.
----UPDATE: 3:50PM - Alex Laugan----
Suns official statement on the Gordon offer sheet right here. Suns still have plenty of room to maneuver under cap as long as Beasley and/or Dragic wait a bit longer to sign, so this should not impact them much beyond timing of press conferences.
"We have been notified that the New Orleans Hornets have matched our Offer Sheet with Eric Gordon, as is their right under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. While we are disappointed that Eric will not be a Sun at this time, we have no regrets in doing all that we could under the rules to bring him to Phoenix. Once Eric passes his physical in New Orleans, our full cap room will be restored and we will move forward in free agency. In the meantime, we are on track to pursue our plans."