Two games into the pre-season and the Phoenix Suns are already 2-0, establishing their running style, and had a surprising return to the court from Channing Frye.
Today at practice head coach Jeff Hornacek talked about Frye's return to the court. It has been a long journey for Frye coming back from a heart condition that sidelined him for an entire season. According to Coach Hornacek the early projections for his return were different that October 8th, "In the beginning we were thinking maybe late November he would be ready, I don't see why he wouldn't be ready at the start of the season."
He came on and scored 14 points sinking 3/4 shots from deep and looked like the old Frye.
The team was factoring Frye into the gameplan for the past few weeks, "once they said he can play I think we all started thinking about it. It is great for us that it has come quicker versus later," stated coach Hornacek.
With Frye they have a veteran that can lead, but "is not very vocal" like like the most of the leaders on this team which is something coach Hornacek thinks is a good thing.
"We don't have very many really vocal guys on the team," coach Hornacek elaborated on the teams leadership. "It is kind of nice because we don't have someone afraid of 'what is our main guy saying,' sometimes it works the other way around where it is not just one guy."
Frye is a leader by default with his experience and Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are leaders because the ball will be in their hands most of the time.
The starters are still up in the air as the "open competition is still in full swing. "We don't know how we are going to do it yet," coach Hornacek stated. "Hopefully things fall out these five exhibition games and we can get into a little bit of a rotation. I would guess with our group, maybe all year long, we will tinker with things to give guys shots."
Of course it would be great if everything turned out the easy way, right coach, "It would be nice if we went out there, had a line-up that works every night, a bench that works every night, and we don't have to make any changes."
Establishing and Identity
This season the Suns are going to have to establish an identity that revolves around good character, progression, and building towards a future. That is well and good for management, but when the ball gets tossed in the air to start games the team needs an identity on the court.
"I will say the biggest thing for us right now is that nobody is putting us as a contender, obviously," Marcin Gortat said about helping the team establish an identity." That is the most important thing. We are a young group, we have to learn and grow as a group, and I would say our identity is to just play hard and run. Run the shit out of that break as much as we can and trust me we are going to wear teams out. I can run, Miles (Plumlee) can run, Channing (Frye) can run to the three-point line, and we seriously have the chance to be one of the best running teams in this league if we continue to do what we are doing right now."
How is the Rookie Doing? Alex Len:
After Game One (7 points 6 rebounds) the rookie was happy with his play and after Game Two (0 points 2 rebounds) it was more of a learning experience. He is still getting his legs underneath him after not being able to use them most of the spring and summer this year. There is a little bounce, but not the same as when Len was performing at a high level in college with Maryland.
What does his veteran mentor think he needs to work on the most? "Strength," Gortat said emphatically after practice.
Gortat has been a major supporter of Len since last earlier in the year when he drafted him to the Suns for ESPN. When Gortat came into the league he had played professionally in Germany and was "way stronger physically" than Len is at this stage in their careers, but when Gortat got into practice with Dwight Howard he remembered getting beat up every day and having to live in the weight room just to compete with the All-Star physically.
"I slept in the weight room some nights," Gortat explained. From veteran to rookie, get a pillow and blanket and make yourself at home with the weights.
Coach Hornacek's Corner:
Coaching moments with this team:
"There is always something. We have to get them to watch a lot of tape and sit down with coaches to go over plays so they can see. When they are in the heat of the action sometimes they don't realize that they missed their rotation. You show them on tape and they start to notice. I think what is great is we have some veteran guys on this team, especially guys that know how to play with Eric (Bledsoe) and Goran (Dragic), especially Archie (Goodwin) that can learn from those guys."
More Coach Hornacek on consistency at home and on the road:
"Just effort. Typically with a team that just won 25 games, they don't win a lot of road games. Most of their wins come at home. It is a struggle on the road and you have to play good basketball. I think the guys played the same way in Portland as they did at home (against Maccabi Haifa) and that is great to see. I have been on teams and seen teams that are totally different at home as they are on the road. We want to be consistent at both places.
The 2014 First Look
This will be a regular section on the Practice Reports or the Center of the Sun (returning the first week of the season) to keep everyone the same page for the pending NBA Draft.
As of today the Suns own their own pick (projected Top 10), the Minnesota Timberwolves pick (Top 13 Protection), and the Indiana Pacers pick (projected 23-27) in the first round. The 2014 NBA Draft is one of the most highly regarded drafts in years because of the potential stars at the top, but also the depth of talent across the board.
Each week there will be some player breakdowns and previews here or on the COTS post that runs weekly on Monday.
If you cannot get excited about Bledsoe, Len, Goodwin, Dragic, and Co. running the floor this season get prepared for who they might add to the team next year at NBA Draft Insider.
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