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Old 01-07-2009, 03:38 PM   #1
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Default Suns rookies seeing less playing time

Many Suns practices end with center Robin Lopez working with assistant coach Bill Cartwright on one end of the court and assistant coach Igor Kokoskov helping point guard Goran Dragic on the other.

It's the most court time they get, as both prized rookies have fallen out of the rotation on a Suns team that can't always overcome their growing pains.

Dragic lost his rotation spot four weeks ago and has not played since. In Friday's game, Lopez did not make an appearance for the fifth time this season, and he has lost out on playing time to Louis Amundson.

"Overall, I'm still pleased with what he's done," coach Terry Porter said of Lopez. "He just has to be more ready at times.

"When he got into the game the last couple times, it didn't seem like he was ready and as sharp as he needs to be. He just didn't seem to have the focus. Missed two or three balls. Missed some assignments on the defensive end. Missed box-outs, things you have to focus on when you step on the floor."

Lopez's hustle has not been questioned. His ability to block shots is evident. His rebounding, an initial concern, has improved. His offense was a shortcoming, but he works on his shot and post moves daily.

"I think I've improved in a lot of different areas on the basketball court," said Lopez, the 15th overall pick in the NBA draft.

He started five games when Shaquille O'Neal sat out but played more than 10 minutes in only two other games.

"You just have to try to stay mentally prepared," Lopez said. "Sometimes it might seem a little erratic, but there's definitely a thought behind it, so you have to be ready whenever your name is called."

Kosta Koufos (Utah's first-round pick, No. 23 overall) and J.J. Hickson (Cleveland, No. 19 overall) are the only other 2008 big-man draftees who play significant roles for top teams.

"One of the hardest things to do is be a rookie on a good team," Suns General Manager Steve Kerr said. "You can count on one hand the rookies who are contributing on good teams, playoff teams. It's hard for rookies to come in and contribute consistently.

"Robin's had some good moments for us. Lou's played really well, so it's hard for us to find any minutes for (Lopez), and that's OK as long as he works hard in practice. It's part of the natural progression rookies have to go through. Goran, same thing. Both guys are working hard and making progress. I'm not worried about either guy."

Kerr said the plan to have Dragic play for NBA Development League affiliate Iowa was scrapped because of Dragic's recent virus, but it remains an option.

Free throws

Guard Leandro Barbosa missed Monday's practice for personal reasons.

• Amundson needed seven stitches on his chin after an inadvertent elbow from Lopez during practice Monday.

• Today, Kerr will have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee - "the good one." Kerr joked that he will be out 10 to 12 hours.

Last edited by DirtBag : 01-07-2009 at 03:40 PM.
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