Let me tell you: Tyson Chandler is setting the stage for this team to be supportive of each other and building each other up while also holding each other accountable.
One of the under-stated benefits of signing the former Defensive Player of the Year (2011), Gold Medal Winner (2012) and All-Star (2013) to a four-year deal when he's already 32 years old is that he's totally financially secure and knows it's time to be a mentor to one of the league's most talented young big men.
"I love the dude," Chandler said of 22-year old Alex Len. "That's my guy. The moment I signed on, he became my brother and my guy who I want to see succeed and do well.
"I got a lot of love and respect for him. I got a lot of love and respect for the way he handled me coming in."
As you recall, Len was immediately excited about Chandler's addition and was among the first to state that Chandler is the deserved starter while Len will move to the second unit. And Len hasn't wavered from that excitement at all. He knows he's got a special opportunity here to learn from one of the best in the league and take over the mantle again when he's ready to be one of the best himself.
Vitally important to Len's development is going up against a player with Chandler's veteran savvy who can give Len a hard time all through practices.
"Every day, I try to make him work so he can get confidence," Chandler said. "So anybody else, he can score on 'em."
And not giving Len a hard time just with effort - which Chandler exudes consistently as well - but with veteran moves that make Len improve his game just to survive pickup games. Len's competition in Suns practices since he recovered from ankle surgery as a rookie: Miles Plumlee, Slava Kravtsov, Brandan Wright, Earl Barron.
"There's not a young player out there like him to be honest," Chandler said. "He's one of the young great big men in this league. He doesn't know it yet. The league doesn't know it yet. But they soon will."
For his part, Alex Len is ever-humble, downplaying the great performance by alluding to the fact that players aren't going full speed yet in preseason.
"It's still preseason," he said. "It's not as intense as a real game."
He showed off some great decision-making on offense - something he absolutely did not show in Summer League against equal-to-worse competition at the center position.
"That's what I worked on," he said of summer training. "Being more patient and reading the game. I think the game will slow down for me this year and I'll make decisions better and quicker...I want to see what the defense gives me. If I see I can get to my shot or my jump hook or whatever it is, I go. If I see I have nothing on offense, I kick it out."
The key is making those decisions before the defense makes the decision for you. Acting decisively on the catch and going to your strengths is the key to scoring against the league's best big men.
Last but not least, we have Markieff Morris. He played hard on Friday night and appeared a lot more in tune with the offense, but he wouldn't give any ground in the postgame presser.
"I felt comfortable the first game," he replied simply. "I missed a couple shots."
Yet the shots were completely different. Morris' shot 2-13 on Wednesday night with most of the shots being long two pointers. On Friday, his first four shots were a pair of quick three-pointers and a pair of drives to the hoop for scores. The games couldn't actually be much different for him offensively.
But hey, that could just be the offense and where he caught the ball rather than anything Morris did differently himself. He's come in this season more dedicated to taking the open threes that the offense is designed to produce.
"Coach emphasized I got to take more threes, I got to shoot more threes," he said. "You know, I gotta shoot them. I'm open. That's what I was just doing."
The most effusive comments from Morris were regarding Tyson Chandler and Alex Len. He appears much more interested in talking about other players than about his own game.
"It looks like he's gaining a lot of confidence," Morris said of Len, his teammate for the last two seasons. "It's the preseason. I tell him this is where you work on your game, this is where you get shots up. Get comfortable, get a good rhythm going into the season."
He's really getting tired of being asked about the fans. Morris has heard nary a boo at any time he's been introduced to the crowd - a smattering at the scrimmage were quickly drowned out by cheers, and now twice at Talking Stick he's heard nothing but cheers.
"You keep asking me about that," he said to Coro. "Me and the fans, we got something special."
"That's how it go," he replied when Coro said 'you didn't have to win them back, they just cheered you on'.
So much for fan angst. It seems everyone's ready for the season to start and to put the frustrations of the summer behind them.
So far, the Suns look a lot more harmonious as a team. Players are supporting each other, active, laughing, bringing their kids into the locker room (Ronnie Price has the cutest little one ever, and Chandler's isn't much older).
Chandler and P.J. Tucker are giving each other a hard time over shoe choices. Chandler's were straight black Chuck Taylor's while Tucker's were flourescent yellow with spikes all over.
"That's how it is," Chandler said with a playful head shake. "He wants the attention."