PHOENIX — The Suns brought US Airways Center to Grand Canyon University Arena Wednesday during the squad’s annual intrasquad scrimmage that broke up the monotony of training camp drills.
GCU looked and sounded like a typical Suns game with their game operations staff and cheerleaders entertaining the crowd in what is an extra exhibition game for them as well.
The players enjoyed playing in front of a crowd during the 40-minute contest with a running clock in which the black team (AKA Nash’s team) beat the white team, 68-61.
“It was great to play in front of fans, it was also great just to come to play,” Nash said. “I think to get a chance just to have a morning off to rest our legs and come out and play a game tonight was a lot of fun. Guys played hard and I think the work we’ve been putting in has been paying off.”
It’s often hard to tell how much progress a team is making when facing off against their teammates, but Robin Lopez, Shannon Brown and Jared Dudley were among the Suns who stood out to me.
Two Time was his usual steady self as well, but he took just three shots as you would expect from him in a game like this. He did dish a game-high six assists, including a handful of perfectly executed pick-and-rolls, so no surprises there.
I made sure to focus in on Robin because if he reverts back to 2009-10 form, that changes the entire dynamic of this team. It’s far too early to make any such statements, but I really loved his activity in this game. He just seemed to have his bounce back, whether it was aggressively posting up Marcin Gortat or pursuing rebounds with a tenacity he’s lacked, well, ever.
Lopez finished the game with 12 points and a team-high six boards and just carried himself differently than the he did during his disappointing campaign last season.
“I’m really happy with Robin,” Nash said. “I think Robin has taken a big step from last year. He looks physically great and he looks hungry and he’s playing hard.”
Brown scored a team-high 16 points and looked comfortable with his jumper, draining one particular three in the grill of Dudley. However, amid a hot shooting streak Brown raced down the floor on a breakaway as the crowd held its collective breath waiting for Mr. “Let Shannon Dunk” to unleash a furious slam only for him to flub it.
“That dunk was thinking too much induced,” Brown said. “I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to windmill it.’ Then I was like, ‘Which hand?’ By the time I got up in the air it was like, ‘Ahhh.’ I got stuck. It was all fun, though.”
Still, Brown enjoyed his first opportunity to run with his new teammates in this new system in a game environment.
“I’m still getting used to it, being able to get to the old, old me where I feel I can score the ball at any time without even thinking about it,” Brown said, noting he doesn’t need to worry about coming out of the game just for making a mistake. “It just feels good. It’s slowly but surely coming back.”
Dudley also stood out for his steady play that led to 16 points. He always seemed to be in the right spot, at one point sneaking away from the defense for an open layup in a halfcourt situation. All the work Dudley put in this summer certainly was apparent.
It’s scary to think the Suns’ season opener is a mere 12 days away, being that the whole team has only been practicing together since Sunday.
That means this team has no shortage of work left before that Dec. 26 season opener against New Orleans, but for now the Suns just enjoyed competing in a game environment with their teammates for the first time in eight months.
“To be out there with my teammates, it just seems like so, so long ago,” Warrick said. “A few weeks ago it just felt like this wouldn’t come, so to get back out there with my teammates, it’s just great. To finally get out there and play, even though it’s still against the same people, it’s still great to go out there in that type of atmosphere.”
- Rookie forward Markieff Morris missed the scrimmage after banging knees in Tuesday night’s practice with Ronnie Price, The Arizona Republic reported. Mickael Pietrus was the only other Sun not to play.
- Speaking of Price, he played the kind of stiff on-ball defense he’s known for. He could be a nice change of pace point guard when the Suns need him to really get after an opposing guard.
- Warrick’s shot was dropping, even drilling a three while getting fouled at one point. “Today I really, really had it going,” he said.
- Gortat scored 11 points to go with a game-high nine boards. Channing Frye contributed a game-high 17 points and seven boards for the black team as well.
- On the other end of the spectrum, Sebastian Telfair knocked down just 1-of-9 shots and Grant Hill was 1-for-6 for the white team.
- The winning black team consisted of Nash, Gortat, Frye, Dudley, Josh Childress, Price and Marcus Landry. The white team featured Brown, Hill, Lopez, Telfair, Warrick, Garret Siler, Jeremy Hazell and Dwight Buycks.