The Phoenix Suns were back in Phoenix on Monday for their first official non-training camp practice of the season. Watch this video of them getting in some work


20121003_mjr_su5_029

What's in a number?

A lot for Marcin Gortat, when that number is 13. With Nash's departure from Phoenix, Gortat is seizing his opportunity to regain the number he wore for Poland and the Orlando Magic. The number 13 may be unlucky for some, especially those with triskaidekaphobia, but for the Polish Gazelle (what an epicene nickname) it is coveted.

Gortat plans to begin the formal process of requesting the number change now so that he can be back in the one three for the 2013-14 season. He also plans to call Nash and get his blessing.

"I'm going to call Steve," said Gortat. "I'm quite sure he'll be fine with that if I'm going to carry his number, I'm going to obviously do this with pride."

I'm not sure how I feel about Gortat needing to ask "permission" from Nash. I would gather that this is just a formality since Nash has always been very accommodating. One last assist to the Polish Machine. Then again, it is somewhat of an unusual situation since Gortat will basically just be keeping the number warm until it ascends to the rafters at some future date.

The Suns currently have nine retired numbers. Dick Van Arsdale (5), Walter Davis (6), Kevin Johnson (7), Dan Majerle (9), Tom Chambers (24), Alvin Adams (33), Charles Barkley (34), Connie Hawkins (42) and Paul Westphal (44). I don't think it's a stretch to concede number 13 to Nash when he retires.

After Amar'e Stoudemire left number 1 got passed around like a pepper shaker. When Josh Childress donned the number it was without fanfare or objection. Now it has been passed like a baton from Chilly to Goran Dragic. People have differing opinions on whether Stoudemire deserves a spot in the ring (I'm of the opinion he does), but the terms of his departure weren't nearly as tempestuous.

Nash's number seems a little bit different. During the phantasmagoria that has transmogrified the Suns' franchise this offseason, I guess I should be accustomed to bizarre and unforeseen events. This still strikes me as a little bit off. Maybe it's because it feels like another example of players showing us that they think of themselves first, each other next and the fans dead last (or not at all). The pecking order is usually pretty palpable.

Not that Gortat needs my "permission" (or anybody else's - well, except the NBA's) to change his number, but I wonder whether he even thought about what we (the fans) might think?

So what do you think?

Poll
Should Marcin Gortat wear #13?

  278 votes | Results


20121003_mjr_su5_029

What's in a number?

A lot for Marcin Gortat, when that number is 13. With Nash's departure from Phoenix, Gortat is seizing his opportunity to regain the number he wore for Poland and the Orlando Magic. The number 13 may be unlucky for some, especially those with triskaidekaphobia, but for the Polish Gazelle (what an epicene nickname) it is coveted.

Gortat plans to begin the formal process of requesting the number change now so that he can be back in the one three for the 2013-14 season. He also plans to call Nash and get his blessing.

"I'm going to call Steve," said Gortat. "I'm quite sure he'll be fine with that if I'm going to carry his number, I'm going to obviously do this with pride."

I'm not sure how I feel about Gortat needing to ask "permission" from Nash. I would gather that this is just a formality since Nash has always been very accommodating. One last assist to the Polish Machine. Then again, it is somewhat of an unusual situation since Gortat will basically just be keeping the number warm until it ascends to the rafters at some future date.

The Suns currently have nine retired numbers. Dick Van Arsdale (5), Walter Davis (6), Kevin Johnson (7), Dan Majerle (9), Tom Chambers (24), Alvin Adams (33), Charles Barkley (34), Connie Hawkins (42) and Paul Westphal (44). I don't think it's a stretch to concede number 13 to Nash when he retires.

After Amar'e Stoudemire left number 1 got passed around like a pepper shaker. When Josh Childress donned the number it was without fanfare or objection. Now it has been passed like a baton from Chilly to Goran Dragic. People have differing opinions on whether Stoudemire deserves a spot in the ring (I'm of the opinion he does), but the terms of his departure weren't nearly as tempestuous.

Nash's number seems a little bit different. During the phantasmagoria that has transmogrified the Suns' franchise this offseason, I guess I should be accustomed to bizarre and unforeseen events. This still strikes me as a little bit off. Maybe it's because it feels like another example of players showing us that they think of themselves first, each other next and the fans dead last (or not at all). The pecking order is usually pretty palpable.

Not that Gortat needs my "permission" (or anybody else's - well, except the NBA's) to change his number, but I wonder whether he even thought about what we (the fans) might think?

So what do you think?

Poll
Should Marcin Gortat wear #13?

  38 votes | Results


20121003_mjr_su5_068

Mark this day down folks. There was the first Media Day without Steve Nash in nine years. Check. Then the first training camp without Steve Nash in nine years. Check check. Then the first intrasquad scrimm... you get the drift.

Today, we had the first official team practice without Steve Nash (on the roster).

The Suns are finding their way to a new offense, one that is not centered around Steve Nash for the first time in nine years. There will be more screen-and-cuts, more passing out of the post, more time with the point guard playing off the ball.

The other day, Jared Dudley commented on the new offense to Paul Coro of azcentral.com.

"It's an IQ offense where it's cuts and reads," Dudley said after the scrimmage on Saturday. "It's not one person, ‘Hey, Jared, the ball is going to you.' I think we had one or two plays for me and that's just because I got hot. For the most part, it was just reads and me getting open. If you work hard and cut and set good screens, you're going to be the one who's open. I wish we could've had this with Steve (Nash)."

I repeat that last line: "I wish we could've had this with Steve (Nash)."

After Suns practice today, I had the opportunity to ask Alvin Gentry what he thought of Jared's comment.

"We did fine with Steve here, okay?," he said, his voice turning to steel in the face of the new guy with the iPhone, "I'll listen to anything, but I won't listen to anything about our offense (with Nash). If you go back, we were first, first, first, third and then fifth (in the NBA). Two straight years we led the league in scoring, field goal percentage, three-point percentage and assists.

"So, if somebody wants to change that then you should talk about changing Miami's offense too. Okay? So we'll leave it at that. All right?"

All right.

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Watch video of Suns practice!

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Gentry on the players so far:

  • "[Scola]'s a very good high-post passer. The guy has a real good feel where guys are going to be, and he himself knowing when to cut and when not to. He and Goran both are good at that. JD (Jared Dudley) has picked it up well, and some other guys have picked it up well too."
  • Goran Dragic practiced well today. A little sore, being his first time out, but he did some good things. To me, Dragic wasn't limping at all. He looked as fast and loose as he ever has.
  • Shannon Brown bumped heads with another player. He got some stitches and missed the end of practice.
  • Markieff Morris' improvement can be traced to having a full offseason with the training staff.
  • Guys are still trying to figure each other out, knowing where and how guys like to play.
  • As a team, they have to get in better basketball shape*

*At the end of practice, the Suns run a full-court layup drill where they had to make 40 layups on each end of the court with only two live basketballs that weren't allowed to touch the ground. Just four guys rotating as passers getting the ball back and forth to sprinters. Tough to describe, I guess, but it was impressive to me how fast these guys can move. They had to run it three times before getting to 80.

Other thoughts from the open part of practice:

  • Wes Johnson really does have a smooth stroke, and nearly all of his shots went in. He reminds me of Wesley Person a little bit. Maybe it's just the first name.
  • Markieff Morris really is aggressive this year, as reported. He still didn't finish all his attempts under the basket, but he was working really hard
  • Jermaine O'Neal looks fast and free, not favoring any knee or injury of any kind. He could be a real good pickup.
  • Michael Beasley stands out as a really talented, smooth player. He is not the fastest, quickest guy out there but he really knows how to play
  • Lots of guys were talking on defense, and O'Neal in particular got mad when the other side scored on his team inside. Jared Dudley appeared to be the most vocal.
  • Kendall Marshall is a pure passer, but had some bonehead turnovers. He made few open shots too.
  • Luis Scola is a good player who just gets the job done.

That's all I got.


20121004_mjr_su5_013

Wesley Johnson was recently the #4 overall pick in the NBA draft. While that may have been a bit high, virtually everyone had him as a lottery pick. He was a great combination of rebounder and shooter in his one season at Syracuse under Jim Boeheim, who swore Johnson would be a great pro.

He never fit with the Timberwolves, who envisioned him as a long, athletic shooting guard thanks to his picture-perfect stroke. They saw a potentially elite defender and spot-up shooter in a lineup with playmaker Ricky Rubio and scorer Michael Beasley and rebounder-scorer extraordinaire Kevin Love at the forward spots.

In Phoenix, Johnson will spend most of this minutes at small forward, where he can play a little closer to the basket for rebounds and move and cut with the new Suns offensive system.

In a week of training camp, Johnson impressed coaches and players by making a lot of shots and helping teams of second- and third-stringers beat the starters on most nights. In the scrimmage, he pulled down seven rebounds to go along with 12 points.

"I think he's playing with more confidence," Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry told Stefan Swiat of suns.com. "And we have confidence in him. He's shooting the ball well."

Johnson is not a vocal leader, nor is he an aggressive scrapper. He won't wow you with foot speed.

But if he can defend at a high level, rebound a bit and make open shots, Wesley Johnson will be an effective backup small forward for the Suns.

"What they're telling me now is building up my confidence to take shots," Johnson said to Swiat. "I think this week I've come into my own and have gotten back to the old Wes.

"Everyone in the organization is making me feel like I'm at home. And I feel like that's translating to the court."

The Suns did not invest a lot of resources into Wesley Johnson. They took a one-year flier to see if he can succeed in a new system. If he plays well for the Suns, look for them to extend him next summer. If he doesn't, there's a lot of other guys on the roster who can play his minutes.

It's all up to Wes. And he looks like he's making the most of it.


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