It’s 4:30pm in Tucson and I’m sitting at the very top of the McKale Center, listening to Steve Koek and Adam Beechen start the annual podcast of the Phoenix Suns scrimmage. As I mentioned in a previous blog, this is my second time at the scrimmage and it’s really different this time. At the first scrimmage, I had the privilege of driving Al McCoy to the arena. I was surprised at how easy it was to get in when I was tagging along with Al. No one questioned me at all. I just followed Al and everything was ok.
This time was a little different. With the scrimmage starting at 5:00, we had to leave for the arena mid-afternoon to get here on time and make sure we got everything set up. Unfortunately, Suns.com’s Daniel Banks and I didn’t follow the example of our fearless leader, Jeramie McPeek, and we left a half hour later than he did. That put us right in the middle of early Friday rush hour traffic in Tucson. Not a good time.
After dropping Banks off at the arena to get started on setting everything up (and almost hitting Suns owner Robert Sarver with my car in my hurry to get to the parking garage – sorry, Mr. Sarver!), I found parking and was able to get inside. I was nervous that it wouldn’t be so easy to get in this time without Al as my escort. But the arena staff was very accommodating and helped me get in and find where I needed to be.
All of the players are now out on the court warming up. Most of the fans are standing up trying to get a better view of everything and they’ve been like that since the players came out on the court. It’s a great thing having the training camp down in Tucson. I think Phoenix fans sometimes get a little used to having the Suns around and it’s nice to see the excitement when people who probably don’t get to see an NBA game in person very often get to see all of the players.
This is something you don’t see every day: Instead of doing layups like teams usually do before a game, the team is doing the 3-man weave. It’s always interesting seeing professional players do the weave. They’re so big and have such long strides, they only pass the ball three, or at the most four, times down the court.
And we’re ready to start! The starting lineups show that the teams are pretty fair. The big names on the Orange team: Raja Bell, Grant Hill and Robin Lopez; on the White team: Boris Diaw, Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Nash. Amare isn’t playing because of his hurt eye but he’s sitting on the White team’s side. Looking at the lineups, the White team should probably win this game. But I think the Orange team has some fight in them and may surprise everyone. From here on out I’ll make bullet points of different things I see during the game.
- When the scrimmage first started and I saw that it was going to be four 12-minute quarters, I wondered if they were going to give the fans a full NBA game experience. But I see now that the clock is running even during free throws and foul calls. The players appear to know this and seem to be shooting their free throws a little more quickly than they normally do.
- Steve Nash still has his touch. He just grabbed a rebound and headed down the court without being stopped by anyone. An easy two points for the White team.
- It’s the end of the first quarter and the teams are tied, 16-16. I guess the teams are pretty even!
- It appears Steve Nash is out for the 2nd quarter. At least, I didn’t see any subs in the first quarter so I assume they’ll do the same in the second. But he can probably use the rest and it’ll be nice to see what Sean Singletary can do.
- Shaq is playing hard. Robin Lopez got a rebound and sent a great pass to Goran Dragic. Dragic drove down the lane and thought he had an open look but Shaq stepped in and made sure he didn’t make the shot. But Dragic got the free throws.
- After playing all of the first quarter and half of the second, Goran Dragic is getting a break. He deserves it. So far he’s shown that he deserves to be out on the court and will make a good backup to Nash during the season. Hopefully he can keep learning and growing as the season progresses.
- T-shirt time!!!
- Steve Nash just taught the rookie, Goran Dragic, a lesson in “How to Take a Charge 101.” Nash drew a beatiful charge on Dragic and soon after that was the end of the quarter. The score is 32-30, Orange. The teams have once again proved to be very even. Terry Porter said yesterday that he may change the teams at halftime if he wanted to see different matchups. At this point, however, it doesn’t look like that will happen.
- After a 5-minute halftime, the teams are back on the court. I haven’t seen any changes to the teams at this point so we should have a good second half.
- Steve Nash just had a very, very nice alley-oop with Alando Tucker.
- There is now 4:30 left in the 4th quarter and the White team is up by one, 52-51. The players are starting to get more intense and the fans have all picked sides as well. While not as loud as a regular Suns game, it is definitely getting up there.
- 36.5 seconds left, the Orange team is now up by 2 and there is a timeout on the floor. Wow, these guys all want to win.
- The shot clock is off, Diaw is shooting two free throws for the White team and they’re down by two. Steve Nash is on the bench. Boris sinks the first one…and misses the second! The orange team gets the ball and can run out the clock.
- Six seconds left and an “extra” timeout was given. I guess making sure the team gets a chance at a last-second situation is more important at this point since it doesn’t really matter which team wins.
And the Orange team wins, 59-57. It was a great game and I think the team learned a lot about what they’re doing well and what they still need to do better. Alando Tucker had a great game. The rookies showed that they have a lot of potential and the fans got to see the veterans. Overall, a win-win. And if anyone asks you who won the scrimmage, you can tell them “The Suns did.”