Suns Notebook: Hornacek Contrasts Bledsoe's Defense to Stockton's
When Eric Bledsoe arrived in Phoenix via trade, pundits acknowledged his defensive abilities before wondering about the other facets of his game.
Rewinding for a second look at that first part may be necessary. The newly minted Sun is burning opponents every time they’re not looking in his general direction, pilfering them every chance he gets with absolutely zero remorse – or source of inspiration, for that matter.
“I have no idea [where it comes from],” Bledsoe said. “It’s just, like you said, a knack. It’s an instinct I have. I feel like, if I’ve got a steal, I get it. We need the ball, so at the end of the day we've got to play defense. I like it.”
He did that for a whopping five steals in just 24 minutes in Phoenix's win over Maccabi Haifa. It's an eye-popping number, but less of a shock when remembering that Bledsoe averaged 1.4 thefts per game with the Clippers — in 20 minutes per contest, good for top 30 in the league.
Now with a starter’s role and minutes his to lose, it’s safe to assume Bledsoe’s steals numbers are due for a major bump. It’s also safe to assume his teammates are ready to see the point guard’s defensive antics applied on opponents after suffering them throughout informal scrimmages and training camp.
“He’s going to do that all season,” Goran Dragic said. “That’s good for us. We’re going to score some easy baskets. We can pressure the ball.”
Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek is no stranger to steal-savvy point guards, having played with the league’s all-time best in that statistic.
He acknowledged John Stockton’s impression when it comes to sniffing out steal opportunities, though Hornacek admitted the two differ in how they go/went about their respective work.
“Stockton used to get a lot of steals because he knew how the plays were going. He had great positioning,” Hornacek said. “Eric gets them in a different way. He gets it with strength. He takes the ball out of guys’ hands. He’s very quick, so when they try to run a hand-off run, he’s always got his hand on the ball. Those are different steals. Those are steals that really put pressure on a team because they always have to be alert to where he’s at.”
TWO-MAN CHEMISTRY NOT LOST ON HORNACEK
While Bledsoe and Dragic may be the duo everyone is curious about, Hornacek hasn't lost sight of other two-man tandems on his roster. The Suns’ head coach made a point of saying before the game that he’d like to see the Morris twins see more on-court time together, as well as Miles Plumlee pairing up with another true center.
Both scenarios occurred on Monday night, starting with the Morris twins teaming up in the third quarter. Marcus immediately found Markieff in the low post, resulting in a made turnaround jumper.
Later in the game, Plumlee found himself alongside rookie Alex Len and later Slava Kravtsov. The former Pacer’s mobility and improving midrange jumper makes such parings possible, though the sample size and opponent were far from sufficient for long-lasting conclusions.
FRYE FOCUSED ON REGAINING CONDITIONING
Suns’ veteran Channing Frye didn't play in Monday night’s preseason opener, but that was more about preference than ability. The sharp-shooting forward could have suited up and even played limited minutes, but told Suns.com’s Greg Esposito before the game that other preseason contests convinced him otherwise.
Frye participated fully in training camp, including 5-on-5 scrimmages after the first day and a half in Flagstaff. The next preseason game is against his previous team, Portland.