Josh Childress is a wing player known for slashing and cutting without the ball and moving around the court to get into a good offensive rebounding position. He's got a great nose for the ball and reads plays and teammates very well. This often results in Childress being in the right place at the right time for an open pass or to grab a missed shot. That's not luck, that's Josh being Josh.
But the Suns want Josh to change a big part of his game.
"It's a tough adjustment. Really tough. Just trying to break habits that I've been doing for a long time. But I'm trying. I'm trying. I'm making a conscience effort to do it, but in film (sessions) coaches are letting me know that I still have to do it -- create space," Childress said after Suns practice on Monday, three games into the preseason in the Phoenix uniform.
Josh is talking about the Suns system, where wing players are asked to stay outside the three point line and stay ready to catch and shoot. This pulls defenders further from the rim and opens driving lanes for teammates. As Josh said, it's a pretty big adjustment for a guy who's used to having the freedom to attack the basket without the ball.
Dragic to Childress, start counting the assists
Things aren't all bad for Josh. He will find himself playing in the backcourt with Goran Dragic and the two could potentially be a great complement to each other for many years to come.
Goran's a willing and capable passer, which should benefit Childress' game perfectly, especially if he's still able to keep some of his cuts and dives and not get nailed to the floor outside the arc. The two connected for a few sweet plays this preseason already.
Of course, playing with Josh is an adjustment for Dragic, also. Goran spent his first two seasons in the NBA with combo guard Leandro Barbosa, who was traded to the Toronto Raptors in the deal that brought Hedo Turkoglu to Phoenix.
"It was different with LB (Leandro Barbosa). He takes the ball sometimes; he was playing pick and roll and he was spacing. Josh is different type of player. He's not a spacer," Dragic said Saturday in Indian Wells after the Suns beat the Dallas Mavericks in a preseason game.
Both Josh and Goran talked about the time it will take to build that chemistry on the court.
"It takes a little while to build that chemistry and cohesiveness. I kind of have to get used to his timing, knowing when he's going to shoot, what he likes to shoot off of, as well as everybody else on the floor. It's going to take a little time trying to figure each other out and get going together," Childress said.
Goran was more specific about how long he thought it would take to build that connection.
"I think in two or three months -- no, one month -- in one month, we're going to look sharp like last year and just try to play our game, run and gun. But probably for us the most important thing this year is going to be defense."
Defense and running
And right there, Dragic hit on the two areas that are even more exciting than Goran finding Childress on baseline cuts in the half court offense.
Both Childress and Dragic defend their position very well. Both have long arms, move well and anticipate plays. Both are good team defensive players and both are committed to that part of the game. Playing on the floor together, Childress and Dragic have to be one of the better defensive guard tandems in the league and certainly better than any pairing seen in Phoenix in a long, long time.
"We still have some problem with communication on defense, but that's normal," Dragic said about playing with Josh. "That's why we're here in preseason games. I think so the second and first unit, we're going to pressure the ball the whole game and try to be annoying for the opponent and try to take their plays away."
That kind of pressure will hopefully lead to turnovers and with Josh running the floor, Goran will have a teammate who might not be as fast as Barbosa, but is more explosive and a much better finisher around the rim.
"I think with Josh, we can run a lot in transition. I can kick the ball in front and he can finish with a layup," Dragic said with a big grin. He's excited about running the floor with Josh and we're excited to watch.