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?
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.
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.