The Phoenix Suns saw their first preseason action on Tuesday night as the team tipped-off against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The game gave the Phoenix fan base a preview of Head Coach Monty Williams’ coaching style as well as a first look at the newest members of the Suns. The Suns came out of the gates firing with 37 points in the first quarter and although Minnesota battled back in the second quarter, the Suns ultimately closed out the game with a 111-106 victory.
From the rookies to the veterans, below are the three key takeaways from the team’s first game.
BALL MOVEMENT IS KEY IN SUNS NEW OFFENSE
If one thing was clear in the Suns offensive gameplan, it was to keep the ball moving and it all that starts at the point guard position with Ricky Rubio. The Suns new playmaker gave a taste of what he is capable of with the ball in his hands. From his no-look passes to his lobs inside, Rubio constantly kept the defense guessing and is clearly going to make life easier for his teammates around him.
“Honestly, the way we’ve been moving the ball in practice every day, it carried to the game,” Ty Jerome said, who added four assists of his own. “Everybody touches it… We have so many shooters on the court, that it’s always so spread.”
Rubio finished the game with 11 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds and a steal in his first game as a Sun.
The Euroleague World Cup MVP wasn’t the only one shining in the new system as he and Devin Booker seemed to be trading off handling the ball. Whether it was Rubio finding Booker off a screen or Booker finding Rubio at the top of the arc, the two seem to be building chemistry quickly with one another.
Booker finished the game with 15 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in the victory.
DEANDRE AYTON TOOK A LEAP THIS SUMMER
Deandre Ayton’s coaches and teammates praised the hard work and dedication the big fella put in this summer and that growth seemed to shine on Tuesday night.
“You can see the difference for sure,” Booker said about Ayton. “I know he put in a lot of work this summer. He stayed in Phoenix and was in the gym with the guys every day.”
From the opening tip, Ayton looked locked in, aggressive and focused on the task ahead of him. While Rubio and Booker both did their jobs of finding their big man inside, Ayton also took it upon himself to battle for his own buckets.
In just the first half, Ayton already had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Those also happen to be his averages from his rookie season that helped earn him First Team All-Rookie honors…and this was just in the first half.
“I like his presence in the paint,” Coach Williams said about Ayton. “His presence in the paint is going to be huge for us… Once we get more a rapport on offense, he and Ricky are going to have some synergy in pick-and-roll."
Ayton went head-to-head against one of the league’s elite rebounders in Karl-Anthony Towns and consistently held his own on the glass throughout the night. Ayton out-rebounded Towns 13-10, including grabbing seven offensive boards.
He finished with a team-high 18 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks.
“I’m going to look for him,” Rubio said. “He’s athletic and he rolls hard to the basket. We just have to get to know each other better. Games like that help a lot.”
TY JEROME IS A BALLER
The Ty Jerome hype began to grow from the Suns locker room before training camp even began, but now it’s finally being put on display for Suns fans witness themselves.
Prior to the team heading up to Flagstaff, Booker was asked which teammate had stood out the most to him thus far, with his response being Jerome.
“I kind of knew what to expect from watching him at the NCAA Tournament,” Booker said. “It was the first time I had ever seen him play. He can do a little bit of everything; pass, dribble shoot. A high-IQ guy. He knows how to play the game. He knows how to make reads.”
From there, it was Coach Williams who spoke about Jerome stepping up as a vocal leader for the team once camp began.
“Ty’s picking up where he left off at Virginia,” Williams said. “[Him doing it as a rookie is] a surprise to you guys, but not to me. That’s who he is as a leader.”
The next step was to see it and game action and the rookie didn’t disappoint. The 22-year-old checked in midway through the first quarter and his impact was felt almost immediately.
Tyler Johnson found Jerome cutting through the paint with a bounce pass. Jerome continued moving the ball as he quickly found Frank Kaminsky from deep for three. On the Suns very next possession, Jerome showed his work on the glass as he grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back up for his first bucket.
“Ty was solid,” Coach Williams said. “He was in his shifts in the right spot. Offensively, when he first came into the game, he knocked down a few shots and was making the right reads.”
But he wasn’t done there. Jerome followed through with a midrange jumper and a floater to close out the first quarter with six of the Suns 37 points.
“Just a little nervous in the beginning,” Jerome said. “Just get out there and finally put this jersey on and be with the guys on the court. It was just good.”
Jerome continued his success throughout the game as he showcased his skills and finished with 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting to go along with his 4 assists.
“Ty played a great game, controlling the tempo of the game,” Rubio said.