Last year the Suns ranked 19th in defensive efficiency (111.4) and tied for 11th in field goal percentage allowed (45.2).

That's slightly around average but considering they spent the better part of the season in the mid-20's in points per 100 allowed, it also represents a sharp increase at the end of the season.

This year, without Amare to score at will and get to the line, Alvin Gentry is telling his team that they have to be a GREAT defensive team to do well.

Here's that story.

Phoenix Suns Plan On Disruption To Be A GREAT Defensive Team - SB Nation Arizona
"For us to be a good team, we're going to have to be a great defensive team."

When I heard Grant say that, I had to ask again to make sure I didn't miss something.

"Grant," I asked, "you do or you don't have to be a great defensive team?"

"I think we will," he said. "I think that's the personality and make-up of this team."

How good defensively do you think this team can be?

Poll
How good of a defensive team can the Suns be this season?

  504 votes | Results


PHOENIX - OCTOBER 12:  Hedo Turkoglu #19 of the Phoenix Suns lays up a shot against the Utah Jazz during the preseason NBA game at US Airways Center on October 12, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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9 days ago: PHOENIX - OCTOBER 12: Hedo Turkoglu #19 of the Phoenix Suns lays up a shot against the Utah Jazz during the preseason NBA game at US Airways Center on October 12, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Tonight, your Phoenix Suns travel to Utah for a preseason matchup against the Jazz.

As the preseason progresses, these games are becoming more meaningful. The rotation is shaping up, the starters are playing more minutes, and Alvin Gentry is getting down to serious business. It is clear another 51 point loss could signal off a panic both in and outside of US Airways Center. 

It appears that Hedo Turkoglu is feeling better after aggravating his back in a bout of either NBA basketball or vigorous television watching, and should start. That is certainly good news. Other than that, I'm hoping to see some improvement, namely in the following areas:

  • Defense - the numbers show the Suns have been giving up too many points
  • Offense - the numbers show the Suns have not been scoring enough points to win games
  • Rebounding - rebounding is not the same as defense and the Suns need to rebound better, more specifically obtain more rebounds than Utah tonight
  • Three-Point Shooting - as a facet of scoring, the Suns three point shooting has been poor; I'd like to see some more accurate three point shooting.

There are other areas of improvement, I am sure, but that is kind of the bulk of it.

On a more serious level, it's time that some individuals come out tonight to play ball:

  • Gani Lawal: He should be watching Lou Amundson videos if he isn't already. Maybe buy a beach cruiser and get a pony tail extension if that works. Whatever motivates the kid, let's get it on. The training camp raves are history. It's time to throw some of that muscle around and prove you belong on the floor with the big boys.
  • Hedo Turkoglu: I believe he's trying. I believe he's been a bit dinged up. But I'd like to see 18/8/5 from him while shooting 48-50%. Too much to ask? Well if so, maybe it's time to get on the Nash diet and throw your TV out the window. We're getting to prime time and many of the Suns keys to success lie in his hands.
  • Hakim Warrick: Averaging 10 and 2 in the preseason. How about a few more boards? Time to impress your buddy Wil over here at BSOTS. Maybe 15/7? You're ready, Hakim.
  • Earl Clark: Um, nevermind, no one's expecting much from you. Let's shoot for just trying not to embarrass ourselves out there, Earl. 
  • Channing Frye: He's got an excuse (the baby thing), but he needs to get the stroke on track. Hire up another nanny and tell your wife you've got work to do. You can be a father any day, but the NBA doesn't last forever (extreme sarc). Seriously, though, how about a few threes, several rebounds, and some D.
  • Dwayne Jones: Does it matter? I like Dwayne; l like his size. I'd like to see him make the team. In 17 minutes against Sacramento, he pulled down 5 boards, yet had more turnovers than blocks. Guess it doesn't matter; preseason stats don't hold much water, but I want to see a more aggressive, active Dwayne. And maybe a Dwayne that can hit a free throw or two.

As for the rest, more of the same from the starters and J-Chill. Not that there isn't room for improvement, but the more court time together, the better.

For a more journalistic and interesting preview, check out AK-47's hair and  what Seth has to say over at SBN.

And just for the heck of it, why not a daily poll?:

Poll
Who's Next to Be Shown the Door?

  295 votes | Results


PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns’ offseason makeover brought about two questions: How will Hedo Turkoglu possibly play power forward and how will head coach Alvin Gentry handle the glut of...

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Northwest Division Preview

The Northwest Division Preview From Our SB Friends.


Steve Nash, coming right at ya.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Steve Nash, coming right at ya. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Hedo Turkoglu left last night's preseason game in the second quarter after taking a hit to the back. He said after the game it had originally bothered him on Monday and then the blow made it tighten up.

Hedo practiced today and said after that he felt good. He got treatment from the Suns training staff this morning and will get more tomorrow and hopes to play on Thursday in Utah. 

Asked if his back was an ongoing issue, Hedo gave a funny answer. Try not to read too much into this. Or do. 

"No, it happens sometimes when I watch TV in the wrong position, laying on the sofa or couch. It just stiffens up and I got hit yesterday. I was on the bench, it just get tighter. Maybe if I try to loosen up, I could go. They didn't want me to force it. Today, I try in the morning and I was feeling better and hopefully tomorrow I'll feel much better," Turkoglu said.

See, he's like the rest of us. His back gets stiff watching TV sometimes. Personally, I bought a nice comfy recliner to help with that, but I'm not 6-foot-10 and I don't play a contact sport for a living. Not a fair comparison. 

Hedo said the things the Suns training staff does is new for him like painful deep tissue massage that's always a shock for new Suns players.

At 31 years old, Hedo is entering the point of his career where he should be thinking about making adjustments to his habits. Fortunately, he has a chance to watch veterans Grant Hill and Steve Nash.

"Hopefully, as time goes by, I will learn more and more what kind of diet they're using, what they're eating before and after the game to keep them that fresh and energetic even though they're like 36 and 38," Hedo said.

"I will have many, many chances to talk to them and hopefully get some advice, get some numbers, or get some diet programs -- whatever they're using -- and hopefully try and combine those together with the training staff and athletic trainers and try to extend my career long enough that I'll be able to play at a high level."

A note about Hedo

Hedo had a reputation with the media in Toronto for being surly and difficult to deal with.

Obviously, that entire situation was strained and there's no doubt that the Phoenix media can be laid back by comparison, but so far, Hedo's been great.

He never seems rushed and is willing to talk at length and answer questions. He's funny at times and personable in his own way. He doesn't seem like a guy who cares all that much about what people think of him and yet he's not stand-offish or difficult. In fact, I think he's kind of down to earth, which doesn't always seem to come through for some reason.

His language and accent is obviously at bit different and so you have to allow for that when reading his quotes. For example, he says "hopefully" a lot which I think is more cultural than how it might come across on the page/screen.

In Muslim countries, even non-religious people use the phrase "Insha'Allah" which literally means "God willing." It's a phrase that's part of normal speech and something that's probably being translated as "hopefully." I could be wrong here, but it is just one of those types of cultural things to be aware of with Hedo.

With most athletes (and most people, really), you can get into trouble by hanging too much on a single word or phrase. With people speaking your language as a non-native that's even more true. 

I'm still very much on the fence about Turkoglu's potential to help this team and the long-term value of his contract to the Suns, but so far, no complaints about Hedo the person.

Gentry notes

Gentry sums up how he's feeling about the preseason so far.

"We'd like to win games, but there's other things we've got to get done. We're making progress in those areas. A couple of bumps and bruises have slowed us down a little bit. I'm happy with the effort that we've played with most of the time, happy with the execution of that first unit."

For here on, Gentry will try and get more of a "real look" on the floor and will try and play Hakim and "those other guys" some extended minutes. That includes Hedo, if he can go. He's trying to get them comfortable in the system.

Getting in game shape isn't going to fully happen before the season starts. That would require pushing too hard and result in "crash and burn" before the season's over. The team is close to where Gentry wants them to be right now, conditioning-wise, but they aren't in mid-season form by any stretch of the imagination.

Locker room update - this is literally about the lockers:

Dwayne Jones has moved into Jarron Collins old locker between JRich and Channing Frye.

Hakim Warrick moved into Lou's old locker in the corner.

Hedo moved into Amare's locker (who said he's not replacing Amare!).

And Garret Siler is the only locker labeled with a piece of tape and his name written in marker as opposed to a fancy nameplate. 


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