The Phoenix Suns understand that they need to improve their rebounding and defense to achieve their goals this season. (Photo by Max Simbron)
The Phoenix Suns finished the preseason 4-4 including a win over a team from Belgrade, Serbia who plays without any of the top Serbian players.
Offensively, the Suns had the second highest point total (109) but only shot 44% from the field and gave up 45% to their opponents. The brightest spot had to be finishing 3rd with 10.62 steals per game behind Jared Dudley's league leading 2.88 spg.
Of course, the worst stat coming out of the eight warm-up games was rebounding. The Suns had a dismal -8.87 rebound differential which was almost twice as bad as the 29th place Golden State Warriors who were -4.76.
Depending on who you listen to the preseason either matters a lot or it means nothing.
Coach Gentry comes down on the side of meaningless, "I think it's typical what you'd think of a preseason. You get real excited about some games and then you get real concerned about other ones. I just never have, you know other than conditioning and things like that, I don't really read a lot into the preseason. If you go back and look I think over the last 10 years San Antonio's got a pretty bad preseason record. I ain't seen anybody yet get a trophy for having the best preseason record."
Nash on the other hand isn't so sanguine about the results, "See, I'm of the belief that you can't turn it on or off. I would love to say that we should be a lot better (when the season starts) but I wouldn't count on that. That's why these practice days are important."
The key concern for Gentry is the rebounding. He called it the one thing that bothers him the most and his one worry. The issue according to the Coach isn't hustle or effort. He feels like his guys are doing everything they are asked and he's pleased with the rebounding effort from the wings - especially Richardson and Hill who both averaged 4.3 rebounds per game in the preseason.
"Between Amare and Channing they're going to play 62 to 65 minutes. In some kind of way we need between 16 or 18 rebounds from them. They know that. We've talked about that. I think that's going to be key for us," said Gentry.
He talked about needing to box out better and to getting better at their rebounding technique including face guarding to prevent their man from getting to the ball. Gentry didn't think the defensive rotations were a problem and doesn't feel like the Suns are switching smalls on to bigs too much.
While surprised by how big an issue it is, Gentry still thinks the Suns can get better and come up with boards down the stretch in close games. He also was willing to allow that Frye might still be adjusting to playing 30 minutes a game after barley seeing any consistent court time in the last two years.
Gentry recognizes the problem and is committed to seeing improvement, "It's something that we'll get better at during the year. So even initially if it's not happening we're not going to panic with it because we're trying to put something in place for the long term. So even if we struggle with it early we're going to stay on top of it and we'll try and get better at it."
For Suns fans the best thing to hear at least is that the team understands the problem and is addressing it as best they can.
Steve Nash - "This year I don't think we really know what we are"
Nash today was definitely not happy with where the team is and questioned if the Suns were even ready for the season, "I don't know. We'll see. I don't think anyone feels like we know what we'll be. We're just trying to get better every day. If we're ready great. If we're not we've just got to try and get better and better throughout the season and turn ourselves into a really good team."
It can't be encouraging to hear this kind of talk from Nash so early in the season. You get the sense that he's not satisfied with where the team is (which is a good thing) but at same time he doesn't seem nearly as positive today as he was a few weeks ago. No need to panic, it's just one day.
Nash talked about the season presenting a different kind of stress than in years past where the external expectations were so high. But when asked if there was any freedom to having lower expectations, Nash replied, "Not for me. I expect good things. It's painful for me if we're not really really good."
Steve's standards for the season are simple. He expects to make the playoffs and he expects the team to play up to it's potential. So far, he's not seeing that, "Sometimes we've been a little bit sloppy. We need to demand more of ourselves."