PHOENIX — At 2:30 p.m. Monday, the Phoenix Suns officially started the 2010-11 season … sort of.
The Suns departed for training camp Monday after running through the media day gauntlet of photos, questions and on-camera interviews. The buzz around the team is high this preseason after a surprise run to the Western Conference Finals last season.
The Suns will spend the next week training and setting the final roster at the University of California-San Diego in La Jolla, Calif.
The questions at this year’s media day for the men in purple an orange had quite a different tone. While last year it was “can you guys make the playoffs?” this year brought more “can you guys do that again?” And just like last season, the Suns are confident despite once again getting little respect nationally.
“We have to go out and find out who we are and prove who we can be,” Suns point guard Steve Nash said. “I feel certain that with a bounce here or there we could have won a championship [last year].”
The quest for that championship began anew Monday when the team bus rolled away from US Airways Center and headed for the airport.
First injury report of the year
The Suns were mostly safe from significant injuries last season, with the obvious exception being center Robin Lopez. Gentry said Monday that Lopez isn’t quite 100 percent.
The big man battled a bulging disk near the end of last season that kept him out of most of the playoffs. There was no indication, however, that Lopez would miss any time.
“I would say he’s not back 100 percent, but I think he’s pretty close to being back,” Gentry said.
Gentry also said newly acquired utility man (and projected starting power forward) Hedo Turkoglu isn’t quite 100 percent either. The Turkish giant (seriously, the guy is much bigger than he looks on TV) injured his knee near the conclusion of the FIBA World Championship and has been taking it easy since arriving in Phoenix.
To no one’s surprise, Nash ready as ever
Nash took the podium just before noon Monday to kick off media day 2010. Nash fielded a variety of questions, from his ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Into the Wind (he’s happy with how it turned out, but not anxious about its U.S. premiere) to the now-controversial Los Suns jerseys (they’ll wear them again, but not in relation to immigration laws).
Appropriately though, Nash did answer some basketball-related questions. Nash said his age is still not a factor in his game and he’ll be ready to play as many minutes as coach Alvin Gentry wants.
“I’m in as good of shape as I’ve ever been in,” Nash said.
Nash also said that what the team lacks in size it will make up for in depth. Nash wouldn’t predict the impact of the Suns’ offseason additions, but did suggest that they make the team even deeper.
Dudley slims down
But it wasn’t his media savvy that was most noticed Monday, it was his shape. Dudley dropped from 238 pounds last season to 222. He also decreased his body fat from around 10 or 11 percent to 7.4.
ValleyoftheSuns editor Michael Schwartz must not be the only one giving the Steve Nash diet a try …
For the first time since the 2001-02 media day, a certain big, talented forward was missing from Suns media day.
No one was denying that Amare Stoudemire will be missed, but no one seemed too concerned with his absence.
“When we signed these guys it wasn’t to replace Amare,” Gentry said of the Suns newest additions.
Surely any team would miss the presence of a dominant power forward who is one of the best in the league at his position, but the Suns are confident that this group can make up for what left for the Big Apple with Stoudemire.
“I think we’ll make up when it comes to statistics,” Dudley said. “What you don’t make up for is the fear factor of Amare rolling to the basket. With us it’s going to be more penetrate and kick than screen and rolls. Before I even got here the Suns went to the [Conference] Finals without Amare, they had Boris [Diaw]. Boris stepped up and he became a player that people probably didn’t expect, and that’s what’s going to have to happen here.”
The secret game
After a long wait, veteran forward Grant Hill chatted casually with the media in attendance. Drawing particular interest was Hill’s August hoops game with a number of NBA stars and the leader of the free world himself.
Hill discussed his game with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., of which there are no photos or video. The game also featured the NBA’s best, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul.
“It kind of get competitive out there,” Hill said. “He hit a game-winner one game. He hit a three-pointer — college three-pointer. He had a nice crossover on Chris Paul, which was cool.”
Hill also said Connecticut women’s basketball star Maya Moore stripped the ball from Wade’s hands twice, prompting Hill to jokingly suggest they enlist her services when taking on the Heat.
“You got a chance to just see all these great players and great guys sort of humbled and not worrying about being stars or superstars,” Hill said. “But just honored to be in that particular moment on the court with the president.”
Siler as big as advertised
Training camp invitee Garret Siler is listed at 6 feet 11 inches and 300 pounds. He looks every bit of it and then some. The Augusta State product towered over nearly everyone in the room, but looked even more gigantic next to fellow invitee Matt Janning, who’s listed at 6-foot-4.
Suns invite Atkins
Veteran NBA guard Chucky Atkins practiced with the Suns during the offseason and got a formal invite to camp, the Suns announced. The journeyman will enter his 12th NBA season and if he makes the squad, the Suns would be his ninth NBA team.
Atkins was present at media day, but did not speak to reporters.
Michael Schwartz contributed reporting.