Training camp is only four days old, yet the good guys are looking surprisingly good according to the Suns own media arm and the local beat reporters who moved up to Flagstaff this week. All media were invited to the party, but when its BYOB/F/L/G, only a few have made the trip.
Training camp culminates on Saturday with an open scrimmage and a Fan Fest where players stay to sign autographs and take pictures with fans. The Suns have not played in Flagstaff since 2004, but back then the fans showed up in droves and this season shouldn't be a whole lot different.
Your Bright Side team stayed in the valley all week, but three of us (Sean, Jim and I) are heading up the hill for the open scrimmage on Saturday and hopefully a few minutes with players and/or coaches before the Fan Fest starts in earnest.
Until then, here's a roundup of story lines coming out of camp. For those who are new to the game, the storylines are the same as every year and every NBA team. But let's give tons of props to Paul Coro (azcentral.com), Craig Grialou (620) and the Suns guys Matt Peterson and Greg Esposito. The Suns guys have tons of video of the week as well, so be sure to check that out.
Coach is holding players accountable
- 620/ArizonaSports.com reporter Craig Grialou reports that coaches are holding players more accountable on defense this year: "He holds everybody accountable -- every play, every time, from top to bottom, no matter who it is," Tucker said of Longabardi. "He'll stop (practice) 10 times in a row if he's got to. I think the main thing about our defense is holding everybody accountable."
Last year's biggest problem areas should improve with focus
- Grialou reports that the Suns coach thinks 3s will come easier this year (Suns were 29th in league last season): "Through us working on the shots," [Hornacek] said, "putting a little more effort in practice; hopefully, with the floor spread a bit little more in terms of where we put our guys and between Goran (Dragic) and Eric (Bledsoe) and Kendall (Marshall) and these point guards penetrating and kicking out, knowing where the guys are going to be, maybe they get better looks at the 3s and shoot a higher percentage."
- Coro reports that the Suns, 29th in efficiency last year, think they can get better offense by pushing the ball: "Most of it is freedom for them to make the decisions," Hornacek said. "I've told the point guards, ‘You're in control out there in terms of running down the court and getting something in the early offense.'" Suns starting guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are the given for pushing the team's tempo but Hornacek said newcomer Ish Smith and 2012 first-round pick Kendall Marshall have pushed the ball the most early in camp. Marshall does it with lead passes and the speedy Smith does it with penetration.
- Coro reports that Dragic is really excited about the team speed: "Really fast," Dragic said. "Up and down the court. I'm not going to be the first one now. We're going to have a lot more guys. We're just going to try to push the tempo and score easy baskets."
Some players look surprisingly good
The better NBA teams use this storyline to focus on end-of-the-bench guys who might surprise, but since most of the Suns roster is filled with end-of-bench guys, there's no restrictions on who looks good. They ALL look good.
- Matt Peterson of Suns.com reports that Kendall Marshall is coming along well: "I think he's been great," Hornacek said [of Marshall]. "He's really pushing the ball. He's the one guy that, even after makes, you don't have to yell at his team to get the ball out of bounds quick and go with it. That's been a nice thing he's done, is continually get the guys down as quick as possible and get into the offense."
- Peterson also reports that Dragic is impressed with Goodwin: "He's only 19, so he's really young and he's got a lot of talent," Dragic said. "So far he's battling on defense and offense, and when he puts the ball on the floor, he's really unstoppable. I think he's going to have a nice future."
- Bright Side has already reported that several Suns players singled out Ish Smith and Miles Plumlee as pickup game stars before training camp started.
Rehabbing players look surprisingly good
- Grialou reports that Channing Frye is impressed with himself so far, already playing 5-on-5: "I was shocked," [Frye] said. "I literally did not even get a mouthpiece because I was like, ‘No, I'm not going to play five-on-five.' But I started to practice; okay, I feel kind of good, and then did a little half court, feel kind of good."
- Coro reports that Alex Len is coming along well, according to his coach: "Alex has done a great job of pushing through this," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. "For a ‘big' that size and as much as we want to run, that gets tough."
These storylines are staples for early in training camp, before the players get on TV for all of us to see. Remember when Josh Childress was going great in camp and the first scrimmage (28 points to lead the team) in 2010? Remember when we heard that Lopez was coming along great in rehab, looked on as an All-Star potentially, but then he was really limited in 2011?
Keep an open mind, folks. And wait till the games are actually being played.