This practice had the feel like a new day had dawned for the Phoenix Suns. After burning the Nets last night it felt as though the recent change in the rotation coupled with a victory had brought some new found hope for the struggling Suns. Robin Lopez has been excellent in his starting role. Jason Richardson busted out his A-Game last night after coming off the bench (he is taking the change well says Alvin Gentry). While Leandro Barbosa has yet to transform back into the Brazilian Blur we know and love so much, there have been encouraging moments of late.
Of course it's only one victory, and it was the Nets, but anything you put in the W column works, especially when you've lost 4 in a row. There are tough tests ahead: Chicago, Golden State, Utah, Charlotte, Houston (ah hell, their all big challenges, now).
Alvin Gentry fielded many questions about Robin Lopez's resurgence, and cautioned our exuberance by stating, "...listen, its' going to be a roller coaster ride." I couldn't agree more. While his recent play as been a wonderful surprise, he's bound to have some off games, like everyone does, yes? He may in fact be over-achieving right now, or he could prove to be a diamond in the rough. He has the athleticism and he has the attitude to succeed. Last night we saw some impressive moves from Lopez. He has reigned in some of his aggressiveness that resulted in poor outcomes-breaking a glass door, picking up early fouls during games, going "psycho" in practice. The Lopez v.2010 has changed for the better The result: more playing time, bigger numbers, and what seems to be a happier, more at ease youngster.
I asked Robin today if there has been a moment this season where the light bulb suddenly turned on, hoping he would mention the door incident, and perhaps his change in mindset, but instead he focused on recovering from his injury and getting back on the court. I didn't have that in mind, which tells me I could be wrong in thinking his change has been mental. Either that of I asked the question poorly.
Regardless, Lopez is getting more minutes, and he's making the most of them. He adds a dimension this team is sorely missing: defense, rebounding, a shot blocker, and another inside option other than Amare. Lopez has the size to get near the rim and he's got some moves (as we saw last night), a nice little hook and decent range from 10-15 feet. We can't really drop the ball into Amare in the paint at crunch and expect him to produce consistently. Lopez has shown flashes of filling that gap. Don't get me wrong here, the kid has much to learn and I do expect a regression at some point. But why not enjoy the moment?
- Today was a quick one for the Suns. But that didn't stop Alvin Gentry from cursing the squad for a lazy attempt at the weave drill. Before the bad words, Gentry urged his troops to manage their turnovers, reminded them that they play a rhythm game, and push the ball.
- After the usual drills, Gentry gathered the team in two groups and ran them through offensive and defensive sets, placing special emphasis on their zone defense, defending the baseline, and closing out. The Suns ran a motion offense and plays for Robin Lopez.
- After practice Robin Lopez and Channing Frye stayed late. Frye worked on his top off the key jumper while Lopez did one on one drills with Mark West.
On His Recent Play:
"I think it's more feeling comfortable. I think I can have an impact on the game whether or not I'm playing 30 minutes and starting or coming off the bench and playing. That's the way I want my game to be. I want to be able to effect the game with however many minutes I play. I'm in control of my destiny."
On what he's concentrating most on during practice
"Post moves, slowing down a little bit, and reading defenses...I've gotta be more focused on what I do. Whether I'm starting or coming off the bench I'm coming out there focused on doing my job, being an intimidator on defense, blocking shots, getting rebounds. Everything else will come with that."
On facing the variety of centers in the league:
"It's just a different focus, I have to go out there and do the same thing and hit 'em first. When you're playing against a guy like Noah, you have to constantly know where he is."
On who has been his main mentor:
"The whole team has been really good about making me feel comfortable out on the court. I have to say Jarron (Collins) has been in my ear letting me know what a guy does, and I can't begin to explain how much that helps...when you know your personnel, makes your job much easier."
On who he patterns his game after
"Obviously Dwight Howard, I wan to to be a force on the defensive and. Like Marcus Camby, Birdman out in Denver..."
On whether there has been a point when the light just turned on this season
"When I came back from injury I was feeling better, more comfortable, I got my lungs back."
On whether he was wearing his old Stanford shorts beneath his Suns trunks:
"I'd like to say that but no they're not. I'd like to say there's something special behind that."
On the Win versus NJ:
"We just needed something tangible, i think we did a good job in Memphis and Atlanta, and obviously I thought we played really well in the first half in INdiana. Just to have a win and something tangible to hang your hat on."
"He did a great job matching up with him (Brooke). He got most of his points with Robin on the bench. Both of those guys are going to be terrific players in the league. Obviously Brooke's a little ahead of him because he's gotten 30 minutes since he walked in the league...Obviously conditioning is a factor and he works on that every day and he's going to get better. There's going to be some highs and lows, but for the most part I think he's going to be a really good player for us...It's the same thing with Goran last year. You have to let them play through their mistakes and hopefully if you are looking long term, all of this will help in the future...Guys he's gonna be a roller coaster. He's not going to play like that. If he plays like that, he'd be a pick ahead of his brother. Right now he's playing with confidence. The trued test is going to be if he can bounce back from tough games. There's going to be bumps in the road."
On Jason Richardson Coming off the Bench:
"JRich is still going to play the minutes that he plays. It doesn't have anything to do with a demotion. We're trying to get LB going. As you saw last night, JRich was in for most of the 4th quarter and finished the game...It's a tough thing for him. He's started every game since he walked into this league except the first 3 games of his rookie season. For him it was a hell of an adjustment. I told him the big thing he has to understand is that it's not a demotion or anything he's done. He happens to be in a position where we're trying to get a guy going again whose done pretty good as a starter that will result in extra scoring and firepower for us. I think he's handled it great."
On Channing Frye:
"it's one of those deals, like baseball or anything else, you go through a little bit of a slump and you're the only one who can play yourself out of it. Its not so much a slump, it's that they're playing him differently. The shots that are available to him now are not what were available in the past. He's working on pump fake intake of his dribble and taking that shot.
You have to have a cockiness about you that I'm good and this is a little phase I'm going through and I'll play my way out of it. You have to have almost a selfish mentality."
On Robin Lopez:
"Robin was great (last night). Robin is a becoming a big part of our team. His size and strength, he plays hard defensively he blocks shots and grabs rebounds. Offensively he's improving a lot. I think he needs time on the court to get comfortable, when to pick and dive, when to space the floor and roll. Those things are coming as he gets more time on the court and more comfortable."
On Derrick Rose
"He's an incredible athlete, he's tough when he gets in the paint, in transition he's also phenomenal. We have to try and slow him down a little bit, crowd him, make him shoot over the top."
On the All-Star Game Voting
"I'm not really concerned with it. That's part of the voting system. To let the people speak. If the people start a campaign and really want to reward someone they should have the freedom to do that, so I don't have much to complain of, it's the system we have and many ways and that's fine. It's no big deal in the big picture..."
When Asked if Returning to Dallas as an All-Star Would Be Special
"A little bit., For me to go back to Dallas as an All-Star, especially when I was a few steps from my grave, it'd be precious for me."