(Photo by Ryan Malone)
"If your goal is only making the playoffs then you're on the wrong team here."
-Jared Dudley (on expectations for this season)
Indeed, Jared. If last year's Suns media day was a touchy, feely sort of thing, with both Steve Nash and Grant Hill signing extensions, then today's vibe slaughtered that to a bloody pulp. Today, after feeling the energy in the gym and talking to most of the squad, this blog guy walked away feeling that the Suns have an air of confidence and excitement about them that is self-inspired. There is no need to read the pundits predictions to put a chip on the shoulder of your 2010-11 Phoenix Suns. Amare? History. The new additions have clearly been embraced, and what I witnessed today was a very confident squad focused on chemistry and W's.
Apologies for some interviews that didn't happen, ie. I never saw Grant Hill in the 2+ hours I was there, Jason Richardson disappeared quickly, as did Robin Lopez. But at this point in the pre-season, the questions and answers end up redundant. Let's play a few games and then see where we're at.
(all photos courtesy of Ryan Malone):
On the state of the team
We may not have a lot of size but we've got a lot of depth and a lot of guys who are smart players and unselfish players. A lot of versatility. I think we'll miss a little bit of Amare's size and ability but we've got a lot of guys who can play and play a lot of different positions, it's exciting.
About him playing off the ball
Great if I can get some free-bees and open looks it will be part of our versatility.
I don't like to make predictions about players but I expect that we collectively set a standard for ourselves and are gonna try to live up to it every day on and off the practice court. If we do that then whatever happens on the court we can live with . I'm not going to predict anything but that's what training camp is for, for building that standard and the culture and living up to our expectations.
Does he envision a change of style with the new guys and without Amare?
I think the style changes slightly every year but overall I think it's due to personalities as much as it is abilities. There will be some changes but overall we'll play a similar style.
He's a terrific player. He's a guy that can shoot, hit the glass, make plays so when you have a versatile player like that he can contribute a lot.
On his minutes
It's up to Alvin, I'll play as much as he wants me to play so it's not a concern for me.
On Robin's role
We have a lot of confidence in Robin and he's turned into a terrific center and can become a premier center in this league. He's gotta first of all get himself in the kind of shape to stay healthy. If he does that he'll be a bigger and bigger piece of our team.
On team chemistry
We should have great chemistry. We have great guys, unselfish guys, we have guys that get it, what it takes to be good teammates so I expect our chemistry to be one of our strengths.
On personnel changes
...It's the nature of the business, there are big changes in our business every year, it's just inevitable. It would have been nice to come back in tact but you know we lost a big piece and had to replace people but I think you have to think about who we brought in and realize their strengths and be positive...I think all of us in the locker room feel great about the team we are and the type of players we are...We might be a little different, we might not be as talented, maybe we are. It's up to us to go out there and overcome what deficiencies we may have on the roster...
Reflecting on last season
Last year was a phenomenal year. I think with a bounce here or there we could have won a championship...you know woulda-coulda-shoulda. We were right there and every time you win a championship you need some luck and I'm not sure we got the bounces when it counted....
On Greek Players/Greek Game
The talent level is good, athletically the level isn't high, some of them have to make do with what they're blessed with...They are very physical which is obviously something that we don't really think of over here...
On making the switch back to the NBA
There's definitely a difference. How quickly I'll adjust to it is based on me, but there's definitely a difference in the style of play and talent level and the athletic ability and speed of the game, these things I'll have to adapt to quickly...I think individual accolades are great but if your team isn't winning...You have to try the perfect balance in that, I'm just trying to improve...
On being part of the second unit
I'm excited, it's a good group of guys, a talented hard working group of guys, when you have those three things, it could be trouble (for the other team).
Improving in Greece
I think I did, mentally, my decision making, that's my main improvement, working on that obviously helped me.
On the team's chemistry
It's pretty much unlike other teams I've played with professionally...it's great for me, I love this atmosphere, its something I've always hoped for on a professional level. I'm anxious for the season to start...Everybody's on the same page, personality wise you have your characters, but it's fun, I think when you have fun playing it takes your game to another level.
On playing with players having high NBA IQs on this team
Playing with them so far it's been great...it helps a young player like me, I guess I'm not that young but I'm not old, but it helps so much learning from these guys who have done so much with their careers
On whether he'll be taking a leadership role
Guys like Steve and Grant and JRich you look at those guys and you cant help but follow a little bit, but my main goal is to come out and work as hard as I can and really gel into the system as soon as possible.
On the one or two players he was surprised or impressed by thus far
I'd probably say Gani is one, Earl...I didn't get to see a lot of guys play last year, but I think those two were surprising...
He's solid, he's a hard worker, he knows his role, he plays hard, he rebounds he defends, you can't ask for more, he's definitely someone who surprised me.
On helping out on the boards
It's been something over my career Ive tried to do, hit the glass, it's something coach Gentry is expecting of me...
Oh and by the way, Josh Childress confessed to owning 600+ pairs of shoes. "Everybody's got their thing," said Childress.
On the AZ weather
I don't complain at all I love it here, its been great. Its better waking up with shorts and wife-beater than sweats and sweaters, so far it's been good.
On whether coming to the Suns was a fresh start to his career
Of course, my personality I know I maybe had a bad year last year, doesn't mean I have to come here and prove myself, I know what kind of player I am and I know what I can do in a good system.
Here we have a good system, I know we'll get to know each other more and more and they'll use me where I can be helpful for the team...I'm just going to play hard every night and be aggressive, play my game, I expect to have a good year. Of course, it's a new start for me, but its been 10 years so I just didnt have good chemistry last year...whatever I did before...I always put it behind me and look forward...I'm just looking forward to having a good year.
On playing multiple positions
I don't mind how they use me all I have to do is be ready and try to play my game and be helpful, I know I can really help in certain situations because in the past I was a facilitator, I can do that here and make some other guys get open shots...it's like I'm in good hands now, in training camp we'll get to know each other...we eliminate those things that can hurt us and try to have a good team together...I want people to think I'm going to come here and be the guy that wants the ball in my hands all the time...Steve is going to be our leader, he's going to run the show no matter what...I can be a a facilitator...hopefully I can help Steve and others get open shots.
On who would win a UFC last man standing octagon fight between Suns players
Probably that big guy over there (pointing at Siller)...Nah I would say between um...well myself, i got the strategy.
Best trash talk he's ever heard
...Must have been during a basketball camp with Michael Jordan to O.J.Mayo. Michael hit a fade away jump shot over Mayo and said, 'You may be the number one player in high school but I'm the number one player in the world.'
On health and his efforts to lose weight this Summer
Obviously hanging out with Steve and Grant they give you the knowledge of what to eat and what not to eat, obviously this is a big year, a contract year so that plays into it...Last year I took off a month. This year I only took a week off...now I weigh 223, I got up to 238 last season.
On what he worked on in the offseason
A lot of 1-2 dribble off the three so when people run me off the the three, the pull up and thats a part of the game that I'm gonna have to expand to last ten year [in the NBA] like I want to, off the dribble off screens like Rip Hamilton. ...I went to Las Vegas, I'm there with my family im not going to go out at night [instead] do some extra cardio at night time...for me to be a player I want to in the NBA is to lose some weight get stronger and expand my game. Players make a bad judgement and want to improve everything, I just concentrate on or two things in the offseason.
On the naysayers/his goals
The beautiful thing about sports is you have opinions, media, you try to prove them wrong, for us this training camp is even bigger than last year because the chemistry factor, you bring in Turkoglu, Josh, and Hakim...new factors so I definitely think if your goal is only making the playoffs then you're on the wrong team here. You set the bar high and see if you get there...For us we're thinking chemistry and once you see where you're at you go from there...
Is the team playing with a bigger chip on their shoulder than last season?
I think that myself I know I'm trying to improve, people like Hedo want to prove doubters wrong, JRich is now moving into a bigger role, and with that comes uncertainty and with that comes questions and a lot of people are challenging themselves...
On the Suns depth
I think it's big, it pays dividends with us, it's crucial with our coach. We play 10 on any given night the bottom 5 can play just as much as the starters, so it gives players like myself-you go out there and play well and you will be rewarded...it's our job to come in and hold the fort down.
How to make up for the loss of Amares 20 and 9 per game
We'll make up with statistics but you dont make up for the fear factor-the weakside help being fearful and having to help, for us It'll be more penetrating and kicks and pick 'n rolls.
Has it been a crazy summer, Dwayne?
Definitely. Being here draft time working out and a couple weeks later getting traded to Toronto and being up in the air with that...I'm definitely glad to be back here, it's where I wanted to be.
About Being that Dirtworker
I think that describes me perfectly, whenever I'm on the floor I have to do whatever it takes to help my team...Whenever I get the opportunity...I can't take any plays off.
I think I have more confidence in my game. It finally dawned on me with coach Cartwight, 'why do you practice shooting in practice if you arent going to shoot in the game?'...I never really had a scorers mentality. I always deferred, and got off as a rebounder...At times I have to be able to pick and choose my spots. I know that if I get it in the paint I have to finish.
About sticking with one team
I've bounced around, it's my sixth training camp with 6 different teams...It's very important to me now that I have a family to stick in one place...My father always tells me 'you've seen where you don't want to be...When you have that doubt go to your lowest point and understand you don't want to go back there...'
It was good you know a lot a work in I saw a lot family went back home, visited my mother saw coach Pitino my old teammates. (Pitino had no advice for Earl)
Things He Worked On
I worked on my shot a lot, staying in better shape, I think I was in pretty good shape already, that's about it.
Where will you be playing
It's all up to coach what position he wants me to play I'll be there. There's no position where I feel comfortable out there, I just play a lot of positions, sometimes its good and sometimes it's your downfall. I just want to have a good all around game and that's what I'm gonna continue to do, work on all aspects and be a complete basketball player.
On pressure to make an impact this season
I don't feel pressure at all, just comin' out here and playing hard...Too much pressure can mess you up, so I just play hard...I can't put myself in the game, all I can do is play hard and answer when they call my name...I know nothing's gonna be handed to me, I learned that all my life, it's something I've been playing for and something I gotta do.
On Hornacek comparisons
People compare my game to his based on shooting, the hustle, defensive ability and then the white guy...I remember watching him play with the Jazz so I can see where the comparisons come from.
On Making the Team
I'm confident the work I've put in since I've been out here i think everyone's impressed...I know they brought in Zabian, Chucky and myself to compete for that last spot, it's going to be exciting...
Preference between playing 1 or 2
My game was molded around being a two but I have a PG abilities, and at some point in my career there's a possibility I could play primarily at PG, but I think for now they want me to be a 2 man but be a playmaker at that spot, it definitely benefits my chances at making the team and having an extended career.
On playing with Nash
He's actually one player I enjoyed watching because he's so good distributing the ball, he's unselfish, I think of myself as an unselfish player. Watched a lot of him and the Suns when they were on, so it's kind of ironic that I'm here...I've asked him about his workouts and learn about what it took for him to get to where he's at now.
It's a great opportunity, this is something I've dreampt about, playing in the NBA and now I have the opportunity to do that...I just need to do what I always do, just play my game, I'm a threat on both ends, as long as I go out there and show that.
NBA players he's tried to emulate
I like Jason Kidd, you try to learn small things from the great players, but at the end of the day you have to just go out and prove it.
His improvement over the Years
I've learned to be a lot more patient, I think the mental part of my game has changed the most staying under composure, when things go bad realizing teams are gonna make runs, when guys are hot get him the ball, just small things you learn about playing the game.
I spotted Dwayne Jones, Earl Clark, Gani Lawal, and the big Siller guy talking. I was trying to get to Lawal for awhile but everytime I saw him he had food in his mouth. Finally I tried an icebreaker to get him isolated, so I walked up and asked the 4 who had the best vertical.
Earl: Vertical? Gani
Dwayne: I had to say Earl, or that guy (pointing to Siller)
Siller: You never know depends on what day.
Earl: What about you? (looking at me)
Me: I can hit the top
Earl: Top of the rim?
Gani: Or top of the backboard?
Me: Oh, back board, totally.
Earl: Catch a lob then?
Me: You got a ball?
On Being the Dirtworker
I can do whatever they need me to. Get rebounds, run the floor, playing with Steve Nash makes things a lot easier. He said you just have your hands ready I'll get it to you.
His thoughts on team chemistry
Everybody gets a long, no clashes, everybody's down to earth and works hard.
On his dreams of playing in the NBA
I started late, 12 or 13, when I started taking it serioulsy the dream started.
On his chances of cracking the rotation
Oh yeah very realistic, I can be an impact player to this team, so I'm gonna work in that fashion.
His thoughts on running, Suns style
This is the Suns, they ask if I'm in shape, but I'm not in Suns shape.
Thoughts on FO dynamics
I'm excited about it because we all compliment each other. What he brings and what I get to learn and vice versa...It's been mostly seamless, I learn something new from Lon probably every day, we haven't stepped on eachother's feet, it's been very positive.
About what he's seen so far from the suns
Almost nothing. I've seen a couple of pickup ballgames just walking through the facility, but I haven't learned a whole lot. I've talked to a few guys but I won't figure out who they are until I think until we start throwin it up putting a clock up with officials and watching them in live action is where I'll get a good feel for who they are.
I'm looking forward to getting back in the season, learning the team, some of the challenges that come with the start of the season, all that stuff I'm very excited about. it may not look like it but... (laughter)
What he can learn and contribute to the team
On the court I can give a perspective because I'm coming from outside the floor if you will, I've certainly looked at this team over the years and had opinions about style of play, personnel, so I have a perspective, that I might not have been able to offer if I had been here the past 4 or 5 years.
I can offer that and I think just from an organizational standpoint I can give some best practices from my years in my the business and the things I've experienced and build on what has already been established.
I am excited about the upcoming season. We've added some players that I think can be a factor in the success that we've had. I'm extremely excited about Hedo Turkoglu, i think he gives us another facilitator, another ball handler...He gives us versatility, he can play 1, 2, 3, and 4 for us. I'm excited about the other guys I think Josh Childress can add that energy to the mix for us, is a slasher, does a great job and probablyis about as good an offensive rebounder in the league, gets his hands on a lot of balls. Hakim Warrick is a guy that we're really excited about, really athletic, knows how to win...very athletic, gets out and runs, a good finisher on the break...
I'll say this now, Amare is a guy who had a tremendous career her. When we went out and signed these guys it wasn't to replace Amare I don't think thats what we were trying to do...We do feel like we'll have a good team.
On Earl Clark
I have watched Earl some during the preseason and I think he's improved his game...the goal for him is to become a lock down defender, i think that's one of the ways of getting on the floor for him. I think his decision making has greatly improved, he's a second year guy, he should be a rookie this year in this league...
On the Rotation
...We'll have to see how everything happens. It's going to be a challenge in the preseason figuring out rotations and how these guys are going to fit together, I think that's going to be a huge factor, but I think this whole team is going to come together and be pretty good.