Earl Barron was a free agent training camp invitee who was projected to be a camp body, and help the Suns scrimmage and get ready for the season. He signed a non-guaranteed contract, along with three other signings; Joe Jackson, Jamil Wilson, and Casey Prather.
Of course, the Suns already have the maximum number of players, 15, signed to the roster under guaranteed deals. So, there really wasn't much of an opportunity for Phoenix to add another player to the roster
This should have been where this story ended. However, with Alex Len being injured to start the preseason, Barron has seen extended time playing at the center position.
When asked about his prospect of making the roster and how he felt about his chances overall, Earl responded, "Things have been going good so far. I've got three more games to continue to prove that I deserve to be in the league and to be on this team."
But he also understands that he still has more to do, and that he must continue to play at the highest level possible in order to make the cut. So what is his plan going forward? "Just try to be consistent...Continue to rebound and play solid defense." He continued, "Tonight I picked up some pretty stupid fouls, but I'll try to change that these next couple of games, and go out and be efficient shooting the ball while making good decisions on offense and try not to turn it over."
Barron also commented on the unique speed of the Suns' system, and what the team is looking for in that regard, even from their big men. "It's a fast pace that (Hornacek) tries to make us play at. I'm slowly adjusting to it. Every practice and every game I'm continuing to get in better shape. Sooner or later I'll be able to fly up and down (the court) with the guards."
Of course, this isn't Earl's first time playing in Phoenix either. He was signed to a contract mid-season, but spent only five weeks on the Suns' roster in 2011 before being released. So what does he think is going to be the difference this time around? "Last time I came it was the middle of the year. I was still working out and I was in pretty good shape, but it wasn't like working every day, two or three times a day and getting ready for a training camp."
Barron continued, "Sometimes when you're in the middle of the season, you're kind of caught of guard by 10-day contracts or workouts. But this time I was already prepared, and I've been preparing myself for months to go somewhere. Once I found out I was coming here for training camp, I upped my amount of working out, because I knew the exact date, and how much time I had to turn some heads."
It wasn't only Earl's conditioning though that caused him to struggle. In his first stint with the Suns, Barron shot only 23.5% from the field; a ridiculously low number, especially for a post player who takes most of their shots at or around the basket.
So what happened? "Last time I came I was a little hesitant...guys were telling me 'shoot, shoot, you're open, you're open!'. I was just hesitant a lot of the times." He continued, "Steve (Nash) was here at the time and making some amazing passes, and I was just kind of caught off guard, and I wasn't ready to shoot a lot."
That hasn't been the case so far this preseason. Barron has shot the ball much better from the field, including a newly featured jump shot. In all, he's shot 61.5% over the first four preseason games, hitting eight of his 13 shots thus far.
When Earl was asked about what's made the difference, he attributed it to being better prepared this time, and more confident in his shooting. "I've been shooting the ball so well all summer, and it's just a matter of confidence. I think every time I shoot it's going to go in."
Of course, the scoring is secondary. It's really rebounding and defense that the Suns are looking for out of the center position more than anything.
In his first four preseason games, Earl has averaged 5.75 rebounds in 17 minutes of play per game. In doing so, he has averaged the highest amount of rebounds on the entire team. While that may be more of an indictment against the Suns' lack of rebounding as a whole, it certainly helps Earl's case that he has been the most productive rebounder in a team who is desperate for help in that area.
Because of this, Earl Barron may very well be playing his way onto the roster. Suns' Head Coach commented on the matter saying that Earl had stood out the most among all of the new players, and that they would "eat a contract" if necessary to keep the right player on the roster. That player who's contract they would "eat", most likely, would be Shavlik Randolph--who is already under contract for this year for $1.22 million.
However, Barron still understands that it is still anything but a guarantee. "I know it's a business and that anything can happen." He continued, "So it's just a matter of keeping a positive attitude and working hard everyday at practice, and hope that good things happen."
Regardless of what happens, the Suns will likely be making a decision sooner than later, as they will need to have their roster finalized by October 27th.
Randolph or Barron...Who will they choose?