For the past four episodes of the "Phoenix Suns Podcast on Bright Side of the Sun" we have turned the focus onto the Pacific Division and the teams combatants. This week we bring it back to the Valley with a two-parter previewing the Suns and looking ahead to the season.

In part one Dave and I break down the events at Media Day, philosophies on who to start at the forward positions, and how to pronounce Goran Dragic (DRAG ITCH). If you are a fan of phonetics then this podcast will be riveting!

Part One with Dave King Here: Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode 40 Part One (Dave King)

Continuing to get all the voices on Bright Side here on the podcast part two introduces Sreekar to the show to talk about Bill Simmons Grantland Preview for the Suns and how it is correct yet flawed. The video is embedded below. The flaws are obvious in the tired old complaints about the team and a coin flip that is almost older than basketball itself.

SPOILER ALERT: Sreekar and I break down Breaking Bad, the finale, the series, and the ideology of how people are never satisfied no matter the praise. That happens about 22-24 minutes into the show.

Part Two with Sreekar Jasthi Here: Phoenix Suns Podcast Episode 40 (Sreekar Jasthi)

This year we are going to rotate the hosts around to give the readers (and listeners) a chance to hear all of the takes, opinions, and offerings of the staff as a whole. Now that Dave and Sreekar are broken in and now that I think about this, this is all on me, but I did a poor job of hazing them as "newbies" to the show. Maybe I will make Jacob and Sean wear Hello Kitty backpacks?

Bill Simmons Grantland Preview of the Suns

Miles Plumlee may be one of the less heralded additions to the Phoenix Suns this off-season, but he may very well be a player that fans should keep an eye on.

Miles, who is the older brother of this year's 22nd overall draft pick Mason Plumlee, was also the 25th overall pick just a year earlier...In what many believe to be a much better draft class overall.

Now, this isn't to say Miles is better than Mason. However, he's certainly more than just trade or camp filler. Miles is a strong, athletic 7-footer who is versatile enough to play both the power forward position as well as center.

Add to that he already has one year of NBA and D-League experience under his belt from his time with the Indiana Pacers last season, and comes to Phoenix ready to compete for playing time amongst the other bigs who are currently on the Suns' roster.

So how does Miles fit with the new Phoenix Suns?

Yesterday, Miles attended the Phoenix Suns' media day, and provided some insight into what he brings as a player, his assessment of the coaching staff, and what he thinks about some of his new teammates. Here is some of what he had to say:

When Miles was asked about what people didn't know about him or what may surprise them he said,

My size and athleticism. I'm a hard working guy, a lot of energy so I think I'm going to fit in well with the program. I think we're going to play really fast up and down the court...I like to run and jump, so I think that will play to my strengths.

This certainly makes sense. Plumlee is a very underrated athlete, and although he wasn't a star player at Duke like his brother Miles, he showed a lot of potential. He could definitely surprise some fans with what he can do on the court.

He was then asked if there was anything that stood out to him about the Suns in general, or anyone he's played with in his brief time in Phoenix...This is what he had to say:

We are really fast. We have point guards who can really create off the dribble and get the ball to everyone.

Again, this certainly fits with everything else that's been reported about the style of play being embraced by the new coaching regime, and what is known about the young players....Good to hear the same opinion from one of the newest members.

When Miles was asked about the kinds of things he's been working on with the coaching staff since he arrived in Phoenix, he answered:

Improving my offensive package, working on all my pivots and moves to make them more natural....footwork.

This is an important statement because it is something Miles lacked in college. However, in Summer League with the Pacers, Miles impressed with not only his athleticism but also his finesse and skill in the post. Still, this is an area of his game he must continue to improve upon.

Miles was also asked about the Suns' coaching staff and how detail oriented they care. He responded:

Across the whole coaching staff everyone's got a great attention to detail. Even though it's pick up they're letting us know if we're not guarding ball screens correctly, or what we should be doing. A lot of teams during the summer just kind of let you play.

No surprises here. Hornacek is a technician, and it stands to reason he would surround himself with other coaches who would also demand precision and correct execution with everything they do.

Miles was also asked about new teammate Alex Len, and what he brings to the Suns. Miles had this to say:

I swear I think he's taller than when I played against him at Maryland. He's a big kid and he's got a lot of potential. He's really skilled and the more you get adjusted to the NBA game which is a slower process for bigs...I think he's going to be a great player.

Here's where things get a little interesting. When asked about whether or not thought Len would eventually be a top five pick when he played against him in Len's freshman year at Maryland...He replied:

I could see that...I mean, it's hard...it all depends on how things culminate one season. But I knew he had a lot of potential and I thought he was a really good player. I guess I wouldn't have said he'd be a top five pick, but once he was I wasn't necessarily surprised...He's earned it.

So Miles didn't necessarily see Len as a top five pick at the time, which is a very honest answer given the fact that Len was still a very raw freshman when they played against one another. But it's also apparent that Miles was very complimentary toward Alex overall...so nothing more to read into that.

Next, Miles was asked whether he thought his athleticism and mobility is his biggest advantage compared to the other centers on the roster...To this he responded:

If I had to hang my hat on something I'd say it's my athleticism and running; especially with the guards we have...you know, catching lobs, getting rebounds I shouldn't (be able to) get. I got to play with Gortat a little bit and Len. Obviously Gortat is really athletic as well. So I think we've just got a really nice blend of big guys.

Miles seems to understand his role should be an energy/hustle guy to begin with. He probably won't see a great deal of playing time to start with, so it will be up to him to earn minutes with his play.

Finally, Miles was asked about which if the point guards have really stood out to him thus far. Here's what he said:

Among the (point) guards who has really stood out to you?: All three of them in their own way have such an ability to really see things developing and hit you (with a pass)...I'm not used to getting hit (with passes like that) as a big guy...I haven't played with guards like that in a long time. I've gotten hit in the nose a few times...It's a great problem to have.

This is the politically correct response...One wouldn't expect him to single anyone out. If anything though, it does speak to the learning curve that bigs face as they adjust to playing at the NBA level...A very different animal altogether from college. The speed of the game and the talent of the players is difficult to get used to for many younger guys, but hopefully his year of experience with the Pacers and their D-League affiliate will serve him well.



Only time will tell what type of future Miles Plumlee has with the Phoenix Suns. However, he's certainly an intriguing player that fans should keep an eye on in the preseason...He just might be one of this year's surprises.

PHOENIX – Suns media day didn’t go by without some chuckle-inducing soundbites from Marcin Gortat. Most days don’t. The playful Pole goofed around Monday, only being brought down when...

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One (sometimes) overlooked aspect of training camp is the battle for the last few roster spots.  Many fans don't know the player's histories, or even names for that matter, but these guys are fighting for their dreams and the stakes are of epic proportions.

Enter Dionte Christmas.

Christmas graduated from Temple in 2009 and went undrafted despite a slew of accolades.  The former Owl led the Atlantic 10 in scoring three consecutive years and was conference first team and conference tournament most outstanding player the last two. He played in the Orlando and Vegas summer leagues that year for the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic, respectively, and even signed a contract with the Sixers, but was waived before the beginning of the season.

Dionte has traveled a tortuous road since then that has included the Israeli Basketball Super League, Sacramento Kings (summer league), Czech National League, Greek Basket League, Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics (summer league), CSKA Moscow, Montepaschi Siena, Utah Jazz (summer league) and Phoenix Suns (summer league).

Dionte Christmas has yet to step foot on the court in an NBA regular season game.  But that hasn't dissuaded him from pursuing his goal.

"I've been cut from two teams (Philadelphia and Boston).  I've been knocked down a lot.  People telling me that maybe the NBA isn't for me.  Things like that help give me a bigger drive."

At 27, Christmas realizes that being in a situation like he is now, with a legitimate chance to make an NBA roster, brings him agonizingly close to bringing his ultimate aspirations to fruition.

"This is a great opportunity for me," said Christmas.  "A lot of other teams wanted to bring me in just for another body.  I know from talking with these guys and playing in summer league with these guys that they really like me and that they really thought I could be a piece of this team."

For his part, Dionte feels that he's been diligent in improving his game to prepare him for this moment.

"Coming out of college I was strictly a shooter, now I can create my own shot.  I'm a much better defender.  I'm smarter.  I've matured in a lot of ways, especially on the defensive end and I've gotten better physically as well."

Christmas displayed these skills this summer in Las Vegas while playing for the Suns. Christmas scored 10.1 points per game and impressed the Suns enough to garner a partially guaranteed contract to join them for training camp.  But Christmas has had a partially guaranteed contract before (with the Celtics) and knows that there are no guarantees that come along with that (except for the partial ones).

"Knowing how many people are on this roster and getting a partially guaranteed contract tells me that the Suns are really interested in me and that they are going to give me a chance," speculated Christmas.  "Coming into camp it gives me a little security, but not full.  So in the back of my mind I've still got to work hard and I've still got to come in here and show these guys what I can do because any day I can still be released."

Although Dionte is cognizant of the uncertainty hovering over his potential spot on the regular season roster he did speak with conviction about new Suns' GM Ryan McDonough.

"A lot of teams tell you one thing and mean another thing.  When I went to Boston that was a great organization ran by great people and Ryan was one of those guys.  All of those people were stand up guys and when they told you something they meant it.  Ryan told me that he wanted me here and he wanted me here for training camp... and it happened.  I've gotten teams that told me they wanted me but never called back, things like that."

"The last two years with Ryan everything he's said he's done and everything he's said he's meant it and it happened.  My trust with Ryan is 100%.  If he says he's going to do it, he's going to do it.  As a man I respect that to the utmost.  I'm a loyal guy and in the last few years I've come to realize that he's a loyal guy as well."

Christmas came across as genuine when he spoke of their relationship, even though a little bit of ingratiating oneself never hurt in this type of situation...

Christmas also did some scouting based on the Suns' September practices and pick up games.  So who impressed Dionte?

"Bledsoe is a really good player.  He's strong.  He's physical.  He's a very good defender."

"Plumlee has a motor.  He doesn't stop and he's super athletic."

"Marcus Morris has gotten a lot better.  He's a great post up guard.  He can play (three positions) from the two to the four.  He's been guarding Miles in practice and then he'll turn around and guard me."

Yesterday after the interview Christmas headed up the hill with the team to Flagstaff.  He is prepared, he is confident, he is hungry... like burlap sack full of Snickers hungry.  The man with the name synonymous with gifts knows that nothing will be given to him.  If he's going to finally attain his lifelong dream he's going to have to step up and take that roster spot.  This October Christmas will not be in the spirit of giving (yes, I'm still leaning on that angle... it's pathetic).  He's focused on basketball, and finally stepping foot on that court during a real NBA game.

Technically, today is the first day of the NBA season for the Phoenix Suns as they arrived in Flagstaff for Training Camp today after meeting with the "media" yesterday. Media goes in quotations' because they let Dave King in...

At camp the team is going to try and establish a style, a rotation, and a general feel for the season.

Bright Side will be at camp for most of the days to get the ins-and-outs of what new head coach Jeff Hornacek and the new look Suns are up to. What the most intriguing battles heading into camp between positions, minutes, and other factors?

Eighteenth Topic: Roster Battles

1. Breaking the Ice: Goran Dragic is going to start, but Eric Bledsoe has to start, so who is the teams' starting "point guard?"

Jim Coughenour: Dragic is by far the superior distributor. His average of 7.9 assists per 36 minutes easily surpassed Bledsoe's 5.4. Goran was 8th in the league in assists per game (7.4) and 12th in assist percentage (35.7). It would be folly to limit his ability to play to his strength. The point guard duties don't have to be exclusive to one player, though. Hornacek himself played the role of point two in his career and I wouldn't be surprised to see him implement a system where both have facilitating duties.

Kris Habbas: Goran Bledsoe or Eric Dragic, neither really have a ring to them, but that is the nonanswer to this question. They are both going to run the point evenly in my opinion with pick-and-rolls, attacking the rim, and running the offense. There is no right answer here because this is an open audition for these two for the starting job of the future here in the Valley.

Richard Parker: They'll both share duties at the one and two spots but on offense, Dragic will most likely be the primary distributor, simply because he's proven to be better at it than Bledsose. On defense, Bledsoe will handle opposing point guards and Dragic will have to deal with opposing twos on most ights.

Sean Sullivan: Dragic. I think Dragic continues to be the main distributor of the Suns, which will free up Bledsoe to attack more off the ball and run in transition. The versatility will allow this to change however depending on certain match-ups, but I think Dragic is our default distributor.

2. With that said, how do you distribute the minutes between Shannon Brown, Archie Goodwin, Dionte Christmas, and Malcolm Lee?

KH: Depending on what the team does on the wing (more on that below) Brown is either the man out of the rotation or the first guard off the bench while Goodwin works on cutting his teeth in the NBA. Realistically, the inexperience of Goodwin should equal the miscues that Brown provides so they are a wash in terms of on-court impact, but the development of Goodwin has to be the priority. Lee and Christmas have little chance of cracking the rotation in general. At camp the battle between Brown and Goodwin is the third most interesting to me.

RP: Personally, I would much rather give minutes to Goodwin than any of the other three. I would give him the bulk of the backup shooting guard minutes, with Brown or Christmas earning a some minutes every now and then or if Archie takes a D-League vacation at some point throughout the season. As for Malcolm Lee, I fully expect him to be off the team by the first regular season game. If not, just play him 48 minutes a game. At center.

SS: I think Goodwin is the only real priority for minutes beyond Dragic and Bledsoe. They need to develop Goodwin and bring him along (hopefully as a two guard), but none of the other players are in the Suns' long term vision, so I don't see why it's necessary to give them time, unless it's needed to help rest the other players.

JC: 0, depends on performance leading into the season, 0, 0. Actually, can I play Shannon negative minutes?

3. The three spot seems securely P.J. Tucker's starting position, but is there any scenario where he could lose that job? How much should Marcus Morris and Gerald Green play at the three?

KH: Here is the biggest question for me, and Dave and I disagree on this one, but Tucker to me has earned the starting job. He is also the type of player that can help erase some of the defensive inefficiencies that will be caused by a two-point guard line-up and the hole at the four. Marcus provides shooting whereas Tucker is the veteran and the best defensive option that can defend up to four different positions.

RP: With this roster, anything can happen. Tucker is a known quantity at this point in his career, so I would not at all be surprised if the team gave Marcus Morris significant run as the starting three. In fact, I expect that to happen at some point in the season.

SS: Anything's possible. If the Suns' are serious about trying to develop Marcus as a starting three, then they could give him additional time. Otherwise, they may just stick with Tucker for the time being. I don't see Green really being a factor at all.

JC: The team would be wise to give their younger players every opportunity to supplant the veterans. Despite the infatuation some people have with Tucker, which includes coaches to a certain extent, he is an 8th man. He struggles to score and is overrated as a defender. Green is entering his 7th NBA season, which would be 9th if not for playing overseas for two years. It is unlikely that he "figures it out" as a 28 year old halfway through the season. This job is Marcus's for the taking, but he needs to earn it.

4. Overall the four position has been suspect post-Amare Stoudemire and the current candidates to man spot are Markieff Morris and Channing Frye. Does this team need more than just stretch-fours? (Or as Lindsey Hunter calls them, "What is a stretch-four?")

KH: It is almost Markieff's job by default with Channing working himself into basketball shape and the general lack of viable options at the position. The team can go against the grain and start Marcus here going very small with more shooting and offensive options because the issues are similar no matter the Morris twin. This position continues to be a huge hole on the court for the Suns since the Amare days.

RP: This team needs a long-term answer at the PF spot, one which can't be found in any player currently on the roster. Therefore, it really doesn't matter who they run at the four. A stretch four would definitely help Gortat, Dragic, Bledsoe and the overall spacing of the team but Frye will likely be rusty to start the season. Unless Markieff shows significant improvement, especially in his consistency, the PF spot will probably be somewhat of a revolving door throughout the course of the season.

SS: Yes, yes, yes. Markieff was supposed to be that guy. He was drafted to be that hard-nosed, punishing defender in the paint who could also score down low on offense. However, he's progressed more toward being the next Channing Frye instead by trying to shoot threes. It's also valuable to have a floor-stretcher like Frye, but a guy who can reliably finish at the rim off of a pick and roll the way STAT used to is something the Suns are very much missing.

JC: I wouldn't classify Morris as a stretch four because teams dare him to shoot and he still only hits at a 33% clip. I think of him as more of a borderline wasted draft pick that better show massive improvement this year since he's 24 and that's a year which improvement tends to taper off after... Stretch and traditional bigs can work on a system specific basis. But... unless whichever type of four you have is also one of the top five players in the league it doesn't really matter because that's generally what it takes to win. If I'm cornered I'll take a guy as close to 20/10 as possible (basically a unicorn) which is more of the Randolph (who still has a nice midrange game) mold.

5. Marcin Gortat is the five of today, but is playing on an expiring contract and could be major trade bait if he plays well early on. So let's talk about Viacheslav Kravtsov!?

RP: The first rule of Viacheslav Kravtsov is you do not talk about Viacheslav Kravtsov.

SS: Haha. Well...He's tall.

JC: Well... Kravtsov had a .086 WS/48 last season - the exact same as Gortat. In fact, that would have qualified him for fourth on the team. With Len and Frye on the roster Gortat is unnecessary and incongruous. Hopefully he (Marcin) can shake the malcontent label and improve on his fairly abysmal 2012-13 season so the Suns can get something for him. The major trade bait label may be inapt due to the fact that he's not an upgrade for nearly any contending team (this has already been discussed ad nauseam). While we're on the subject of disgusting to a ridiculous degree, that will be my general feeling if Ryan can't wonder weave his way into some kind of return for the Polish Pillow.

KH: In EuroBasket Kravtsov played well in moments showing some potential as a defender and a shot-blocker. He is going to have to fight Miles Plumlee and Alex Len for minutes and at the start of the season might be fourth on the depth chart. Having said that, in basically 19 minutes a night Kravtsov was good for 7.4 points per game, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks. Solid numbers in a very competitive atmosphere.

BONUS: What position battle are most excited to see play out? Does anyone have a bold prediction on a starter or rotation player?

SS: Frye vs. Markieff? Bledsoe vs. Dragic? Len vs. Gortat? Goodwin vs. other 6th man? Any of these position battles could be topics of contention once the season starts and we begin to see how the players are adjusting to the new system and the new roster as well. I think Len vs. Gortat will definitely be one to keep an eye on if Len is indeed healthy from the beginning and ready to go. Len will face a steep learning curve early on, but if he picks it up well enough he could make the fans start clamoring for him to start ahead of Marcin, especially if Gortat faces another one of his slumps.

JC: I'd like to see a three guard lineup of Dragic, Bledsoe and Goodwin get a chance to run teams off the court. It really wouldn't be that big of a size mismatch (against some teams) and it might be fun to watch. I'm all about trying to make getting pummeled as fun as possible. It beats watching a mundane pummeling.

KH: I already mentioned the first (Tucker v. Marcus Morris at the three) and my third (Goodwin v. Brown at back-up two) battles on the roster, but my first is another on the bench, for the last point guard minutes. The team invested a lottery pick in Kendall Marshall, then brought in Dragic, Bledsoe, Lee, and Ish Smith that can all void him from the roster ledger. This front office and coaching staff did not draft Marshall which could lead to him losing a spot in the rotation an, eventually, off the roster.

RP: Positional battle? Malcolm Lee vs. Ish Smith vs. Dionte Christmas vs. James Nunnally for the first guard to be cut by the Suns. Bold prediction? Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee will each start at least one game at some point this season (I'm actually serious about this).

Bright Siders, what do you think?

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