LAS VEGAS – When Jeff Hornacek agreed to coach the Phoenix Suns’ entry in the NBA Summer League, the goal was twofold: gain experience as a first-year head coach and gain a jump on the upcoming season thanks to a roster loaded with current players.
“We show them how hard we’re going to work and they’re going to have to be ready to do that,” he said.
It started this week with two-a-day practices over a three-day minicamp at US Airways Center.
It will continue now with at least five games over the next 10 days in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
Kendall Marshall, who appeared in 48 games last season, joins Marcus (77 games) and Markieff Morris (82 games, 32 starts), P.J. Tucker (79 games, 45 starts) plus Diante Garrett (19 games) on the team’s 12-man roster, which also includes draft picks Archie Goodwin and Alex Oriakhi.
“We definitely have, I guess you could say, a veteran Summer League team; guys that have been here before,” said Marshall, who started three games last season. “We’re excited. We’re not just coming in here to play a couple of games and get out of here. We want to win. We want to play together and get off on the right foot for the season.”
For Tucker, who signed a free agent contract with the Suns based on his Summer League play a year ago, it’s all about the workout.
“Get in here,” he said, “get in shape early so going into August, September, going into camp, be 100 percent in shape and be able to really get after it.”
The Suns’ first game is Saturday against Portland.
Having this many veterans playing not only helps those players, but also serves as a great example to those getting their first pro experience, according to Hornacek.
“It’s going to be huge because these guys are used to doing it a certain way,” he said. “They’re probably going to struggle a little bit with the stuff we’re doing just because it’s something new and they’re ingrained in doing it the old way, but the old way wasn’t working.
“We’re putting a little pressure on them to maybe take it to another level in terms of their intensity in what we’re asking them to do offensively and defensively.”
Hornacek added he isn’t necessarily concerned about numbers, though last summer Marshall led all players by averaging 6.5 assists, while Markieff Morris was second in rebounding (9.8) and 10th in scoring (19.8).
“You expect them to improve,” Hornacek said. “You expect them to go out there and kind of be your main guys. But again, being the main guy doesn’t mean that you don’t do all the little things that help all the other guys. We’re not out here just to train those three or four guys. We want to play a right way, a team game. If they go out there and they don’t get any shots, but get ten assists, I’ll be happy with that.”