Part of the Phoenix Suns’ next attempt at a culture change seems to focus on getting back to a previous culture.
Since returning to town, Coach Jeff Hornacek has emphasized playing at a fast tempo and resurrecting that prolific level of offensive production.
It was how Hornacek worked in a Suns uniform under Cotton Fitzsimmons and what Phoenix fans became familiar with during the halcyon days of Mike D’Antoni.
In a recent interview with Bright Side of the Suns, Hornacek said the target number for per-game scoring is 103 points. Not including the Miami Heat (at 102.9), only four NBA teams reached that level last season.
So, without a major influx of scoring punch — despite the exciting new additions — this summer, it will be tricky for the Suns to rise to 103 from the 95.2 they managed last season.
To better understand how they might accomplish this going (more swiftly) forward, we can look at what the Suns did and didn’t do last season.
Well, they didn’t exactly walk the ball down court, checking in with the ninth-quickest pace in the league. Unfortunately, they were 29th in offensive efficiency, 21st in points per game and a frosty 28th in 3-point accuracy.
With Jared Dudley out and Channing Frye’s return still uncertain, newcomer Caron Butler looms as the leading deep threat for the coming season. For fans of lottery positioning, that’s pretty encouraging.
Although their generally inept defense did create enough opponent turnovers to give them the rank of seventh, they didn’t convert these into points at a high rate. Overall, the Suns were only 14th in their own fast-break points per game and an equally mediocre 13th in fast-break efficiency.
Defensively, Phoenix didn’t generate many transition opportunities off of long rebounds; the Suns were last in 3-point percentage defense but surrendered the fourth-fewest attempts. Perhaps teams didn’t need to squeeze off perimeter shots because the Suns were an obliging 28th in allowing points in the paint (45.6 per game).
Anyway, a major factor in playing at a quick tempo is creating a focus and awareness during practice. While watching the Suns’ summer league team, it was obvious that Hornacek has emphasized a rapid turnaround after opponent field goals and using the kick-ahead pass to speed up the transition process after defensive rebounds.
When Goran Dragic and newcomer Eric Bledsoe hit the floor for training camp, the real work toward playing fast will begin.
While hoping to score with a new-look approach to playing, the Suns are guaranteed to have a different appearance from another perspective.
The team has targeted Aug. 15 (Scottsdale Fashion Square) for a runway-type event to unveil new uniforms.
Models will include present and past Suns players. By the way, according to a tweet from equipment manager Jay Gaspar, Bledsoe (No. 2), Butler (No. 3) and rookie center Alex Len (No. 21) have chosen digits for their new duds.
One of the former Suns scheduled to participate in the new-uniform fashion show is TV analyst Eddie Johnson.
But for the first week in August, EJ was in his now-customary role of coach during the prestigious Adidas Nations tournament.
Adidas Nations brings together some of the top high-school-age players in the world and creates a competition witnessed by some of the sport’s most influential movers and shakers.
Another coach in last week’s Adidas event at Garden Grove, Calif. was Ralph Sampson, the Hall of Famer who spent last season as an assistant coach with the Suns.
During last weekend’s alleged friendly vs. Turkey, Dragic – who stars for the Slovenian national team – was ejected after initiating a scuffle during the game’s opening moments.
Dragic’s combatant in this skirmish was Dogus Balbay, who played point guard at the University of Texas. Balbay, one of the best on-ball defenders in the nation as a Longhorn, seemed to get under The Dragon’s scales early.
Slovenia will be the host nation for the upcoming Eurobasket tournament.
Suns center Marcin Gortat reportedly is still having some discomfort in the foot that ended his NBA season prematurely and is uncertain about his participation as the star attraction for Team Poland.