A Suns win is a Suns win, and never more so when it’s an intrasquad scrimmage.
Splitting the team up for Saturday’s game at the University of California at San Diego, it was the first game-simulated glimpse of the Suns as they officially head into the preseason.
Dan Majerle reprised his Summer League head-coaching role, as his team defeated Bill Cartwright’s squad, 101-80. Featuring a roster that included Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley, Gani Lawal, Dwayne Jones, Matt Janning and Garret Siler, it was the 22 points from Hedo Turkoglu (9-of 13 FG) and a game-high 28 points from Josh Childress (11-of-13 FG) that sealed the deal for Team Majerle.
“I’m just trying to get accustomed to getting out on the fastbreak and running,” Childress said. “Coach Gentry has made it clear he wants us all to remain aggressive for any shot that’s open. As a team, everyone expects that of each other. It’s a rhythm that we’re trying to attain. We had a good day today and are looking to build on that.”
While Suns mainstays like Nash, J-Rich and Grant Hill got their usual support from the military-only crowd in attendance, rookies Janning and Lawal turned into quick fan favorites. Matt was 5-of-8 from the field on his way to 13 points, while Gani showed off his slam dunk skills en route to 12 points.
“Gani’s an exciting player,” Majerle said. “He’s got a long ways to go… he has to get in shape and learn the plays. He’s a rookie, but he has talent.
“Matt is good, and I’ve been a fan of him since Summer League. He came in and quickly became one of my favorite players. He just really knows how to play. You see when he plays in a game setting with really good players, he becomes that much better. He’ll be more of a game player who gets out there. You can trust a guy like that. He knows how to play, he makes shots, and he’s just a smart basketball guy.”
Things weren’t all bad for Team Cartwright offensively, either, as Goran Dragic poured in a team-high 17 points to go along with a 3-of-6 three-point-shooting effort from Channing Frye for 12 points. On defense, though, both clubs showed there was still plenty of room for improvement.
“I’m happy where we are offensively, but unhappy with where we are defensively,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “It’s a double-edged sword. We’ll continue to get better in that area. We’ll break it down, and now that two-a-days are over, we can spend a lot of time concentrating on that. We just wanted to establish this in camp, but we just want to run consistently on all the possessions and do a good job on our spacing and see how we can shoot the basketball. We did all that today.”
Nash added, “It’s nice to play in an actual game situation, but we have a lot of work to do. We have to keep building at both ends of the floor. Our biggest challenge this year is adding the new pieces, the new guys, and making them feel comfortable and allowing them to flourish in our system.”
GONE (AND BACK) IN 60 SECONDS
A free agent signee at the end of last season, traded to Toronto in the Hedo Turkoglu deal a few months later and signed by Phoenix after being waived by the Raptors a month after that, Dwayne Jones has had quite the itinerary as of late and says there are, of course, no hard feelings.
“For the months I was here,” said the center who had a game-high eight boards Saturday, “I got a good feel for the organization, just like they got a good feel for me. They wanted me back here. It wasn’t the first time I had been traded, but it was a shock to me. They definitely let me know if I things didn’t work out in Toronto, they would have interest in bringing me back here. I’m glad it all worked out, because this is where I want to be."
Jones also sees benefits to being with the club at training camp, rather than coming into a situation late in the season, especially when it involves fighting for a roster spot.
“Last year, coming in for the last two weeks of the year, it was all about catching up,” Jones said. “Now, starting fresh, I can pick up everything alongside all the new guys.
“I have to fight for everything and compete. I can’t take a play off. That’s the person I am, so whether it’s diving for a loose ball or hustling back on defense. I have to do all that.”
San Diegan and former Suns President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Steve Kerr stopped by to check out his former club in action. The ex-NBA sharpshooter will return to the TNT broadcast booth next weekend to work the Suns-Mavericks exhibition game in Indian Wells, Calif.
“Indian Wells will be my first game back,” Kerr said. “I know I won’t have to do too much research on the Suns (laughs). Obviously they are in shape, running hard and shooting the ball well. It’s going to be a real exciting team.”