LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 27: Jason Richardson #23 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after tying the game in the final seconds of Game Five of the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 27, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

J-Rich Is Back And Wants The Ball

Dynamic guard Jason Richardson is hoping to return to his days as a number one or two option on the offensive end. He talks about his new teammates, his contract situation and thoughts on the Suns chances this season.

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Jason Richardson Back In Phoenix Relishing The Underdog Role

Jason looked good today in his first day back. He seemed happy to be on the court with his teammates and he was dangerous on the floor in five-on-five scrimmages. He looked surprisingly locked-in.

Over the summer, he said he's worked on his mid-range shot because he expects to be chased off the three-point line more. He also worked on his ball handling and getting to the basket more. He mostly worked with a friend, but also spent a few weeks with training guru Idan Ravin.

That was on evidence today in Jason's first day of informal workouts when he split two defenders with a spin move and finished with a reverse to beat a third. It was a "wow"-inducing move.

Jason said he doesn't see any more pressure on himself to score with Amare gone, but he does hope to be more of an option for the team on the offensive end.

"I'm ready for that. Most of my career, I was always a one or two option. It wouldn't be nothing new if I could go back to that role having the ball in my hands, getting the ball to score baskets and being one of the main guys to score baskets for us," he said.

It's been a busy offseason for Jason and the Suns. Richardson traveled to South Africa to take in the World Cup and then later to China as part of his new deal with Chinese shoe manufacturer Peak. The shoes are on sale in China, but not yet available in the U.S.

Jason was wearing his new purple Peak shoes today that have his initials on the back and an image of him dunking embroidered on the top. Ironically, Jason said it was taken from a photo of a dunk he missed in one of his dunk contest appearances. 

For the Suns, of course, there were massive changes in the front office, along with the departure of Amare and Leandro and the addition of Josh Childress, Hedo Turkoglu and Hakim Warrick.

Jason compared Childress to former Sun Shawn Marion as an energy guy who can rebound, get to the basket and use his length and athleticism on the defensive end.  

"Hedo, we already know what he can do. He had a down year in Toronto, but he's getting back to that style like in Orlando where he can get up and down, he can handle the ball, he can play a little bit of point guard. He can do a lot of things," Jason said.

Jason thinks this year's team can be as good as last year's and he's relishing the underdog role again.

"I was just telling Grant (Hill). We're in the same boat as year, but even more. People don't expect us to do anything this year. I love that we're the underdogs. No pressure on us, we can go out there and have fun and learn each other and get ready and just try and win as many games as possible."

Other Jason Notes:

 

  • Richardson understands that the Suns are undersized again and he's happy to contribute what he can on that front.
  • J-Rich said he's not feeling any additional pressure being in a contract year. There have been preliminary talks with the Suns about an extension, but nothing recent or serious. He said he would love to remain in Phoenix and retire as a Sun, but, "I'm always a firm believer [that] if you work hard, things will come out your way, so continue to work and things will happen."
  • Hedo was in town today, but didn't participate in the voluntary workouts. He did watch for awhile. Incorporating his game and personality into the team is going to be a big challenge for this training camp. Jason said the great chemistry the team had last year was based on being friends off the court. 
  • "We had that type of chemistry off the court and it carries on to the court. It's easy, so I think if we establish a good chemistry off the court, we will have the same results as we did last year."
  • According to Jason, it happens from spending time together in weight room and other places where they can joke around. He says he knows both Hedo and Josh a bit already and thinks they are great guy who will fit in fine.
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Phoenix Suns Invite Big Garret Siler To Training Camp

Scott Schroeder at Ridiculous Upside, who is very plugged into the D-league world, reports that the Suns have invited (very) big man Garret Siler to training camp:

Ridiculous Upside - NBA Draft and D-League Coverage
Garret Siler, perennial Summer League standout, will be attending the Phoenix Suns training camp. The 6-foot-11, near 300-pound center played with the New Jersey Nets and Miami Heat in Summer League this July after after averaging 14.1 points and 9.3 rebounds with the Shangai Sharks in China's CBA.

Siler confirmed the invitation on his Twitter account and has arrived in Phoenix.

Schroeder is effusive in his praise for the big center and having seen him myself in Vegas Summer League the past two years I have to agree with this assessment:

Soft hands, good hustle, good instincts, rebounded well and he showed decent touch around the basket.

Siler is one of those very big men who looks surprisingly agile and skilled. He is however, very big and not very fast and certainly isn't the kind of athletic guy who can run the floor, provide spacing on offense, and defend on the perimeter like Dwayne Jones.

If a big like Siler is able to win a roster spot it would be a sign of how the new Babby/Blanks/Treloar regime is changing the Suns to be more of a traditional team. That, on it's own, isn't necessarily a bad thing for the Suns headed into the season undersized and facing a rebounding challenge.

From a Draft Express 2009 Portsmouth Invitational review:

DraftExpressProfile: Garret Siler, Stats, Comparisons, and Outlook
Siler is incredibly strong, has great hands, and establishes position in the paint against players of this caliber with the greatest of ease, barely needing to jump in order to dunk the ball because of how long his arms are. Combine those things together, and it becomes pretty obvious why he shoots such a high percentage from the field.

He doesn’t have great footwork or fundamentals in the paint if forced to execute any type of advanced moves, but he manages to get to the free throw line a fair amount regardless, where he shoots a decent 66% despite his awkward mechanics.

Siler is an average rebounder and a poor defender because of his obvious physical limitations—he doesn’t move very well and can barely get off the ground. He’ll grab rebounds in his area thanks to his length and hands, but won’t go get many loose balls himself. No one is going to post him up inside the paint, but he’s completely unable to step out and guard players on the perimeter, rendering him effectively useless defending the pick and roll. 

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Zabian Dowdell Will Compete For Roster Spot In Suns Training Camp

The Arizona Republic is reporting that Zabian Dowdell has accepted an invitation to the Phoenix Suns training camp where he will compete with undrafted rookie Matt Janning for a fifth guard spot.

Veteran guard Chucky Atkins may also come to camp.

Phoenix Suns invite Zabian Dowdell to training camp
"I feel like I can do everything. I can run the team, score, get guys involved, play defense. When I get in the gym, I try to work on everything. Whatever they need me to do, I feel like I can do it. I feel like I can help the team and I'll do anything I can to show that."

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Gani Lawal Live Chat: Tuesday, Noon AZT

New Suns forward Gani Lawal has earned a lot of early praise from the coaching staff.

From what we've seen in Vegas Summer League and voluntary workouts, it won't be too long before fans are cheering "Gaaaaani" just like they used to do for "Louuuuuuuuuu".

Gani looks like he will give all the hustle and energy the Amundson brought, and explode to the rim for thunderous dunks, plus has the added bonus of legit post moves.

As a rookie behind some very good players, it isn't likely that Gani will get a ton of floor time this season, but there will likely come a point in the next few months when the Suns look very smart for signing him to a two-year deal.

Gani, in my few interactions with him so far, comes across as a very smart guy and a dedicated pro. Here's your chance to ask him some questions and get to know this newest Sun better.

After voluntary workouts on Tuesday, September 14th at about noon Arizona time, Gani will answer questions in the comments of this story.

You can start leaving questions now and of course join live at noon and Gani will respond live.

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Robin Lopez Update: Back Injury Progress, Low Post Offense And Suns Season Prediction

Robin Lopez is a man of few words. He will never be mistaken for the verbosity of a Grant Hill or the existential explorations of a Steve Nash.

Like his game, Robin is concise, efficient and to the point.

Robin was gracious enough to stop in the hallway for a quick chat today after another voluntary workout session with his teammates.

"It feels good. I'm just kind of ready to get back in the swing of things after a long rest," the Suns starting center said about his back, which sidelined him for several weeks last season.

Earlier this week, teammate Jared Dudley opined that Robin wasn't yet back to 100 percent physically. Robin agreed.

"I wouldn't say 100, but definitely 90 or 95, knock on wood. I'm feeling good out there," he said before adding that, with plenty of time remaining, he expects to be at full speed when the season starts in late October.

Jared also said something about Robin that I happen to agree with completely (even before Jared said it). Dudley (and I) made the point that for the Suns to exceed expectations like last season and get back in contention in the West, it will take Robin Lopez having a fantastic year and helping to make up for some of Amare's offense in the paint.

Robin's response to that pressure was a mix of humble confidence.

"With the help of my teammates, I'm going to do what I can out there," he said. "I think it's going to be a real group effort, especially to replace Amare, but if we work together and work hard, I think we can do some special things."

As for his own work on developing his low post game, Robin added, "Definitely. I've been working with (assistant coach Bill Cartwright) on that quite a bit. It's definitely going to be a focus that I'm going to try and add to my game. (So far) It feels OK. It's really just being able to make reads fairly quickly."

There's no denying Robin's intensity and physical skills. He's shown over the course of the last two seasons that he's willing to put in the work to get better and has the ability to translate what he learns on the practice court into real game situations.

Let's hope he stays healthy and is able to give the Suns a full season and take one more step to being the best true center ever to play for the Suns.

No pressure.

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