What happened was the closest thing to perfection that the Phoenix Suns may find during the 2013-2014 season.. That perfection came in the form of a 130-89 route of Israeli Premier League Champion Maccabi Haifa to kick-start the pre-season.

The game as a whole encapsulated all of the potential positives and the handicapping negatives that will be around all season.

Before the game, when the starters were announced, Head Coach Jeff Hornacek referenced wanting a certain type of player on his team. The starters were pretty much what was expected with Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat getting the nod out of the gates, but the type of prospect that Hornacek seems to want is a pretty spot on description of one of the starters. The coaching staff is looking for a specific type of player this year.

"The guys that might not be the most talented," Coach Hornacek elaborates on what he is looking for. "The guys that do what is asked defensively, offensively and don't over rotate. Guys that get back on defense. Guys that make extra passes. Those are the guys that us as coaches feel give us the best chance to win so that is what we are looking for."

That is about as one the nose for a scouting report for players like Tucker as you are going to find.

Having players like Tucker, Bledsoe, and Dragic on the perimeter allows for a quicker pace. A more high octane approach and when one of those three is on it with their energy, as we saw in this exhibition, the effects ripple throughout the roster giving this team a chip on their shoulder to create turnovers at a high rate. In this game the Suns forced 23 turnovers, netted 16 steals, and scored 43 points on the fast-break. They scored 35 points off of the Maccabi miscues in specific.

Compare that to last season and all three of those would be season highs as the most steals (14, against Sacramento) and fast-break points (32, against Houston) were topped with this affair.

Then again this was not against an NBA team.

The Suns used their ability to create havoc in the back-court with Bledsoe spearheading the defensive break with Dragic and Tucker picking up the momentum to follow suit. In fact seven players registered at least one steal as the athletic cast of perimeter reserves like Shannon Brown (2), Archie Goodwin (1), Gerald Green (1), and Marcus Morris (1) all joined in the festivities creating turnovers and opportunities to score in transition.

Effort is one thing that is hard to measure, but when someone like Bledsoe comes into the game with the type of energy and effort he plays with that is contagious. That energy can be shared with teammates.

"That is how it always is," Bledsoe after the game on the contagious nature of energy and effort. "For me, I just try to energize everybody and everybody just fed off of what I did."

Shooting can be contagious, selflessness can be contagious, and this type of defensive effort can be contagious as well. The tone was set early with Bledsoe and Tucker registering two steals a piece and jumping on Maccabi with a +16 advantage after the first quarter.

AGAIN, WE CAN'T LET OUR GUYS FALL ASLEEP. WE PLAY PORTLAND NEXT GAME AND THEY ARE GOING TO BE MUCH DIFFERENT TO PLAY AGAINST. YOU HAVE TO PLAY A LITTLE MORE SOLID, BUT WE WANT TO STILL HAVE ACTIVE HANDS. -Coach Hornacek on competition levels and expectations


These numbers and this effort is unrealistic to ask for not only against NBA caliber teams, but it is another thing to ask for it consistently against NBA caliber teams.

It is one thing to create turnovers against Brian Randle, Moran Roth, and Maccabi Haifa. It is another thing to expect that nightly against the elite backcourts in the NBA featuring the best athletes for their position in the world. The backcourt trio the Suns started tonight, despite Coach Hornacek speaking to an open competition, will likely be the opening day group on the perimeter. Those three are going to create a lot of turnovers while also giving up a lot as well.

This is an identity that in the short-term will hurt them and probably lose a fair share of games, but in the long-term could elevate this team back to promise.

All throughout the game Coach Hornacek played with different line-ups from two point guards to two centers on the court at the same time. He is still tinkering with things and there is no guarantee that these five will be starters at the next game or to start the season. One thing is for certain; if the Suns retain this type of effort from the trio of Bledsoe, Dragic, and Tucker then they will be a tough team behind that swarming defense.

PHOENIX – Aside from the lost jump ball in the 2013-14 preseason opener on Monday night, the Phoenix Suns looked far and away the superior team compared to Maccabi Haifa. At least, the Suns were the...

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PHOENIX – When Ish Smith was wondering where the defense went, you know you’ve not found the most competitive opponent. Such was the case Monday night at U.S. Airways Center as the Phoenix Suns...

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PG: Eric Bledsoe

PG: Goran Dragic

SF: P.J. Tucker

PF: Markieff Morris

C: Marcin Gortat

(Like I said)

GO!!!

The Phoenix Suns left Summer League with one loss (in the Championship Game) and left Training Camp in Flagstaff with win (and a loss) as well during a friendly scrimmage. Now the pre-season begins with another friendly affair as the Suns host the reigning Israeli Premier League Champions.

Maccabi Bazan Haifa does not feature a lot of known characters for the American audience outside of "Dunk City's" Sherwood Brown.

This will be the second time Brown gets on the court at U.S. Ariways Arena here in Phoenix as the Suns worked him out on June 18th in a group workout close to the end of the NBA Draft Process. Brown is now the star and key player for Maccabi Haifa as they look to replace their former star point guard, Wichita State alum, Gal Meker who is now with the Dallas Mavericks.

This should be an interesting game for the Suns to test out their new head coach, new roster, and rookies.

To kick off the 2013 Pre-Season the Philadelphia 76ers fought tooth and nail with the Bilboa Basket needing a pair of Spencer Hawes free-throws late to seal the 106-104 win against Davis Bertans whose draft rights are owned by the San Antonio Spurs. That team featured three former or future NBA players while Maccabi has maybe one (Brown) that has that type of potential.

Don't expect more of that "Dunk City" style with Maccabi, but maybe some moments of that from both sides with the athletes each team has on display. This years Suns team might be the lottery version of "Dunk (or Lob) City."

(Recent) History Lesson

The only connection the Suns have to Israel comes from former Sun Amare Stoudemire and his recent move in faith and applied citizenship.

Head-to-Head (past four seasons including Playoffs)

N/A

Head-to-Head Match-Up (last season)

Donta Smith: 16.8 PPG 5.3 RPG 5.2 APG 2.0 SPG 59.3 FG% (35 games)

P.J. Tucker: 6.4 PPG 4.4 RPG 1.2 SPG 47.3 FG% (79 games)

These teams have not played head-to-head this year, go figure, but the potential point guard duel between Smith and Bledsoe should be intriguing. While he does not play "point guard," Smith does a little bit of everything from the forward position making the battle between secondary play-makers one to watch. Last year Meker was the star point guard for Maccabi which led to a contract in the NBA with the Mavericks. Now the back-court will have a different look with David Cubillan teaming with Brown, and Smith creating plays from the four, very talented player-makers for both teams.

In fact that should be the most fun tonight. Watching the back-courts of Dragic-Bledsoe-Tucker go head-to-head with the Cubillan-Brown-Smith back-court. If Maccabi can get the edge in that department they could have an opportunity to win this game.

(Potential) Starting Line-Ups

PG - Eric Bledsoe v. David Cubillan

SG - Goran Dragic v. Sherwood Brown

SF - P.J. Tucker v. Ben Rice

PF - Markieff Morris v. Donta Smith

C - Marcin Gortat v. Ike Ofoegbu

Potential Suns Inactives: N/A

Potential Maccabi Inactives: N/A

Key Match-Up

Goran Dragic v. Sherwood Brown

Easily the biggest name to draw in the casual fans for Maccabi is Brown while the fan favorite out here in the Valley over the years has been Dragic. Both are talented scorers that will have the opportunity to play off the ball a lot in this match-up to showcase their scoring abilities. They are evenly matched athletes that can do a little bit of everything making this the most fun match-up on paper. Or a screen.

Brown was the star of "Dunk City's" run in the NCAA Tournament which included knocking off No. 3 Overall pick Otto Porter's Hoyas and second round pick Jamaal Franklin's Aztecs. He is an exciting athlete that is more of a combo guard, but plays more off the ball typically out of team need.

Interesting Stat: 24 Minutes

Channing Frye was not expected to play, let alone get on the court for 24 minutes playing as well as he did in the teams inter-squad scrimmage to close out training camp. He stepped in and played well with 11 points and five rebounds while Markieff struggled (2-12 from the field) creating the impression that if Frye can play himself into basketball shape in the pre-season he may be able to steal the starting job back from the man who replaced him due to his heart condition.

Meaningless Stat: Everything else to do with the scrimmage

Gerald Green shot well, Ish Smith had six assists, and Dragic shot the ball poorly, all of which will mean very little for the team construction heading into pre-season play. These next few weeks are going to allow Coach Hornacek the opportunity to set a rotation and see who belongs on the court and when.

This game should be a fun and interesting way to kick off the 2013-2014 NBA Season for the Suns.

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