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Impressions from Suns scrimmage

October 6, 2012
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Black Team:

PG Kendall Marshall

SG Jared Dudley              Diante Garrett

SF Michael Beasley          Othyus Jeffers

PF Luis Scola                     Ike Diogu

C   Marcin Gortat

 

White Team:

PG Sebastian Telfair

SG Shannon Brown

SF Wesley Johnson

PF Markief Morris           Solomon Jones

C   Jermaine O’neal          Luke Zeller

 

DNP: Goran Dragic (ankle), Channing Frye (enlarged heart), & P.J. Tucker…though he look good shooting pregame with new player development guys Ralph Sampson and Sean Rooks.

 

Bird’s Eye View: The Black Team wins by two after giving up a solid single-digit lead in the second half. Shannon Brown misses a long ’2′ at the top of the key as time expires. Jared Dudley was hot from the start, finishing with 28 pts (unofficially). Shannon Brown and Markieff Morris were also heard from in the boxscore, as they got more and more aggressive as the game went on. It was also a good day for Sebastian Telfair as Goran Dragic was out today. Jermaine O’neal looked spry early, outplaying Marcin Gortat. But that evened out as the game went on. The game got more and more physical as the day went on…a clear sign of the final days of training camp.

Bigger picture: The Suns ran a lot of flex motion stuff as well as UCLA cuts in the halfcourt, with the ‘bigs’ up high. The team had trouble at times getting in their stuff, but Telfair was good in that regard. Defensively, the team made a conscious effort to push everything to the corner…occasionally giving up baseline drives/cuts for paint points. I’m sure Alvin Gentry will mention that in practice this week. Overall, it was one of the better scrimmages I have seen in recent memory….great energy and a lot of talking out there.

You could tell it was a home game for Jared Dudley back in San Diego. His hot shooting early turned him into a playmaker late as the defense keyed on him coming off screens. It’s obvious Jared added some ball-handling and passing to his game this summer. Dudley was a handful for the White team today. He was also very vocal on the court…..let’s see if that continues back in Arizona next week.

For a veteran NBA point guard like Sebastian Telfair, running this show in scrimmage vs. rookie Kendall Marshall was like child’s play (“Westcoast!”…Morris gets a wide open shot; “1-4!”…O’neal gets a lay-up). He had a good handle on the game despite his team being behind most the day. I’m surprised he didn’t have the ball at the end of the game in a 1-4 pick n roll. That play was very successful earlier in the 1st half, but they went away from it a bit to work on some other stuff (understandable).

The Michael Beasley-Wesley Johnson matchup was interesting to watch, as a starting spot is likely in the balance. Unfortunately, neither guy put his imprint on the game. Michael seemed to be going at his usual 50% energy level…shooting when he maybe shouldn’t and not attacking when the defense softened. Meanwhile, Johnson had his head on straight but just just lacks the aggression level he should have on this team. If Wesley took the game by the horns he’d be the team’s best player. By default, he scored and dished for lay-ups today, just imagine if he looked to create on every play. Maybe one day he will be, but not yet. Back to Beasley, every time I looked up Coach Igor was in his ear/face. He’s by far the most talented player on the squad and the staff is still trying to get that motor started. Even former Laker Norm Nixon pulled him aside after the game and started talking X’s & O’s. On one particular play Michael went right around a high screen and shot the ball just as Igor yelled “pass the ball”. This may just be a microcosm of Beasley’s career.

I really liked the feel that Markieff had out there on the court. Going into year two, he looks like a lot more comfortable in who he is as a player and in letting the game come to him. Sitting courtside, it’s remarkable how long he is long…and very disruptive on defense. Offensively his shot looks a better as well. How does Gentry not start him?

Speaking of starting…if you watched the first quarter/half, you’d say Jermaine O’neal is the starter by a landslide over Marcin Gortat. The first game featured a turnaround jumper in the post from J.O., one Marcin couldn’t even make in his dreams. However, none of us expect Jermaine to hold up playing starter’s minutes for 82 games. Plus there’s also the fact that Gortat isn’t getting the same great looks without Nash out there. How much that will change when Dragic is out there healthy is a big thing to watch early on. Marcin’s strength is his activity on both ends, something that wasn’t so evident today with Goran out.  Speaking of touches, Luis Scola didn’t get one look in the post until late in the 3rd quarter (which he scored on), and then not again from then on. This bred some griping from Luis as the game went on. Is this just a product of a glorified pick-up game or is this a coaching call from Alvin Gentry? The team didn’t run today as much as in year’s past. I predict we’ll see more Scola and Gortat touches on the block come November.

As for the guys trying to make the final roster, Ike Diogu really stood out. He, by far, had the two best dunks of the night…even his missed attacks on the rim were highlight material. He banged with Jermaine O’neal to a standstill and made minced meat out of Luke Zeller. While Solomon Jones showed a nice touch and feel at times, the stocky Nigerian from Arizona State looks like he’s making this team. It obviously pays to play in the Olympics.

Lineups: Much has been made of who should start in Phoenix (especially at 2/3/4). I say the lineup is Dragic (when healthy), Johnson, Dudley, Morris, Gortat. Shannon Brown will contribute the same whether he starts or comes off bench…I think less minutes would make him more efficient and aggressive. In my mind, Michael Beasley needs to start being groomed as a career 6th Man scorer in the NBA. I don’t think he’ll ever have the make-up to be a starter and someone who you count on to set the tone on either end. Wesley Johnson should start so that it forces him to be more aggressive. He’ll get lost in the shuffle coming off the bench. Scola, while I do luv his game, doesn’t offer nearly the versatility and game-changing ability of Markieff Morris. Much like with Johnson, starting Morris will force him to be more aggressive and take the bull by the horns. While Marshall showed some aggression at the end of the ballgame (no doubt a mandate from Coach Igor), Telfair is by far the best guy to lead this team off the bench. His vocal leadership will be great for Beasley and that second unit.

Final thoughts: I went away from this scrimmage with increased optimism for the Suns this season. I think that if Alvin Gentry carefully mixes the similar talent that they have at numerous positions (and, of course, they stay healthy) that this team can challenge for the playoffs out West. Even without Channing Frye, this is a talented bunch. Now the job is on coach to get that talent working at its best. I saw some nice flex action on offense today with Luis, Markieff, & Marcin at the top. I think a little less “run n’ gun” and little bit more halfcourt continuity and, voila, this team could help Arizona forget about a certain #13.

Truth be told, I didn’t think of Steve Nash once at today’s scrimmage…..that’s a good sign for Suns fans.

              {Special thanks to the Suns organization for letting us cover this event.}

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10 Responses to Impressions from Suns scrimmage

  1. Dark West on October 7, 2012 at 8:35 am

    anyone know how bad PJ Tucker is? we gonna need his tuffness.

  2. Tango Jones on October 7, 2012 at 11:14 am

    SCOOOOOOOLA!!

  3. Keith on October 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Sorry, but Beasley is starting, for better or worse. We need him and he’s the one getting paid to play. I hope Johnson does well and earns minutes though. And, hopefully, Beas will get his act together. Anyway, glad to see some positive signs from most of the guys. Morris and O’neal sound like they will exceed expectations!

    • Martin Knezevic on October 7, 2012 at 12:51 pm

      We agree to disagree…..but you make a great point. The business of basketball. beez does make the most cash. But Robert Sarver doesn’t coach, thank god.
      -Knez

    • Martin Knezevic on October 7, 2012 at 4:07 pm

      Okay, so who starts with Beasley then? – Knez

  4. brian marchand on October 7, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    That starting 5 sounds good. I hope Beasley will not start. I wish he would not play at all. Giving him more money than anyone else on the team was dumb. We never should have signed him. That gives me no confidence in the front office.

    • Martin Knezevic on October 8, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      Brian, I feel your pain. I guess this is the Phoenix Suns brass telling you that they’re not re-building but re-”tooling” (no pun in reference to Michael, I swear). The Suns had $ to spend and decided to reach for a top 10 talent who has bottom 10 focus and intensity…but you never know what the future holds. If it works, it would be huge.
      -Knez

  5. Valerie on October 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Good post and straight to the point. I don’t know if this is really the best place to ask but do you guys have any thoughts on where to hire some professional writers? Thx :)

  6. Dr. Mo on October 8, 2012 at 11:58 am

    I attended this scrimmage and I have to say that I agree with Brian. Beasley’s body language screams “I don’t care” and he acts like he is 12 years old out there. A few teams have already tried to get his head a little bit closer to his talent level and have not succeeded. Norm Nixon talked to him for 15 minutes or so after the game and it appeared to be basketball related. You could tell Beasley was annoyed. I also don’t get why NBA teams are so desperate to get some offensive “talent” on the court when it costs you so much in other aspects of the game. They should give guys that actually want to play and work hard out there a few extra shots and let them miss a few in the first season of rebuilding. I assure you they’ll make them in the next season. Instead, these idiotic GMs sign guys that jack up shots and pay them too much for doing so. Perhaps they do this because they don’t have the comfort of knowing their job is safe and that they don’t need to have their name immediately mentioned in association with a trade for a some kind of talent, however useless that talent may be. This attitude is also a reason why a decent amount of people religiously watch college ball and hate the NBA. Monty Williams recently said in the Hornets’ training camp to the guys: “There are some really good players out there making minimum.” No shit!

    • Martin Knezevic on October 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      Great insight Dr. Mo, you’re welcome on the site anytime. It’s the business of basketball. GM’s have to make a splash and put talent out there, or else season tickets drop and fan excitement waivers. You don’t want a Warriors fan base on your hands…. Too many times you have a front office that doesn’t have enough ex-players in it, so the perspective is purely business and hype (aka “potential”). Michael is making $5M/yr for 3 yrs…the mid level. There are a lot worse stiffs who’ve gotten that kind of money. The Suns had the $ to spend with Nash leaving and past contracts going out. What I saw at the scrimmage was a guy who’s intensity wasn’t there, which I expected being a preseason scrimmage. I’m sure he’ll be more energized in front of 20,000 fans. My problem with Beez on this day was his basketball reads. He’d ignore a wide open roll man, drive lazily into 3 guys (get packed), and then gripe at a poor D-League ref. Then, on a play where he was pretty open coming off a screen, he swings it to the other side into traffic. This team needs a veteran to take Michael under his wing, and I just don’t see it. Scola and O’neal are the elder statesmen, but they both play inside. Where’s Grant Hill when you need him…..
      -Knez

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