The first practice of training camp is like a trailer to a movie. You get to see glimpses of your favorite players as they assume their new or traditional roles.
But the second practice – later on in the evening – was the main event. It’s the practice where the Suns players scrimmage against each other in five-on-five action.
Although it was just the first full-contact practice, there were some aspects of play that garnered some attention. Here’s what stood out to me, as I head into my sixth season covering the Suns:
1) Scola’s Readiness: Newly-acquired power forward Luis Scola looked to be the most polished and game-ready player in the 20 minutes of action that we saw. Suns swingman Jared Dudley (who was right there with him in his play), would be the first to concur. Not only has he demonstrated his gamesmanship and ability to work a defender while playing with his back to the basket, he also drained nearly every perimeter jumper he took.
2) O’Neal’s Pop: Over the past few seasons, Suns center Jermaine O’Neal didn’t show the typical “pop” fans were accustomed to seeing out of the former All-Star. However, it seems that the regenokine procedure that he underwent on his knees during the offseason has given him a little more bounce thus far in camp. At one time during the scrimmage last night, O’Neal skied to the top of the box to reject a layup attempt by power forward Markieff Morris. He also finished strong on a slam on another play, which complemented the feathery touch he displayed on his mid-range jumpers.
3) Mr. Consistency: When Jared Dudley came into the league, he was a slightly hefty ex-collegiate power forward that couldn’t jump over a phone book. However, after a couple of years of incredible work and dedication, he’s transformed himself into a legitimate NBA starter that can play either the two or three spots on the perimeter. As he did last year, he’s come into camp in fantastic shape and refuses to miss open long-range shots.
4) Solid Sophomore: When Markieff Morris arrived last season for training camp, he believed that he belonged. This season, he knows that he belongs. With a year of learning Alvin Gentry’s system under his belt and a summer of dominating summer league behind him, Morris is exuding confidence in every move that he makes. The second-year man is well-aware of how important he will be this season, especially with Channing Frye being out indefinitely, and he looks as if he is more than willing to take on the responsibility.
5) Telfair’s Tenacity: No player spent more time at US Airways Center this past summer than point guard Sebastian Telfair. Whether it was spending time in the weight room with the training staff, working on his game on the practice court or showing his willingness to be a vocal leader in training camp, Telfair has proven that he wants to be a Sun. And despite the arrivals of point guards Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall, “Bassy” plans on demonstrating his value to the coaching staff. Last season, Telfair lost his backup job to Ronnie Price, only to win it back and go on to become the Majerle Hustle Award Winner. And as Coach Gentry said about the competition at point guard, “If Sebastian is not going to have a spot in the rotation, they are going to have to take it from him.”