Gortat, Dragic continue to show well in Eurobasket “friendlies”

As Eurobasket 2013 approaches, the Suns continue to represent well in the exhibitions leading up to the event itself.

Marcin Gortat was the headliner over the weekend, putting up 20 points as Poland downed Belgium on Day 2 of the European Basketball Tour. Gortat’s outing is a great sign after returning state-side to have his foot examined. All signs, medically and now production-wise, point to good health, which can only be a good thing with Phoenix hoping Gortat can become the Polish Mentor for No. 5 overall pick Alex Len.

One of Gortat’s teammates may intrigue Suns fans. Maciej Lampe, who played for Phoenix in the 2004-05 season, scored 11 points on Sunday to finish second in scoring behind Gortat. Lampe currently plays for Spanish league powerhouse FC Barcelona when he’s not donning a Poland national jersey.

Meanwhile, Goran Dragic continues to provide leadership and consistency in close games for the Slovenian national team. A week after hitting the game-winning shot over Turkey, Dragic notched 11 points to help push Slovenia past Russia, 84-80. Former NBA talent Bostjan Nachbar led Slovenia with 18 points. Nachbar is teammates with Lampe on FC Barcelona.

Dragic’s Twitter feed is a good way to get the behind-the-scenes glimpses of his time overseas. Immensely proud of his involvement with the national team, Dragic frequently posts pictures and comments while traveling/practicing/playing.

Suns eager not just to play, but to play well in new uniforms

PJ Tucker and the Suns are excited about the new uniforms, but they’re even more eager to play well in them.

The wait is over…for fans, anyway.

As for the players, the ones who will sport the Suns’ new threads, their excitement over the new look is rivaled only by their eagerness to play well while wearing them. Eric Bledsoe, Alex Len, Caron Butler, Archie Goodwin and PJ Tucker were impressed with the new look. They were impressed by the fans that came to see it.

After catching up with them after the show at Fashion Square Mall, it was apparent they’re just as ready to impress right back in the upcoming season. Nevermind that it’s the middle of August. For different reasons, each of the five weren’t talking like they’ve got plenty of vacation left.

Eric Bledsoe has a boatload of optimism, prompted by his untapped talent, behind him. Frankly, he’s eager to see that part of his career…well, behind him. He’s ready to fulfill that potential, which he’ll do in the Suns’ new threads. His summer has been, in one word he supplied, “work”.

“I’m trying to get better, even better than i did last year coming off the bench,” Bledsoe said. “[I'm] trying to increase that 10 times more, trying to come in and have a big impact on the game.”

There’s No. 5 overall pick Alex Len, who between rookie orientation and surgery rehab hasn’t been as visible as the other new summer arrivals. It had to be unintentionally torturous to walk around without a boot, don a jersey…and still not play.

PJ Tucker’s summer has been the opposite of Len’s. The 28-year-old veteran volunteered for Summer League duty. He’s hit the practice court as hard as anyone can, working with head coach Jeff Hornacek and his staff to hone his 3-point shot.

In an improved look, Tucker is hoping he’ll show off an improved stroke from outside.

“I can’t be content with where I finished last year,” Tucker said. “I’ve got to try to make the team better by working on my game.”

Goodwin now has another jersey to his collection that started as a kid (hey, he’s turning 19 on Saturday). Like the fans, he’d been waiting for his first real pro jersey, especially after being forced to don practice versions while other rookies sported their regular uniforms at orientation last week.

As excited as he his for this offseason milestone, he’s even more amped to answer the hype that has built since his scintillating Summer League performance.

Finally, Butler tackled Thursday’s unveiling the same way he’s done everything else this summer: taking it in stride, enjoying the moment.

After a summer of quality time with his five kids, he’ll be getting back to taking care of his teammates, which in truth are kids compared to the 11-year veteran.

Suns fans may have thought the wait ended Thursday on the walkway. Just know that the team is just as eager to follow up with an even better performance on the hardwood in a couple months.

Dragic buzzer-beater lifts Slovenia over Turkey in Eurobasket exhibition

Suns point guard Goran Dragic is getting an extra dose of competition, conditioning and, perhaps most importantly, leadership as he and the Slovenian national team prepare for Eurobasket 2013.

For those who aren’t familiar with Eurobasket, think of it this way: it’s soccer fan fever transferred to the hardcourt, where it’s nation vs. nation rather than club vs. club. The two-week tournament will be well worth following come mid-September, when the real games start.

For now, most of the Eurobasket teams are participating in “friendlies”, exhibitions that serve as tune-ups heading into the real deal. As a standout NBA player, Dragic is already being billed as one of the marquee players of the field.

The Suns’ leading scorer lived up to that billing over the weekend, hitting a game-winning shot in a sequence that has become familiar to Suns fans: a twisting, contorting layup that leaves the defense leaning one way while leaving Dragic with a sufficient opening for a contorting layup, which he sank with 2.5 seconds left over Turkey.

Don’t forget, Turkey, not Spain, was the world’s heaviest punch against Team USA back in the 2010 World Championships. Dragic’s crunch-time chops showed up against a quality opponent, an experience that should only help Phoenix in the upcoming season.

Archie Goodwin not shying from proving critics wrong

Archie Goodwin is glad to be in Phoenix, but the 28 teams that passed on him in the Draft may not be.

There are two sides to every athlete. There’s the side that stays politically correct. Then there’s the side that bypasses the public filter and says what’s really on his/her mind. [Read more...]

The King James Has a Message For Suns Fans

When a king praises someone you tend to stand up and take notice. In the ancient world that praise usually would come with the individual being knighted but in today’s day and age it comes along with a tweet and a cell phone picture.

Case in point, when King James decides to praise on one of the newest members of the Suns, Eric Bledsoe, he turns to his legions of followers, on social media, to spread the message.

We’re listening, LeBron, and we hope you are completely correct in your talent evaluation. The fact that you agree with General Manager Ryan McDonough’s assessment means there is safety in numbers. That, and your praise makes it clear that Bledsoe’s nickname “Mini LeBron” has your stamp of approval.

Maybe it is history repeating itself. Two decades ago the Suns acquired a player who wore red and blue for his first team and happened to be friends with the best player in the game. He turned out to be pretty good in Phoenix. We’ll have to wait and see what Bledsoe does, but he does have the approval of the King. That has to mean something.

Wake me up when August ends (and what we’ll look for when it does)

A dead time in the NBA world, August leaves us waiting on the stories we want to see unfold.

Our good friends at Dictionary.com describe “august” as “inspiring reverence or admiration; venerable; eminent.”

That being said, there’s nothing august about August when it comes to basketball.

August, especially the beginning of the month, is boring. It’s the yearly equivalent to a South American siesta. Nobody’s home.

Rookies Alex Len and Archie Goodwin are wrapping up NBA orientation week. Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat have national team obligations. Other guys are working out and/or playing away from 201 E. Jefferson during the dead window between NBA Summer League and team workouts.

In short, it’s a huge hoops voide that feels longer due to 1) the eagerly anticipated offseason changes that took place off the court and 2) the results of those changes that can only be measured on it.

The moratorium will end. Players, starting with Len and Goodwin, will start trickling into US Airways Center for informal workouts. We’ll start getting an idea behind the intrigue of everyone new to Planet Orange.

Among the many pending storylines, here’s a few this committee of one is sick of waiting to see:

1) Position competition. Jeff Hornacek has repeatedly stated that training camp and rotation decisions will be an anyone-goes affair. Young guys drool over that kind of opportunity, and the Suns are mostly a young team. How intense will practices get? Will Hornacek actually have to calm things down at one point? And will he be able to keep from smiling while he’s doing it? Either way, it’s hard not to look forward to each starter truly earning his spot before all is said and done.

2) Bledsoe unleashed. “Potential” and Bledsoe have been mentioned in the same breath for young guard’s entire career. With more opportunities than ever now available, how exactly will that talent unfold? High scoring? Better playmaking than anyone knew about? Unprecedented defensive numbers from the guard position? Nobody knows (yet), but finding out can’t come soon enough.

3) Rookie impact. Alex Len (20) and Archie Goodwin (almost 19) are the youngest of the young. That being said, Hornacek has indicated that both will figure into the team’s game-to-game picture this season. Workouts and practices are where impressions are made, impressions that solidify or alter the coaching staff’s plans. Will Goodwin continue to impress against better competition? Will Len show off the skill set that had Phoenix high on him in the first place? If the answer to either is “yes”, then it will only strengthen Suns GM Ryan McDonough’s offseason momentum in the public eye.

4) The over-under on practice dunks. My man Greg Esposito already pointed out this year’s Suns roster has unlimited “anarchy” potential. Between Gerald Green, Shannon Brown, Eric Bledsoe and Archie Goodwin, midair collisions might be a real concern if Goran Dragic ever has two or more of that quartet on his squad.

Fan Take: Welcome to the Eric Bledsoe Era

There’s a light at the end of this rebuilding tunnel, Suns fans. It’s the light from the engine of the Eric Bledsoe train, and it’s coming fast.

I, along with my friends Dave, Kini and Guy, have a partial season ticket pass to Los Angeles Clipper games. Before you judge me too harshly, let me clarify. The package is called the Big Game package, and when we first invested in tickets, the Clippers were not the Clippers you see today. Rather, they were sort of a stage comedy punctuated by moments of competent basketball. With the Big Game package, however, we get to see the best teams of a particular season visit Staples Center, and the Suns, during this period, were a Big Game for everyone. So it was a way for me to see the Purple Gang, as well as other marquee teams, all while hanging out with pals. [Read more...]

Monsoon Season Extended Through April in Phoenix

The Monsoon season in Phoenix may extend through April this year for the first time in the city’s history.

No, I’m not a meteorologist nor do I play Weather Guy on TV — although some people in the comment section have compared me to Brick Tamland in the past — but I do know a thing or two about the Sun(s’) affect on Phoenix.

The Monsoon is my nickname for Suns rookie Archie Goodwin that began to come into focus during July’s Vegas Summer League. Off the court, like the time before a monsoon strikes, it was obvious that he is calm and a mild mannered kid trying to learn the ins and outs of his new found fame and fortune. When he steps on the court it’s an instant change, like a storm rolling into Phoenix on a muggy summer afternoon — he is as quick as lightning and finishes stronger than thunder around the rim. He has an explosiveness to his game that can destroy a defense in a matter of seconds and leave people watching in awe by his power and grace. [Read more...]

Between-the-lines takeaways from the Suns’ 2013-14 schedule

Here’s a few between-the-lines takeaways from the Suns’ schedule that was released on Tuesday:

1) Phoenix has chance to make a good first impression. The talent pool still needs more replenishing, something the front office has worked ceaselessly to do. Still, there are a lot of things to like for a Suns team that needs to get off on the right foot. Nine of their first 13 games are against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season. Six of their first 12 road games are against non-playoff teams. Most importantly, Phoenix doesn’t play any two contenders back-to-back until December, when they face Golden State (Dec. 15) and San Antonio (Dec. 18) with two days’ rest between games. Huge opportunity there.

2) January will be key. Phoenix kicks off the new year with a two-game home set before leaving for a five-games-in-seven-nights road trip that stops in Chicago, Minnesota, Memphis, Detroit and New York. The schedule-makers followed the cruelty with kindness, however, rewarded Phoenix with a five-game homestand against less intimidating teams that include the Lakers, Mavericks, Nuggets and Wizards. That stretch is followed by another long road trip, this one a four-game slate that caps off the month.

Whether it’s the two road trips or the long homestand, it’s important the Suns don’t let one bad game snowball through the rest of the affected stretch.

3) Early March boasts the biggest challenge. For the most part, Phoenix doesn’t face more than a two-game stretch against elite opponents before seeing a less imposing team. The exception comes in a one-week span in March, when the Suns face the Clippers, Thunder, Warriors and Clippers again. That quartet of games will be a forger’s fire for a young team like Phoenix. By March, however, the Suns’ identity should be well established and, at worst, make that week a good measuring stick for the team as they stand on the year.

New threads will represent new era under Suns’ next star

When Eric Bledsoe, Alex Len and other Phoenix Suns take the stage at Fashion Square Mall on Aug. 15, they won’t just be showing off the Suns’ new threads.

In a real way, they’re also auditioning to be the face of the #NewLookSuns.

Remember when the Suns underwent their first big overhaul in the clothing department? Of course you do, assuming your eyes and memories functioned in 1992.

[Read more...]