Summer Suns Go Out On the Right Note

By Aaron Seidlitz,

Posted: July 21 2012

With five minutes left to go in Saturday’s game, Kendall Marshall let go of a 3-point attempt from the wing. His reaction afterward told a story of relief and motivation.

The Suns’ rookie point guard had struggled shooting the ball through his first three games of the 2012 NBA Las Vegas Summer League, but in the team’s final game his left-handed release was producing a smooth jumper and his best game as a professional.

This particular make tied the game with five minutes remaining, and Marshall turned away from the basket to give a quick fist pump and exhaled.

His performance ultimately helped the team to a 96-87 win over the Memphis Grizzlies to go 2-3 in five summer league games. The guard finished with 15 points and 10 assists on 6-of-10 shooting and 3-of-4 from 3-point range.

The showing wasn’t just a sigh of relief for Marshall, but also the teammates who were rooting for him.

“I definitely (felt good for him),” Markieff Morris said. “He broke out of it a little bit tonight, after the last couple games when he didn’t play as good. He shot the ball well, made great passes and I’m happy for him.”

With Marshall pushing the tempo and making more shots, the Suns were more effective due to their overall mentality.

The aggressiveness was pervasive. Morris bounced back from a couple games when all the attention was on him, and six Suns reached double figures.

Again it was the team’s power forward who led the way in scoring, just as he had done in all five games in Las Vegas. On this night Morris was a more efficient 10-of-17 from the field for his 25 points and 11 rebounds.

What was most apparent, right from the opening basket of the game, was the emphasis he placed on scoring closer to the basket and doing so in a dominant fashion. His first attempt came after he posted and drove a defender back with his right shoulder only to turn and shoot over it with a nice touch.

Morris won the battle for position early on and never relinquished it.

But he also stretched his range and hit a 3, following Marshall’s that tied the game, to put the team up for good with just over three minutes remaining.

The array of post moves he showed along, with that kind of range, produced the kind of performance that Suns’ summer league head coach Dan Majerle hoped would become a trend for the second-year player.

“He should be confident, he’s a talented kid,” Majerle said. “He’s shown that this week, but he just has to keep working on his overall game. He needs to not settle and keep pushing himself to be a great player, not just a good player.”

From the Video Room to the Sideline

The 2012 NBA Las Vegas Summer League reached its conclusion Saturday night on the UNLV campus, but what might be assumed is that the week of exhibition basketball that just occurred impacted only the players.

In fact, there are all sorts in the basketball world – some well-known, some not as much – who have an important claim on this week, as well.

Take into account what the summer league meant to a person like Suns video coordinator Elvis Valcarcel. Just four years ago, he came to Phoenix from Seton Hall University to take an assistant video coordinator position.

After one season, he earned a promotion and has since held his current title.

Usually Valcarcel is holed up in the team’s video room pouring over content from games, practices, summer league, training camp, etc., etc. Whenever a player or coach needs to look over something – whether it’s 2 a.m. or 2 p.m. – he is the one who receives the call.

But this week allowed Valcarcel the chance to work the sidelines as an assistant coach with the Suns, an opportunity he called a “great honor.”

“It only starts to get a little nerve-wracking when you have to make some serious decisions, but you just have to be confident and continuously be positive with the players,” Valcarcel said.

In fact, the primary trait he has seen from Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry over the years has been the importance of confidence, and instilling it throughout the roster - from the first to the last.

But what he considers the best part of his job is the people he works with, from the players to his primary boss, Gentry.

“It’s been four years with Alvin, so it’s been a fun four years,” Valcarcel said. “I always say he’s the best coach, because he’s always positive. He always preaches family first, and we’re family. We stick together, and that’s the most important thing as a team.”

The Supporting Cast

In the two games that the Suns won this summer league season, it wasn’t just the two players who had a bull’s-eye on them that produced big shots at big moments.

In Saturday’s win, forward P.J. Tucker continued to clean up around the basket with nine rebounds and 10 points.

Marcus Landry was, once again, the team’s next best scorer after Morris and tied with Marshall by going for 15 points against the Grizzlies.

DeShawn Sims came off the bench and gave the team a scorer and some energy by totaling 13 points and five rebounds.

In all, the team had six players in double figures, as forward Charles Garcia added 12 off of three field goals and six free throws.