The Phoenix Suns are on their fourth day of training camp. They are working hard with two-a-days and doing everything they can to prepare for the season. Like every other team in the league, the NBA lockout cut into the normal preparation time but the Suns are dealing with that.
One challenge the coaching and training staff is facing with the abbreviated preseason is finding the balance between pushing the players to get into basketball shape but not pushing too hard.
"There's a fine line between going a little bit overboard and having a set back and slowly but surely making sure you're in better shape," Coach Alvin Gentry explained.
He stressed that the Suns have a good group of guys that came back in "pretty good shape anyway".
As Gentry said, the Suns have one of the best training staffs in the league (he actually said they are by far the best) and so they will certainly do everything possible to keep the players healthy and get them prepared for play.
The Suns typically hold an intra-squad scrimmage at the end of training camp that is open to the public. It's a training session but also is a bit of fun. This year with less time available the scrimmage will take on a slightly different role.
"We don't have that luxury really to pick a team and have a scrimmage. We've got to try and see if we can get some work out of it and see if we can see some things that might be beneficial to us when we go to Denver and play the first preseason game," Gentry said.
The scrimmage, which is closed to the public this year, will be held Wednesday evening and will have 10 minute quarters with seven or eight players on each team.
Instead of having a "draft" with an assistant coaching running each side, one team will be made up of guys projected to start and be in the rotation going against the rest of the training camp roster. Assistant coaches Dan Majerle and Igor Kokoskov will each coach one team while Gentry and new assistant, Elston Turner, will observe all the action.
Turner was added to the coaching staff to help bolster the Suns defense. Gentry stressed that while he expects the team to get better on defense this year, it's not something that's going to happen overnight. "I think you're going to see progress as the season goes on."
Rookie Markieff Morris
Suns rookie Markieff Morris is making progress and adjusting to life in the NBA. He said the practices are more intense than college but also there's more teaching here.
Morris said the schemes and rotations are more complicated than he's used to but he's working his way through that. At Kansas, the bigs played more inside on defense but here he'll be asked to play on the perimeter more and defend guards on switches. The Suns drafted Morris in part because of his mobility and effectiveness in that area.
Offensively, he's spacing the floor more than playing in the low post when partnered with with centers Robin Lopez or Marcin Gortat but he is down low when on the court with Channing Frye. That versatility and ability to play both inside and outside also makes him a valuable player.
Asked if he had range from the NBA three-point line, Morris said, "Definitely. It's really deep but once I get a lot more reps up, I'll be comfortable with it."
Morris is close to his twin brother Marcus who was drafted by the Houston Rockets and this will be the first time they are not on the same team. That's not a bad thing, though, "I need this time to find myself and find my game so I think it's best for us."
For more on the Phoenix Suns, visit Bright Side of the Sun blog.