Today the Suns held their first actual practice since embarking on their road trip last week. Here is what happened.
The Phoenix Suns took a day off after Monday's heart-wrenching home loss against the Miami Heat, which happened on the second night of a back-to-back, and after a very late overtime loss to Blake Griffin, and the rest of Los Angeles Clippers the night before.
The team wasn't their usual selves for that game. Although they shot the ball effectively, and didn't seem to be suffering from the normal tell-tale signs of tired legs, namely front-rimming the ball, they were noticeably less energetic, scoring only seven fast break points (they average 26), especially on defense.
This not only accounted for Chris Bosh having an outstanding night (34 points), but also hampered their ability to get out in transition after those missed shots, which rarely came, and score in transition...which is undoubtedly the greatest strength of this team.
The good news is, the Suns had a day of rest, and will be ready to play again tomorrow night, at home, vs. the Detroit Pistons.
In addition, the Suns will, in all likelihood, receive a boost from the return of Isaiah Thomas, their prolific scorer, and third point guard, whom the team has sorely missed over the past eight games.
Here's what the coach, and Isaiah himself had to say after today's practice:
"He should be ready (to play Friday), He went through the practice, and he didn't say it bothered him, so he should be ok."
On difference it makes not having Isaiah:
"Four games in five nights, and if we can have that other guy who can give Goran and Eric some rest, then maybe we won't have some turnovers late in the game when they're tired. When you have to play guys a lot of minutes, it wears them down. If we get Isaiah back then we can kind of limit some minutes." He continued, "We want to be able to give them a break and still be able to push the ball, and (Isaiah's) got to be able to come back from this injury and be able to push the ball, he can't walk it up, so we'll see how he does."
On today's practice after not practicing for so long.
"It was one of those days where we had yesterday off, after playing four games in five nights, and it was a little rusty today with guys getting back in the groove. But do you want to kill them when they have another game tomorrow night? So we wanted to go short and quick and do a few things, but it's tough during the year, and guys have to learn from watching tape. We try to get on the court as much as we can, but there's always that balance."
If we just make the simple passes...and it's everyone...but if you start playing around with the ball and going one on one, and if you don't get by the defender and he's doing a good job, that's when you have a tendency to turn it over. So, maybe a little less one-on-one by all out guys. Catch it, and if it's your shot, shoot it, if it's not, take one or two dribbles and kick it to someone else and let them do it. He continued, If you look at the good teams, like San Antonio and Golden State, nobody really holds the ball. If you have a tendency to want to pump fake, and then you want to make a move, by then the defense adjusts."
On other players off the ball not moving enough:
"You have to time it. You can't be up there early, because then your man knows where you're at and they're going to deny it. You have to be away from it, and then when the ball is swung to a particular player, you're in your set-up motion to pop open." He continued, "We're sitting in the corner a little too much in some of those situations."
On what happened against Miami:
"Miami slowed the game down on us, and shot with the clock down to three or four most of the time. Indiana did that too but they missed the shots and we were able to fast break. Miami made those shots and we weren't able to run." He continued, "Miami did a good job of executing with the shot clock down, and they got back on defense, and we didn't have the energy with the fourth game in five nights, and we just didn't have the energy we needed to push the ball after a make."
On his ankle and status:
I feel a lot better, this is probably the best day. This is the best it's felt since I got injured. Today I did the most I've done in two weeks. If it responds good, I'm going to play. Once I can tolerate the pain, and I can move out there a little bit, I'm going to play." He continued, "I've been trying to rest the past few days...it felt the best it has since I injured it. There are still some cuts, like when I'm going left that hurt, but if it responds well tomorrow I'm going to definitely be out there playing...I'm tired of sitting behind the bench and watching. If I can move as well as I did today I'll be out there"
On what he can do to help the team:
"Just orchestrating the team as a point guard and getting the guys in the right spots...not saying Eric or Goran aren't doing a great job of that, but sometimes we have lulls in the game when we don't know what play we're in, or we don't know what we're doing. So I think I can help in that manner, and just be another guy out there that can create for others, and myself."
On what he's seen since being injured:
"Just being a student of the game. Not just sitting behind the bench, but cheering guys on and telling guys what you're seeing when you're out there. When you're out there on the floor, sometimes you don't see what the coaches see, so I was just trying to maintain being a leader and helping out as much as I can when I wasn't out there with the guys."
On frustration of being injured:
"Last year I sat out 10 games due to injury, and it was the first time in my life that I had to sit out due to injury...this is the second time. It's tough, but at the end of the day you can only focus on what you can control, and I was in there every day getting treatment, trying to get right. When you're injured and sitting out, that's tough anyway, but on top of that it's knowing you want to play and help your team win."
On if he can help bring more energy:
"I can help with energy...that's what I do, that's my game. If I'm not playing with energy then I'm not that good of a basketball player. I think I can help, actually, I know I can help. We've played pretty well but we haven't been able to close games, and I think I can help in that aspect as well."
- The Morris Twins were shooting around together after practice, and getting help from one of the coaches as a stand-in to practice their post-ups against. You know those contested, turn-around jump-shots the Morrii take in games that make you cringe...until they go in? Yeah those...and they not only practice them, they are very good at that shot and seemingly seek out the opportunity to use it as well.
- Both Alex Len and Miles Plumlee were working on their 15-foot jump-shots from the elbow, and also their free-throws. Alex Len was shooting the ball extremely well, which is no surprise after seeing how well he's shot the ball from mid-range, and even out to the three lately. Miles wasn't hitting nearly as many as Alex, though he was definitely putting in the time after practice to continue getting better.
- An impromptu dunk contest...kind of...broke out after practice featuring mostly Gerald Green and...wait for it...Tyler Ennis? Yep, the young Canadian native was seen attempting a dunk...kind of...in which he sort of dunked, but more like tipped in a bounce-pass high off the court. Anthony Tolliver was vocal in his discounting of the attempt, saying that you have to have your whole hand over the rim to count. While I didn't get that on video, I was able to capture Gerald Green after the fact, showing the young rookie how it's done.
So I'll leave you with Green doing what he does best, for your viewing pleasure: