Suns News

Suns Find Their Backup Point<br> Guard in Banks

The newest Phoenix Sun poses with his jersey Thursday, as Marcus Banks is introduced to local media.
(Josh Greene/Suns.com)
By Josh Greene, Suns.com
Posted: July 20, 2006

While bringing in a native Las Vegas playmaker may be the equivalent of the Suns “going all in” for this summer's free agent market, what isn’t a gamble is what point guard Marcus Banks will provide the defending Pacific Division champs next season – namely less minutes for starter Steve Nash.

“I’m pretty sure Steve’s happy to get the help,” smiled Banks following his introductory press conference at US Airways Center Thursday. “And me, why wouldn’t I want to learn from the best? He’s the MVP and a great guy. I’m just here to learn and be a sponge.”

True, the Suns would consider Banks picking up some of those All-Star tricks of the trade at the one position a bonus, but him taking pressure off the backcourt as a whole solves a multitude of concerns for a team whose summer priority all along was to find a quality backup for the two-time NBA MVP.

Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin said his team has now found their man in the form of the speedy and defensively intense 24-year-old.

“We have that with Marcus,” Griffin said. “He’s a player who takes quite a deal of pride in stopping his match-up. He’s also a player who’s improved his shooting a great deal from his time as a rookie through his time in Minnesota. Every facet of his game has improved and at 24 years of age, we feel he’s just starting to scratch the surface in terms of what he can do.”

A three-year NBA veteran, Banks opened some eyes following a midseason trade from Boston to Minnesota last year. In 40 games with the Timberwolves, the 6-2, 200-pound playmaker averaged 12 points and 4.7 assists in 30.7 minutes per game, while starting the team’s final 28 contests.

With all of his first-hand Suns’ experience has come from the opposition’s side of the court the last few years, Banks is well aware of what he has to look forward to when he suits up in the orange and purple come this fall.

“This is a very scrappy team,” he said. “You need to score more than 110 to beat these guys. They love to get out and run. There are a lot of teams out there with a group of selfish guys, but I think this’ll be a bunch of great guys.”

Managing Partner Robert Sarver added, “This is a team he wanted to play for. He’s excited to play with Steve Nash. He’s excited to play the role he needs to play to help us win a championship. It fills a need for us this year and fills out the rest of our roster to get us where we need to be. We’re close. And Marcus will help get us there.”

The addition of Banks also allows reserve Leandro Barbosa to slide over to his more natural position at shooting guard. The two were both 2003 NBA Draft picks, with the playmaker going 13th overall.

“It’ll be good,” said Banks about teaming up with LB. “I can push the ball down the floor to him and let him create. He’s just as quick as I am, if not quicker. Either one of us can handle the ball. Between the two of us, we’ll get the ball down the court in no time.”

Banks also reunites with fellow UNLV product Shawn Marion for games other than the pick-up variety. The point guard promises some lobs and fancy passing to the All-Star forward, as well as the rest of his new teammates. Needless to say, Banks is looking forward to rolling the dice in 2006-07 with a winner.

“It’s a great team, especially with Boris Diaw stepping up and Raja Bell playing the way he does,” Banks said. “They were one or two pieces away from a championship before and hopefully now I’m one of those pieces.”