Danie Banks/suns.com

Daniel Banks/suns.com

My alarm began blaring at 6am Thursday morning, but I was already up. I couldn’t sleep knowing it was my turn to go to Tucson to attend Suns Training Camp 2008. I had so many questions: What would Coach Porter look like in action? How was the returning team dealing with the offseason changes? And is Boris growing his hair out to challenge Robin’s Fro-pez?

I did not get off to a great start. Rush hour and wrong turns marked my escape from Phoenix. We finally got out on the open road but the trouble followed me. We stopped for breakfast at a McDonald’s off the freeway and I ordered a sausage burrito for my co-worker and an Egg McMuffin for myself. Simple right? When I received my bag it contained one Sausage McMuffin. That was the type of day I was having.

When we strolled into the gym, the events of the day melted away and I was immersed in the world of Suns basketball. There in front of me was Coach Porter barking orders to Goran Dragic, Robin Lopez, and the rest of the team. The “What if” names of the offseason were finally a reality and now I have moved to asking, “What’s next?”

I wanted to share a few random stories from my camping trip with the Suns…

Same Shirt, Different Day

Last year, trainer (and ASU grad) Mike Elliott bravely sported a t-shirt deriding the University of Arizona. U of A grad Steve Kerr got the last word by ambushing him and…well, see for yourself.

One year later, Elliott was back in the shirt and managed to go somewhat unharmed until Coach Porter called him out in front of the assembled media. “Aren’t you going to do something?!” shouted Porter until most of the reporters admitted their allegiance to ASU as well. Can’t we all just get along?

The Stripe Spotlight

At the end of evening practice, Coach Porter had the entire team line up on the baseline and then he called on players at random to step up to the line and take one free throw. If they make it, they’re off the hook. If they miss, the entire team has to sprint to the other baseline and back. No pressure, right? Imagine having Shaq standing nearby and you’re the difference between him getting to relax or run laps. I’d be shaking more than an over-loaded washing machine.

After a few misses, most of the team was heaving and were relieved to hear Porter call out Steve Nash who calmly walked to the line and… missed? The players took a moment to realize what they’d just seen before they began their lap but Coach Porter drew laughs from the two-time MVP by teasing, “90% shooter, huh?!”

The biggest surprise of the contest came when Shaq stepped to the line. The gym went silent and I could see some players already poised to begin the run. Shaq’s shot won’t win any beauty pageants but it bounced around the rim and fell through. The only thing that would have made the moment better is if one of the rookies would have run to halfcourt and would have had to walk back to the line like a baseball player after a foul ball.

Is There An Echo In Here?

Diehard Suns fans have heard a lot about the high expectations surrounding Goran Dragic. Will he eventually replace Steve Nash? Nash himself faced such questions at media day before he’d even gone up against him at training camp. He’s certainly seeing a lot of him in Tucson.

Goran is obviously determined to work just as hard as his idol Steve Nash and is doing anything (and seemingly everything) Nash does like he’s an impressionist on the Vegas strip.

The pair stretch together, shoot together, and compete against each other but I caught a glimpse of Goran working on his footwork with a basketball – one of Nash’s well known skills. It’s like Nash has a little brother who’s following him around doing the echo game. And if Goran can copy Nash on the court, we’re all going to win.

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