It's been a long, long summer.
"Feels like forever because we didn't make the playoffs," coach Hornacek said the other day.
Indeed, the Phoenix Suns have not taken the court for five months since ending the season by losing 10 of their last 11 games. That was the ugly culmination to a season marred by player unrest, including a power struggle between the players and coaches over technical fouls. The players were racking up too many (the Morrii alone racked up more than 17 other entire teams), and the coaches were tired of it. Unfortunately, their radical benching rule cost the team an important win or two.
"It was probably a difficult year," Hornacek admits to Bright Side. "Some things we probably didn't handle correctly. But we're all trying to push to see how to turn a team that won 25 games to a playoff team."
Despite all the struggles, the Suns were still 28-20 in late January even after several buzzer-beater losses and a couple more of losses created by the insane T-drama.
But after that 28-20 start, the wheels fell off. The Suns went just 11-23 the rest of the way, amid two more buzzer beating losses, a roster shakeup, injuries and general player melt downs.
But (most) everyone's ready to move on, especially the coach.
"The good thing is, it's a new year!" Hornacek said with a chuckle. "You can move on. Whatever happened in the past, there's nothing you can do about it. You move on to next year."
Players are back in town, gearing up for the season. As of today, everyone's here but one (#Keefbeef).
"We got a lot of new guys, a lot of new faces," guard Brandon Knight said last week. "The earlier you can get back, starting getting that groove together is important."
The guys even asked to come in to play pickup last Friday. Fridays are usually a day off but they wanted to make up for missing Monday (Labor Day). That's some good leadership right there, led by guards Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight.
Bledsoe then flew with Booker to play in a Kentucky/North Carolina alumni game held yesterday at Rupp Arena. Knight, who has previously played in UK Alumni games, likely did not play because he's still strengthening his ankle. He's going full speed in voluntary workouts, but says he's still got a bit of discomfort and is working toward full strength.
"I'm good to go," Knight said of the ankle. "I just got to get the feeling how I felt before."
That's no surprise, considering he hasn't played full court in about six months. He says he should be 100% within a few weeks. The surgery earlier this summer on his ankle went well. Now it's just about rehab.
Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker, T.J. Warren, Archie Goodwin and Alex Len have been daily fixtures at US Airways Arena since May. Devin Booker since he was drafted in late June. Knight, Sonny Weems and Ronnie Price have been around since early August after signing their contracts. Jon Leuer's been a fixture as well.
Media Day is set for Monday, September 28, by which time nearly every contract player will have been around for two+ weeks getting to know each other. Mirza Teletovic came in last week, and Tyson Chandler (death in family) is scheduled to join the guys today.
The only player not planning to arrive early is Markieff Morris. Per John Gambadoro of ArizonaSports, his sources with the Suns tell him Morris has promised to make Media Day a circus if he's not traded before then. But as I pointed out a couple days ago, if the Morrii are heading to trial that Wednesday it would be convenient just to ask him to stay away from the team until that's resolved. And it's unlikely the Suns will make a move until the legal troubles are resolved.
Training camp officially starts immediately after the two-hour Media Day session with the team bus ride up to Flagstaff, where they will train all week and learn the system, including whatever tweaks have been added since last season.
Training camp culminates with the annual intrasquad scrimmage. This time, according to the media release, the annual scrimmage will be down in Phoenix, on October 3 at 6:00pm. My guess is that the Suns will open up Talking Stick Resort Arena free (or very inexpensive) to the fans for a sneak peak at the new team.