UPDATE: See bottom of this article for game 2 commentary/results.

For the first time since March 2013, Marcin Gortat was able to take the court to lead Poland to a victory in a warmup game for Eurobasket 2013. That he was even able to take the court in a competitive basketball game was a huge step forward in Gortat's rehab.

Gortat scored 20 points of Poland's 66 points, including 3 dunks among 9 of 12 field goals. He also pulled down 5 rebounds and committed 4 turnovers in 21 minutes.

According to @SunsNationPL, a polish site for Suns fans, Gortat "made a huge difference on both ends of the floor."

Regarding the foot recovery, @SunsNationPL tweeted that Gortat "didn't show any signs of the pain in his foot. Very positive both for the Polish team and the Suns."

This must be a big relief for Gortat more than anyone.

The injury

Gortat missed the last 21 games of the Phoenix Suns season after suffering a mid-foot Lisfranc injury on March 6, 2013. His rehab and healing process has been slow. After an initial diagnosis of 3-4 week recovery, Gortat was barely walking freely before the Suns season ended five weeks later.

After the season he took a few weeks off, and then began preparing to represent Poland in Eurobasket 2013. Jared Dudley recently visited Gortat in Poland and tweeted several times about how Gortat is the clear face of Polish basketball. Gortat himself said he feels a lot of pressure - both from himself and his country - to play year-round for the NBA and Poland.

The continuing pain

Gortat had said he felt "better and better" and that "the rehabilitation is going well, but I still feel the pain of the foot, even during training."

Of the return to Phoenix for a checkup before playing competitively, Gortat said "I have to make sure that I will be healthy for the whole [NBA] season."

Frankly, no matter what your obligation is to your country, your first responsibility is to the team that is paying you $8 million dollars to compete in the U.S.

In further comments to Eurobasket 2013 reporters, Gortat laid fears to rest even before hopping stepping on the plane.

"I told my colleagues on the national team, that this is not not a holiday trip," the 29-year-old center explained.

"I'm going there [to the USA] to train normally, but also to meet with the physio-therapists of the Phoenix Suns.

"It was a serious injury and it has been slow to heal.

"The worst thing is that I cannot rest, especially at a time when I know I should train hard.

"I realize that sometimes you have to give the leg some rest, and I'm running in the gym, on the floor, doing more exercise and even prolong my workouts."

Cleared to play

Last week, Gortat was cleared to play basketball by the Suns doctors, despite the lingering pain. After spending a few days in Orlando, he returned to Poland over the weekend and played today. Very well, in fact.

Good for everyone - Marcin, the Suns and Poland.

Updates

First game (8/18 vs. Belgium) - 20 pts, 5 rebounds in 66-52 win

(see notes above in this story)

Second game (8/19 vs. Italy) - 18 pts, 5 rebounds in 82-79 win

Comments from @SunsNationPL:

"Gortat with another good game, but different than yesterday. Italian team used double teaming but Marcin adjusted well and showed some great low-post moves (including Dream Shake and a couple and-1s). In the fourth, Gortat made some important buckets and showed leadership. Fouled out with 15 seconds left."

Marcin Gortat, the poster boy for Polish basketball, returned to the US for a checkup on his injured foot. He still plans to play for Poland in Eurobasket 2013.

Big men do not have a good relationship with their feet. It's not like the bones and joints on big men are any stronger than the bones and joints on a little person. They just have to hold more weight. Add in basketball-type activities and the feet are pushed to their limits.

While the Suns wait to see how 19-year old Alex Len recovers from double ankle surgery to stave off stress fractures, they also cross their fingers over Marcin Gortat healing fully from a Lisfranc injury to his own foot.

Gortat has been training with Poland while preparing for Eurobasket 2013 (hosted by Slovenia who is led by teammate Goran Dragic), and all has been going well.

But he recently announced that he is taking a three week leave from the team to get his foot checked out by Suns doctors.

"Physically, I feel better and better, the rehabilitation is going well, but I still feel the pain of the foot, even during training," the 29-year-old big man said.

"I have to make sure that I will be healthy for the whole season."

To be sure, Gortat has to be as healthy as possible during the upcoming NBA season.

"There is a huge decision to make in front of me," Gortat said in April of the upcoming Eurobasket tournament this summer. "I'm going to decide about me playing for the national team in about 2-3 months. I have to rest, see how my foot's going to feel. I'm going to consider skipping most of the preparation.

"I don't want to have the same thing I had this year, hitting the wall after 20-30 games. It's not easy, no fun at all. I'm a competitor, I want to come out and compete every night. And I just wasn't able to do that so I'm definitely going to consider my whole situation with my national team."

For now, Gortat is taking three weeks off. He plans to rejoin the team for a prep tournament in late August. As long as his foot is healthy.

A healthy season could easily get him a $10 mill/year contract next summer at the age of 29. An injury-marred season would cut that number tremendously. And if, for some reason, he misses all of 2013-14 by re-injuring the foot during Eurobasket then Gortat might just be looking at a make-good NBA contract in 2014-15 with a lot of playing time incentives.

That's a lot of cheddar on the line. Expect Gortat to take the most conservative route to health for the upcoming NBA season.

With the unveiling of new Phoenix Suns uniforms came memories of the past. There have been big names involving franchise cornerstones Steve Nash and Charles Barkley, but role players like Bo Outlaw –...

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Caron Butler, a two-time All-Star and 2002-03 All-Rookie beside Amare Stoudemire, has enjoyed a long and fruitful NBA career that includes reaching the playoffs in three of his past four seasons and six times in 12 years. Butler's role on veteran playoff teams has diminished of late, including career lows in minutes-per-game the last two seasons with the Clippers (29.9 and 24.7 mpg).

Now with the Phoenix Suns, Butler is being viewed as the team's mentor and leader on the court.

Mentor

As his career winds down, Butler now finds himself traded to a rebuilding team that needs a mentor more than anything else he can provide on the court. And Butler is all-in with that plan.

"I feel great," he said of the change. "I think it's a great role and place for me. I'm a strong believer in God putting you in situations and spots for a reason. It's my time to be here. I'm going to make the best of it, win games and shed some light on this thing and set the winning culture."

Butler has long been known for his toughness and professionalism and has seen a lot of success. Chris Paul recently glowed about Butler's toughness in the playoffs, playing through obvious pain to make a difference in a playoff win. The Suns will need that toughness and leadership if they are going to stay positive in an otherwise difficult environment.

Goosebumps

Surrounded by a host of former Suns players and 2,500 fans at the new uniform reveal, Butler was pumped up by the experience. He was shocked that so many Suns fans would show up at the Fashion Square for a chance to see the new uniforms and cheer on Suns players in the middle of August.

"They got a great support system here," he said. "They love their Suns. I want to go to the gym right now. That's very inspiring. You just get goosebumps all over when you see the fans coming out for something as simple as revealing the jersey, getting excited for the season that's just around the corner."

The Suns set up shop just outside Barney's at the Scottsdale Fashion Square with a runway, cameras, media section and VIP seating. On top of that, thousands of fans stood on the periphery to catch a glimpse of the spectacle. Fans even congregated on the level above, looking down on the action from a distance.

Suns.com: pictures

Bright Side of the Sun, for its part, had as many page views and comments as a late-season Gamethread from fans watching the live streaming on Suns.com. Considering this all happened in mid-August with training camp six weeks away, the turnout was amazing.

A spectacle, it was.

Asked which former Suns players Butler enjoyed meeting the most, he immediately said the charismatic Tom Chambers, who earlier walked the runway in his original Suns jersey from the early 90s but declined to don the short shorts.

Butler has been meeting former Suns players all month, after he moved here to get his kid enrolled in school and get into the gym early in preparation for a very important season for him.

"I've been in the gym shooting with Mark [West, now a Suns assistant coach] and a couple other guys," he said. "They accepted me with open arms. I'm happy to be here with this organization and I look forward to the season."

Several former Suns stars, still with the organization in some capacity, got to show off their old uniforms on the runway. Dick Van Arsdale (1968-77), Alvan Adams (1975-88), Eddie Johnson (1987-91), Tim Kempton (1992), along with Mark West (1987-94, 99-00), and Tom Chambers (1988-93). Only Eddie Johnson flashed the short shorts from those days.

"Wow," was all Caron Butler would say about Eddie afterward, shaking his head the whole time. "That's a man. Wow. Wow."

Also in town for the uniform reveal were former Suns players "Sweet D" Walter Davis (1977-88), Casey Jacobsen (2002-05), Stephen Hunter (2004-05) and Pat Burke (2005-07).

It was great to see those former Suns come back to participate in the event, and to remember just how many former players are still in the organization today. Kudos to the Suns for setting this up. Lon Babby said last spring that the Suns would do more to honor their past, and they certainly did that on Thursday night.

The Fountain of Youth

Butler is excited to experience a resurgence in his career along the lines of Grant Hill, Jermaine O'Neal, Shaquille O'Neal and even Steve Nash.

"I'm already feeling it," he said when asked. "One of the reasons I came down extremely early, I wanted to get a month in with those guys (trainers)."

And like Nash and Hill before him, he knows it's his responsibility to get the rest of the guys into the gym as quickly as possible.

"After labor day weekend hopefully the guys will come back," he said. "We'll send out a group text to get the guys here in the gym early and we'll start doing some workouts together to get this thing rolling so we become more familiar with one another."

Bledsoe the wildcard

While Butler has fully embraced the Valley, its potential fountain of youth, and the prospect of being a leader on a team that needs leaders, young point guard Eric Bledsoe is still beating to his own drum.

"I told [Eric] after labor day I would love to see him," Butler said. "I'm going to stay on him. You know he's my wild card. We'll get him here."

Bledsoe is currently working out on his own in Alabama while hanging with family. Paul Coro has a nice article on what Bledsoe told us of his summer routine to up his game and try to fulfill that "something special" label that many NBA players have put on him, including LeBron James just last week.

Asked when he was coming to the Valley for good, Bledsoe sounded like he wasn't yet convinced he needed to get in town as early as Butler wants him here.

"Some time next month," Bledsoe replied. "Coming in probably early, a week or two before training camp."

That would be mid-September or late September, about the time that Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat will be finishing up Eurobasket 2013. And long after the rest of the guys will likely be hitting the court together.

It will be interesting to see how peer pressure works on Bledsoe, and when (if) he takes on a leadership role with the Suns this coming year. A few years ago, I remember Steve Nash and Grant Hill rallying the troops in late August and having so much fun that Jared Dudley cut his training in Vegas short to get back to Phoenix for pickup games earlier than he'd planned. Maybe that will happen again here.

Expect the Suns to open the season with both Butler and Bledsoe in their starting lineup on the wings. If Butler can have an influence on the psyche of these young players, he can help the team survive what promises to be a tough season with a lot more losses than wins.

Forget any amateur design tips. The biggest sign of progress for the Phoenix Suns as they moved into a new era during Thursday night’s uniform unveiling was the presence of four newcomers and...

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