In the Suns first game of the Summer League play, the team looked ... odd.
Those expecting a look at rookie Earl Clark in his first game in a Suns uniform (of sorts) and hoping to see what kind of progress Dragic made were disappointed. Just moments before the game, Clark was scratched due to tightness in his lower back. He told me after the game in his quiet and subdued tone that he was unable to get loose prior to the game. Coach Gentry said they held him out as a precautionary measure and they expect him to be ready for Wednesday's game.
Clark said he was disappointed about not being able to play, but he's a guy that you are going to have to just listen to because his non-emotive disposition didn't show any displeasure at the situation. I am just getting to know the newest Suns lottery pick, so I can't say if this is the norm for him but I will tell you if he brings that same poker face to the tables he's going to do rather well.
Goran Dragic started the game and looked like he was just getting into the flow of things when he was pulled after about 4 minutes. He left the court area with a Suns assistant trainer and was gone for a good ten minutes. After he came back I asked where he'd been and was told, "restroom."
He never really looked right to me from that point forward. After the halftime break, Dragic didn't warm up with the team and, while he played 6 minutes in the 3rd quarter and didn't look visibly hobbled, he clearly wasn't right. He didn't play at all in the fourth.
After the game, Coach Thunder Dan (Majerle) said he pulled something in his groin right before the half. He was not his normal pleasant self walking off the court and ignored my question about how he felt. He went straight back into the curtained off area to get treatment. At this point, I have no updates on his condition. We'll see what they say tomorrow.
Alando Tucker had a so-so game. He definitely displayed some his shooting and paint play but at no point did he look to take over the game. I kind of wish he would have been more aggressive at some point, but that's just not who this guy is. He asked his way onto the team and said that he may not play again in Vegas. Tucker said he was here to test his knee which he declared to be 100%. He said that he's been here twice before and he wanted to give some other guys their run. I asked if he had considered trying to have his jersey retired from the Summer League like Nate Robinson did last year, but he didn't seem interested in that honor. Tucker finished with 15 points and 5 rebounds and showed some nice passing. I really hope we get to see a little more from him.
He did break a little news, telling me that Leandro Barbosa had a daughter! Tucker's not yet gone down to Brazil for a visit, but he still has the ticket. Congrats to LB! BTW -- I am fairly confident that Barbosa didn't have the baby himself, so we have no need to worry about a Candace-Parker-like come back.
Saving the best for last is our friend, Robin Lopez.
Robin was pretty pleased with himself after the game, which was obvious because he talked in complete sentences as opposed to his usual mumbled responses. Lopez had a fantastic game, putting up a game-leading 24 points (including 7 for 10 from the line). He was a beast on the glass with 16 boards (5 offensive) and he recorded 2 blocks, but altered many other shots.
Lopez played a team-high 31 minutes and was clearly getting tired towards the end but despite that was able to get to the line, where he scored five of his nine points in the final period. Early in the game, he was aggressive with his shot scoring in the post as well as from about 10 feet out on a jumper, whereas later he scored more on garbage hustle points and put backs. He looked good.
Before anyone goes too crazy about Robin's performance and anoints him the next Brook Lopez, let's remember that he was matched up against Nathan Jawai, who didn't even play in the first two Mavericks Summer League games.
He did what he had to do and looked great doing it. Let's see how he does against some bigger and better competition.
Taylor Griffin is an interesting player. Think Jared Dudley's energy combined with Lou Amundson's hops. The guy can get up off the floor and he uses his athleticism to help and recover to contest shots. He's a nice player, which we kind of knew. What surprised me was his ball handling and passing.
At one point, he drove the lane and dished a no-look pass to a teammate for an easy bucket. Later, he had a steal on the sideline and dribbled the ball in from the wing and delivered a behind-the-back pass on the break. The box score only gives him 1 assist, but I am telling you that's wrong.
I like what I saw from Griffin but I still think the team needs to be looking for another center to back up Lopez and Frye (who is really a power forward). The two guys I was interested seeing on the Suns squad that potentially fit that bill were Kaspars Brezin and Jiri Hubalek.
Kaspar did not impress me much. He was just kind of there. He wasn't horrible, but he certainly didn't do anything that caught my eye. Hubalek is a skilled player with both range and decent handle for a 6'11" guy. He did OK in the paint but not enough to take a roster spot.
The other guy that stepped up was Zabian Dowdell. With Dragic going down, he ran the point in the fourth and finished with 13 points. He's got some game, but I didn't see anything that made me think he will be playing in the NBA next season.
All of that, of course, was after only one game so, you know ... patience and all that.
As for me, I had a pretty fail-filled day. The fancy recorder that KTAR lent me to get radio quality audio cuts didn't work and I had left my little digital back in the hotel room. I spent a lot of time before the game trying to get it to work and ended up losing a couple of interviews I did for a podcast I was planning. I ended up borrowing a recorder from Clipper Steve for post game and I spent about an hour trying to get the files on to my computer, but that was a fail, too. So, no audio for you. Sucks. Oh, and I forgot my belt, too, so a trip to the mall to keep my pants up and a replacement media card for the fancy recorder and we should be all set for tomorrow.
In other Suns news, which you've probably already heard:
KTAR.com - Suns, Ben Wallace reach buyout agreement
$10m buyout saves the Suns $8m, bringing the savings from the Shaq deal to $9.5 once Sasha is bought out. Suns are still over the tax line by about $4m so don't go getting ideas about signing any more players beyond the 1 open roster spot that will go a min. salary player
- The Associated Press: Suns reach agreement on signing Frye. Gentry and Kerr will be back in Phoenix tomorrow for a press conference for Frye's signing
Lopez impresses, Suns dump Mavs