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With a break from games, Suns work to get better

Following a day off Sunday, the Phoenix Suns were back on the practice court, a place they have become quite familiar with in recent days.

“Practice,” interim head coach Lindsey Hunter said. “Practice, that’s what we have planned. Practice.”

The Suns have not played since beating the Atlanta Hawks Friday. The extra practice time gives Hunter added time with a team he only recently took over.

“This is big for us,” he said. “And the thing I like about it is guys really want to get better, collectively. That’s exciting to see because I’ve been around teams in this situation and the guys have kind of mailed it in. You don’t see that with us and I’m excited about that.”

The four-day break between games ends Wednesday when the Suns host the Toronto Raptors at US Airways Center. Hunter’s squad will be looking to extend the current winning streak to four in a row, which would equal the Suns’ longest of the year.

“We are finding guys that want to play the right way and want to get out and compete,” he said. “That is what we have been looking for from the beginning.”

Hunter, since the beginning, has been all about defense.

During this current run, the Suns have held the opposition to an average of 90.3 points, including two sub-90 point defensive efforts. The three teams (Minnesota, San Antonio and Atlanta) have shot a combined 39.8 percent, and just 32.2 percent (19-of-59) from three-point range.

Those numbers look nice but Hunter knows they can, and he feels should, be better.

Offensively, change has been more subtle. The 92 points scored against Atlanta was only the second time in the last five games the Suns cracked the 90-point mark.

“It’s easier to change the defense,” Hunter said. “Offensively — when you start messing with that, you’re messing with rhythm, you’re messing with familiarity, you’re messing with a lot of stuff that affects us. Slowly, I’ve implemented some things and kind of do it that way until the season is over and then hopefully everything works out we can trash the old system and put mine in.”

A complete overhaul of the offense will have to wait, not only for training camp but for the front office’s decision on whether to drop the interim tag from Hunter’s title.

In the meantime, Hunter presses on, pouring a foundation he hopes he will be able to build upon.

“We’ve got to do what we have to do now,” he said. “There’s no way I could just do all the things that I needed to do.”