Playoff Practice Report: Nash's Eye Healing and Looking Forward to the Lakers

Man, it's going to feel good seeing this guy get on the court again. Here's hoping he's ready to go for game one. (Photo by Max Simbron)

As fun as it was to watch Steve Nash go 4-8 from the field (including 1-1 from three point range), dish out 5 assists, and overall just look like the manifestation of all that is man, it's good to see the eye healing up just fine. As opposed to looking like he should be saying, "Cut me, Mick!", it simply looked like Steve was on the wrong end of a bar fight. So, I guess that's progress.

After most of the focus on Steve's eye subsided, the players went on to talk about the Lakers. While the mood of the practice seemed to be pretty low key, there was still a sense that the Suns know just what kind of giant they're preparing for. Say all you want about how the Lakers barely outscored a Jazz team that relied on Kyrylo Fesenko to provide quality minutes, but this team knows how to win.

Robin Lopez Update!

Robin was seen practicing on the court and Gentry confirmed that he did, in fact, run through a full scrimmage today. Lopez has been medically cleared to play, and Gentry said that he has been moving well, but is still taking some time to work up his conditioning.

When asked on the availability of Robin Lopez, Gentry said, "We'd just like to have him. He's played well for us. It's obvious that having been out this long, it's impossible to come back in and play at the level he was playing, because he was playing very good basketball. But just to have him out there, and that's up to him: if he feels good enough that he can give us 15, 17, 20 minutes, whatever, we'll do that. But we're not going to put him out there until he's convinced that he can help us."

Not exactly a confirmation that he'll play, but it sounds like he's moving well, and knowing the competitor Lopez is, I'm sure we'll see him suit up against the Lakers.

Everyone seemed to be in a generally happy mood. The practice went longer than I had anticipated, but it didn't feel as if it was a super intensive practice. Nash, Hill and Richardson were all held out of the majority of practice, and were mostly on the court at the end shooting a few jumpers. Everyone seems to have already put the Spurs series behind them, and the main focus was on their next opponent: the Los Angeles Lakers.

For the most part, the questions were directed about Nash's eye, Lopez's back, and the lengthy, week-long break that both the Suns and Lakers will enjoy before beginning the series. When asked if the break would do anything to throw the Suns off their game or cause them to lose momentum, everyone offered a quick and resounding "no". Most are looking at this as a chance to nurse nagging injuries and discomforts, and perhaps no one will be appreciating this break more than the Lakers' Kobe Bryant.

While there were players held out of practice, there's no need to worry about Nash, Hill or JRich. All have been playing as well as they have all season. Giving some old bones a few days off usually works wonders, as we saw with Nash going 1 on 5 against the Spurs in the opening minutes of game one. And that was only off three days rest. Imagine what seven will do.

Also, there may or may not have been (there was) an eye patch floating around practice today. Keep your ear to the ground (or your visits to the site often) for more information. Your diligence will be rewarded, I promise.

Quotable!

Alvin Gentry

On Nash's eye:

...I mean, Barry said it best: He's Canadian. You're not allowed not to play because you have a face laceration. They take your citizenship away.

On whether or not LB's past success against the Lakers will affect his playing time: 

I hope so. You know, he has played well against them in the years that I've been here and we'll give him an opportunity to do that. ... Yeah, Leandro's played good against them, and it's because we've been in the open floor. I think in the open floor, he's really good against anyone. That's what happened in San Antonio. In the third game, we got the game in a situation where we didn't run a lot of half court stuff. It was really more of an open floor, kind of a secondary break thing ... so he ended up playing against much bigger, obviously slower guys and he was able to penetrate and make hoops for us.

Amare Stoudemire

On how it feels to play against the Lakers for a chance at a championship berth:

LA against the Suns, the rivalry that there is, how Raja choked up Kobe. It was great to watch, I was enjoying that one. I might send Raja a text and say "We're back!" It's going to be an amazing, amazing feeling.

Grant Hill

On his role as defensive stopper:

I don't know, that label kind of just came, I don't know where it came from. But it's really a team effort and we've had really good game plans. We're just trying to win. 

On the Suns' chances against other opponents:

You know, we're confident. I mean, we think we can beat anybody. You don't get to this point unless you're confident in your game and what you're capable of doing. It's weird, we kind of looked at the playoffs before it started, the seedings and everything, I kind of felt, you know, if we could get to the Finals, whoever we play in the Western Conference Finals, we feel pretty confident just knowing what it took to get there. I don't think we'd be as confident if we faced that team in the first round, but I think we've gotten better during the playoffs. We were better in the second series than we were in the first, and one of the things we've been saying all year is ... it's really about playing to our potential and looking to get better.

 

Practice Audio!

Alvin Gentry

http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/355391/Gentry_practice_051110.mp3

Grant Hill

http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/355392/Grant_Hill_practice_051110.mp3

Amare Stoudemire

http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/355390/Amare_practice_051110.mp3

 

Links!

Goran Dragic from a Slovenian's perspective| Valley of the Suns
The first time I saw Goran playing basketball I was 15 years old. We were playing against a small basketball club Iliria from our capital town of Ljubljana. Before the game our coach warned us about some of their players, especialy about one player who was not so very tall, but extremely quick and dangerous for the basket. His name was Goran Dragic.

Phoenix Suns General Manager Steve Kerr finds success
A brief twinge of hesitancy always has preceded my criticism of Steve Kerr. Even during the Suns' darkest hours, it was tricky reconciling the head-scratching personnel decisions with the integrity and knowledge that defines his reputation around the NBA. Bottom line: Good guys make mistakes. They also can learn from them.

It's a big deal, and the Suns aren't big enough to handle the Lakers - latimes.com
In terms Nash will understand, this wasn't just a sweep, it was a sandstorm. As trailers go, this one previewed all the good parts. The Lakers were nothing the Jazz could handle. The Lakers were everything the Suns are not.

Lakers wanted Suns, but may regret it - latimes.com
The Lakers just got a Western Conference finals matchup they didn't expect, facing the little Phoenix Suns they have dominated since they went from tall to taller, instead of the San Antonio Spurs, of whom they remained wary.

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