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Ronnie Price ‘would love to be back,’ could be ideal deep reserve


PHOENIX — Ronnie Price has played seven NBA seasons, yet he’s still searching for a defined role in the league.

As John Hollinger wrote in his player profile before the season, Price is an “athletic guard who lacks a position,” which is why he was relegated to the bench once Sebastian Telfair found a level of comfort in the Suns’ system.

Price competes like crazy and makes a few eye-popping athletic plays a game but cannot shoot or create well enough to lock down a rotation spot despite playing superb defense.

Price made eight starts, pushed Telfair to new heights in practice and flashed that athleticism at times, yet for the majority of the season he was the 12th man in a 10-man rotation.

“I enjoyed my time here, loved being here, loved playing for coach Gentry,” Price said. “This opportunity was everything I wanted it to be. As far as me coming back, I would love to be back. If they asked me to come back I would say, ‘Yeah.’ I have no regrets about the season at all. I have no negative thoughts or feelings about anything that went on this year. I thought it was a good year.”

Yet through that quote Price seems to understand that it very well may be time for the journeyman to move on to his fourth team by the time he turns 29 in June.

Telfair will be back likely as the backup point guard, and Steve Nash and Aaron Brooks may be as well. If both leave it seems likely that the Suns would add another starting-caliber point guard through the draft or free agency, so there isn’t much room for Price aside from the third point guard spot.

For a player who could be teetering on the edge of staying in the league that could suit him just fine, and the Suns could do far worse than Price as their 12th man.

He’s an ultra-high character guy who lives and breathes the game of basketball. FS Arizona’s Mark McClune casually asked a couple Suns for their take on the MVP race late in the year. Some players gave a quick answer and went about their business, but Price turned it into a 15-minute discussion involving other teammates that was more entertaining and enlightening than your typical afternoon sports talk show.

Then there’s the way he pushed Telfair throughout the season. Both players were engaged in a dogfight in training camp that eventually saw Price earn the backup point guard job to start the season.

Even when Price became a fixture on the bench he continued to battle Bassy every day in practice and  thus perhaps he should be credited with helping Telfair improve so much throughout the season.

“I would hope so,” Price said when asked if that competition made Bassy better. “I’m a competitor and so is Bassy. When you have two competitive guys going against each other, same position, every day, night in and night out, you’re going to have some clashes.

“But at the end of the day we have so much respect for one another that I can push him, I can say thing to Sebastian that maybe someone else can’t say. I can get on Bassy as a player getting on a friend. It’s like a brotherhood. I think we learned from each other. Man, the way he finished off this year was special.”

Not many players would seem to take so much joy in the success of a player who took his job.

On the court, Price actually ranked third on the team in adjusted-plus minus at 5.3, according to Basketball Value, but he compiled an unadjusted -3.11 net rating.

In 2010-11 Price was abysmal it terms of assist rate and turnover rate, leading to a pure point rating that Hollinger called “unspeakably awful.”

Price upped his assist rate (the percentage of a player’s possessions that end in an assist) to 26.4 from 16.6, making this season more in line with his first three seasons in Utah. However, he produced a career-worst turnover ratio of 18.1 that ranked fourth to last in the NBA among point guards.

Price scored 3.6 points and dished 1.9 assists per game to accrue a 8.46 PER, and his 0.016 WP48 is what you would expect from a below-average player.

Then there are the shooting concerns. Price’s true shooting percentage of 46.5 ranked 54th of 67 qualified point guards as he shot 37.7 percent from the field and 29.5 percent from three.

According to mySynergySports, Price ranked 416th in the league by scoring 0.72 points per play. He scored a putrid 0.57 points per play as the pick-and-roll ball handler and shot 27.8 percent on spot ups, which is not exactly Nash-like.

However, he was superb defensively, limiting opponents to 0.75 points per play and 33.6 percent shooting to rank 52nd league-wide. This included allowing 0.5 ppp and 20 percent shooting in isolation situations.

Finally, the Suns were 9.12 points per 100 possessions worse with Price on offense (second worst on the team to Hakim Warrick) and 6.01 points per 100 better on defense, the best on the team by a healthy margin.

Despite the relatively small sample size with Price averaging 14.4 minutes over 36 games, these stats certainly back up the journeyman’s stellar defense/no offense reputation.

As a situational defender and positive locker room presence who will push the rest of the guards with his tenacity during practice, Price would be well worth bringing back for another one-year deal at the minimum.

Just don’t count on him to score.

Price sounding off

Always good for a quality sound bite, Price gives his take on a variety of interesting issues:

On the most difficult part of this season: “Lack of practice was probably the hardest thing to deal with this year because if you’re not practicing and you’re not in the rotation you can go two weeks without getting any up and down playing.”

On Nash:  “Steve is by far the ultimate professional. Being able to learn and watch him every day as a player, as a fan, it was a blessing. It really was for me. It gave me a kid of sense of fresh air to see how he works at this age. I loved being able to play behind Steve.”

On Goran Dragic and opportunity: “Everyone has talent. There’s only a thin line that separates an All-Star player from a mid-level player. Sometimes it’s just opportunity. Look at Goran. I remember being in Utah and people were not really feeling Goran over here thinking he might not have been good enough. What do you mean he’s not good enough? He’s an NBA player, he’s definitely good enough. When he gets comfortable in his own skin playing in the NBA, then you get to see why he’s in the league. Now he’s showing everybody like, ‘Wow.’ It’s not like he just all of a sudden was able to play overnight. He’s always been that good, just opportunity came.”

On what the Suns need to get to the next level: “I believe with what we have in our locker room we can win a championship. That’s how I feel. If you feel any other way than you’re selling yourself short of what you can possibly be.”