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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The Suns rise in McKale

    Suns guard Steve Nash receives a pass from center Shaquille ONeal during a morning workout Tuesday in McKale Center. The Suns will have training camp in McKale through Saturday and will have a public scrimmage Friday at 5 p.m.
    Suns guard Steve Nash receives a pass from center Shaquille O’Neal during a morning workout Tuesday in McKale Center. The Suns will have training camp in McKale through Saturday and will have a public scrimmage Friday at 5 p.m.

    If for only a few moments Tuesday, McKale Center was part reunion, part Hollywood, what with all the celebrities in the arena.

    It has been less than six months since Kanye West rocked the basketball Mecca, and current and former NBA players frequent Lute and Bobbi Olson Court year round; but for the third time in four years, the NBA’s Phoenix Suns will call McKale their home for five days during training camp.

    “”It’s a pleasure to be back,”” said rookie center Robin Lopez, who played against the UA last season as a member of the Stanford Cardinal. “”First, it brings back memories, and second, it’s such a storied institution. There’s a certain level of comfort.””

    Grant Hill played in McKale Center with Duke in 1991 and took with him a 103-96 overtime win. Matt Barnes played for UCLA from 1998-2002 but never won in McKale.

    When Suns center Shaquille O’Neal played against the Wildcats in Tucson, his LSU team was beaten 87-67.

    “”We got smoked, I remember that,”” said O’Neal, arguably the biggest celebrity on the Suns. “”Me and (UA head) coach Olson was in the locker room talking about it (Tuesday) morning. I just remember the fans were into it, energetic. They killed us; demolished us.””

    O’Neal said he was double- and triple-teamed the entire game and ended with eight or nine points.

    “”(Olson) put Brian Williams in front of me, Sean Rooks behind me and Ed Stokes around me,”” O’Neal said.

    Steve Nash played against the Wildcats in 1993, helping Santa Clara get a 64-61 win to end the Wildcats’ season in Salt Lake City, but his response to this was odd, to say the least.

    “”I don’t spend too much time on that,”” Nash said. “”When you’re confident in your sexuality, you’re confident in your sexuality.””

    But while the players hit the court in McKale once again Tuesday with six hoops and three 3-point lines on the floor, one man had the greatest memories of the arena.

    Without a doubt, the man currently with the Suns who had the largest impact on the Wildcat program was Phoenix general manager Steve Kerr, who played for Olson from 1983-1988.

    Though Kerr joked his retired UA jersey had been taken down to be dry cleaned – it was taken down for McKale repairs – he said he always enjoys coming back to Tucson, eating at El Charro Mexican restaurant and visiting old friends. He said he could have never envisioned being in the position he is now.

    “”It’s pretty amazing and I owe it all to coach Olson and the university, because when I arrived here, I was just hoping to make the team and get a little playing time,”” Kerr said. “”My experience here at the U of A and with coach Olson pretty much set the foundation for my career since.””

    Adjusting to a new coach
    For the past five seasons the Suns played under Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offensive style, but D’Antoni and his system have made their way to New York, and Phoenix will now play under its new head coach Terry Porter.

    An emphasis on set plays, defense and a deeper rotation are some of the main differences between Porter’s and D’Antoni’s coaching styles.

    “”It’s a little different approach,”” Kerr said. “”What we talked about when we were in this hiring process is, we still want to run. We don’t want to become a team that scores 80 points but we want to be balanced.””

    As the Suns worked on non-contact situations Tuesday morning, the players saw some drills that they haven’t seen in a while, but that doesn’t mean they won’t adapt.

    “”I was a little rusty with these drills today, but once I get it in my medulla maglotta (medulla oblongata), whatever, I’ll be ready to go,”” O’Neal said.

    Barbosa goes home to tend to sick mother
    Phoenix guard Leandro Barbosa was not with his teammates in McKale Center Tuesday, as he had to fly home to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to tend to his mother, Ivete, who suddenly fell ill.

    “”We’re obviously going to give him as much time as he needs to take of his family and be with his mother,”” Kerr said. “”We’re thinking about him and hoping for the best. … Family comes first and we told him to take as much time as he needs.””

    Porter and Nash sent out their condolences to the Barbosa family as well.

    “”What can you say? It’s an awful situation,”” Nash said. “”It’s really sad for him. I love his mom. She’s going to fight through.””

    Stoudemire faces training camp injuries again
    Six-foot-10 center Amare Stoudemire was physically limited for the start of training camp for the second straight year.

    On the first day of training camp last year he was in Phoenix undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose particle from his right knee. On Tuesday, the center was limited to about 30 minutes of the morning practice because of a sprained left ankle.

    “”It’s pretty much my decision and based on my pain tolerance,”” Stoudemire said of how far he will push himself during camp. “”Right now it’s not super sore. I do want to use precautionary measures and not overdo it. … I’m pretty much day to day.””

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