Time: 7 p.m. MST
TV: Not on local TV
A scrimmage in the trees of Flagstaff gave little evidence of what the Suns will look like in 2013-14. Head coach Jeff Hornacek said they’d play fast, and the Suns did look fast, as they had in the Las Vegas Summer League. Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green, arguably the two least-heralded additions of the offseason, led Phoenix in a scrimmage that was 110 miles per hour but perhaps 10 mph too fast.
Playing against Maccabi Haifa to open the preseason on Monday night in U.S. Airways Center, we’ll quickly get a better feel for how Phoenix will function in a more organized setting. Here are three questions to ask going into the first preseason game.
Who wins small forward minutes?
Though from a talent perspective the small forward position isn’t so strong, that doesn’t mean there aren’t three options for Hornacek to work with. Word from the Suns players said that Marcus Morris was perhaps the most improved player from last year’s squad — at least from what players could tell during the pre-camp pickup games. Dionte Christmas said that the smaller of the twins was defending everyone from Miles Plumlee to Christmas himself. And arguably, Marcus Morris showed the most promise in the summer league from an offensive perspective.
It won’t be easy to unseat Tucker, who should fit well with a starting lineup as the defensive stud who can take pressure off Eric Bledsoe from needing to defend the best guards on the opposing team. And don’t count out Gerald Green from getting some minutes. He fell out of the Pacers rotation last season but in Phoenix’s offense could thrive, much like how a questionable shot-taker in Quentin Richardson had one of his most lethal offensive seasons under the Seven Seconds or Less offense.
How involved are the big men in the halfcourt?
During Sunday’s scrimmage, there wasn’t much evidence of how the Suns would use Marcin Gortat and Alex Len if the game slowed down. That’s because it hardly did slow down. Hornacek wants the bigs to get touches in the halfcourt, which should help suck in the defenses. Gortat showed this summer with Poland a willingness to kick out to teammates standing outside the three-point arc, even if they’re not good shooters. It’ll be the same thing in Phoenix. Gortat has wanted to be more engaged, and it seems he’ll have his chance as the Suns offense gains traction.
Meanwhile, Len has been praised since Day 1 as a Phoenix Sun for his smarts. How he handles himself will be interesting, especially considering how soon it’s been since he started playing fullcourt ball after offseason ankle surgeries.
So what’s the deal with Maccabi Haifa?
Owned by American Jeff Rosen, Haifa made history with its first Israeli Super League championship last season against Israeli basketball power Maccabi Tel Aviv. But there’s been a lot of turnover. American coach Brad Greenberg is gone, as is the title game’s MVP, point guard Gal Mekel, who signed with the Dallas Mavericks. The title game’s other significant contributor, former St. Joseph’s forward Pat Calathes, is gone, as is fellow American Paul Stoll.
Former Atlanta Hawks draft pick and guard Donta Smith remains, and other familiar faces include Sherwood Brown, a guard who last season helped Florida Gulf Coast put its name on the map with an entertaining NCAA tournament run. Former Illinois forward Brian Randle and Marquette guard David Cubillan are also on Maccabi Haifa’s roster.