PHOENIX – Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was the Nash-to-Amare connection that was the signature of the Phoenix franchise for over half a decade.
“We’re still trying to learn from one another and have a feel for what guys like to do and where they like to get the ball,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said after practice Monday. “People forget Steve [Nash] and Amare [Stoudemire] played together for six years. That’s a long time in this league. So obviously they had a feel for each other and we have to try to get everybody in that same situation.”
Yes, the pair caught fire quick, but it took time for them to become the deadliest pick-and-roll combination in the league.
“It’s no different than a quarterback and a wide receiver in the NFL,” Gentry said. “You play with a guy for that long and you get a pretty good feel for what he usually does and where he goes. And that’s what we have to get with our new guys like Hedo [Turkoglu], Hakim [Warrick] and Josh [Childress].”
At this point improvement is all fans can really ask for. But just how long the process takes will all but decide the fate of the Suns this season.
“We’ve gotten a lot better, especially since our first couple preseason games,” Hakim Warrick said. “We struggled a bit getting familiar with each other and I think as the preseason went along we got better, and then the last couple games, especially the Utah game, being out there for long stretches at a time, we’ve done a lot better.”
Phoenix got a glimpse of what the future might hold during that Utah game Oct. 28 when a Nash-to-Warrick pick-and-roll led to an earth-shaking slam at the rim.
“I had about 120 messages when I got back,” Warrick said. “Of course some of them said, ‘Oh, it’s Amare-like’ and then just a lot of Memphis people said they didn’t know I could do some of the things I could do.”
That one play ignited a slew of talk and comparisons around the valley to Amare and how Warrick might come in and take over the starting role.
“On Twitter that’s all everyone is talking about,” Warrick said. “You don’t want to worry about that, you don’t want to go in there and try to fill his shoes. I understand him being here and all the highlights and spectacular plays he did, but I’m just trying to go out there and play my game.”
Most don’t remember that Warrick also ran the pick-and-roll in Memphis, but the forward pointed out the biggest difference in running it in Phoenix.
“Nash can make the passes most point guards in the league can’t,” Warrick said. “I can definitely roll harder knowing that whenever I’m open he’s going to find me. Playing with a guy you know can get you the ball, it makes you roll harder, not take any plays off and just attack the rim.”
The biggest hurdle Warrick and his fellow new Suns teammates face is developing more as a unit.
And once they do that, the team rebounding and offense as a whole will start to stabilize and Phoenix will find a permanent identity as well as consistency with that identity.
“It’s going to take more time for everyone to get use to each other and what we like to do spacing-wise,” Warrick said. “I just got to know who I’m out there on the floor with.”
Dragic’s playing time
Goran Dragic has improved dramatically and it has shown over the course of the preseason and the first three games of the regular season.
Despite only playing 15 minutes per game so far, the backup point guard is still averaging 10.7 points and 3.7 assists.
When asked whether Dragic would see more court time, Gentry remained firm that his minutes would fluctuate.
“Over the course of the season there are going to be games when he plays 25 to 30 minutes and there are going to be other games where he plays 15 to 18,” Gentry said. “It’s just the way we play and how our rotations are.”
Jason Richardson is still nursing a sore back, but he dismissed any lingering effects.
“I just got hit in the back; it’s part of basketball,” Richardson said. “It was bothering me last year too … but if I’m walking, I’ll play.”