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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Suns see Tucson as 2nd home

    Phoenix point guard Steve Nash shoots over teammate Brian Skinner in the Suns intrasquad scrimmage in McKale Center on Saturday night. It marks the second time in three years the Suns have called Tucson their home for the preseason.
    Phoenix point guard Steve Nash shoots over teammate Brian Skinner in the Suns intrasquad scrimmage in McKale Center on Saturday night. It marks the second time in three years the Suns have called Tucson their home for the preseason.

    Call them the Arizona Suns.

    After finishing their second training camp in McKale Center in the last three years, the Suns hope to be seen as more than Phoenix’s team by making Tucson their permanent training home. So said Steve Kerr, the Suns’ general manager and a former UA men’s basketball player, who addressed the crowd at center court before Saturday’s scrimmage.

    By the reaction of 7,365 Tucsonans in attendance, that feeling may be mutual.

    “”It’s good to come back here,”” said Suns forward Grant Hill, who played in McKale Center in 1991 as a Duke Blue Devil. “”There’s some really great basketball fans, both in college and here with the Suns professionally. So it’s good to get cheered and not get booed here, and hopefully we can have a good season and play as well as the Wildcats.””

    The Suns’ stars were on full display throughout the scrimmage on campus.

    Shawn Marion led all scorers with 30 points and 10 rebounds to go with highlight dunk after highlight dunk and Hill added 21 for the Orange Team.

    For the White Team, a balanced scoring effort was led by a reinvigorated Boris Diaw, who put up a stat line of 21 points, 10 boards and five assists, looking more like the Most Improved Player of the Year that he was two years ago than the player who struggled last season.

    Steve Nash and Raja Bell chipped in 15 and 14 points, respectively, in the White Team’s 97-91 victory.

    The game had a crisp pace offensively, which is to be expected from a team that led the NBA in scoring the last three seasons.

    But on the flip side, Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni pointed out his players were also the ones giving up those points.

    “”That was the problem, you get excited about the offense, but I’ve got to remember we’re also playing defense,”” D’Antoni said.

    Said Marion: “”We’re still trying to get our legs and our wind, and we’re still trying to get the defense the way we want it to be. Everybody knows we can score. It’s about going out there and playing defense and stopping people, so we’ve got to do that, and we’re capable of doing that.””

    D’Antoni and his players proclaimed camp a success, despite not having AmarǸ Stoudemire due to arthroscopic knee surgery. Phoenix integrated incoming veterans Hill and Brian Skinner as well as rookies Alando Tucker and D.J. Strawberry into its system.

    Marion and Nash said they could feel themselves rounding into shape after taking time off during the summer following a Western Conference Semifinals loss to the San Antonio Spurs, a series that included a number of controversial breaks for San Antonio.

    “”Personally, I’m starting to feel a rhythm a little bit after a summer off,”” Nash said, “”and the team did a nice job of staying focused, moving the ball, being unselfish, kind of getting a head start on the way we’ve got to play.””

    As the Suns make their run at the franchise’s first NBA championship with a similar nucleus as last year’s team, UA students will be able to follow them every step of the way, as owner Robert Sarver – another Arizona alumnus – said both cable companies in Tucson will televise all of his team’s games.

    Last year, FSN Arizona and national games were shown, but games on My45 were not.

    “”As the team’s gotten better in terms of its record and performance and more popular, I think there’s more demand in it,”” said Sarver, who added he’s very appreciative of the addition in coverage.

    That could be good, as the Suns are starting to become like The Beatles in Tucson, or, at least, that’s the type of “”amazing”” fan reaction Hill said he saw as the Suns pulled into campus for Saturday’s scrimmage.

    “”There’s a lot of passionate fans here,”” Hill said, “”and of course this team is giving them a lot of reason to be passionate, but it’s great that we can come here to Tucson and the good people here of Tucson come out and watch us and see us firsthand this season before anybody else.””

    Although the Wildcats will always be No. 1 in the hearts of Tucson basketball fans, it looks like there’s a No. 2 two hours to the north.

    “”It’s Tucson, it’s U of A, but it’s still Phoenix Suns territory, too,”” Marion said.

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