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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Suns lock down on defense at scrimmage

    Phoenix Suns forward Alando Tucker, right, tries to work around forward Louis Amundson in an intrasquad scrimmage Friday night in McKale Center. Tucker led all scorers with 22 points during a game that was slowed down by new coach Terry Porters defense-oriented style of play.
    Phoenix Suns forward Alando Tucker, right, tries to work around forward Louis Amundson in an intrasquad scrimmage Friday night in McKale Center. Tucker led all scorers with 22 points during a game that was slowed down by new coach Terry Porter’s defense-oriented style of play.

    Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns sat at a crucial crossroad during last week’s training camp in Tucson.

    In years past, former Suns coach Mike D’Antoni exemplified the high-flying glamorous offense that emphasized – and often relied on – 110-point outings.

    The offensive production always wowed fans and kept Phoenix in playoff contention, but D’Antoni’s philosophy never produced a title.

    Now, as the Terry Porter era begins, the six-time All-Star Nash has refocused his approach.

    “”We’re at a point of our careers where this is an important training camp with us and a new coach to see if we can take the next step,”” Nash said after Friday’s intrasquad scrimmage in McKale Center. “”We don’t have time to put on a show. … We gotta go out and really try to fight for all the little improvements we can make.””

    The scrimmage wasn’t nearly as flashy as in previous years, where displays of alley-oops and dunks flew up and down the court like an NBA All-Star game.

    Rather, an intense, hard-fought 59-57 final score set the tone that Porter and the Suns have embraced.

    For an intrasquad scrimmage that had no physical bearing on the 2008-09 season, the Suns suited up with seriousness and a sense of urgency.

    Guard Alando Tucker, who led the white team with a game-high 22 points, said he isn’t concerned about the team’s offensive production, given Phoenix’s talent from years past.

    “”Our main focus is defense,”” Tucker said. “”That’s going to be the theme all year.””

    Nash added on whether the team has bought into the defensive emphasis: “”I think that’s the only choice you have – to buy in if you’re a good teammate and conscious pro, to believe in each other and believe in your coach and fight for it together.

    “”We have to build defensively, take defense seriously and make it a priority from day one until the end of the season,”” he said. “”I think that we’ll figure it out offensively. I think Coach will get an understanding of us as a group, and we’ll get an understanding of his vision offensively.””

    With a running clock for four quarters, the orange team edged out the white team after Boras Diaw missed a game-tying free throw with 23 seconds left. Grant Hill led the orange squad with 17 points while Raja Bell added 11.

    “”At the end of the third quarter, I looked over and it’s 35 points,”” Hill said. “”Last year, we might have had that at the end of the first quarter.””

    The scrimmage also provided Porter a glimpse at what the future could hold for the Suns. Rookies Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic debuted with hefty playing time – 45 and 42 minutes, respectively – in a battle on the depth chart. Lopez, a 7-foot center from Stanford, and Dragic, a guard from Slovenia, are in a position to be back ups.

    Lopez impressed Porter and Nash on the defensive end after holding O’Neal to six points.

    “”It definitely was harder (than what I expected),”” Lopez said of matching up with O’Neal. “”I’ve been going up against him in practice. He brought out another level of the game.””

    Said O’Neal of Lopez: “”He looked good out there. Playing hard, he’s battling, he’s pushing, never backing down. He’s looking good.””

    Tucker will also contribute to the Suns’ new 10-man rotation. Tucker shot 8-for-12 from the floor, playing in all 48 minutes as a shooting guard. He met with Porter earlier to discuss his position on a team with a crowded front court.

    “”(Tucker is) playing well, maybe we’ll find some minutes for him,”” Nash said. “”The other great thing is, we have the luxury if someone gets hurt. We’re not in a hole, we can put someone in there.””

    Amare: Eye poke was ‘most painful pain I’ve ever experienced in my life.’
    Suns forward Amare Stoudemire wasn’t making a fashion statement with his Louis Vuitton sunglasses and street clothes on the sidelines Saturday – he was making a “”caution statement.””

    Stoudemire suffered from a torn iris in practice Wednesday and cannot exercise or do physical activity for a week.

    “”I never want to experience that again. It was probably the most painful pain I’ve ever experienced in my life,”” Stoudemire said. “”I don’t ever want to feel that again. It takes time to get the vision back. The pupil in my eye will never heal.””

    Stoudemire said his eye is extremely sensitive to sunlight, prompting him to wear sunglasses – and probably goggles during the season.

    “”I can’t look at any light for too long so I have to keep my eye shaded for a couple days,”” he said. “”It’s not a fashion statement, guys. It’s a caution statement.””

    Lopez, Singletary booed before game
    Suns general manager Steve Kerr addressed the crowed before the scrimmage with blindsided surprise. The former Wildcat allowed fans one last opportunity to boo Lopez and former Virginia point guard Sean Singletary before beginning the season.

    Both Lopez and Singletary defeated the Wildcats in the 2007-08 season in McKale Center.

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