Let's Go Camping!

Welcome to another exciting season of Suns’ basketball, fans!   It’s amazing how quickly the offseason goes by – training camp begins this week and before you know it, we’ll be tipping off the regular season in San Antonio on October 29th.

As always, the Western Conference promises to be deep and competitive, but we  feel we have the talent to compete with anyone.  Obviously, there have been significant additions made to our team this summer, and I wanted to let you know my thoughts as the season gets underway. [Read more...]

Kerr Discusses the 2008 Phoenix Suns Draft

 Steve Kerr enjoys the moment after Robin Lopez was drafted by the Suns. (Jeramie McPeek/Suns.com)

First of all, we are thrilled with what transpired yesterday in the draft. Everything turned out exactly as we’d hoped. After contemplating various scenarios in which we might have added a pick or moved up in the first round, we felt strongly that we were best off keeping our team intact and simply adding our first and second round choices. We felt that if things played out for us, we might be able to add two players who could help us accomplish our goal going into yesterday: to find players who can help us sustain our recent success, but who can also be building blocks for the future. Only time will tell, of course, but we’re confident we have two new players who will help us make a successful transition to a new era.

Robin Lopez is someone who will help us right away. It’s rare to find an active 7 footer who can run and defend, so we felt fortunate that he fell to us at 15. Robin will provide something we don’t have – a versatile big guy who can get out on the perimeter to defend screen and rolls, but who also has the size and mentality to protect the rim. He’s still raw offensively, but he has a decent touch on a 15 foot jump shot and he is very good at keeping balls alive and scoring on offensive rebounds. Robin will complement Shaq and Amare nicely because he plays away from the ball, preferring to do a lot of dirty work. Terry Porter expects him to contribute right away, so our depth will be greatly enhanced. Robin told us a month ago when we worked him out that he was dying to come to Phoenix, so he got his wish – as did we. This is going to be a great fit. [Read more...]

Kerr Answers Your Questions

 

We’re in the midst of looking for a new coach, preparing for free agency and scouting for the draft, so obviously there’s a lot of work to be done. But we’re confident that when all is said and done, we’re going to come away with a better ballclub next season. Sorry I couldn’t get to everyone, but here’s a sampling of some of the questions that came my way this month…

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Signing Grant Hill as a free agent and trading for Shaq were just two of the experiences Steve Kerr had in his first year as Suns GM.
(NBAE Photos)

 

You’ve obviously experienced a lot as a first-year GM… signing free-agents (Hill), trade demands (Marion), blockbuster trade (Shaq), playoff disappointment (Spurs), controversy (Coach D) and now a coaching search.  What’s the last year been like for you?
– Andrew D, Phoenix

Hi Andrew,
Yes, I’ll admit – I didn’t expect my first year to be anything like this. I knew we had a great situation and I figured we’d let it ride and see what happened. But in the NBA, things change quickly. Between making the Shaq deal and Mike moving onto New York, I’ve been much more active than I anticipated. But I’ve enjoyed the work and the process, and I’m excited about the opportunity to make the team better.

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Why don’t you coach the Suns? I really can’t think of a better choice out there. You were always a winner and a champion. You played for 3 of the best coaches ever. It would be a lot like the situation in San Antonio when Brian Hill left and Popovich took over. He has done a pretty fair job. I really believe you have what it takes to make the suns world champions.
– Gary B, Phoenix

Gary, Thanks for the compliment – I really appreciate it. But there are two reasons I wouldn’t coach this team. One, I don’t have the experience. I really believe coaching in the NBA is a job that requires training, and I haven’t coached at any level. Two, it’s an incredibly difficult job that would make balancing my family life and my career very difficult. In short, I’m not ready. Maybe down the road it’s something I’ll consider, but not now.

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Keys to Beating the Spurs

 

The Suns need to maintain a poised aggression throughout the playoff series with the Spurs.
(NBAE Photos)

Anyone can beat anyone. There will be no upsets, because I’m not sure who should be favored in any of these series. Under normal circumstances, winning 55 games would have gotten us a top 3 seed and a favorable matchup in the first round. This year – it’s the world champion Spurs right out of the gates.

I guess the way to look at this series is this: we knew we’d have to get through San Antonio at some point, so we might as well try to do it right away. We’re playing well, we’re healthy, and the memory of our recent win in San Antonio is fresh in our minds. We know we have to win at least one game in San Antonio to win the series, so our 2-0 record there in the regular season is a confidence booster.

Of course, the playoffs are not the regular season – particularly when you’re playing against the champs. The Spurs are well coached, extremely tough defensively and balanced offensively. They have seen everything there is to see in the world of NBA basketball. And most of all, they have a ton of pride. This is a team that will fight til the last second. [Read more...]

Send/Receive 2: Kerr Answers Fan E-Mail

Hello again. I want to thank you for all your support, particularly the past month or so since Shaq arrived.

 

Skinner is the Suns’ best shot blocker and can help the team in certain matchups the rest of the season. (NBAE Photos)

The response to the trade has been overwhelmingly positive, and I just want
you to know how much we appreciate your passion for the Suns. We’re doing everything we can to make sure our team is prepared every night and making improvement as we head towards the playoffs.

Thanks also for the emails, of which there have been plenty the past month! The interest in the Suns is at an all time high, and I’m going to do my best to respond to your many inquiries. Keep ‘em coming!

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Question: First of all, you were the guy I idolized on the Bulls. Secondly, I was wondering if you have ever considered giving speeches at colleges? I have listened to your interviews over the years and you are a wonderful speaker. I would love to hear you hold lecture or write a book.
– Joseph Henderson, Overland Park, Kansas

Joseph,

Thanks for the compliment – I really appreciate it. Those Bulls teams were special – I was lucky to be a part of NBA history. As for speaking, I have done my share over the years in various forums, but now that I have this job there’s really no time. I’m so busy with the Suns that I’m not doing much public speaking anymore. Plus, when we started our Shaq-era 3-6, I was trying to stay out of the public eye altogether! (I guess it’s safe to go outside again).

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Phoenix Suns Mid-Season Report

Along with Boris Diaw and Brian Skinner, DJ Strawberry’s extended minutes have helped the Suns to the top of the Western Conference standings. (NBAE Photos)

With 30 wins, we’re on pace to win 58, which is about our average over the past three seasons. The difference this year, though, is that the wins aren’t coming as easily. The West has really improved, with teams like Portland, Golden State and New Orleans making dramatic strides forward. In fact, the way the season has unfolded, it appears that there are ten very strong teams in our conference, which means two teams will be left out of the playoffs altogether. There isn’t much wiggle room, that’s for sure. I’m really proud of the fact that our team has plowed ahead in difficult circumstances and put itself at the top of the conference.

I’m particularly happy with our team’s recent progress, especially given that Grant Hill missed 7 games following his appendectomy a couple of weeks ago.. In a strange way, though, Grant’s absence may have helped us grow stronger as a team. We were forced to go deeper into our rotation, with Brian Skinner, DJ Strawberry and Boris Diaw all given more responsibility and playing time. Boris has played better than he has all season during that span, and Brian’s shot blocking continues to give us a boost defensively. DJ has seen significant minutes the last two games, and his defensive intensity and energy have been important. He did a great job on Vince Carter in the New Jersey game, giving us the kind of size and toughness Raja Bell provides. Now that Grant is back, DJ will return to the bench, but it was great for us to see him perform the way he did when he got his chance. We believe DJ has a bright future, and that our depth has improved because we know he can do the job when called upon.

The rest of our schedule is going to be difficult, even with much of our road slate behind us. We’re going to be facing a lot of Western playoff teams coming up, and with the Lakers much improved, our main goal is to win the Pacific Division and get a top 3 seed in the West. We’re going to have to play consistently well the rest of the season to make that happen.

As always, thanks so much for your support. Go Suns!


One more thing…I’ll be answering fan e-mail again in my next blog so send me your questions and check back soon.

Send/Receive: Kerr Answers Fan E-Mail

Here we go, Suns fans. The start of the 202007-08 season is upon us and I know you’re all as excited as I am. We have a really good team and high expectations. But it’s only November, and as the cliche goes, ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint.’

Shawn Marion, who helped “paint the planet orange” with teammate Sean Marks earlier this week, has been nothing but professional, according to the Suns’ GM. 

(NBAE Photos)

We’re hoping to get off to a good start, build some momentum throughout the year and play our best basketball in May and June. If we can do that, maybe we can pull off our goal — winning the franchise’s first championship. In the meantime, I know there are many questions that you have as we get started, so I’ll try to answer a few for you here. Thanks again for all your support, and Go Suns!

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Question: When people talk about players or teams having ‘championship experience’, what exactly are they referring to? It’s just 4-7 extra games played than a team that has been to the conference finals, right? Is there something about knowing you’ve won it all that is so invaluable? Or do the finals really carry that much more pressure that you can’t really understand unless you’ve been there? Please enlighten me!
– Jennifer, Litchfield Park

Answer: Jennifer, having played in the Finals five times, I can tell you I was much better prepared after my first experience in 1996. I was so nervous that year, and my performance suffered. After that I settled down and played much better the following year and in subsequent Finals. It’s not just the extra 4-7 games beyond the conference finals – it’s the knowledge as a player that you’ve done this before, and it allows for more of a comfort zone. So yes, I do think it makes a big difference.

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Question: With the start of the season just days away, there hasn’t been any mention of the trade request by Shawn Marion. Will he be a sun for the 2007-08 season?
– Carlos, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Answer: Carlos, I’m a big Shawn Marion fan and I always have been. I think he’s perfect for our team because of his speed and versatility, and I anticipate that he’ll be here all year. Shawn has been nothing but professional throughout training camp and preseason, and I think he’s poised to have a great season.

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Question: Role players make such a difference in the NBA. In your career you delivered at crucial moments in games while not being a star. Have you spoken, or worked with, any of the Suns role players, and given them any insight into how to maximize their impact on the court?
– Chad, Tucson

Answer: Chad, I haven’t spoken to any of our players about specifically being a role player, but I have spoken to our entire team about the importance of establishing a foundation of work throughout the season. I believe that if each player takes care of his own business each day throughout the season – getting extra shooting, conditioning, watching game film, etc – then we’ll be that much stronger as a team come May and June. I always felt as a player that if I knew in my heart that I’d done everything possible to prepare for each game, then I had earned the right to make or miss a big shot. Either way, I wouldn’t have any regrets.

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Question: Hi Steve. As a kiwi I am proud that Sean Marks has made it to the NBA and spent a number of years with two great teams. If I could fit them I would love to be in his shoes. That said, what areas you think that Sean needs to improve or at least demonstrate to avoid a season of DNPs.
– Michael Stoodley, Tauranga, New Zealand

Answer: Michael, I’m glad to know you’re following the Suns down in New Zealand. First of all, we couldn’t be happier to have Sean on our team. He’s a fantastic human being and a top notch teammate. Secondly, I think Sean will get a chance to play this season. He shoots the ball really well, which will spread the defense out – something very important to our style – and he’s a better rebounder than people think. What will keep Sean on the court, though, will be improved defense. He does have some trouble holding ground on the block, because he’s not overly strong. But he plays hard and he’s smart, so he can make up for some defensive deficiencies. I’m hoping he can break through this year and forge a role with us, because he’s good enough to do it.

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Question: The question I have is – Diaw seems to flourish when Stoudemire is injured yet his production drops when Amare returns. What needs to change in order for Boris to maintain that same level of productivity when he’s playing alongside Amare? Does Amare or Boris need to adjust their game?
– Peter, London, UK

Answer: Peter, you’re very perceptive! I agree, Boris tends to get lost in the shuffle a bit when Amare is on the floor. The reason is that Boris is at his best with the ball in his hands, dribbling, passing and creating shots for his teammates. When he and Amare are in together, Boris doesn’t have the ball as often, and he’s not as comfortable playing without it. One of the keys this season will be for the two of them to learn to be more productive together, and I think that will happen. We’ve made it clear to Boris that it’s up to him to be aggressive all the time, even when Amare is on the court. Boris is in great shape and has the mindset that he’s going to take more responsibility this season.

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Question: As far as a championship is concerned, how much does the 202007-2008 Suns team resemble any of the Bulls or Spurs teams you played on?
– Brandon Harshe, Phoenix

Answer: Brandon, this Suns team is totally different than the Chicago and San Antonio teams that I played on. Both of those clubs were superstar driven teams that relied heavily on half-court offense and solid defense. Our team this year is going to try to outrun and outscore opponents, and we don’t rely on one or two scorers to get that done. It’s a team effort, and we feel like we have the best top 7 in the NBA. I think with the way the league has evolved the past 5 or 6 years, small and fast is the way to go. And I don’t think any team in the league can play with us in an up tempo game.

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Question: hi Steve, I’m a HUGE phx fan out here lost in L.A. I’m just a lil worried about the 5 spot. Can we expect tenacity on defense from B. Skinner? I mean, can he bang with the likes of duncan and the up and coming likes of andrew bynum and the rest of the bigs? i have seen that the past few years, it is the one position that needs improvement, well, at least on the defensive side. so, how does brian skinner look?
– Karlo, Los Angeles

Answer: Karlo, Brian has been injured much of training camp, but he put together two good practices this week and he’s starting to come around. He’s a good shot blocker and rebounder, and he’s certainly big and active enough to be a factor. You’re right, big men have given us trouble the past few years, but at the same time we’ve given opposing big men plenty to worry about as well. In fact, you can say that the only guy we haven’t had an answer for has been Duncan. And let’s face it – no one has an answer for him. The key for us will be more than just Skinner playing a role. Our key is Amare continuing to improve defensively and avoiding foul trouble. With Amare on the floor, we have a huge offensive advantage over anyone at the five spot, including the Spurs. For us to win playing our style, Amare has to be on the court.

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Question: Can we expect Amare Stoudemire to play 82 games again? If so, will he receive nearly as many minutes as he did last year? Best of luck to you, and the rest of the Suns.
– Jacob Kuna, Tucson

Answer: Jacob, obviously you never know how many games a player will play, but I feel confident in Amare’s health. His knee surgery last month was a minor procedure, and he’s bounced back quickly already. The fact that he played in 82 games last season is encouraging, and hopefully he can do the same — or come close — this season.

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Question: The Suns have undoubtedly been the best team for the past 2-3 years. The problem with getting over the hump has not been injuries, refs, defense or any of those other things people mention. The problem has been those two games at the end of the playoffs where the Suns “run-out-of-gas” or lose heart or something in the fourth quarter. It’s happened each year against the Spurs and Mavs. Phoenix is up by 20 with 13 minutes to go and the team just stands around and watches while they are steam-rolled by the “Spurvericks”. What are we doing to address this? In my opinion this is the only reason the Suns don’t have three rings now.

Germar Derron, Atlanta


Answer: Germar, we’ve been close the last few years, and we’re hoping we can bust through this season. You won’t hear us complain about bad luck with injuries, suspensions or referees. I don’t believe in excuses. We just have to have internal growth and improve at both ends of the floor. I feel great about this team, though, because some of those ‘run out of gas’ problems you mentioned should be taken care of by Grant Hill’s presence. His playmaking ability should ease the pressure off of Steve Nash, and assuming Boris has a good year too, we have enough guys to make plays that we won’t have to wear Steve out. On top of that, we will have learned from the past few years. Experience makes us better.

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Question: Steve — The team has had a policy of selling off draft picks in recent years. Please tell me we won’t be selling Atlanta’s pick next summer (assuming it ends up in the lottery).
– Evan, Gilbert

Answer: Evan, trust me, we haven’t enjoyed selling off first round picks, but in the current economic state of the NBA, you have to do what you have to do to keep your core intact. I’m happy that we have kept Amare, Shawn, Steve, Boris and the others together, because to me, continuity is critical to long term success. With that said, we’ll need an infusion of talent next season, and the Atlanta pick is potentially a high one. We’ll need it to ensure that we add to the talent we already have.

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Question: Dear Steve,

Thanks for this opp. I think LB’s a much better 2 than 1, and Marcus is a better 1 than 2. Any chance Mike’s gonna let those guys develop into the “starting second unit,” and maybe get Nash a little more rest. Talk about putting speed on the floor!

Also, if there’s a lesson to be learned from San Antonio, would it be, “trust your 10 best players ALL YEAR LONG and IN THE PLAYOFFS, not just your best 5?”

Best wishes for success your first year!
– Edward Huesing, Scottsdale

Answer: Edward, yes, LB is better as a 2, so he’ll play a lot there. Marcus is a key guy for us this season, because he has the ability to be our 8th man and give us important minutes. He’s had a solid training camp, with occasional moments of brilliance. He needs to be more consistent to forge out a role with us, and I agree with you – he could really add something to our team if he plays well.

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Question: Now that P.J Brown is out for good and with the departure of Kurt, it looks like the Suns are going no where defensively. I know that we’re a very underrated ballclub but I don’t have anything to say when I get into an argument about basketball when it comes to Suns defense. Brian is a good additition but he cannot handle all the interior defensive load. My question is, are you looking to trade or add a defensive presence up until February or is the current roster set till the end of June?
– Abdullah, Tucson

Answer: Abdullah, we’re a better defensive team than people think. Some of the numbers are skewed because of our style of play, but that’s okay. Stats are stats – all we care about are wins. The bottom line is that until we win the title playing the way we do, people will always question us. That’s the way it goes. We’ve been close, but hopefully we can make the next step and get over the hump. I think our defense is good enough for that to happen.

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Question: According to your experience as a player, what else can the Suns do to go to the next level and win the championship? I think everyone needs to step up a bit, provide a better defense, be concentrated ans fight for every point and ball possession. In addition, it seems like the coach should use more players in the rotation…
– Sean, Rio de Janeiro

Answer: Sean, I agree – everyone has to get a little better. We as a team have to get a little better. The fact is, there’s very little difference between the team that wins the whole thing and the team that comes up just short. It’s up to us to pay attention to detail and make sure we do everything we can to give ourselves the best chance to win a title.

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Question: Steve when is the NBA going to realize that awarding a technical foul to a player who argues a call will lead to a more boring game for the players and a reduced fan base? Any chance they will reverse that rule or at least not enforce it?
– Bob Wernecke, Phoenix

Answer: Bob, I don’t think the league will change that rule, but that’s okay with me. Players simply have to adjust to the rule, and they will. The NBA officials do a good job of keeping games flowing, and part of that is knowing when and when not to call a T on a player. That’s part of the game.�

State of the Suns

With the 202007-08 season officially underway, I wanted to give you an update on the team’s progress as we begin exhibition play this week.

Training camp went extremely well in Tucson, as the players arrived in great shape and good spirits. We had six days of practice, film sessions and bonding, and the team made significant progress during that time. Mike D’Antoni doesn’t believe in long practices, but he does believe in lots of running and conditioning. Our team plays at such a fast pace that it’s imperative for the players to get used to running for long stretches at a time. Early in the week the practices became ragged as players wore down, but by the end we were much sharper and better conditioned. I know that Mike feels like the team is really taking shape quickly.

There were plenty of things to be excited about, but to me what stood out most was the attitude and play of Shawn Marion. You’re all aware of his trade demands a couple of weeks ago, and the concern coming into camp was how Shawn would respond to his teammates and visa versa. Having been a player in this league for 15 years, I understand that there’s a business side to the game and a basketball side. The frustration Shawn felt was based on the business side, and now that the season is beginning, he knows it’s time to play basketball. He’s extremely important to our team – a guy who makes everyone around him better – and I was happy to see him playing like his usual self (He had 30 points and 10 boards in Saturday night’s intrasquad scrimmage). Most importantly, he displayed high energy, great enthusiasm and simply enjoyed being around his teammates. I don’t think there will be any lasting effects from the summer issues, because Shawn is a pro who takes great pride in his daily performance for the team. He’s going to be fine, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t have another All-Star year for us.

Another high point was the play and presence of Grant Hill, who will almost certainly be in our starting lineup on opening night. Grant fits right into our up-tempo style, and he gives us another playmaker and distributor, which takes pressure off of Steve Nash. What is underrated about Grant is his versatility, as he can play multiple positions at both ends of the floor. That is what makes him so good for us, since we like to force teams to match up with us. Grant is healthy, running well and looking very sharp. He had 21 points and 6 assists in our scrimmage, and consistently made his mid-range jump shot. I believe he’ll even become a three-point shooter this season, particularly from the corners, where the line is only 22 feet. But where Grant can really make a difference is with his ability to get to the free-throw line. That’s an area we were weak in a year ago, but Grant will help us get easy points when we need them by drawing fouls.

I was also happy with the play of Boris Diaw and Marcus Banks. Boris arrived to camp in terrific shape and played his usual style of beautiful, unselfish basketball. He’s our best low-post player, and he showed the fire and aggressiveness that was missing at times a year ago. He might have been the best player on the floor Saturday night at the scrimmage, leading his team to the victory. I look for a huge bounce-back year from Boris. Marcus obviously struggled last season and never found his niche, but he has rededicated himself this year and is looking for playing time. We’re playing him more off the ball to take pressure off of him, and that way he can concentrate most on what he does best: playing defense. Marcus showed good maturity all week long in Tucson, shot the ball very well and looks much better than he did a year ago. We’re hoping he can establish himself as a consistent threat off the bench.

Our two rookies were very impressive, as well. It’s always a tough adjustment to go from college to the NBA, but both of our guys – DJ Strawberry and Alando Tucker – played well. They’re tough, they defend and they quietly get their work done every day. In short, they are very professional, especially given how young they are. Whether or not they can crack the lineup remains to be seen, but we feel very good about their overall development.

One guy I didn’t mention was Steve Nash, because his play is pretty much a given. Steve is in tremendous shape following another strenuous offseason conditioning program, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. With Grant and Boris there to provide ball handling and passing help, I think Steve will have less pressure on him to make plays this year, which will help him conserve energy for the playoffs.

Our two shooting guards – Leandro Barbosa and Raja Bell – both looked fit and ready to go. Each one shot the ball extremely well throughout camp, and LB’s defense was better than ever before. He is ready to take the next step and become a more complete player.

The biggest question that I repeatedly received over the past couple of months was, ‘Who is going to replace Kurt Thomas?’ The answer is a tag team of Brian Skinner and Sean Marks. Brian is big, active and can run at our pace. He’s an excellent defender and shot blocker. Marks will surprise some people this year – he can really shoot the ball and may get more of an opportunity to play given our roster makeup. Both will help as the season goes on, depending on matchups and situations.

And finally, I know many of you are concerned with Amare Stoudemire’s health, so I wanted to close with an update on his progress. Amare is already rehabbing following his knee surgery, and he is going to be fine. Our medical staff is happy with his progress and expects him to be back on the floor in about two weeks. Whether or not he is ready for opening night remains to be seen, but if not, he’ll be in the lineup shortly thereafter. We feel once he’s on the floor that we’re going to field our most explosive team yet in the Mike D’Antoni era, and there’s no doubt we’ll be potent. Our goal, of course, is to take the next step and improve to the point that we can compete for an NBA championship.

After one week, anyway, we’re on the right track…..