Phoenix Suns win first preseason game by defeating the Dallas Mavericks outdoors

Should the Suns start Hakim Warrick at power forward over Hedo Turkoglu? Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Should the Suns start Hakim Warrick at power forward over Hedo Turkoglu? Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

After two lackluster preseason games, the Phoenix Suns finally started to show glimpses of the team they can become in their 98-90 victory over the Dallas Mavericks Saturday in the annual outdoor game.

Again, don’t look at the final score because the deep reserves were putrid in getting outscored 26-12 in the fourth to nearly blow the game, and this wasn’t exactly the Mavericks squad the Suns would be playing a month from now with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry taking a seat on the bench for the evening.

Tonight we did get to see the Suns go with a regular-season rotation through three quarters, and after a tough opening quarter getting used to the outdoor rims, Phoenix throttled Dallas 66-39 during the middle two quarters to win their first outdoor game in three tries.

Many Suns played well with five in double figures, led by Grant Hill’s 16, and that doesn’t even include Steve Nash and his 10 assists, but the Sun who impressed me most offensively was Hakim Warrick, who scored 10 points on 3-for-4 in an efficient 15-minute stint.

Perhaps that’s because I already know what J-Rich and Hill can do in this offense, but with Warrick it’s still somewhat of a mystery. He brought excitement to the game, coming up with a steal and a dunk in one sequence and overall proving to be a quality complement to the rest of the starters.

On the flip side, Hedo Turkoglu disappointed once again. He made just 1-of-6 shots for three points in 24 minutes to drop his preseason shooting percentage to 19.1 percent (4-for-21). Such a start makes his season in Toronto last year seem fantastic by comparison.

Even worse he didn’t seem too comfortable in the offense and often settled for long jumpers. It’s too early to speculate whether his exhausting national team run is affecting him as Lon Babby said it did last year (Goran Dragic is also struggling with his shot after an 0-for-5 outing that drops his shooting percentage to 26.1 percent), but for a player with so many question marks coming in, he certainly hasn’t done anything to assuage any fears.

The following conclusion should not be seen as a knee jerk reaction to a meaningless preseason game because it’s an idea I’ve been pondering since the Suns completed all their July acquisitions: Wouldn’t it make more sense to start Warrick and bring Turk off the bench?

Warrick seems to be the most ideal pick-and-roll partner for Nash. Robin Lopez did a nice job in that role as well on Saturday, but he’s not as electric rolling to the hoop as the former Orangeman. Having both of them as options in the pick-and-roll game in the starting lineup could help that play remain a staple of Phoenix’s attack with the starters on the floor.

Also, Turkoglu seems like a much better fit off the bench to take some of the playmaking and ballhandling pressure off Dragic. With Nash rightly dominating the playmaking responsibilities when he’s on the floor, Turkoglu often seemed to be relegated to a spot-up shooter. With the bench, he would almost be forced to be the facilitator he’s thrived as in the past.

That would also give the Suns a lethal, long-ranging shooting bench in which its worst three-point shooter is the shooting guard. What kind of bench can match up with Dragic-Childress-Dudley-Hedo-Frye?

The problem is egos, and while Warrick has been a career bench player, Turkoglu has been a career starter. The Suns must prevent Hedo from pouting and if that means starting him so be it, but personnel-wise it would make sense for him to be the offensive star of the bench.

As for this game, the Suns once again lost the rebounding battle, 46-39, as Lopez led the team with six boards. The Suns did solve their turnover problem with only 12, but they shot just 7-for-26 from three (26.9 percent), which sadly is a step up from the 14.7 percent they shot from distance in the first two games. Channing Frye in his first game back after the birth of his son earlier this week hit just 2-of-10 from deep.

Finally, I know Alvin Gentry said not to read into rotations, but I’m going to do it anyway. The fact that Earl Clark didn’t play until the fourth surely seems to say he’s not part of the team’s 10-man rotation as of now, but perhaps that was obvious anyway.

The entire deep bench lineup was pretty atrocious. The Suns led 87-70 when Jared Dudley and Dragic departed to give the Suns a lineup of Dowdell-Janning-Clark-Lawal with Josh Childress, who made way for Chucky Atkins three and a half minutes later with the Suns still up 16. The Mavs’ deep reserves outscored the Suns 14-3 in the next 4:25 to cut the lead all the way down to five before the Suns ultimately hung on to win their first preseason game in three attempts.

And 1

As expected, Steve Kerr was insightful as a color guy for TNT. It was kind of funny the couple times he referred to the Suns as “we” before clarifying he only meant “we” for previous versions of the Suns, not the 2010-11 Suns. Like the rest of us, he’s concerned about how much the Suns will miss the fear factor brought by Amare Stoudemire rolling down the lane, which freed up Phoenix’s shooters. …

At halftime Hill said the Suns’ biggest challenge in the early going will be not trying to live up to what the Suns were last season because they improved so much throughout the year. He also said the team had a great practice on Friday as well as a “come to Jesus” meeting. …

Gentry on the game, as told to TNT: “I thought we did a much better job tonight, especially in our defensive exeuction. I thought our rotations were much better, but we still have got some work to do. The offense I’m not too much worreid about. As long as you have Steve Nash you’re going to score.”

Up next

The Suns host the Utah Jazz on Tuesday at 7 p.m. MST in their preseason home opener.

Tags: Earl Clark Hakim Warrick Hedo Turkoglu

  • jilliebee

    yay! congratz suns! :D keep up the great work!

  • suns4life

    I felt the exact same way about Hakim Warrick! I was watching and it felt as though because of his large wingspans he had potential for a good stealer and finisher. Turkoglu bombed as you mentioned, I would rather have Warrick as a starter…. It would become much easier for Turkoglu to adjust to his role if he came of the bench with a little less pressure.

  • Al

    I feel that if the suns sign Dampier then they should move Frye or Warrick to the starting PF position and decide between Turk or Hill starting at the 3. Warrick is not as good as Lou defensively, but he has more scoring capabilities than Lou which is an upside for me.

  • DBreezy

    I just looked at the game again and Warrick didn’t run a single S/R with Nash so how did he even come close to showing he was the ideal S/R partner for Nash. He didn’t do many screens with Dragic either save the one he did in early O along the side of the key that resulted in 2 FT’s.

  • Michael Schwartz

    He did play well with the starters for a couple minutes in the first half, and I suppose I’m thinking overall how Hedo has not fit well with the starters this preseason but Warrick has the skill set to do exactly that.

  • DBreezy

    Yes, Hakim played well overall on the offensive end. I’m not sold on him starting though. Offensively to play with Nash, you generally need to either be good in screen/rolls or good at spacing the floor. That’s not really Hakim’s game and I wonder if his presence will clog up the middle of the Nash/R.Lo screen roll. R.Lo isn’t as quick to the hoop as Amar’e was and I think teams would jam the lane and willing give Warrick a mid-range jumper. Hakim likes the baseline area, let him play with Dragic who doesn’t need to play screen/roll 95-99% of the time to be most effective. Also Warrick has been the worst of himself, Hedo, Clark, and Lawal on D and the glass so how can you start him? At least based on what we’ve seen so far.

  • NJ

    Zabian and Warrick looked really good to me.

  • Auggie

    I still say we trade jrich for draft picks and sign dampier to solidify the D

  • KJ Loyalist

    Because, like Shaq, Dampier will be able to transition onto the offensive end and be quick enough to execute the S/R while being a big enough threat to make perimeter defenders crash down freeing up the outside shots.

    Yeah – lets sign him right away… Or not.

  • MatWeddle

    The little comment you made in this post about ego being an issue worries me more than any of the questions about the rotations or defensive/rebounding deficiencies the Suns might have this year. It seems the best thing the Suns had going for them last year was every player’s commitment to the team which showed up in how important the 2nd unit became. Channing Frye being willing to go to the bench solidified their identity and the starters’ excitement over the subs’ success in the fourth quarters of big games gave them super confidence.

    I had a conversation with my dad yesterday who played a little bit of college football as an O-lineman. He was saying that when he believed in the guys he was blocking for he found he had an extra gear to work harder than he thought he could. It seems that this is the biggest reason that the Suns had so much success last year – they trusted and believed in each other.

    If it’s true that Turkoglu would be upset coming off the bench (or even if the team believes that he would be upset) then the team is in danger of being infected with a selfishness it seems it was for the most part immune to last year. In that case they will lose their identity of being overachievers as well as such a fun team to follow.

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