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This year the NBA has flipped the script on Summer League trying to add value to the games and the experience for the players as well as the teams. There will be a formal Championship Game after each team competes in at least five "regular season" games with a single elimination playoffs following.

The Phoenix Suns will be one of 22 teams in Las Vegas for the ninth annual Summer League in the Sin City. They are one of four teams to have competed in every Summer League since its inception in Las Vegas.

Last year the team finished 2-3 in Summer League losing to the D-League Select Team along the way. Kendall Marshall, Markieff Morris, P.J. Tucker, and Diante Garrett all participated last summer making the NBA roster after quality individual showings. There will be some change this year however with Dan Majerle no longer with the team after coaching the team last year in this event. They will need a new coach, but will likely send the same faces back to continue their development. Having said that, the team could benefit from sending more of the roster up there to develop this summer.

With three picks in the up-coming NBA Draft having a spot in the Summer League this summer is very beneficial for the team to get their young players on the court for competitive basketball before training camp.

The games will be broadcast on NBA TV and played at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas and at the Cox Pavilion. Games will be played from July 12-22 with the Championship being held on Monday, July 22nd.

Summer League is a great opportunity for prospects as well as another venue for teams to evaluate the professional potential of an individual player as made evident by Tucker this past year. He developed into one of the better defensive wings in the league last year, but easily could have been back in Europe if he did not participate in summer hoops affair.

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Ryan McDonough was first made aware of Jeff Hornacek's potential nine years ago when Danny Ainge was looking for a new coach in 2004. McDonough had just recently joined the organization when Hornacek was contacted without even having spent a minute on the sidelines as a coach in any capacity.

Hornacek said Ainge called him out of the blue in 2004, promising that he was one of three finalists (though Hornacek was a backup plan to their #1 choice). But after a night of tossing and turning, Horny decided he wasn't interested quite yet. He wanted to wait until all of his kids were out of high school at the least.

Since then, Hornacek entered coaching while McDonough kept tabs from afar.

"I had [Jeff] in the back of my mind the whole time that he was the guy we might want," McDonough told me today. "But I didn't know him personally, so I kind of slotted him in the middle. I wanted to meet a few guys before him and get to know them and then have a few guys lined up after him."

I've got to tell you - hearing McDonough speak with candor and conviction, in that baritone voice, leaves you certain he just told you the honest truth. I like this guy in charge of the Suns.

"But he came in and did so well," McDonough continued, "That I said, okay, there's interest here from other teams. He was interviewing for other jobs. As you know there are a number of other head coaching openings around the league. He went to another interview right after he met with us and did very well there from what we heard."

It's interesting to note that when Hornacek was offered the Suns position there were seven, going on eight, coaching openings in the NBA.

Within two days of Hornacek accepting the Suns offer, three of those remaining seven positions are now filled. Hornacek had interviewed with Charlotte, who hired someone else yesterday and with at least Philadelphia if not others.

McDonough learned from Danny Ainge to be "unafraid". So he went after Hornacek before losing him.

"I said okay, if this is our guy we're not going to drag our feet," McDonough said. "It was really so obvious, to be honest with you, once we met with him."

Earlier in the open press conference, McDonough outlined Ainge's Hornacek's qualifications.

"The real reason Jeff is here as our new head coach is all the career path that he just walked you through. Growing up he was the son of coach. Johnny Orr raved about his ability. He called him a leader and a coach on the floor. And that was at 22 years old. Going back in my past when I was with the Celtics in 2004 we had a coaching opening. We had reached out to Jeff when he'd never been an assistant coach, and that was nine years ago."

But McDonough isn't denying the local draw of having Hornacek on the bench.

"His ties to the community and this organization are a bonus but more of it was his playing experience, growing up the son of a coach, being an assistant coach, being current with NBA players, being able to teach the game," McDonough told us in his deep baritone voice. "So even though there were a number of other good candidates still available or tied up on playoff teams, let's not wait and run the risk of losing this guy."

PHOENIX — Lon Babby professed that the Suns would get back to honoring the team’s history, and he admitted when Phoenix let former general manager Lance Blanks go that the organization...

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President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby and new General Manager Ryan McDonough step onto the podium to introduce the franchises next head coach in Jeff Hornacek. All three said their piece with candid stories, a few laughs, and babies crying.

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The Phoenix Suns' vaunted training staff is highly touted for their preternatural medical prowess, but it was German necromancers who resurrected O'Neal's career. Jermaine underwent a blood-spinning therapy, known as Regenokine, which had Jared Dudley tweeting that O'Neal looked five years younger. So how did the rejuvenated O'Neal fare on this season's report card?

Judging O'Neal based on his counterparts on the Suns

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O'Neal came into the season as a bit of an unknown. His career seemed to be tapering towards its inexorable end, but reports of renewed vigor and vitality gave fans hope that he could be a productive backup. He was.

At times, O'Neal even outplayed starter Marcin Gortat (and obviously Haddadi). There isn't a stark contrast between their numbers, but that further illustrates how well O'Neal actually played. The only areas where Gortat held a significant advantage were turnovers and FG%. Jermaine was able to partially compensate for relinquishing control of the basketball at a higher rate by blocking nearly one extra shot per 36 minutes. Although Marcin's FG% was nearly four points higher, their true shooting percentages were much less disparate (Gortat .543, O'Neal .538) due to O'Neal's vastly superior FT%.

At this point in his career O'Neal is a backup dictated by the necessity of a reduced workload, but if he could actually go for 30+ minutes a night he could probably still start in the league (for a crappy lesser team like the Suns) based on his numbers. Especially in a league plagued by a lack of effective centers.

Grade: A-

Judging O'Neal based on previous seasons

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The new O'Neal looked more like the old O'Neal than the caricature that needed to be put out to pasture. Besides minor nagging injuries Jermaine managed to stay healthy throughout the season while easily posting his best numbers in several years. This is quite impressive to me since 34 year old players rarely accomplish such a feat.

Grade: A-

Judging O'Neal based on centers leaguewide

Out of 96 centers listed on Basketball-Reference.com O'Neal graded out quite favorably.

These categories O'Neal ranked in or near the top third. *All numbers per 36.

  1. 34th in rebounds
  2. 20th in points
  3. 11th in blocks
  4. 5th in FT%
  5. 35th in assists

Other areas weren't quite as roseate.

  1. 52nd in FG%
  2. 54th in win shares
  3. 78th in turnovers (ouch)

But two of those areas are still in the top 60, meaning he would rank out as a low end backup. Although his profligate nature with the basketball dropped him into the bottom third in turnovers, this was the only area where he graded out very poorly. Overall, I think a compelling argument can be made that O'Neal was one of the best backup centers in the league.

Grade: B+

Overall Grade: A-

It was refreshing to finally write a review on a player that didn't have an underwhelming or execrable season. Jermaine provided everything a backup center is expected to and more. He was a Sun who actually exceeded expectations. But it could also be argued that O'Neal is the type of player that might help a team win a game or two so they finish in fourth instead of third and move down to fifth instead of winning the lottery like the Cleveland Cavaliers. Totally hypothetical scenario.

While I wouldn't be terribly upset with O'Neal returning, which is possible based on his effectiveness from the Suns' perspective and being able to stay healthy and contribute from Jermaine's, I would prefer for the Suns to go young and O'Neal get a chance to play for a better team in his waning career.

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