As you probably already heard by now, Grant Hill officially became a Phoenix Sun today.
Since it's kind of old news at this point, and since I have a lot more to say than I expected to about tonight's summer league game, I will keep my comments limited to a couple of notes from the press conference.
- It seems the earlier reports that Hill had pretty much already made up his mind to come to Phoenix were true. He said there were more than ten different teams interested in him, but that the Suns were his preferred choice from the beginning.
- At one point Mike D'Antoni said he felt that Hill is a "young 35". Hill was quick to correct him: "I'm 34".
- There were several quips about D'Antoni's short rotation, some by D'Antoni himself, but the best one was this subtle zinger from Hill that brought laughter all around. When asked about Alvin Adams volunteering to let Grant wear #33, he said: "[Until Adams volunteered] I thought maybe I would wear #35 because that's the number my father wore, or maybe in attempt to get more playing time, #8".
- D'Antoni got him back shortly thereafter. Someone asked if D'Antoni would let Hill shoot threes. The coach replied, "I'm going to make him shoot threes!"
Now on with some observations about tonight's summer league game against the 76ers. I deeply regret that I so thoroughly panned the lousy quality of Monday's broadcast. If even one person didn't watch tonight's game because of what I wrote about the previous one, that's a shame. This was probably the closest thing to genuine Suns basketball we'll get to see until the regular season starts in October. The Suns didn't win, but they sure put on a show, especially our two draft picks who seem to have developed a really nice rapport between them. The result was a close, up-and-down game that wasn't decided until the final seconds of overtime.
First things first: I hate to say it, but Marcus Banks having to miss the game with an injury seemed to really open up the door for DJ Strawberry to have a big night. DJ ran the point for much of the game, and ended up with seven assists. He also shot the ball much better than last time, going 8-17 for 19 points. But most importantly, he played tight, pestering defense all night, and even blocked a shot. He was much more involved in every aspect of the game this time around. He even handed off a Nash-like no-look pass at one point. Unfortunately, he blew a play near the end that could have given the Suns the lead, but overall, this was a terrific night for our second round pick.
However, the real star of the night for both the Suns and the game overall was Alando Tucker. Somebody forgot to tell this guy that he can't shoot jump shots. He shot a very nice 10-19, including a three. And after I dissed his free throw shooting in the previous game, he came up with a very impressive 8-10 this time. He didn't limit his contributions to just scoring either--Tucker had six assists to go with the 29 points he ended up with. In hopes of repeating my free throw "reverse-jinx", I'm going to make a point to mention that he needs to rebound better. There. I expect a double-double from him next time out. :)
And speaking of double-doubles, Otis George had kind of an unorthodox one. He had 10 fouls to go with his 20 points. But really, he had a great game overall, save for a costly mistake at the end of regulation that gave the 76ers the three-point play needed to tie it. I imagine if the Suns don't invite this guy to training camp, somebody else will. And lastly, out of nowhere, there was Melvin Sanders. He shot 6-11 off the bench and ended up with 17 points. He didn't do much else, though, and he did most of his work in the first half.
Now, enough about statistics. Remember when I said that summer league ball isn't about being entertained, it's about evaluating talent? Well, scratch all that. This game was actually quite fun to watch. The summer Suns were doing their best to emulate the real Suns on offense--and the real Spurs on defense. The 76ers were happy to run and hustle with them. We had guys running breakneck down the floor to catch full-court passes. We had drive and kicks for wide-open threes. We had guys moving the ball to find the open man. Even the announcers were remarking about the "unselfish summer league ball" the Suns were playing. How about this for a statistic? The Suns had 25 assists in this game. Everybody who played had at least one except for Michael Bradley who was only on the floor for five minutes. By comparison, the 76ers had 13. DJ Strawberry and Alando Tucker alone had that many between them. But this wasn't an all-offense/no-defense performance. Both teams applied aggressive, scrappy defense throughout. The Suns actually forced more turnovers than the 76ers, but unfortunately the 76ers did a much better job of capitalizing on theirs. It's really a shame the Suns couldn't pull this one off. They came really close, but a couple of costly mistakes--one in regulation and another at the end of overtime--did them in. However, it sure looked like they were really having fun out there, and that made the game fun to watch as well. So while Steve Kerr still didn't get his first official victory, I bet he enjoyed the show.