By Dustin Krugel, Suns.com
Posted: Sept. 30, 2002
Over their 35-year history, the Phoenix Suns have fielded a number of exceptional point guards and this year is no exception. Stephon Marbury follows a long line of successful Suns playmakers, including Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd. “Starbury” is entering his year season with the Suns and could be headed for a huge season if his health holds up. Behind Marbury, the Suns have veteran Randy Brown, undrafted rookie free agent Maurice Baker, who could surprise with a strong preseason, and Joe Johnson, who played some point this summer.
Nobody was more disappointed in the outcome of last season’s record (36-46) than Stephon Marbury. After a couple of so-so years in Minnesota and a few rough seasons with the Nets, the 25-year-old floor general longed to go deep into the playoffs with his new team.
“I wanted to win bad, but everything happens for a reason,” Marbury said during a recent KTAR interview. “I feel going into this year it has made me tougher. Seeing what the Nets have done and going to the championship, that gave me more motivation. That’s pushing me even more because I know I want to be in that situation.”
Marbury has dedicated himself to getting the Suns back on track and into the postseason. He spent countless hours this summer rehabbing his ankles that bothered him most of last season and he’s out to prove the Suns didn’t get bamboozled in the Marbury-Kidd trade of one summer ago. In addition, he also married his college sweetheart earlier this month.
More than anything, the Suns need Marbury to emerge as the leader of a very young Suns roster and that’s something he’s willing to do.
“I’ve got to,” explained Marbury, who led the Suns in scoring with 20.4 points per game last season and has posted four consecutive 20-plus points seasons. “I definitely have to be a better leader this year, especially since we have a lot of young guys. This is going to be my second year and me being the point guard, I have to direct these young guys.”
Although the Suns traded Milt Palacio to Cleveland this offseason, Frank Johnson has another capable veteran to fulfill the backup point guard role – Randy Brown.
“Rambo” owns career averages of 5.0 points, 1.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists during his 11-year pro career, and was a member of three NBA Championship teams with Chicago from 1996-98.
Brown, 34, was acquired along with Palacio and Joe Johnson from Boston at last season’s trading deadline, but never played for the Suns because of a lingering hernia injury that prevented him from playing in all but one game in 2001-02. He’s healthy now, however, and is a proven playmaker with a reputation of being a solid man-to-man defender, something any team could use.
“Randy’s strength is defense and ball pressure, and being a leader,” the Suns' head coach said. “Scoring is not his strength, but he can lead. That’s what you need sometimes out of that backup point guard. I think he can fill that role really well.”
Maurice “Mo” Baker was touted as a potential second-round steal, but all 29 teams at the 2002 NBA Draft bypassed him. Afterwards, the Oklahoma State star agreed to join the Suns’ summer league roster after previously attending a pre-draft workout at America West Arena last June.
The 6-1, 185-pound guard begins his pro career with a reputation of being more of a scorer than a playmaker, but is very strong athletically. As a junior in 2000-01, Baker averaged 19.8 points (30th in nation), 6.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists for the Cowboys.
At the Southern California Summer Pro League, the 23-year-old played in four contests and averaged 6.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in limited action before aggravating an ankle injury that bothered him most of his senior season.
“Mo Baker is a very good point guard,” assistant coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He has good court awareness. He moves the basketball. He has a toughness to him. He played on almost a broken ankle for us for about two weeks. If he can get well physically, he has a chance.”
The Suns invited a former draft pick to Training Camp this year.
Anthony Goldwire was originally selected by the Suns in the second round (52nd overall) of the 1994 NBA Draft and played four NBA seasons with Denver and the Hornets. He averaged 7.1 points and shot .389 from three-point range in 204 career NBA games.
The 6-2 guard played overseas in Italy, Spain and Greece and also in the CBA and ABA in the United States. Last season for regular season champion Skipper Bologna in the Italian A League, he averaged 10.3 points and 1.7 steals.
While Baker may be a long shot to survive the final cut down, Joe Johnson is the wild card entry among the point guards hoping to relieve Marbury.
Undoubtedly, Johnson, 21, will be playing major minutes with the Suns, but where he’ll get most of his minutes is still anyone’s guess.
The Suns experimented with “JJ” at the point this summer and the results were encouraging. In fact, in Johnson’s last summer league game he dished out 10 assists as the team’s top playmaker.
“He created a lot of mismatches and he didn’t have any problems with the pressure being applied to him,” D’Antoni noted. “We were really pleased with how he handled himself out there.”
“I love it, coming down, making decisions,” Johnson said of playing one guard. “I think one of my greatest role models was Magic Johnson.”