Before we fully realized he was here, he was gone.
Josh Childress, one of the first players signed by the new regime of Suns front office brass, was amnestied by the same group of men who brought him in after two seasons of limited playing time and a lack of a clear-cut role.
Upon his return from a two-year stint in Europe, the former Hawks' Sixth Man of the Year candidate returned and came to Phoenix on a five-year, $33.5 million sign-and-trade deal with Atlanta. The signing was perhaps to shore up the Suns' bench with a proven defender with a high basketball IQ — or in other words, a Shawn Marion-lite.
Unfortunately for both Childress and the Suns, it didn't work out that way.
To many, the move didn't make much sense — and perhaps rightfully so — but Josh Childress is one of most quietly professional athletes in this league, and he should be rightfully recognized as such.
But enough of the backstory. Before we begin, I should let you know that this is more than just a farewell. This is the story of how a benchwarmer burrowed his way into the heart of a reporter — perhaps for good.
The sun may have already set in Phoenix for Josh Childress, but for this reporter, he won't be forgotten.
We'll start from the beginning. I've been a fan of basketball since the ripe old age of six, when the Suns were giving their best to try and pry an NBA title from Jordan's Bulls. When KJ, Thunder Dan and Charles Barkley were among the most impersonated players on the playground courts of my elementary school. When being a basketball fan in Phoenix was something you could be proud of.
Naturally, because my obsession with the sport started at such a young age, I needed more to satiate my hunger for the game, especially as I got older. I began to follow the Arizona State Sun Devils, only to begin to hate the Arizona Wildcats for being so much better than my hometown team. I started watching NBA games of teams I had never heard of, and started hating other teams who "stole" players from my beloved Suns. (Sorry, Houston and Miami. I know it's not your fault, but I can't stand you. For totally and completely childish reasons.)
In my high school years, I began to follow Pac-10 basketball more closely as my interest in the sport continued to grow. It was during this time when Josh Childress first caught my eye at Stanford. I won't lie to you and tell you I've been a fan ever since. Instead, the name simply became a bit more familiar to me.
After his first few years in the league, Childress' name began to gain a bit more traction in the league. Perhaps it was the throwback hairstyle — his signature 'fro — or the fact that he had become one of the better bench players in the league. Then, just when the interest in Childress began to reach its peak, he bolted to Greece to play with the Euroleague club Olimpiacos Piraeus.
Two years later, after he had been largely forgotten by the NBA community, he returned and the Suns announced their plans to sign him. As a reporter, I was able to attend his introductory press conference and listen to his plans for the future as a member of the team and what he learned abroad.
It might be because this press conference was the first of this nature that I attended, but I instantly felt that Childress would become a regular part of the team I've rooted for since I was young.
However, in the first few months of the 2010-11 season, Childress' presence on the court wasn't exactly overwhelming. The doubters that called the signing a mistake because of his shooting deficiencies were sitting high and mighty on their throne. Still, Childress remained a consummate professional. Despite his playing time, he was still one of the most noticeably energetic players on the court when he got the time. He gave his all for his team, regardless of how many minutes he actually saw real game time.
It was at this point when I began to gain a true respect for Childress. He seemed to be the complete opposite of the superstar diva mentality the league has grown accustomed to over the past decade. I even asserted myself as the pseudo-leader of the #FreeChilly movement on various social media platforms.
As a side note in my Chilly fandom journey, the Suns had a promotion at a O'Reilly Auto Parts in Gilbert, Ariz., where I won a shooting contest and was given the choice between receiving an autograhped Childress or an autographed Hedo Turkoglu jersey. The choice was simple.
But I digress.
After a disappointing 2010-11 campaign that saw the Suns mired in mediocrity, the door seemed to open a bit for the then 28-year-old swingman. In a season where the Suns' true identity seemed to be in question, there was a glimpse of hope for more playing time for Childress.
Instead, we saw more of the same.
Still, Childress remained upbeat. His overall impact on the game may have been slight, but it was the energy he brought to the court night in and night out that made me truly respect the man.
Even upon hearing news of his departure, he tweeted, "Thank you to the Phoenix Suns organization, my teammates and the great fans. I appreciate everything. God Bless!"
While the #FreeChilly movement had seemed to reach its end — albeit not in the way I nor anyone else intended — there is still plenty to take away from "The Childress Era," though no one will remember it as such. We learned that there are still athletes who don't need the spotlight to contribute. We saw a man who had hopes of consistent playing time ride the pine — and still continue to support his teammates in any way possible.
So, I beckon you to raise your glass to a player you may not have rooted for, but who deserves every ounce of respect you have.
Chilly, this one's for you.
Markieff Morris again led the team with 13 points and six rebounds and Kendall Marshall finished with three points, five assists and two turnovers. However, the two combined to shoot 5-23 from the field and the team as a whole struggled to put the ball in the basket.
- "I feel like we have great energy and I feel like we were playing defense pretty good," Marshall said. "We’re a little undersized, but we just have to find a way to score the ball. I think we only had eight points in the third quarter and it’s tough to win that way."
The Suns struggled to find any kind of offensive flow all game and only shot 33.3% from the field as a team. The team settled for a lot of long jump-shots which didn't fall and turned the ball over 15 times. Suns Summer League head coach Dan Majerle said he believes fatigue had a lot to do with the offensive struggles.
- "We’ve had two-a-days for three straight days and then came here and we’ve been playing, you know, we’ve had two straight games and a scrimmage, so we’ve been working these guys pretty hard," Majerle said. "I’d expect they are pretty tired so the day off is good for us tomorrow."
Morris continued to show off his improved all-around game and hit some very difficult shots. However, he struggled to finish overall (4-13 from the field) and left the game early after slipping and hurting his knee. Majerle said the injury wasn't serious, though, and Morris could have returned if he needed to.
Marshall was more aggressive in his second game and looked for his shot a little more but struggled, going 1-10. He did hit a nice pull-up jumper after a series of jab steps and head fakes early in the game, but it was his only field goal of the game. Marshall did look more comfortable out on the court compared to his first game.
- "He’s got to figure it out," Majerle said. "I just told him to have fun, don’t worry about anything. He was a little nervous yesterday. I said you’ll figure it out and take your shot when it’s there. He’ll get it done. He’s a good player. You can see that he knows what he’s doing."
Marcus Landry was the only Sun other than Morris to reach double figures with 11 points behind 3-8 shooting from deep. Charles Garcia, who has already been invited to the Suns' training camp, made some nice plays and scored eight points, but struggled a bit overall with seven personal fouls and a team low -25. Still, Majerle is impressed with Garcia's work ethic.
"I think [Charles Garcia] is a good talent" Majerle said. "We’ve thrown a lot at him, he’s had a hard time taking it all in and remembering it. But he’s a guy who can get out and run, plays hard defensively, he can shoot the basketball ... He’s a joy to coach."
The Hornets had four players in double figures and were led by the 16 points of Brian Roberts, who replaced a banged up Austin Rivers in the starting line-up. Rivers sat out the game after hitting the ground hard in the Hornets' last game.
The Suns get tomorrow off to rest and recover before returning to the court on Friday night to face the D-League Select team. The game tips off at 8 p.m. Arizona time and will be shown online on Summer League Broadband.
The Phoenix Suns Summer League squad (1-1) takes the court tonight at 5:30 AZ time to take on the New Orleans Hornets (0-2). The game will be shown live on NBA TV and can also be seen online via Summer League Broadband on NBA.com.
The Suns are coming off of their first lost after falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers 89-74. For the second straight game, Suns forward Markieff Morris was the best player on the court. He struggled a bit from the field but went 9-10 from the free-throw line an posted a monster double-double with 24 points,17 rebounds and also chipped in 6 blocks. However, he continues to rack up the fouls. Hopefully he can finish the game with less than six fouls.
Tuesday night's game was also the professional debut of rookie Kendall Marshall, although it was less than impressive. Marshall finished the game with just five assists to go with five turnovers, an air-balled his only field goal attempt. Marshall appeared to be nervous and perhaps a tad bit rusty after having to stay off the court for some time while recovering from the injury that ended his college career.
Look for Marshall to settle in a bit more today an play more under control. Hopefully he can develop some chemistry with his teammates and show off the distributing prowess that made him the 13th pick in the draft. Summer League head coach Dan Majerle said after Tuesday's game that he wants the rookie to be more aggressive and look for his own shot a bit more, so we'll have to keep an eye on that.
The Hornets are lead by Austin Rivers, the tenth overall pick in this year's draft. Rivers has been less than impressive in the Hornets' first two games, averaging 10 points an 3.5 assist while shooting 21.1% from the field including 1-8 from beyond the arc. Rivers is playing plenty of point guard for the Hornets, so the match-up between he and Marshall is one of the major story-lines of this game. Apparently, the Marshall-Rivers match-up won't be happening as Rivers is hurt and will sit out this game.
Lance Thomas, the second year man and undrafted forward out of Duke has probably been the team's best player and is coming off of a 22-point performance. We might see a little bit of him matching up with Morris, which should be fun to watch (although Thomas is playing the 4 and Morris has played mostly 5 for the Suns). Other players to keep an eye on are Xavier Henry, the 12th overall pick in 2010 and Darius Miller, their second round pick this year.
Now here are some news bullets for you:
Now I leave you with some words of wisdom from Kendall Marshall as he prepares for tonight's game:
Swimming pools.— Kendall Marshall (@KButter5) July 18, 2012
The Suns have been busy bringing back Goran Dragic, signing Michael Beasley, claiming Luis Scola and whiffing on O.J. Mayo. We discuss all that plus Kendall Marshall's inglorious professional debut at Vegas Summer League.
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