If the Suns had a long practice a year ago, it involved a film session bordering on lecture class and a walk-through.
On Wednesday, Suns coach Alvin Gentry taxed the Suns more on the floor, spending big chunks of practice on defensive rotations and conditioning.
But those efforts to get more stops and turn them into quick strikes on offense won't matter much if the in-between part does not improve: rebounding.
The Suns' annual propensity for giving up second-chance points undermines the defense and slows the pace. The task becomes tougher with Shaquille O'Neal gone and Robin Lopez out six to eight weeks.
The Suns were 30-12 when they outrebounded their opponents last season and 12-24 when they did not. Outrebounding foes more often is misleading because, as the NBA's top shooting team, the Suns had fewer misses for teams to rebound. The Suns were 22nd in defensive rebounding percentage and gave up the fourth most offensive rebounds.
"It's a pretty heavy task of us, knowing we're a small team, but we should be able to do it," Amar'e Stoudemire said. "For the most part, we have to rebound as a team. We also have good defensive guards. Grant (Hill) is a great rebounder for his position. Even Steve (Nash) gets in there and mixes it up. The big thing is us big guys have to grab those big boards."
Neither starting big man has that sort of reputation, although Stoudemire averaged 9.6 rebounds as the Suns' 2006-07 starting center in fewer minutes per game (32.8), and new starting center Channing Frye has averaged a rebound each 4.4 minutes in his career.
"It's not awful," said Frye, who stands 6 feet 11 1/2. "It's one of those things where people don't see you get 10, 11 boards a game. As long as I'm on the boards giving the effort, we'll be all right.
"It's rebounding by committee. Me, STAT (Stoudemire), Earl (Clark) and Lou (Amundson), definitely, have a done a good job. Even if we don't get a good swipe at it, we're just trying to tap it to somebody to get out and go."
Stoudemire has had the likes of Shawn Marion, Kurt Thomas and O'Neal to lean on for rebounding help. He would look to leak out for breaks, knowing they were crashing.
"I may be the only rebounder in the game at times," Stoudemire said. "I'll be in there battling these big guys once again. If we close out defensive efforts with a rebound, it'll get us going offensively. We'll key in on that."
Gentry said he told Hill and guard Jason Richardson to aim for five- to six-rebound games.
The Suns will need to find a balance of getting out on breaks and staying in for gang rebounding.
"If everybody takes care of their guys on the shot, we're good to go," assistant coach Bill Cartwright said. "What happened too many times last year is they scored easy and now we're taking the ball out of the basket and trying to get into our offense."
Gentry on the Suns' defense Tuesday against Partizan Belgrade: "We're in the right places and the rotations were almost there. We did a good job of sticking to the game plan. As long as it's simplified and we don't have to think about what we're doing and just react to what we're doing, we can get better defensively."
• After adding extra conditioning at the end of Wednesday's practice - to the players' chagrin - Gentry said, "Or we can walk it up and score 80."
• Nash participated in all of practice Wednesday after missing Tuesday's preseason opener with a chest cold. Assistant coach Dan Majerle was out sick Wednesday.
• Nash shot a cameo role last month for the 2010 romantic comedy, "Life as We Know It," with Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel.
I am skeptical... the run and gun Suns were never real good at rebounding. I hope and pray that they put forth some real effort while showing some heart fighting for the rebounds. Also I look forward to seeing Nash in that movie, he's pretty hilarious in his commericials here in PHX and his vitamin water.. hopefully he shows a little of that.