By Josh Greene,
Posted: April 18, 2010

Two hours before the tip-off of his first career playoff game Sunday, Jared Dudley was first at work for shootaround on the main court. And much like during an actual game, it didn’t take long for the rest of the Suns’ second unit to follow suit.

One of Phoenix’s early weapons off the bench on any given gamenight, No. 3 was named the winner of the 2009-10 Majerle Hustle Award before the start of Game 1 of the Suns-Blazers Opening Round series.

“If there’s one guy on this team that plays like I used to, it would be Jared,” the Suns Ring of Honor great and assistant coach told “He shoots the ball really well. He plays extremely hard and guards multiple positions. He’s a guy you can count on coming off the bench to bring a lot of energy and do all the little things the coaching staff and his teammates appreciate to help the team win.”

With voting results coming from Suns fans, players, coaches, employees and Majerle himself, Dudley followed in the footsteps of recent past winners, including Lou Amundson, Grant Hill and Leandro Barbosa.

“I pride myself on being someone who does the little things and works hard,” said Dudley, who tallied four points, four boards and three assists in his postseason debut. “I get what I put in, and that’s big for me. I do my role on this team, and it got noticed.”

In addition to Dudley’s contributions on the floor this season, another thing that has made a major splash for the Suns has been the second unit’s overall play in 2009-10.

Outscoring the Blazers’ backups 39-25 Sunday, most of the offensive damage off the Suns’ bench was done by Barbosa who led the group with 13 points. Going a perfect 5-of-5 in the first half with three three-pointers, Sunday marked the guard’s first postseason action in two years, albeit in a 105-100 loss.

“I’ve been in the playoffs three or four times,” LB said. “I have the experience from that. I learned a few things, so nothing’s finished here. This is one game. All this means is that we have to do a better job in the second game.

“My confidence is always there. I got hot early.”

Seeing his first postseason action since his 2008 stint with the 76ers, Amundson set a new personal playoff high Sunday with 18 minutes – almost doubling his entire output from his previous postseason appearance.

“This team is completely different in every way,” Amundson told “There’s the style of play, my teammates, the front office, the coaches… it’s a totally different feel here. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I’ve contributed during the season. In Philly, I never really got a chance to do that. I’m a part of this team and a part of what we’re doing out there. It means more to me here.”

“Our bench here is deep. We have a lot of guys who get in there and contribute. We had some success early on in the season. We had that early road trip on the East Coast where the bench really stepped up and was a major part of those victories. Going forward, we just developed a collective role for the second unit. We relish going in and picking up the tempo and playing defense. That makes it better for the starters when they get back in there. “

Joining Dudley as a newcomer to the postseason, Goran Dragic was understandibly disappointed by Sunday’s five-point loss, but like a seasoned veteran, he knows that there is a lot more basketball to be played in this Opening Round series.

“We’re sad because we lost the game, but it’s a long series,” explained the backup guard, who ended his night with six points and two assists. “We just didn’t feel right, but we have another game at home to get it right and go to Portland and win outright. We didn’t play so well, but we were still in the game. So we know when we are playing our best, we will win those games.”

As for his team dropping the first game of the series, Dudley and his teammates know they have a pivotal Game 2 to prepare for Tuesday at US Airways Center.

“In general, the team with the best bench usually advances,” Dudley said. “Obviously, the starters are crucial, but the bench is the one – if the starters don’t play well – they give you energy. If you have the lead, it’s about sustaining that lead. For us, coming out with strong play only improves our chances to win. That’s been our M.O. all season and hopefully that equates to moving onto the next spot in the playoffs.”

The first reserve in NBA history to be voted an All-Star starter in 1995, Majerle may have logged more minutes as a starter during his playing days, but he knows a good bench when he see one.

“This season’s second unit has been key,” the assistant coach said. “That’s one of the reasons why we’ve had such a great year. We’ve really been able to really inject those guys into games. Not only have they held their own, they’ve built leads and allowed us to rest Steve Nash. We don’t have anybody in the top 50 in minutes played. That has a lot to do with our bench coming in. They’ve given us quality minutes. Between Goran, Channing Frye, LB, Jared and Lou, those guys come in and provide a spark. They come in, know what they have to do and that’s the biggest key as to why we’ve had a great year.”


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