Suns News

Lawal a Welcome Work in Progress

Lawal was the Yellow Jacket's top scorer and rebounder (13.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg) in his final season at Georgia Tech.
Josh Greene/Suns.com

By Josh Greene, Suns.com
Posted: Sept. 30, 2010

Speed, speed, speed...

It’s the Suns’ unofficial training camp mantra on the court, but it also doubles as the tempo they hope rookie Gani Lawal can get acclimated to his new team’s system – both mentally and physically.

That’s easier said than done for the first-year forward amid full-out, two-a-day practices featuring scrimmages, shooting and conditioning drills and, of course, running… lots and lots of running.

“The coaches are patient,” Lawal said, “but at the same time, they want me to learn quickly. They know the potential I have and the kind of impact I can have. They can’t put me out there if I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s an even balance, right there.

“Obviously the competition and skill levels are different from what I’m used to. It’s the level of the game. I’m getting used to the speed and pace. Every team has their own thing, and Phoenix likes to run. We’re doing a lot of that and just trying to get into better shape. That’s something Coach Gentry is focusing really hard on.”

Fellow camp youngsters like Matt Janning, Zabian Dowdell and Garret Siler are in the same boat this week, a situation indicative of anyone who hasn’t logged an NBA minute yet. Still, the Suns’ expectations for Lawal may be a bit higher right now solely on their excitement when the Georgia Tech alum fell to them on the draft board.

“We have a lot of young guys like Gani who have no idea what they are doing right now,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said, “but he’s playing really hard and he’s getting better every day. That’s the key. It’s his first time in a pro camp. We know he’ll struggle some. The big thing with me in terms of Gani is that’s he’s playing really hard and he trying hard. All the other stuff will come. As long as he puts forth the effort he has been, I’m not worried about him.”

Guard Jason Richardson added, “That’s all a part of learning in the NBA. It takes a lot of talking and teaching. He’s not used to that, but once he learns that, he’ll be a good player.”

Much like other veterans on the squad, J-Rich has played the part of volunteer motivator for the young forward on the court, as has Steve Nash.

“I was talking to Steve about eating the right things and what I put into my body,” Lawal said. “He made me aware of a lot of things I didn’t know. He said it doesn’t even have to do with basketball – it’s your body. It’s your vehicle, your temple, so that one of the big things he told me. Also, rest can be a weapon.”

With the start of the preseason game schedule right around the corner, the Suns are hoping the former college star not only gets into all-around NBA shape quickly, but more importantly, Suns shape.

“I’m just trying to get into a rhythm and find my way,” the rookie said. “Come in everyday and work hard. Life is full of adjustments. I adjusted to college and now it’s adjusting from college to the pros.

“I’m also looking at getting into the best shape possible. I should already be there, but I’m looking at getting into even better shape, learn the system a little better and show I’m a workhorse. That’s it.”

CONFLICT OF NFL INTERESTS?

Diehard Detroit Lions fan Jason Richardson will be trading in his silver and blue for Cardinal red this Sunday, as the Suns wind down their time in San Diego with a trip to the Cards-Chargers football game.

“I’m looking forward to going and supporting the Cardinals,” J-Rich said. “Hopefully they can go and get a win. Jared Dudley thinks his Chargers are going to the Super Bowl. OK, whatever… Yeah, maybe on Madden Football (laughs)…”

A former high school basketball teammate of Chargers All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates, Richardson also hopes to catch up with his old friend before the game.

“He was great at basketball,” the shooting guard said. “He was our point guard, and teams would laugh. They’d see this chubby guy, and the next thing you know he’d have 40 points. Nobody could stop him.”

In addition to rooting for the Cardinals this weekend, the Saginaw, Mich., native will also be watching the out-of-town scoreboard for updates on his 0-3 hometown Lions who are looking for their first win of the season vs. the Packers.

“My Lions are competitive,” he said. “We had a bad game last week, but the first two… We won the first game. The NFL commissioner can fine me, but that was a catch. A CATCH! They are competitive this year. That’s the good thing about it. They go out every weekend and play hard. You have to start somewhere.”