Suns Camp Notebook: Bledsoe Impresses, Team Effort There On Day One
Eric Bledsoe came to Phoenix with equal parts high praise and potential. Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek knew some of the things the former Clipper could do. He could play defense, run the floor, drive hard to the rim. He just wasn’t sure about his passing skills.
The key word there is “wasn’t.” After offseason workouts and one day of training camp, Bledsoe has already put those wonderings to rest.
“I think he’s just playing the right way,” Hornacek said. “That’s the biggest key, when he’s got the shot there, he takes it. When he’s got the drive, he had two great drives today in the scrimmage. Then he’s making passes to guys. I think that’s what’s impressed me most about him. Coming here, I wasn’t sure about his passing ability and what he saw as a point guard. Right away, the week right before we came up here in those pickup games, you’d think, ‘yeah, okay. He sees the floor well.’ He’s making those passes.”
The Suns’ key offseason acquisition has made a point to find a healthy balance between making highlight plays and being the playmaker. It’s a welcome development as Hornacek seeks to make him and returning starter Goran Dragic into a dual threat with dual skills: passing and scoring.
The former is a key point as training camp progresses. Dragic only has five holdovers from last season’s training camp. Everyone on the roster is new to Bledsoe. Such turnover makes for a lot of point guard homework.
After playing over 20 games in Europe with the Slovenian national team, Dragic doesn’t want to waste any time acquainting himself with the new cast in Phoenix.
“You just have to talk with a lot of players. Of course you have to watch them when they’re playing. Even if I’m not playing, if I’m on the sideline, try to see what they’re strength is. Of course, that’s why we’re here. In training camp, try to find that right chemistry and try to figure out what’s best for us.”
Effort there with roles, jobs on the line
From 30-year-old Channing Frye to 19-year-old Archie Goodwin, Hornacek was pleased with the team-wide effort on Day 1.
Players met with their head coach and General Manager Ryan McDonough on Monday night. The two of them re-emphasized the open tryout atmosphere that will pervade throughout the week. Part of that is due to the fact that 18 players are vying for 15 roster spots, with rotation roles beyond that up for grabs.
So far, the team of mostly 20-somethings has belied its collective age by taking camp seriously from the get-go.
“There’s not a lot of laughing around,” Hornacek said. “Practices are hard. They’re up in elevation. They seem like they’re doing pretty well. They’re not huffing and puffing. They look a little slow like sometimes like they’re running in mud, but I think it’s been pretty good. They’re pretty serious about trying to right this thing and get back to some winning ways.”
The rookies have made a good first impression thus far. Goodwin has already been spotted diving for loose balls, while No. 5 overall pick Alex Len continued to fully participate in all team drills and scrimmages.
Frye back at work
Not many men would sport a wide grin after a hard day’s work. That day, however, was a long time waiting for Channing Frye. Dripping sweat after hoisting 200 three-pointers around the horn (he made over 75 percent of those), his smile couldn’t be contained as he talked about basketball – and not medical – topics on day one of training camp.
“I’m just soaking it all in,” Frye said. “Even when I’m out here shooting – and I know I look exhausted out there – everything I do is just like ‘man, this is so awesome.’ As tired as I am, this is the best, because already I know I made myself better today.”
The Suns’ big man went through every drill except 5-on-5 full-court action at the very end of Monday’s night practice, though Hornacek said he did well in half-court, full speed offensive sets.