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Phoenix Suns open training camp with young, versatile roster

PHOENIX – There’s nothing wrong with a little competition, and there will be plenty of it during the Phoenix Suns’ six-day stay in Flagstaff, Ariz.

There are starting spots available. There are roster spots available. Nothing has been guaranteed to anyone, giving all players the same opportunity.

“It’s an open competition,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said. “Whoever the best guys are will play and earn the minutes, and those who aren’t won’t.

Added head coach Jeff Hornacek, “From guy 18 through guy one they should know that if they go out there and they outplay another player that they’re going to get the time.”

Hornacek said he’s already seen the competitive juices flowing among his players during informal workouts, including 5-on-5 scrimmages the past couple of weeks on the practice court at US Airways Center.

“We’re going into (training camp) with an open mind,” he said Monday. “Obviously the chemistry wasn’t great to have the season they did last year, so we have to find that right combination of guys that—it may not be the most talented, but if they’re playing the most as a team that’s going to be our best guys.”

Both Hornacek and McDonough, during the team’s media day, noted the versatility of the roster. There are multiple players who can play multiple positions, leading to a number of options for a first-year head coach.

“You got a guy like PJ Tucker that can go from two (shooting guard), three (small forward) or four (power forward) if we want to go small,” Hornacek said. “Marcus Morris can play the four or the three. We can go big with maybe a couple of big guys in the lineup. We have options.”

In terms of sheer numbers, the most options are found in the backcourt. There are four true point guards on the roster (Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Kendall Marshall and Ish Smith) with three others (Shannon Brown, Archie Goodwin and Malcolm Lee) who are capable of running an offense.

“Every guy that we have in camp we think can contribute in some way,” Hornacek said. “If they share the ball and we pass to whoever the first guy open is, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

The most intriguing combination to watch develop is expected to be the pairing of Bledsoe and Dragic.

“He can create. I can create. We can share that spot,” Dragic said.

Patience is being preached by those in the organization. To those on the outside, not much is expected from a team coming off a 25-win season.

“Everybody got their own opinion. We know what we have and we know what we got to do,” Bledsoe said. “Outside people don’t expect us to win, but inside the locker room everybody thinks we can win.”

Bledsoe is one of 10 new faces in the locker room. He’s also one of 13 players on what is an 18-man training camp roster with three or fewer years of NBA experience.

“My expectation for success is just to get better, to improve from now through the end of the year,” McDonough said. “What I think is important for this year—the most important thing for me is establishing a culture that’s conducive to winning. I think the good teams have that.

“We can’t try to rush the process or let our record kind of blur the lines about what we’re trying to do. We just got to keep getting better, keep pushing, keep developing our players; find guys who are keepers for the next great Suns team. That’s what we’re looking for.”

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