During a typical season, Phoenix Suns players return to the Valley around Labor Day and use that next month of informal workouts before training camp to build the kind of chemistry that has catapulted this squad to three Western Conference Finals’ in the Nash era.
This year, of course, the squad has no such luxury with the lengthy lockout forcing a severely abbreviated offseason in every way (can you believe the season tips off in three weeks?!?), but the Suns will at least get a week of chemistry-building workouts under their belt with players returning to US Airways Center the past few days.
Steve Nash, Robin Lopez and Zabian Dowdell were the lone participants on Thursday, the first day players could return to the facility, and they were joined by Channing Frye, Josh Childress and free agent Grant Hill on Friday.
Before the magical 2009-10 season, a year that followed a missed playoff season, many players spoke of how important those weeks leading up to training camp were and how good they already felt about the team by camp. Last season, when the team needed to integrate new players such as Hedo Turkoglu, Childress and Hakim Warrick, there was more a sense they needed to build chemistry on the fly at training camp, which of course never happened even by season’s end.
It sends a strong message that Nash arrived bright and early on the first possible day, and also that Hill — even as a free agent — would show up the next day.
It’s no secret that these veterans are the unquestioned leaders of the team, and the example they set speaks volumes. When Nash is already back ready to get to work it tells the rest of the team they better return in a hurry.
The Suns have also initiated a new “Time to Rise” marketing campaign with Nash the poster boy, which as Paul Coro wrote, works on a number of levels from the Suns’ desire to rise in the standings after last season’s disappointment to the league’s similar need to rise about the ashes of the lockout.
Although it wouldn’t be the first time the Suns had to reverse course in the marketing department if a popular player is traded, putting Nash front and center with this campaign would not likely happen if this team wanted to push the reset button. That slogan after all is nothing close to “Time to Rebuild.”
We shall see in due time if this early work and the example set by their veteran leaders can allow the Suns to live up to their marketing hype.
- The Suns have officially announced that they will play the Denver Nuggets during their two-game preseason schedule. Phoenix will travel to Denver for a 7 p.m. game on Dec. 20 and then host the Nuggets on Dec. 22 in US Airways Center.
- Hill told The Republic “good chances” when asked about the possibility of his free-agent return.
- Coro also wrote about a seemingly healthier and more positive Lopez after his first day back. Injuries clearly robbed RoLo of a good chunk of his athleticism last season and made him a different player than the guy the Suns thought they were drafting. A return to health would give the Suns a real nice center duo.
- After his first day back, Frye wrote on Facebook, “Feels great to be back in the gym. To smell the court and get back to work. Man did I miss this place!!”