Longabardi Wants Summer Suns to 'Play Their Game'

Barry Gossage/NBAE
by Matt Petersen

When the Suns return from Las Vegas, T.J. Warren will not be a defensive specialist. Alex Len will not be a three-point marksman. Tyler Ennis won’t be a frenetic risk-taker in the open court.

That’s because Phoenix’s Summer League coach, Mike Longabardi, isn’t planning any drastic makeovers over the 11-day sprint of games.

“Like I told every player, I just want them to play their game,” he said. “Do what they do and do it to the best of their ability. We don’t need anybody to reinvent themselves. Everyone’s here for a reason. They do something specific that got them to this point.”

Identity changes aren’t required, but improvement will be sought, especially from likely 2014-15 roster members. That includes second-year prospects Alex Len and Archie Goodwin, first-round draft picks T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis, and third-year big man Miles Plumlee.

Alex Len at Summer League Practice

Those five players form a significant investment in the near future for Phoenix. Longabardi is hoping to see signs of returns on those investments in Vegas, where younger prospects more opportunities as main cogs as opposed to the roles they had or would have in the regular season.

“I think there’s a little bit of a hyphen [to winning] because development is important,” Longabardi said. “We want to make sure Alex, Miles, Archie, T.J., the guys that we have, that they’re getting better and being prepared to play come November. That’s what’s most important.”

The available talent gives him plenty to work with. Plumlee and Len are both centers, but the latter’s ability to shoot from as far out as 18 feet should enable them to play together for stretches (Longabardi acknowledged a twin towers lineup is definitely in play). Goodwin has handled spot point guard duties in the past. Warren can man power forward in small-ball lineups.

Mike Longabardi at Summer League Practice

“We do have some versatility,” Longabardi said. “We do have some size. We can hopefully have some different lineups out there, playing small, playing big, playing very big with Alex and Miles. We’re going to utilize that and play to our strengths as best as we can.”

“I’m going to mess around with everything,” he added. “Just because one guy doesn’t start, it doesn’t mean he’s in the doghouse. That’s the beauty of Summer League. We want to be flexible. We want to look at different things, experiment a little bit.”

The Suns’ first Summer League game is Saturday against Golden State at 5:00 p.m. Pacific time.