Suns Notes: Less fast breaking, same fun


PHOENIX — Seven Seconds or Less revolved around a frenetic style that led to fast-break points galore along with a slew of three-pointers.

The 2009-10 Suns shoot the three just as well if not better than the D’Antoni teams, but they don’t run with the same kind of commitment as the 7SoS Suns did.

Case in point Phoenix’s 24 fast-break points Sunday against the Pistons were their most since scoring 30 in the home opener against Golden State (and the Warriors don’t even try to defend the break), and it was nearly as many as the Suns had scored in their past four games combined (29).

When asked how he would characterize this offense, Suns guard Steve Nash said, “We’re a team that spaces the floor and uses pick-and-rolls to create opportunities to get in the paint and open up the defense.”

The Suns still aren’t exactly slow, ranking third in the NBA in pace at 98.6 possessions per game, but they most resemble the Suns of old through spacing and how much fun they seem to be having out there. That, and they still lead the NBA in offensive efficiency, averaging 112.2 points per 100 possessions.

Before the season, Suns VP of basketball operations David Griffin spoke a lot about “Culture of We” and how the Suns HAD to play together as a team if they wanted to have any chance of being good.

Eleven wins in 14 games later, the Suns have moved the ball, taken advantage of mismatches and played an unselfish brand of basketball with pretty much the entire roster contributing to the team’s success to varying degrees.

“It’s a lot of fun, my teammates are great,” said Nash, who wasn’t exactly always saying that last year. “We’re playing a fun style where we move the ball a lot. We’re not really a fast-break team like we used to be, but the ball still moves and I think guys are really playing hard for one another and we enjoy each other on the court and off, and it makes all the difference in the world when you have the singular vision where everyone buys into it, everyone follows it, and we can have as much fun as the group allows.”

I’ve said this before and you know I’m going to say it again: camaraderie really counts for something in the game of basketball. When you’re playing team ball and everybody’s having a great time both on the court and off it, you know you’re talking about a team that could have a special season.

“We always just joke around and try to enjoy ourselves,” Amare said when asked about the starters’ laughing on the bench during Sunday’s blowout. “We’ve got a great group of guys and we all just crack jokes and just enjoy being around each other, so you may see that a lot on the bench, but that’s all day and every day with us.”

Sure, everybody may be laughing now because they’re winning, but I think that with a fun style like this and leaders like Nash and Grant Hill, this is a team that will be smiling all year.

Right there on the boards

Gentry noted that Thursday’s rebounding disaster in New Orleans was “the first time it’s kind of raised it’s ugly head this year.”

That the Suns have been so good on the boards aside from the New Orleans game has been a surprise to many, and it was an issue that Gentry expected to be the Suns’ Achilles’ heel all season.

Instead, even counting the New Orleans game Phoenix has stayed about even on the boards (outrebounding opponents by 0.4 boards per game).

“It was a concern, it was a huge concern because we had not done a very good job of it in the preseason,” Gentry said. “I don’t know if surprise would be the word. It’s probably more so a sense of relief really, but we have done a good job of pursuing the ball and going to get it.”

Hill leads the Suns with an average of 7.6 boards per game and Amare is right behind him at 7.4. Channing Frye follows at 5.7 and then J-Rich is at an even 5.0.

Dragic responds

After a strong start to the season, backup point guard Goran Dragic has struggled at times of late. He did nothing in five minutes last week against Toronto, put up just a single point in the loss to New Orleans and struggled through a 1-for-7 performance last week in LA (not that anybody else did much better in that one).

Therefore it was very nice to see him come up with a real aggressive effort Sunday against the Pistons, going for 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting to go with six boards and four assists in 22 minutes.

“I thought Goran did a really good job tonight,” Gentry said after the game. “He was really aggressive and obviously he shot the ball well.”

Even when he’s struggled this season he’s been a different Dragic than the Dragic of last year, and the Suns’ sophomore certainly feels different out there.

“Last year when I received the pass I didn’t shoot or I made the wrong move,” Dragic said. “Now if I’m alone, I don’t think about it, I just know I can shoot. That’s better than last year.”

Coming soon to the Purple Palace paint

Speaking of Suns sophomores, have you forgotten about Robin Lopez?

Although he’s been out all season with a fractured foot, Hill sure hasn’t after what he’s seen from Lopez in practice.

“He’s had a good couple days of practice,” Hill said. “I know he’s still a little bit aways, but he’s going to really help us big time. He’s a whole different dimension, and he’s a lot more confident than last season. He’s just got to get his rhythm and his timing.”