Steve Nash just wants to practice.
The Suns have spent good chunks of the preseason traveling around the continent on so-called goodwill tours –- the last leg of which comes Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Vancouver against the Blazers – to the extent that in recent days they have invested more time spreading the game around North America than they have practicing in The Practice Court With A New Title Sponsor.
“We’re not playing as well as we’d like right now,” Nash said after Tuesday’s thrashing of the Sacrmento Kings that was highlighted by porous first-half defensive rebounding. “Our last two games have been poor. We’ve been traveling all over the place and doing clinics and appearances, and we need some practice time.”
That’s not to say Nash isn’t excited to return for a game in his home province, as he told The Vancouver Sun that it’s “special” to play in British Columbia.
It’s just that Nash sees only a week left on the schedule before these things start to count, and he sees a Suns team that certainly has some improvements to make in that time, although the two-time MVP believes Phoenix’s defense is already “a lot better than it was a year ago.” I know, that’s not saying much, but it’s a start.
I guarantee this won’t be the last time I write about this, nor is it the first, but this team some how, some way has to get better on the glass.
In Tuesday’s game, the Kings grabbed 16 offensive boards in the first half and 20 in the game, and on Oct. 14 in Portland the Blazers bested the Suns by a 49-35 margin on the boards, with 14 of them on the offensive glass and 13 total boards coming from Greg Oden.
This will be a nice test, as Portland led the NBA in rebounding differential last year and the only frontcourt performer they lost during the offseason is a guy by the name of Channing Frye, and he wasn’t signed for his rebounding.
“We have to try to find a way to rebound the basketball, and we have to find a way to limit offensive rebounds,” Gentry said. “So far it’s been our Achilles’ heel, that’s the thing that we’ve talked about the most. Our defense was fairly good (against the Kings), but we gave up second shots, … so that makes it tough. That was really the biggest negative in the game.”
Gentry and the players give a lot of lip service to rebounding, but is it just a case of this team being too small to rebound well?
To Frye, “It’s just us making a consistent effort. I think it’s just how we play certain guys. It’s just a team effort. We have good halves, bad halves. We’re just trying to find consistency.”
To that end The Oregonian reported that the Suns will be taking a look at recently-released Blazer Jarron Collins.
The 6-foot-11 veteran averaged 4.3 and 3.1 during an eight-year run in Utah, and although he brings size, he lacks the Suns’ desired skill set. I don’t see him playing any more than Stromile Swift did last year, so unless the Suns really are collecting less talented brothers or twin centers from Stanford, I don’t think this move makes a difference either way.
Of course, it could be nice to have a warm, nearly seven-foot body around just in case something happens to Amare or Channing.
The Suns are now back down to 13 roster players after cutting Dan Dickau and Carlos Powell on Tuesday as expected, and they typically like to stay there to avoid paying a couple extra salaries to guys who won’t play anyway.
But all the Canadian fans who show up to the former home of the Vancouver Grizzlies tonight could care less about the Suns’ rebounding woes or whether or not they’ll sign a scrub center for insurance up front.
They just want to be wowed by their hero, Steve Nash.
“Good lord, the guy is Canada,” said David Griffin, the Suns’ senior VP of basketball operations. “I mean, any team that has him sells out immediately in any Canadian city no matter what. … (He’s) the Canadian superstar or the Canadian celebrity as the Vitamin Water commercial says.”