By Stefan Swiat, Suns.com
Posted: Aug. 14, 2008
When the Suns’ front office personnel traveled to Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League, there was more to their plans than just evaluating their team and dining on plentiful buffets.
One service that the summer league affords is the ability to watch other young players compete against one another. That service has paid dividends for the Suns, who signed forward Louis Amundson on Thursday to a one-year contract, just weeks after scouting his talents in Sin City.
Amundson appeared in the summer league for the Golden State Warriors and totaled 6.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and one block a game in 17.6 minutes. But before earning the attention of Phoenix’s scouts there, the 6-9 forward out of UNLV already made a valuable impression despite limited action with the Philadelphia Sixers last season.
Although he totaled just 1.1 points, 0.8 rebounds and appeared in only 16 contests last year, he showed enough game in a playoff contest against Detroit to spark the attention of then-Detroit assistant coach Terry Porter.
“He’s a young man that plays extremely hard and plays with a great deal of physicality,” the new Suns head coach said. “He’s no-holds barred in terms of his aggressiveness, runs the floor well and can defend multiple positions.”
Porter also likes his ability to defend an array of different players. He believes that Admunson has the strength and the footwork to guard a center and the quickness to defend a power forward. And the second-year man concurs.
"I bring athleticism, toughness and a defensive mindset," Amundson said. "I’ve been told they want to go in that direction and add a little bit of depth in that area."
As the Suns move into the Terry Porter era, one can already see the emphasis being put on defense. The drafting of Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic, as well as the signings of Matt Barnes and Amundson, are a clear indication that Phoenix is re-focusing its efforts in that department.
“Offense is very important but these guys need to make a commitment on the defensive end and take a lot of pride in not allowing guys to score on us,” Porter said.
It was important to the front office that it filled the final pieces of the roster with players that brought a certain defensive prowess as well as certain other intangibles to the floor. President of Basketball Operations and GM Steve Kerr felt that Phoenix already had enough scorers and that he was looking for players that were tough, physical, aggressive, and played with an edge.
“We just felt like there was too big of a drop-off over the last couple of years when Steve (Nash) went out of the game and that we couldn’t always survive on just making jump shots,” Kerr said. “You have to be able mix it up, get offensive rebounds and make ‘dirt-worker plays,’ as Cotton Fitzsimmons used to say. You have to be able to draw charges and create extra possessions.”
Enter Admunson. Phoenix’s front office believes he is one of those players that embodies those characteristics and that Suns fans are certain to embrace him.
“He goes along those lines of that defensive tenacity theme that we’re putting together this summer,” Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin said. “He’s a good shotblocker, has an exceedingly high amount of energy and plays with that sort of abandon that we needed to bring to our team.”
But Kerr also believes that Amundson can contribute offensively, as well.
“He’s really versatile for a big man in that he can grab the ball off the board and lead a fast break. He’s similar to Boris in that he is a big man that can pass well.
“But he’s different from most bigs in that he can put it on the floor and make a play. He’s a guy who will face up and create something for others and not worry about scoring himself.”
The former Running Rebel first appeared on Griffin’s radar after dominating first-round pick Jason Smith in a UNLV-Colorado St. game during his senior year. Shortly after, he impressed Griffin at an individual workout with the Celtics' Leon Powe just before the 2006 NBA Draft in Los Angeles.
Then, after garnering Rookie of the Year and All-League First Team honors in a standout 2006-07 season with the NBA’s D-League’s Colorado 14ers, Griffin became even more enticed once he learned of Porter’s mutual interest in Amundson.
“We paid close attention to him at the summer league in Las Vegas with the Golden State Warriors,” Griffin said. “He’s very active, the kind of guy you like to have coming off the bench to change the tempo of the game.”
The signing of Amundson was also a part of the Suns’ initiative to cultivate a roster infused with younger talent. As some of the more integral players on the club begin to age, Phoenix’s management hopes to develop some of its younger players, not only for a healthy balance on the roster between experience and youth, but also for the time in the future when the veteran players leave the franchise.
“This guy has potential,” Kerr said. “If we can develop him, then we have yet another good young asset.”
Amundson is one of a number of players that are reportedly chomping at the bit to start playing with his new teammates and get the season started.
"Playing with Steve Nash, Shaq and Amaré Stoudemire, you can’t ask for more than that," he said. "Those guys are great players, Hall of Famers. I can’t wait to get down here and get things started."
But before he went home to Colorado to gather his belongings and bring them back to the Valley of the Sun, he wanted Phoenix fans to do one thing.
"Look out for me," he said with a smile.
Based on all accounts of how hard he plays, that's one feat that Suns fans won't have to try too hard to accomplish.
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