PHOENIX — Not the circus, not Disney On Ice, not even a concert or pay-per-view wrestling event had ever been big enough to compel the Phoenix Suns to go elsewhere for practice.
But then US Airways Center had never, until Tuesday, hosted Super Bowl Media Day, the biggest spectacle leading up to the biggest game in sports.
So, with more than 2,000 credentialed journalists (both real and fringe), the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and other NFL personnel invading their home, the Suns invaded someone else’s home. Tuesday, they held practice at the home of their principal owner, Robert Sarver.
“The accommodations are good over here at Robert’s house,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said.
Relocating practice, while not ideal, especially the day before the Suns host the Washington Wizards, was an easy call considering the logistics of Media Day.
The Suns traveled as much equipment as needed and setup a makeshift training area just off to the side of the court, the same floor which was used for the 2009 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix.
“First of all, (Sarver has) got a great gym here,” said Hornacek, talking to reporters via a conference call. “I think it’s always good to get to another place and have a practice. I thought the guys were great today. We had a great practice. They really got after it.”
After back-to-back losses, they needed to.
Having opened their franchise-record eight-game homestand 4-0, the Suns have now lost two in a row to fall to 26-20. And while they still sit eighth in the very competitive Western Conference, their hold on the final playoff spot is down to a game-and-a-half with New Orleans nipping at their heels thanks to a four-game winning streak.
What’s happened? Easy. The defense.
In the two losses, the Suns allowed 52.4 and 49.4 percent shooting to Houston and the Clippers, respectively. They had held teams to 45.1 percent combined in their previous four wins.
Hornacek pointed to poor communication, especially in transition, guards not putting enough pressure on ball handlers and bigs stepping too far out to challenge a shot, which leaves the basket unprotected.
“Those are a bunch of little things that add up,” he said. “We’re just trying to eliminate as many as those as we can.”
The practice lasted roughly 90 minutes and also included some tweaks offensively.
“Get a couple more options,” said Hornacek, whose team had three sub-24 point quarters in the loss to the Clippers — the fourth time that’s happened this year. “As you go on through the season, it’s always good to put a few different wrinkles that become part of the normal offense that you’re just waiting for timeouts to use them…because teams will scout. I thought out guys picked them up pretty well today.”
The Suns handed the Wizards just their sixth loss of the season when they beat them 104-92 in Washington on Dec. 21. A second straight win would give the Suns their first sweep in the series since 2010-11.
“I think [our] guys realize that they’re pretty close, and if we just shore up some certain things that they can get in these playoffs,” Hornacek said. “They came in today focused.”