Random thoughts following the Suns’ 110-94 victory Thursday at Utah:
* While everyone seemed excited about the arrival of Hedo Turkoglu (and rightfully so), Phoenix may also prove to be the perfect landing spot for Hakim Warrick. The 6-foot-9 forward finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds against a Jazz team that is stacked at his position.
* Warrick finds ways to get open and has always finished well near the basket, no matter where he’s been. With someone like Steve Nash to deliver him passes, it’s highly likely Warrick will top his career-best scoring average of 12.7 points per game, accomplished during his second season with Memphis.
* I’m may not be telling you anything you don’t already know here, but to me, Nash’s mental toughness has always been a very underrated part of his game. That’s probably because we’ve always been so focused on his all-around skills, and the pizzazz he displays while scooting around the court and finding the open man. But he refused to be denied in Utah, often taking (and making) the biggest shots — occasionally doing so while wearing the scowl (at least for Nash) worn by all the greats who possess a winner’s edge.
* It is also easy to tell Nash comes from a family that’s passionate about soccer, a sport that demands good spacing. After all, Nash may understand that aspect of basketball more than any point guard in NBA history.
* Shooting guard Jason Richardson has also been terrific, seemingly understanding he’ll need to pick up some of the scoring load while the newer Suns adjust to their roles. Richardson quietly averaged 19 points through the first two games, shooting a sizzling 16-for-27 combined.
* As for Turkoglu, it’s clear the 6-10 forward is at his best when he receives the ball at the top of the key and starts his drive to the basket, then kicks the ball out to the wing after drawing a double-team. It’s the same role he played in Orlando a couple seasons back. So it wouldn’t be surprising to see Turkoglu flourish in the Suns’ system in time.
* Meanwhile, Grant Hill only took seven shots and scored nine points, but the cagey veteran made two very big baskets late in the fourth quarter that thwarted a couple of Jazz runs. One was a pull-up jumper about 15-feet from the basket, the other a tip-in of someone else’s miss. It provided more evidence that the 38-year old may not be as athletic as he once was, but can still muster up the courage to make winning plays nonetheless.
* Remember, the Jazz are expected to be one of the best teams in the West, with one national writer even predicting they would replace the Suns as the conference’s biggest surprise. Yet the Suns pretty much had their way with the Jazz on their own home floor, building a 16-point halftime lead and rarely being challenged in the final 24 minutes.
* Also, while the Suns aren’t expected to be known for their defense, they limited the Jazz to 43 percent shooting (36-for-84), including a miserable 3-for-13 on 3-pointers. The Suns were also only out-rebounded by one (45-44), despite playing a team that, again, is expected to be one of the best in the league in the department.
* None of this is to say the new-look Suns are anywhere close to what they can become, but it never hurts to play well early. As Nash said on TNT, “We gotta try to win as many games as we can while we figure this out.”
* Charles Barkley said on the TNT post-game show that the Suns would be a No. 7 or 8 playoff seed “at best.” But while we all love Charles, what he doesn’t seem to understand is Alvin Gentry’s unconventional offense will again create major matchup issues for opponents — helping the Suns overcome what they may be lacking in talent (which isn’t much).
* Instead, we should listed to former NBA coach Eric Musselman (now with the D-League’s Reno Bighorns), who told me the following about the Suns: “I think they are a playoff team. Coach Gentry did such a good job last year and I expect he will again. Steve Nash continues to amaze and Goran Dragic, with two years experience, should allow Nash to rest more in the first three quarters.”
* Musselman concluded, “A big key will be what type of production the Suns get from Turkoglu. He continues to make teammates better. And I also think Hakim Warrick will have career year. His ability to run in transition and beat [power forwards] up the floor in short spurts could really help.”