Phoenix Suns Practice Report: Where the Key to the Series is...???

Suns Coach Alvin Gentry called Steve Blake a "Suns-killer" and is happy to have him no longer in a Blazers uniform. (Photo by Max Simbron)

You've got to love the Phoenix Suns. Or maybe it's just the old adage that if you ask enough people the same question you are bound to get different answers.

Whatever it is, the Suns as of today have yet to settle on their keys to the series. Or maybe it is better said that they haven't settled on the messaging for their keys to the series. Or maybe there just isn't any one set of keys to the series.

Probably, none of this "keys to the series" stuff matters anyway since at the end of the day the team that wins will be the one that hits more shots and scores more points. I guess you can say I am having a mini-crisis of analysis. All these numbers and all this dissecting of the details...it's a game and the team that plays better will win and that team is almost always the team with the better players.

But hell, what fun is that! So here's the various keys that were heard today during the massive media availability session following Suns practice:

Steve Nash, "We just have to stay hungry and keep improving every night". Nash also said that the way to prepare for the Blazers is to look at what they do well and take it away. "We've got to try and get stops and get out and run a bit. We are not a fast break team anymore."

Coach Gentry had more keys, but maybe that's just because he talked longer (while I was around) and was asked more questions.

He stressed that while the Suns didn't average 100 points against the Blazers, they still want to get out and play up-tempo but it's OK if not.

Asked if it was critical for the Suns to control tempo he said, "I don't know that. I just think it's execution. As I said, we won games were we scored low 90's but we've got to execute against them. If you shoot 35% no, it doesn't matter. But if we execute and they slow the ball down and they take time in possessions then we can still shoot in the high 40's and low 50's then we can still have the opportunity to win games even if we score in the 90's"

Another Gentry key was turnovers, "That was one of the main things we talked about. It's key for us anyway, not just against this team. When we don't turn the ball over and get shots at the basket...If we don't turn it over we're going to score 6 or 8 extra points. There's very few games where we had 10 or 12 turnovers and lost the game"

This happens to be my key as well which is why I asked this question - so I could get the answer that agreed with my theory. I love this job.

Channing Frye sort of agreed on tempo, "Controlling tempo is key for us. We want to get it up in the 100's. We need to keep them off the glass and get possessions."

Jarron Collins understandably is in his own world when it comes to keys. He's focused on his job which is keeping Camby off the glass. Keeping Camby off glass which Jarron said is easier said than done. "You have to meet his energy with energy and be physical with him around the basket and put your body into him cause if you try and get into a jumping contest with him you are in for a long night."

Overall, the team was serious and focused but they are still the Suns so plenty of joking and laughing too. JRich even hit a three-pointer with his left hand. Look out, Blazers!

And most importantly for this writer, Grant Hill once again commented on my shoes which he now thinks are lucky and asked that I keep wearing them to games. No problem. Here is a picture of said shoe, and no, I do not have a deal with Nike....yet. Does anyone know anyone there?

Nash Notes

  • Back feels really good and ready to roll
  • Look at what they do and try and take it way. Be ready for them
  • Lot of positive energy around the group right now
  • Try and keep improving every night
  • It's a dangerous team. Their energy and motivation will be high. They have a deep roster
  • Coming into the year thought we could win 50 and give ourselves chance to win a playoff series. Focused on that for now

Audio: Nash practice 041610

Gentry Notes

  • This is the one team we haven't averaged 100 points against so they are good defensively
  • We can play both ways. We prefer to play up-tempo. We've won low scoring games
  • They do a good job of putting guys into situations to score. Got to think LaMarcus Aldridge will be their first option
  • They push the ball and keep pressure on in transition
  • Thought it would be a good idea for Amare to be around Nash and Hill as tri-captains and learn and he's done a great job
  • These guys are in-tune to each other. Best chemistry of any team I've ever been around. They genuinely like each other. It starts with Steve, Grant and Amare but the bench guys also are like that. Unselfish players who have one goal in mind - how can they help us win games
  • Honestly wasn't sure how good this team would be. After hot start expected to cool off but the key was during the time when we struggled we were still playing well and just not holding leads but no one started pointing fingers and I was confident that we would turn it around
  • We said all along that we wanted to be playing our best basketball when April came around
  • Thought we did a good job, all the losses we had were against quality teams
  • Our bench has been good keeping scores even and when they are playing well offensively we can get separation
  • Someone asked if we are going to change our rotations in the playoffs and I asked, Why. It's worked well for us. They've struggled at times but that's normal for guys playing off the bench. For the most part they've been positive
  • We can play ten guys and feel good about it and that gives you an opportunity to have fresh guys on the floor
  • They beat us without Brandon Roy. They are a good team. It doesn't matter what you do in the regular season. It's like a new season. Everything in the West is going to be a really tough series
  • They are a good team without him. They are going to guard and execute on the offensive end
  • Since the all-star game. Unbelievable focus and toughness about us. We got better defensively. Thing I am most proud of is that last 17 games we held 8 teams to below 40%. Contrary to what everybody writes, those were NBA teams
  • Focal point with Roy out is Miller and they will go to LaMarcus. Wild card is Camby. If he comes up with 15 or 17 points they almost never lose. With him in the lineup they are pretty darn good
  • I never worry about that stuff (getting recognition). Only thing that matters is what we do on the court.
  • Might use Jared or Grant on Miller. Might even use Earl Clark on him. Most part will try and match-up conventional and see how that plays out
  • For that team to have won 50 games with everything they've gone through, that's why I say Nate has done the best job of anyone. Best job he's done as a coach yet
  • Traded a guy(Blake) that was a Suns-killer if you ask me, I think Nate's done a great job
  • Way to stop turnovers: Not throw the ball away. Not throw bad passes. Got to be focused on what we're doing.
  • They do a real good job defending pick and roll. They switch a lot. They have strong guards and athletic wing men
  • We have to execute. We have to impose our style on them
  • For sure Jerryd Bayless is their X factor. He and Rudy Fernandez. Those two guys would be the biggest X factor for them
  • How great an advantage is the Portland crowd? "Doesn't matter. I haven't seen anybody from the crowd hit a jump shot yet."

Audio: Gentry practice 041610

Jarron Collins Notes

  • They try to get the ball to LaMarcus and Miller on the block. I have to be physical and limit the effectiveness of LaMarcus even though he's a talented player
  • Stay professional. I learned so much from time in Utah and from Coach Sloan about being professional
  • Not so much pushing as meeting him with your body early before he gets into his jumping rhythm
  • Thoughts on Utah/Denver. Tough for Utah starting on road and battling injuries. If they can get healthy they have a chance but it is going to be difficult. Don't make predictions on other series
  • Biggest difference between regular season and playoffs - physical play and value of each possession. Momentum can be huge both within a game and from game to game so you want to keep momentum on  your side

Audio Jarron Collins practice 041610

Channing Frye Notes

  • Without Roy, they are still a great team. Juwan Howard, Camby, Aldridge all have playoff experience. We don't take them lightly. Tough for them losing Roy though
  • Already played them 4 times so all that nervousness or trying get them back is done
  • This is awesome, a great experience. Great match-up for us. Going to prepare us for this playoff run
  • Guys I was there with aren't there: Blake, Outlaw, Jone, LaFrenze, Joel...expect Rudy and Bayless to step up. Their vets understand the little things to help them
  • Everyday we have to be physical. It is a conditioning thing. We feel great right now. It doesn't feel like I played a whole season. We just got to get out there and be physical and even if you don't get the rebound make sure your guy doesn't

Audio: Frye practice 041610

JRich Notes

  • Very excited about the series. Playoff basketball is when it really counts
  • On Roy being out. Whatever happens happens. This is when guys step up so with Roy down someone will step up
  • Not concerned about them slowing it down. We just have to go play our game
  • Feeling good. Back has it's moment but it's fine now
  • Nash always encouraging guys and giving high-fives. Never had a teammate like that
  • Unfortunate they don't have Roy, but in playoffs other guys step up. Fernandez, Webster and other guys
  • Not a lot of experience with Rudy. Will watch film. He can get to basket, shoot the ball, athletic. Almost like a Ginobili sense. Real unorthodox and will do things you don't expect
  • Andre is a very smart player. One of the smarter guys in the league. Knows how to take advantage of guys and get to the paint
  • Loving this time of the year. Only second time in my career

Audio: JRich practice 041610

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