PHOENIX — While Tuesday’s loss to the Jazz left plenty unsettled for the 2010-11 Suns, it also put a number of positives on display.
For starters, center Robin Lopez is looking strong and aggressive on offense, showing no signs of hesitation after rehabbing a bulging disk in his back. Lopez continues to wear some sort of padding or brace under his jersey (visible Tuesday, and no it’s not a hunchback-in-the-making despite Lopez’s frequent hunched gait).
Lopez posted 11 points and six rebounds against the Jazz, encouraging numbers when considering the big man played just 21 minutes. If he can just avoid foul trouble, he might make an even greater splash this season.
Defense is another question entirely, as Lopez had ups and downs protecting the basket, and his efficiency as part of the new Suns pick and roll saw mixed results.
Trying to fit in
After Tuesday’s game, Josh Childress spoke of the remixed Suns roster and the coaching staff’s efforts to determine the roles each player will play on a team that features an uncommon 10-man rotation.
Childress said that players, particularly new additions like himself, continue to get comfortable and “find their niche.”
Childress’ niche might just be as a help rebounder. He led the Suns on Tuesday with eight rebounds in 27 minutes. Childress commented after the game that he has tried to increase his rebounding.
Ringing the Bell
Former Phoenix Sun Raja Bell returned to US Airways for the second time Tuesday as a member of a different team. The fans, however, welcomed him as if he had never left.
When Bell entered with 56 seconds left in the first quarter, the Suns fans got loud and a few cowbells could be heard clanging away. Bell finished the game with five points and two assists in 13 minutes.
The Suns, as well as members of the media, met with league officials before Tuesday’s game to discuss the NBA’s points of emphasis for the 2010-11 season.
NBA vice president and director of officials Bernie Fryer went over a wide range of rules for purposes of clarity and warning. The points included variations on traveling, width of stance during screens, clamping, hand-checking, jersey grabbing, palming, and three-second violations.
Particularly interesting was a developing phenomenon where ball handlers catch defenders reaching in by firing off a jump shot. With a defender’s hands low going for the ball, a player can begin a shooting motion and force a defensive foul call. The defender will be called for a foul in such situations.
Fryer also went over a “respect for the game” emphasis implemented to reduce player complaining and overreaction to unfavorable calls. Points of the measure, which can result in a technical foul, include gestures (like punching or hand waving) at or away from an official, running at a referee and excessive complaining.