Suns Impress at Intra-Squad Scrimmage
Posted: Oct. 6, 2007
One of Mike D’Antoni’s patented beliefs is that the Suns’ greatest challenge doesn’t necessarily come from other teams, but themselves. Well, the Suns literally got a close-up look at one of their biggest hurdle Saturday, facing one another in an intra-squad scrimmage.
It was a win for all parties involved. Tucson was able to get a first-hand look at the Suns, General Manager Steve Kerr was able to visit his old stomping grounds, the new players demonstrated their talent and the Suns were able to produce a great show.
The beauty of an inter-squad scrimmage is that if everyone does their job, no one goes home a loser. And while this was the pervasive theme throughout night, in the actual game itself, Team White was able to squeak out a 97-91 victory over Team Orange.
“It was a close game and we're just better than them,” Steve Nash said with a grin. Nash was his typical steady self, compiling 15 points and nine assists, but the difference-maker for Team White was Boris Diaw.
Diaw’s offseason training looked like it paid off, posting 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals on 9-of-14 shooting. More important than Diaw’s stats was the bounce that he displayed around the court. Suns fans can expect a return to form for Diaw, who has worked himself into great shape.
“I love that guy,” D’Antoni said about Diaw. “Every time he touches the ball he makes a good decision.”
Fifth-year guard Marcus Banks also looked sharp, scoring 17 on 2-of-4 from downtown. Raja Bell added 14, but the player who stood out the most was reserve forward/center Sean Marks.
The 6-10 New Zealander registered 11 points and 11 boards, but more importantly, was an active presence in the paint. On one play in the first half, Rawle Marshall elevated for a tomahawk slam and Marks swooped over to stuff him cold about three feet above the rim. It was the highlight of the night, but not resting on his laurels, he sprinted to the end of the court to finish the play with a thunderous flush.
Rookie Doug Thomas also excited the crowd with his athleticism, throwing down a trio of jams that left the rim quaking. One of the dunks prompted a fan from the crowd to stand up and reveal his “Sign Doug Thomas” sign.
Now although Team White won the contest, the two most impressive players of the night were on Team Orange. Shawn Marion looked in midseason form, leading all scorers with 30 points on 14-of-18 shooting. The Matrix, who showed off his fresh legs and freakish athleticism, slammed down an array of dunks and grabbed 10 boards.
“Trix” also seemed to blend well with Grant Hill, who sliced and diced his way to 21 points, six assists and six rebounds. Hill shot the ball as well, connecting on 10-of-18 from the field. The 13-year veteran created opportunities all over the court for his teammates, displaying his still lightning-quick first step and savvy ballhandling.
“I am going to just try to fit in and help us get over the hump," Hill said. "This team was already a well-oiled machine.”
The seven-time All-Star earned high praises from him teammates as well.
“Grant really is such a special player,” said Nash. “He has heart, he’s skilled and he's very unselfish.”
Leandro Barbosa was his usual steady self. LB collected 13 points, seven caroms and six assists, while Brian Skinner tallied six points and 11 rebounds. One of the bright spots of the night was rookie Alando Tucker.
Tucker, who was criticized for his outside shot coming out of college, nailed 5-of-7 attempts from the floor. Most of the shots he hit were from beyond 17 feet and came on looks that he received from defensive switches. It was an encouraging introduction for the former Badger.
Newcomer D.J. Strawberry also looked solid at point guard. Contributing eight points and six assists, Strawberry also brandished a good feel for the game and stingy perimeter defense.
“I felt that the team did a great job of staying focused, being unselfish and moving the ball,” Nash said. “I think we got a great head start on the way we need to play.”
While all the players enjoyed being back on the court, the crowd of almost 7,500 was bristling with enthusiasm.
“It was good to be cheered instead of being booed like I was in college here,” Grant Hill said. “The fans were all lined up to greet us as we were driving in. It’s great that they are so passionate for us.”
Despite the fact he wasn’t playing, the fans gave Amaré Stoudemire a warm reception when he arrived. The 6-10 center is out for the next 2-3 weeks after undergoing knee surgery and spent the game dividing his time between a stationary bike and the Suns.com TV webcast. Marion was just one player who missed his frontcourt pal
“I think we got a lot of work done down here this week,” Marion said. “We still can improve, but we’re also missing Amaré. Even though he's not playing, I think we’ve been working hard and making each other better.”
All in all, the Suns are off to a great start as they had back to Phoenix to prepare for the preseason. The man that sets the barometer for this team certainly feels satisfied.
“You come to training camp in hope that it is going to lead to a productive season,” said D’Antoni. “I think we accomplished that.”