Revamped Suns Start Training Camp
Posted: Dec. 11, 2011
When strolling around outside the event level of US Airways Center, reconstruction will be the first thought that comes to mind. The team that the arena hosts, the Suns, are underwent a similar process when training camp tipped off on Saturday.
With the work stoppage officially lifted and a free-agency frenzy beginning around the league Friday, the Suns pieced together their roster as they prepared for their first preseason game on December 20 and their regular-season opener on December 26 against the visiting Hornets.
The usual month-long free agency period, which has been condensed to a week due to the shortened season, began with a bang with the Suns making six transactions the first day the NBA was officially open for business. Before Friday, deals haven't been made made league-wide since June 30.
When the free agency market bell sounded Friday, the Suns wasted little time in answering it, buying out and waiving shooting guard Vince Carter as the first order of business. Next, the Suns used the space created by Carter’s contract to nab two players, making over their backcourt in the process.
The Suns signed former Lakers shooting guard Shannon Brown and former Timberwolves point guard Sebastian Telfair in an effort bolster two areas that needed attention. Phoenix inked Brown to increase the Suns’ scoring punch, while Telfair was signed to back up point guard Steve Nash.
Phoenix’s front office was looking to address a few issues this offseason, and recruiting some help at the 2-guard was among the first priorities. Last season, Brown averaged a career-high 8.7 points a game as backup to the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, shooting 43 percent from the floor.
Known around the league for his athleticism and dunking prowess, Brown signed a one-year deal with Phoenix. After perusing other offers from around the league, the former Michigan St. Spartan decided he wanted to play alongside Nash.
“I like the style of play, getting up and down and I think if we add a little defensive flavor to our game, we have a chance to scare a lot of people in the league,” Brown said.
Telfair, who is the cousin of former Suns point guard Stephon Marbury, is heading into his eighth season and holds career averages of 7.8 points and 3.8 assists a game. Last season in Minnesota, the former McDonald’s All-American averaged 7.2 points and three assists a night.
Locating a seasoned backup to Nash became critical when his backup last season, Aaron Brooks, signed a contract to play in China that doesn’t have an opt-out clause to return to the NBA. Since the Chinese Basketball Association’s postseason extend into March, the Suns were in need of some help in that position.
With back-to-back-to-back tilts and a condensed 66-game schedule, finding a durable backup for the soon-to-be 38-year-old Nash became a necessity.
“I’m not just saying this, but I think this is the best opportunity that I’ve got since being in the NBA,” Telfair said. “With the team, coaching staff and style of play, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Perhaps the greatest news, at least for Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby, was re-signing small forward and team co-captain Grant Hill. Although Suns fans may have seen Hill’s signing as a lock, the veteran was heavily pursued by competing franchises to jump ship, before ultimately deciding to remain in Phoenix.
“Obviously he’s a real, real important part of our team,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “Not just what he does on the court, which has been great, but his leadership and professionalism in the locker room.”
More a formality than anything, the Suns also finally signed Markieff Morris to his rookie deal. The Suns front office personnel believe that the 6-10 power forward out of Kansas will add some physicality to the roster, which allowed them to waive second-year forward Gani Lawal.
The last order of business was filling out the training camp roster. So the Suns added guards Jeremy Hazell and Dwight Buycks to the list of players opening camp at Grand Canyon University.
With this whirlwind of changes, it’s probably difficult for Suns fans to keep track of who will be at training camp tomorrow. So for those keeping score at home, this is where the Suns are at:
Dwight Buycks (camp invite)
Jeremy Hazell (camp invite)
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