Haze the rooks.

Dream job time. Tom Zenner is out. Are you in? The Suns are looking for a new game night host. Get the job, do it right, and we look forward to including you in #SUNSRANK next season.

Reports are that guard Eric Bledsoe is "in top shape," and "ready to run." This is better news than "Bledsoe signs huge contract, needs to work on conditioning."

Sounds like one other Suns guard has some work to do. The high altitude of Flagstaff doesn't sit well with The Dragon.

He'll get it together though. He's got to. Because the Suns aim to be an even faster team than they were a season ago.

Here's some perspective on the Bledsolo signing, and the NBA's new television deal inked last week.

Gay marriage, cancer, and the Phoenix Suns.

Should the ultimate team goal be to shoot 38% from beyond the arc?

Meet the newest board members of Phoenix Suns Charities.

Suns forward P.J. Tucker looks to put his "bad decision" last May in the rear view mirror.

Isaiah Thomas wants to play "when it really counts," which will be a lot more likely now that he is no longer in Sacramento.

Phoenix Suns rookies are getting comfortable at camp, but the hazing is there, and to hear T.J. Warren tell it, more is definitely coming.

Here's your theme nights and giveaways for the upcoming season. Having both Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris bobbleheads in the same season feels kind of lazy.

Ryan McDonough nearly had a career behind the mic. At one time he was the voice of the Carolina Mudcats, a Colorado Rockies affiliate.

As soon as you're finished reading this article catch the Suns on "NBA Real Training Camp" on NBATV.

Who will lead the Suns in scoring in 2014-15? Fans think that Goran Dragic will lead the way.

Will Shavlik Randolph play a bigger, or possibly a different role on the Suns this season?

It happens almost every year.  There is usually one player who seemingly comes out of nowhere and ends up playing a bigger role on the Phoenix Suns than analysts and fans ever thought possible.

Last year that player was a projected third-string center; a second-year "rookie" who registered only 55 minutes of playing time in his first season...Miles Plumlee.

I don't need to tell you how that story played out.  Miles exceeded even the loftiest of expectations last year to become the starting center, and a fan favorite in Phoenix.  Nobody expected any of this to happen.

Could a similar story emerge this season?

Shavlik Randolph is probably the most overlooked player on the Phoenix Suns roster.  On a team that is loaded with top-end talent, quality role players, and promising young rookies, Randolph is one of only a few veteran players who doesn't seem to have a clearly defined role as of yet, or a guaranteed spot in the rotation.

But could that change?

Shavlik's Arrival

Late last season, Shavlik first arrived in Phoenix after the Suns waived Slava Kravtsov on March 1st, in order to sign Randolph to the roster as a back up center.

Back then, Shavlik was signed to provide some extra depth at the center position, and his ability to rebound. Ryan McDonough, who was the assistant GM in Boston when Shavlik played for the Celtics in 2012-13, was obviously impressed enough with his performance during his limited minutes that he decided to bring him to Phoenix as a free agent.

Suns president Lon Babby talked about that connection and a few others after Randolph was signed. "Ryan knew him from Boston, as did Mike Logabardi.  And we were careful in the moves we didn't take at the trade deadline.  But in his case, he had a relationship with P.J. Tucker; they grew up together in Raleigh...We felt comfortable that he would be welcomed here, and he sure has been"

Babby then went on to describe what he brings to the team.  "He's a terrific rebounder. He's a veteran. I think we felt like we needed some veteran presence there.  So it was a very positive move, and I think he's going to help us out down the stretch."

Shavlik only played in 14 games last season. Although he didn't play poorly, he certainly didn't have much of an impact either...Not that much was expected from him behind players like Miles Plumlee, Channing Frye, and Alex Len.

Randolph's Return

With a contract that would only be guaranteed if the Suns chose to keep him past the July 17th deadline, most assumed the Suns would release him.  But they didn't.

Instead, the Suns chose to keep Randolph and guarantee his contract for the 2014-15 season with a $1.22 million salary.

This seemed to indicate that the Suns viewed Randolph as being someone they thought could help contribute to the team in at least some respect this coming season.

Did the Suns think he could actually be a part of the rotation, or was he just insurance in case of an injury to Plumlee or Len?  Having already lost Channing Frye to free agency, it seemed the latter was more likely.

I caught up with Shavlik during the Suns media day to ask him about what he's been working on over the off-season, and what he thought his role would be on this year's team.

"I tried to work on my outside shot a little bit more." Randolph continued,  "I tried to keep my conditioning up and work on some back to the basket stuff and some outside range shooting."

Shavlik also mentioned that he wasn't satisfied with his overall shape and conditioning last season.  "I felt like I wasn't in as good of condition when I came in last year."  He continued, "It was circumstantial because I got hurt (while playing) in China."

I did notice he seemed a little leaner than last season, not that he was in bad shape before.  But, it did look like and sound like he'd been taking his potential role on the team seriously.

"I was thrilled to death when they brought me back," he said.  "This was a place I wanted to be a part of.  It was one of the most fun (times) I've had in my eight years in the league.  I look forward to trying to build on that this season."

I then asked Shavlik what he thought his role would be on the team this year.  He responded, "I'm a guy that can play both the four and the five and just fit in wherever I can."  He continued,  "If Alex or Miles get in foul trouble...If they need someone to spell the four I can do it, if they need someone to spell the five I can do it."

This would probably be the end of the story if I hadn't watched the Suns' scrimmage in Flagstaff on Saturday.

Shavlik's Surprising Play

Dave King, Jim Coughenhour, and I took a road trip to watch the game, in what would be our first look at the new team.

On the way up north, we all talked about who we were looking forward to watching, and our predictions about who we thought would have the most surprising performance this year.

In other words, who would be this year's Miles Plumlee of the intra-squad scrimmage?

We all had our predictions--Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, T.J. Warren, etc...But who would actually have the most surprising performance when it was all said and done was still anyone's guess.

When we first arrived at the Skydome and began watching the players before the scrimmage, I remarked to Dave how I had been watching Randolph warming up behind the arc and how he kept draining shot after shot.  In fact, I even tweeted it.

One thing of note is that Shavlik Randolph has been nailing jumpers from above arc during war ups, 1 after the other. pic.twitter.com/9kkvLi1rcn

— BrightSideoftheSun (@BrightSideSun) October 4, 2014

Randolph wasn't kidding when he said he had been working on his outside shot this off-season, he looked almost automatic.  But still...this was only warm-ups, and Randolph had only hit one three-point shot in his entire eight-year NBA career.

When Randolph entered the game, I noticed him hanging around the arc on offense...that was certainly different from last year.  His first shot was also a three, and he nailed it.

He also got inside for a few more baskets, grabbed a bunch of rebounds, and hit another three before it was all said and done.  Randolph ended up going two-for-two from beyond the arc, while scoring 13 points in all...along with a team high 9 rebounds.

Nobody saw that coming.

So Now What?

Of course, this was only a scrimmage.  You cannot take anything you see in a scrimmage as an indication of expected performance during the season.  Everyone is playing loose, rotations are all over the place, and nothing counts.  It's the perfect time and place to experiment without repercussions.

However, with Randolph talking about working on his shot as his main focus during the off-season, and the way he looked in warm-ups and the scrimmage, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could get a chance to play this season in a new role.

So, could he end up being this year's Miles Plumlee, and playing a major role with the team?

No.  Even Shavlik himself understands that his role will be much more limited than that.

As he told me at Suns' media day, "I know that there are two centers ahead of me that they want to develop, young centers that have the ability to be elite."  He continued,  "It's the same thing as last year, I just have to stay ready...Whether I play or I don't play, I just have to keep a good veteran presence and a good attitude in the locker room and when my number's called to be ready to go out and do what I do."

But, if he does get a chance to at least crack the rotation as a back-up four/five--in order to provide spacing, help rebound, or complement certain line-ups--he may just surprise some people with the improvements he's made to his game.

Regardless of what happens, you can bet that Shavlik will be ready to help in whatever way he is needed.

The Phoenix Suns doubled down on the Dragic brothers and the Morris twins this summer. On a more general scale, they doubled down on the guard-happy system by signing Isaiah Thomas and bringing back...

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Who doesn't like a good nonsensical ranking in the pre-season? Well, this is for you...

Carrying on the long standing (three years or so) tradition of #SUNSRANK Bright Side of the Sun has put together the Top 25 faces of the franchise if you will for the 2014-2015 season for the Phoenix Suns. We beefed up the staff so there are more opinions to share and the rankings are more diverse than before when it was basically three men and a baby putting together the rankings.

In these rankings some great names were left out of the Top 25 like Casey Prather, Jamil Wilson, Joe Jackson, Earl Barron, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Alec Brown, the Cheerleaders, and the Hip-Hop Squad. They will not be forgotten.

#SUNSRANK is a compilation of 14 writers here on Bright Side that ranked the most important names and faces of the franchise for this one year. This is not a "future rankings" or some Fox News one-sided account of things. Everyone had their own opinion and the rankings are as the staff deemed fit. There were some wild rankings, but we are not going to leak like a sieve a la the NSA in here. We have some integrity.

Check back daily as well as on Twitter for #SUNSRANK where five more names will be released leading all the way down to No. 1. What do you think about these five listed so far?

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25-211 << 20-16 << 15-11 << 10-6 << 5-1

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No. 25: New Arena Name (23.857)

Profile: Once known as America West Arena, then U.S. Airways Center, and now...

Stats: Hosted one NBA Finals, four Western Conference Finals, and holds many championship banners for the Arizona Rattlers and Phoenix Mercury.

Interesting Fact: University of Phoenix Stadium (Arizona Cardinals) was almost the "Pink Taco Stadium"

Analysis: This might be the most undersold element of the 2014-2015 season for the Phoenix Suns. Seriously. That is how a team is looked at and seen from the lenses of a national audience when on television. The two previous names were attached to large, well known companies, and had an acronym that was fun and easy to use by fans. What happens if the Suns get saddled with another terrible arena name along the lines of the Pelicans (Smoothie King Center), the Kings (Sleep Train Arena), or the Blazers (Moda Center)? The names as of late have been terrible. The Suns need to look for something identifiable to the public, something with a good reputation, and a connection to the city. Here are a few options to consider in respect to a company that can afford a 20 million dollar license agreement and has ties to the city. Banner Health is a unique route that gives the team a good image, connects to the amazing training staff, and has some fun names to play with. The NBA is entrenched in bank names so JP Morgan Chase is an option here. Fry's/Kroger would be great and even better if Channing Frye would have stayed in the valley. rattling off a few more like Boeing, SRP, Home Depot, and for kicks and giggles; Filiberto's. Let's get this done. -- Kris Habbas

Important Question: What will the name be?

No. 24: Shavlik Randolph (22.928)

Profile: 6'10" 240 lbs. Center -- Ninth Year Duke

Stats: (Career) in 8.6 MPG 2.5 PPG 2.6 RPG 47.6% FG

Interesting Fact: Randolph is better than Pistol" Pete Maravich, well, at least in terms of single-game scoring at their high school. Randolph scored 70 points in one game.

Analysis: The old man! Who saw the scrimmage? Randolph has answered our Channing Frye worries!! We have found our stretch big! In all seriousness, it's hard to tell if Randolph has indeed added that sort of range to his game or if he was just goofing around in an instrasquad scrimmage. If he has, then his value to this team has certainly increased and we may see him get some playing time every once in a while.  Regardless, Randolph will play an important role as the oldest player on the roster. He's a savvy veteran who has been around the league and hopefully he will be imposing some of his experience on the younger guys to help them develop.  If Plumlee or Len goes down, Randolph will have to step in. As we saw last season, we can expect hard work and hustle from the veteran. He's a great guy to have on the end of the bench. -- Garrett Benson

Important Question: Can Randolph give enough serviceable minutes to give this front-court depth?

No. 23: Lon Babby (20.846)


Profile: Attorney (35 years), NBA Agent (16 years), and entering his fourth season in the Suns front-office as the President of Basketball Operations.

Stats: Tim Duncan (204 million), Ray Allen (158 Million), Grant Hill (133 million)...

Interesting Fact: Represented the Washington Redskins (they could use him now) & the Baltimore Orioles before becoming a player agent.

Analysis: I placed the key front office folks ahead of everyone else based upon the logic that a team is only as good as it's players, and therefore those tasked with choosing the players are more important than the players themselves (at least until we bag a superstar).

As for Babby's importance to the Suns in 2014/15, I think we can all agree that even in the most optimistic of scenarios, the team is still in flux and we have yet to see the finished product. Meaning the phone is still on the hook and there are still moves to be done. Whilst McDonough embodies the ultimate scouting nerd, Babby represents the more aristocratic side of the Suns. His lawyerly, Southern-tinged mannerisms provide a balance to his bourgeois counterpart and allows him to carry the responsibility of being the voice of the Suns' front office, even as McDonough might rightfully represent the brain.

McDonough might be the one to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to player talent, but it will be Babby that coaxes the wheat into signing, presumably on a rickety back porch with a cold whiskey sour, nonchalantly closing the deal as the sunset quietly crescendos before him.

Plus he represented John Hinckley Jr., so no one can ever say that Babs is not up for a challenge. -- Rollin Mason

Important Question: What if anything is there for Babby to do now that everyone is signed?

No. 22: Gorilla (20.5)

Profile: Entering his 35 year with the Suns as their mascot and provocateur.

Stats: Countless flips, jumps, and entertainment with more dunks than the Harlem Globetrotters.

Interesting Fact: Originally, there was no mascot, and the Gorilla was galvanized into the role after showing up as a singing telegram one day. The team liked him. He stayed.

Analysis: What makes the Phoenix Suns supreme among all other local sports options is a history going back over 45 years and the symbol of that tradition is a highly athletic gorilla. THE GORILLA.


I love the players on this Suns team and the coaching staff and even the front office deserve big hairy pats on the back but the reality is those guys are all transients. Some will stay longer than others but in the end only THE Gorilla survives. The OG of sports mascots. The first member of the Mascot Hall of Fame. The face of the franchise and the soul of the city. Without THE GORILLA there is no Phoenix Suns. -- Seth Pollack

Important Question: Can he get on the banana phone and call up Harry & Harrison Gorilla for some appearances? Please.

No. 21: Tyler Ennis (20.285)

Profile: 6'2" 180 lbs. Point Guard -- Rookie Syracuse

Stats: (College) In 35.7 MPG 12.9 PPG 5.5 APG 3.4 RPG 41.1% FG 35.3% 3PT

Interesting Fact: Dropped 42 points in the FIBA U19 tournament in 2013, a single game tournament best.

Analysis: When the Suns drafted Ennis this summer my first thought was, "Trade bait. Is Toronto already on the phone?" Then, when they announced they drafted the Syracuse point guard to keep him there were flashbacks to Kendall Marshall and that awful situation for both the team and Marshall a few years ago. Now when I think about Ennis and the pick it seems that the move was made for another team, just, not another NBA team. The Bakersfield Jam will benefit from the Suns pick being the sole proprietorship of the team with their coaching staff, their management, and now their first round pick running the show. Of course Ennis was hoping to land on a lottery team to start or get significant minutes on a team that needs him. Instead he is sitting behind a five year contract for Eric Bledsoe, a four year contract of Isaiah Thomas, and the impending extension of Goran Dragic. Ennis is an insurance policy. A talent insurance policy that could prove very fruitful in the future, just not necessarily in 2014-2015... -- Kris Habbas

Important Question: What is more valuable to his development; NBA practices and DNP's or running his own D-League team?

Come back tomorrow for 20-16 in the #SUNSRANK series and follow along on Twitter!

Ohhh....

Each ranking will also include one write-in ballot from the writers. We have five tremendous write-in's starting with Austin Elmer:

Write In: Mr.Orange

Mr. Orange is at all the Suns home games. He is one of the best fans in the NBA. He paints his body orange, dresses in all orange and is always animatedly cheering for the Suns. Whenever Suns fans are being quiet he tries to get them riled up. At the end of games Mr. Orange always encourages people to stand up. Having Mr. Orange in the arena is like having an extra mascot. -- Austin Elmer

Contributor Evan Wendt got some great video of the scrimmage on Saturday. Check out the highlights here.

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