After four days of training camp, the Suns gave a sneak preview of their progress to the media and select season-ticket holders Wednesday in the cozy confines of the Grand Canyon University Arena. It was an intra-squad scrimmage, pitting one half of the team against the other half.
The black team, captained by Steve Nash, defeated the white team, 68-61. Channing Frye paced the black team with 17 points, while Jared Dudley scored 16. Shannon Brown led the white team with 16 points, while Robin Lopez added 12 points and six rebounds.
For fans starving for basketball, the scrimmage quenched some of their hunger pangs. If you missed it live or on Suns.com and are wondering how the players (the ones signed and in camp) are looking thus far, allow me to give you some insight into what I’ve seen through just a few practices and one scrimmage.
Steve Nash: If you missed my little tidbit about how insanely in-shape the Canadian kid is in yesterday’s piece, then please click on this link. For a guy who only played three times over the summer, and one time was against Justin Bieber, it’s hard to believe he looks as sharp as he does… which is razor sharp. He took only three shots in the entire scrimmage (making all three), but controlled the entire game with his passing and game management.
Grant Hill: When the Suns re-signed Hill, not only did they keep aboard their most versatile defender, but they secured their most valuable locker room presence. Heading into his 18th season, the Suns co-captain is the calming vet that takes care of all of the intangibles for the team, complete with about the best attitude on the planet. If you’re wondering how important a guy like Hill is to a franchise, just ask every contender in the league that was making offers to him during free agency last week what they think.
Jared Dudley: In practice, no one has looked more ready to play then JD3. In the scrimmages I’ve seen at practice, he’s shooting about 90 percent from behind the arc and is in fantastic shape. He’s shown the ability to finish after being fouled, while also providing all of the usual basketball smarts fans are accustomed to seeing from him.
Marcin Gortat: The “Polish Machine,” as he prefers to be called, had the most interesting offseason of all the Suns. Besides practicing yoga to improve his body, Gortat went to work with Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon on his post-moves. The 6-11 center has ran the floor well when others seemed fatigued, while also showing a very reliable mid-range game. He’s been automatic from 15 feet, no matter who has been guarding him. It wouldn’t be surprising if he’s an All-Star this season.
Channing Frye: The Suns power forward has looked steady as usual, completely settled into his role as someone who can stretch defenses with his range, rebound the ball and be active on defense. Frye pledged to work over the summer on improving his post moves, which he’s used less of since coming to Phoenix. After shooting 39 percent from downtown last season, one can understand why, but the 6-11 Frye wants to make defenses pay both inside and outside. Stay tuned there…
Shannon Brown: The 6-3 shooting guard is sure to provide some of the season’s most electrifying moments, as evidenced by the endless amount of hang time he displayed on his reverse layup during the scrimmage. He’s also shown glimpses of an ability to create his own shot when the shot clock winds down, which is something the Suns coaching staff would love to see this season. He and Jared Dudley will have a very strong competition for minutes at the 2-guard if they continue to play the way they’re both playing right now.
Robin Lopez: Although Lopez appeared in 67 games last season, it seems as if he was never able to recover from his back injury the year before. From all accounts, Lopez’s lift has returned and he seems to be moving much more fluidly in camp. If Lopez, who also worked with Olajuwon this past summer, can find the form he displayed during the 2009-10 season, he could prove to be one of the best backup centers in the league.
Hakim Warrick: No one seems to have improved more from the end of last season to the beginning of this season than Hakim Warrick. Everyone already knew about his explosive dunks, but when defenses took away the pick-and-roll, Warrick didn’t make them pay consistently enough when he pick-and-popped. This season, Warrick has been absolutely deadly from the top of the key, drilling literally everything he throws up. In addition, he’s even added a three-point shot to his repertoire, nailing one as he was being fouled during the scrimmage, as well as a few during the week at practice.
Josh Childress: For people with small attention spans, allow me to remind you how well J-Chill was playing last preseason before he was injured. He was ubiquitous; jumping into passing lanes, making hustle plays, moving without the ball and providing length and athleticism on defense. After missing time with a fractured finger, he never really found his stride, or his way back into the rotation. Although he didn’t see a lot of minutes last season, the coaching staff appreciates Childress, and it sees the spark he can provide off the bench. His 3-pointer seems improved and he appears genuinely comfortable after a year under his belt in Phoenix.
Sebastian Telfair: No one seemed more excited to be in Phoenix than the former NYC prep star, maybe too much so. Telfair seems to be pressing, as opposed to letting the game come to him. Once he calms down, having a speedy backup to Nash that can penetrate opposing defenses could prove invaluable.
Ronnie Price: The latest signee had all of one practice to learn the team’s schemes before Wednesday’s scrimmage. It’s obvious that Price has a ton of bounce and quickness, which the coaching staff is hoping it can utilize on the defensive end.
Garret Siler: The coaching staff raved about the improvements Siler made last season, both physically and on the court. He dropped a ton of weight and was always seen working on his game, far after practice was over. The old axiom is that you can’t teach 7-feet, and the staff is hoping that with continued development, he could provide some additional force down low. He’s come a long way since his first practice here, it’ll be interesting to see how high he can raise his ceiling.