Here's the weekly open thread!

Informal workouts are definitely starting up! The boys played some 4-on-4 last week, with Scola and Beasley due to arrive any day now. I'll try to get us some exclusive content in the near future, but for now we can rely on good old Paul Coro for more good tidbits.

Paul gives us a recap of the Babby Plan | azcentral.com | Paul Coro

"As much as we hated to admit it because we loved what this team represented, it was like watching the sands fall through the hourglass," Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said. "They were falling and the sand was getting smaller on the top. You could see time passing. Now we think we've turned the glass over. We don't know what we have in the top but at least we have time and a bright new day."

But that's not all, oh no that is not all...

Voluntary Workouts start, and other juicy tidbits | azcentral.com | Paul Coro

The group should grow Monday for some five-on-five-play with more arrivals but this week was a good start with Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Sebastian Telfair, P.J. Tucker, Wesley Johnson, Kendall Marshall and Markieff Morris on hand, as well as Morris' twin, Marcus. Channing Frye has been around too but can't participate in scrimmaging yet because of his shoulder rehabilitation.

More after the jump...

And as always, add your own news and notes! For this is the weekly open thread, after all!

Here's the weekly open thread!

Informal workouts are definitely starting up! The boys played some 4-on-4 last week, with Scola and Beasley due to arrive any day now. I'll try to get us some exclusive content in the near future, but for now we can rely on good old Paul Coro for more good tidbits.

Paul gives us a recap of the Babby Plan | azcentral.com | Paul Coro

"As much as we hated to admit it because we loved what this team represented, it was like watching the sands fall through the hourglass," Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said. "They were falling and the sand was getting smaller on the top. You could see time passing. Now we think we've turned the glass over. We don't know what we have in the top but at least we have time and a bright new day."

But that's not all, oh no that is not all...

Voluntary Workouts start, and other juicy tidbits | azcentral.com | Paul Coro

The group should grow Monday for some five-on-five-play with more arrivals but this week was a good start with Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Sebastian Telfair, P.J. Tucker, Wesley Johnson, Kendall Marshall and Markieff Morris on hand, as well as Morris' twin, Marcus. Channing Frye has been around too but can't participate in scrimmaging yet because of his shoulder rehabilitation.

More after the jump...

And as always, add your own news and notes! For this is the weekly open thread, after all!

Jared Dudley is ready to lead | suns.com | Greg Esposito

SunsCentral | suns.com

Slideshow of the new guys in their Suns jerseys! | suns.com

Here's the first pic

Dragic_4752_medium


Possible Co-Captains?  These two will likely share quite a few minutes on the court together.

Chemistry.

Not the science of matter and chemical reactions, the ability for people to interact with one another.

Due to the vicissitudes of the off-season, the new look Suns will need to build some. The starting of next now may be dependent on the compatibility of the melange of fresh faces with the returning regime. Seven may be a lucky number, but it's also a ton of turnover.

Enter resident mad scientist Alvin Gentry. This is already the third overhaul the team has undergone during Gentry's relatively brief tenure. Each time he builds his bricolage, the pieces are swept off the table like some sinister game of Jenga against a petulant opponent. Gentry concocts his potion only to see the ingredients on the shelf behind him rotate out.

It's time for another grand experiment. Start the clock. For the Suns to maximize their potential this season, the brainstorm must occur early. Gentry doesn't have the luxury of waiting for improvement in the second half, as has been the leitmotif of previous campaigns. Gentry will need to figure out which rotations will be most fecund and which individuals can be part of a team.

After all, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

All tables were developed using information made available by 82games.com.

Our journey begins with a look at a far removed era of Suns basketball - the 2009-10 season. No surprise here that Nash, Stoudemire and Richardson populate the top three units in terms of plus/minus. One thing to note is that Dudley's name finds its way onto the list more than any other player, present in four of the five rotations.

Suns_2009-10_top_5_medium

The next season (2010-11) finds Nash, Hill and Frye on all five of the Suns best units. Notice here that Frye seems to be able to switch back and forth between the four and the five quite capably and is paired with a center in four of the rotations.

Suns_2010-11_top_5_medium

Which brings us to last year. These perambulations down memory lane make me so mawkish...

What do we see here?

Nash and Gortat in four pairings.

Frye and Gortat in three. Remember, that's after two the previous season.

Brown, Dudley and Gortat in two.

Dudley, Frye and Gortat in one.

Suns_2011-12_top_5_medium

What conclusions can we draw?

Nash played in 12 of the 15 top units the last three years. Those units were +734. I'm pretty sure that any way we parse the data that Nash will be superior to anyone else on the team using these types of stats. How much of a deleterious effect will his departure have? We know that one of Nash's greatest attributes is his ability to make those around him better.... but we also know that bench units have had some success without his presence.

Analysts forecasting failure seem to think the loss will have a profoundly pernicious effect. I'm ambivalent. A couple of these rotations could be plug and play with the new additions. Several productive line ups return three or four pieces, meaning that they could be easily augmented into fruitful groups once again. But where will this augmentation come from?

That's easy. The Rockets and Timberwolves. Yay?

While Lowry was the floor general for the five man unit with a +24 that led the team in minutes played (455.4), Dragic's four line ups were a combined +136 in 397.5 minutes. That's good. Dragic and Scola were also paired in two of the groupings (including the best overall). More good.

Houston_2011-12_top_5_medium

The outlook for the incoming pieces from Minnesota isn't quite as auspicious. Beasley was in the top five man unit on the team, but they only played together for 33.3 minutes. Beasley made two of the top five, but was only in one grouping that registered more than 34.8 minutes together during the season. Part of that was due to his reduced role (23.1 minutes per game), part because he missed nearly a third of the season (19 games) to injuries. Beasley started the first seven games, got hurt, and never regained his starting role.

The returns from Johnson are putrid. He does crack one of the top five rotations, but is also in four of the worst five. He managed nearly as many minutes per game as Beasley (22.6), but played more minutes during the season as he only missed one game and unbelievably managed to start 64...

Speaking of the games Beasley missed, check out this discussion over at Canis Hoopus in which they speak glowingly of the Suns inimitable medical staff. Hit the link, this stuff is like gold - except actually valuable.

Minnesota_2011-12_top_5_medium

What we know.

Gortat, Dudley, Frye and Brown have already demonstrated an ability to play together effectively. In particular, Gortat and Frye have proven to be thick as thieves, compiling an impressive +319 in 1,607.7 minutes the past two seasons (as part of the top units).

Dragic and Scola seem to play well together. They managed to amass a +79 in 229.9 minutes among two pairings.

Dragic has played well with Dudley and Frye before (think 2009-10).

What we don't know.

How will Dragic interact with Gortat and Brown?

Do the Suns still have a logjam at power forward with Scola, Frye, Morris and Beasley perhaps being best suited at the four?

How in tarnation does Michael Beasley fit into all of this?

What I think I know.

The real lucky seven - Gortat, Dragic, Dudley, Frye, Scola, Beasley and Brown.

Other players, such as Morris and Telfair, may crack some of the top five man units, but I think that there's a really good chance that these seven guys will be intimately involved with the team's success (or failure).

Let's play Gentry. Left hand yellow, right foot blue, given those players what would you do?

I surmise that the starters entering training camp are Dragic, Dudley, Beasley, Scola and Gortat. I'm not sure that I necessarily think that's the best unit, though.

A Dragic, Brown, Dudley, Beasley/Frye, Gortat combination might be more prolific. Maybe Dragic, Dudley, Beasley, Frye and Gortat?

Once we get past the Dragon and the Hammer (that sounds like a cool name for a pub), it is still somewhat nebulous. Back to the lab for Gentry. Time to amalgamate the winning formula.

What can we mix in the Brightside beaker? Who do you think the starters will be on opening night, and who do you think will be the Suns best five man unit?


Wonder why his arms aren't up for the rebound?

Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat was the best big man in this year's qualifying tournament for Eurobasket 2013, which will be hosted by the Suns' Goran Dragic's Slovenia next year. Check out the short video preview (after the jump), Slovenian National Team style.

Gortat led Poland to a 6-2 record (including their last 5 consecutive), winning Group E and guaranteeing a spot in the 24-team field for the European Championships next year. In all, 16 of the 24 teams had qualify for Eurobasket 2013 this fall. The eight teams already in are the host country (Slovenia) and the 7 Euro teams who played in this year's Olympics - F.Y.R. of Macedonia, France, Great Britain, Greece, Lithuania, Russia and Spain.

The Polish Hammer finished fourth in the Qualifying tourney in scoring (21.1 per game), second in rebounding (11.6) and second in blocks (2.3) amongst all players in the 30-team field. He finished top-10 in 13 different statistical categories for the tourney, missing on only volume-related minutes-per-game (#20) and field goals attempted (#16). The Polish Hammer was extremely efficient throughout the entire tourney, and finished with a double-double in six of eight qualifying games.

We still don't know if Gortat will suddenly stop scoring without Nash feeding him the ball, but evidence shows that Gortat has been able to score in other situations without Nash. Despite being double and triple-teamed in this and previous Euro tourneys, Gortat has been able to score well (18.9 ppg in Eurobasket 2011, 14.3 ppg in Eurobasket 2009). And in limited action as Dwight Howard's backup in Orlando, Gortat showed an ability to score.

Cross your fingers that he won't suddenly become an 8 ppg player, but feel comfortable that Gortat will still bring rebounding, blocks and toughness no matter what. If nothing else, Gortat will get some points off Dragic's penetration and pick-and-roll action. Gortat is an opportunist, meaning he finds ways to get easy scores. That won't stop.

Here's Slovenia's preview for Eurbasket 2013. Recognize anyone?

So now we have a showdown to preview all year - will Dragic's Slovenia and/or Gortat's Poland find a way to bring their country a medal next fall? or will Luis Scola's Argentina?

We have friendly rivalries about to bud this next season.

Let's hope they become great teammates on the Suns first.


If you've read Jack McCallum's excellent book he wrote after shadowing the 2005-06 Phoenix Suns, "Seven Seconds or Less", you know what a great storyteller he is. He leverages his access, gained from years as an NBA reporter, to give fans a view from behind the scenes of basketball, showing the human side of the game by painting a picture of the personalities involved. His latest book "Dream Team" tells the story of what is generally considered to be the greatest basketball team ever assembled, the 1992 US Men's Basketball Olympic team, AKA "The Dream Team".

McCallum traveled with the team to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and had a front row seat to the cultural phenomenon that was the US's first Olympic squad comprised of professionals. This cast included larger than life figures Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson and Chris Mullin. Every member of the team went on to the Basketball Hall of Fame except for Christian Laettner, who was a college superstar at the time after he, along with Grant Hill, led Duke to two national championships.

If you were alive at the time and witnessed it, the Dream Team was a force of nature. With the benefit of hindsight, it was also a turning point in making basketball an international game.

Jump it for my book report.

If you've read Jack McCallum's excellent book he wrote after shadowing the 2005-06 Phoenix Suns, "Seven Seconds or Less", you know what a great storyteller he is. He leverages his access, gained from years as an NBA reporter, to give fans a view from behind the scenes of basketball, showing the human side of the game by painting a picture of the personalities involved. His latest book "Dream Team" tells the story of what is generally considered to be the greatest basketball team ever assembled, the 1992 US Men's Basketball Olympic team, AKA "The Dream Team".

McCallum traveled with the team to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and had a front row seat to the cultural phenomenon that was the US's first Olympic squad comprised of professionals. This cast included larger than life figures Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson and Chris Mullin. Every member of the team went on to the Basketball Hall of Fame except for Christian Laettner, who was a college superstar at the time after he, along with Grant Hill, led Duke to two national championships.

If you were alive at the time and witnessed it, the Dream Team was a force of nature. With the benefit of hindsight, it was also a turning point in making basketball an international game.

Jump it for my book report.

Michael Jordan seemed omnipresent when he was the NBA's greatest player. He dominated the league and had major endorsements including Nike and Gatorade. The "I wanna be like Mike...if I could be like Mike" sentiment was everywhere, but McCallum asserts that, if anything, Jordan was underrated for how great he was as a player. For all the endorsements he had (and could still have, if he chose to), he turned down even more.

For all the hype, and it felt overwhelming at times, he more than lived up to it. In 1992, he was staking his claim as a legend: his Bulls had won the previous two NBA championships, and Jordan league MVP both times. His drive and competitiveness were never in doubt, but McCallum also shows how Jordan had a superhuman energy level.

The players all stayed in the same hotel in Barcelona and had a family room where they hung out, some players more than others. In that family room, they'd play cards and talk trash to each other late into the night. The next day, Jordan would play 18 holes of golf and then the basketball game. On the night before the Gold Medal game, Jordan stayed up as late as anyone, shot a commercial the following morning, golfed 18 holes, then played in the championship game with virtually no sleep. The US team beat Croatia by 32 points in another dominating effort, and that was their smallest margin of victory at The Games.

As titular co-captains, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had similar roles, and similar situations as superstars seeing their careers wind down, Bird due to a chronic back problem, and Magic due to HIV. When Magic announced in 1991 that he was HIV-positive, it was a bombshell revelation. The assumption, based on available knowledge at the time, was that Magic would grow ever more sickly, and die within a few years. 21 years later, Magic's kicking HIV's ass, but the story's not as big as it should be given his outlook at the time.

On that team, Magic and Bird were captains, but Jordan was the real leader. Magic flexed his muscle where he could and acted as team leader with Jordan's consultation, while Bird took the approach of, "I'm supposed to direct these guys how to be great? They've obviously already figured that out for themselves."

Bird was also more willing to cede the title as "The Greatest" to Jordan than Magic was. They were both nearing the end of their careers, and Bird retired after The Games. Jordan was the best player at the time, and in the following years he'd remove any doubt about that. One of my favorite parts of the book was reading the way Bird and Ewing became close friends on the team after Ewing disliked Bird at the onset, believing, as many did, that Bird's popularity was due in large part to his race. The differences melted away within the context of two competitive men who lifted themselves from disadvantaged upbringings through hard work.

The Suns player on that team, Charles Barkley, had yet to play a game in Phoenix, traded from the Sixers earlier in the summer. He'd go on to win league MVP the following season in leading the Suns to the NBA Finals against Jordan's Bulls, but first he made his presence felt on the Dream Team. Barkley was an unstoppable force in the post against weaker competition, and a superstar personality on a team stacked with them.

Barkley, as did the rest of the Dream Teamers, relished the chance to participate in this historic event. "I don't know anything about Angola, but Angola's in trouble," Barkley famously quipped before their first game in the Olympic tournament.

The Dream Team's performance was memorable not only for its dominance, which was unquestionable: they beat the best teams the rest of the world had to offer by an average margin of 44 points over 8 games. There were some who believed the uneven level of competition in those Olympics would discourage young players in other countries from pursuing basketball, but the opposite happened. Of course, they were awestruck by the amazing American players, but the Dream Team didn't deter them from stepping up; it challenged them to, and international competition responded.

For young fans, it might seem as if international players playing prominent roles in the NBA has been a regular occurrence. But it wasn't always that way, and the Dream Team helped to foster in a new era. The dominance of the US in international basketball started to slip as soon as 1996, when the next Olympic team won the Gold Medal but in much less impressive fashion. Just 10 years after the Dream Team, the US finished sixth in the World Championships in 2002, due to US complacency coupled with dramatic improvement from international competition. The US wouldn't win the Gold Medal in 2004, and rose again only after former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo assumed control of the organization, insisting that the team be built as a true team and not a collection of individuals.

Look around the NBA now: German Dirk Nowitizki, French Tony Parker, Argentinian Manu Ginobili, and Spaniards Pau and Marc Gasol, are all-stars. The current Suns roster includes Polish Marcin Gortat, Slovenian Goran Dragic and Argentinian Luis Scola. It wasn't always this way. International players used to be a novelty, and only the best non-American players like Drazen Petrovic, Sarunas Marciulionis and Detlef Schrempf made it to NBA rosters.

The Dream Team didn't make it easy to play with the world's best, but they did make it possible, and the game of basketball is an international game today largely as a result. The Suns had a pretty good player from Canada once, right?

This book is a great read, documenting a landmark in modern basketball history: a summer read in this summer that saw the US Men's Basketball team win another Gold Medal.The 2012 US Olympic Gold Medal winners were a great team, but they were no Dream Team.

Anybody else read the book? Or has Dream Team memories to share?


If you were an NBA fan, a sneaker aficionado, or a television owner in 2007, you probably saw this commercial at least 30 times. This one-minute ad, intended to sell sneakers to the masses, was a...

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