09-30-2009, 04:41 PM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Suns re-energized by return to run and gun attack
PHOENIX -- With the failed Shaquille O'Neal experiment in their rearview mirror, the Phoenix Suns plan to put the pedal to the metal and hope for the best.
The Suns begin training camp with "a clear vision of how we're going to play," Steve Nash said at the team's media day on Monday.
That would be fast and furious, just like in the days when Mike D'Antoni was coach.
"This year I think it's going to be much clearer as to who we are and how we're going to play," Nash said, "and that's going to allow us to build a chemistry and believe in one another."
Phoenix failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 a year ago in a tumultuous season that saw new coach Terry Porter fired at the All-Star break and replaced with assistant Alvin Gentry, who is returning the team to D'Antoni's high-flying style.
"We've got to reinstate the culture that we had here," Gentry said. "We're going to attack. We're going to score a lot of points."
There also was the trade of Boris Diaw and Raja Bell to Charlotte for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley, and the serious eye injury that required surgery and sidelined Amare Stoudemire for the final 29 games of the season.
Considering all that happened, Nash said, "It's not that remarkable that we didn't make the playoffs."
O'Neal and his hefty salary were traded to Cleveland, leaving newcomer Channing Frye and Robin Lopez to hold down the center position.
While O'Neal averaged 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, his absence will open the middle of the court for slashers Grant Hill and Richardson, and make room for the potent pick-and-roll game of Nash and Stoudemire.
Stoudemire is healthy but his position is tenuous. He is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract after this season, and that could make him a candidate to be traded if the Suns aren't doing well.
Gentry named Nash, Hill and Stoudemire co-captains. It's the first time Stoudemire has worn the title. Gentry said it's time for Stoudemire, a starter for the West in last season's All-Star Game, to share the leadership role.
"I think he's at a stage in his career where if he's going to be around here, he needs to have some responsibility as far as leadership," Gentry said. "Make no mistake about it, it's Steve's team. I tell everybody that, but we've got to have other leaders, also. I expect Grant and Amare to step up."
The coach said he expects to go nine or 10 deep in his playing rotation, with Lopez, Leandro Barbosa, Goran Dragic, Louis Amundson and rookie Earl Clark coming off the bench.
It's not a roster that rivals the powerhouses of the West, and it has its limitations: Team owner Robert Sarver took major hits in his personal real estate and banking businesses in the recession.
Still, the Suns believe they have the talent to surprise opponents, especially if they can improve their most glaring deficiency -- defense.
"We're going to be a little bit more demanding defensively," Gentry said. "I know every year we stand up here and say that, but I can honestly say that we are going to be more demanding defensively from the standpoint of just being more consistent in what we're doing."