NBA

9 players on hand as Phoenix Suns open camp

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PHOENIX (AP)

The Phoenix Suns had nine players on the court when they opened training camp on Saturday night, with the others expected to join the team in the next day or two.

Grant Hill, free agent signee Sebastian Telfair and first-round draft pick Markieff Morris were working out details in their contracts before joining the workouts at Grand Canyon University.

Another free agent acquisition, Shannon Brown, has signed his deal and practiced. Brown, who left the Los Angeles Lakers, says his ability fits well into the Suns' fast-paced system.

''It's the up-and-down, the continuous basketball,'' Brown said. ''Coach (Alvin) Gentry lets his guys play. He doesn't focus on what you can't do. He tries to let you maximize what you can do out there on the court. That's what I'm here to do.''

Corey Gaines, coach of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, was pressed into service so the team could run 5-on-5 drills.

Hill has agreed to a $6.5 million, one-year contract to return to the Suns after being courted by the New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs.

While Gentry insisted he never seriously believed Hill would go elsewhere, close friend and two-time league MVP Steve Nash felt otherwise.

''I think legitimately he was considering other places,'' Nash said, ''and he had great opportunities elsewhere. So we should feel very fortunate to have him back.''

Nash said Hill is an asset for more than his considerable ability on the court.

''What he means to the team as far as his experience, intelligence and unselfishness, what he means to our community,'' Nash said. ''I think he means as much to the fans as he does to the point guard and as he does to the coaches. He's just one of those players that kind of separates himself from your everyday NBA player.''

After just one practice, Channing Frye said the team chemistry is better this year.

''I could tell right now just the flow of our offense,'' he said, ''that we have a lot more athleticism and length.''

The Suns' attempt to trade Mickael Pietrus for a draft pick fell through when he flunked his physical with Toronto. His agent says he plans to return to Phoenix.

Gentry is entering his third full season as Suns coach. The team, struggling following the departure of Amare Stoudemire, failed to make the playoffs last season after a surprise run to the Western Conference finals the previous year.

Gentry said he likes the changes the team has made after its personnel shakeup in the midst of last season.

''Coming back now and knowing that this is going to be our team is a good situation,'' he said. ''I think the guys are excited about it.''

Tagged: Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Shannon Brown, Suns

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