PHOENIX — Suns players closed training camp with a practice in Flagstaff on Saturday morning. Naturally, their return to the Valley for a scrimmage Saturday night at the Madhouse on McDowell began sloppily.
Eventually, the timing came back, making for a competitive and spirited close to training camp in the intimate confines of the team’s first home, Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
“We really emphasized defense in training camp and really putting on a lot of pressure,” said head coach Jeff Hornacek, who wore throwback Suns warmups at the beginning of the scrimmage. “They had a lot of fouls in that first half, gave up a lot of free throws.”
Free throws helped the losing team’s starting lineup of Brandon Knight, Sonny Weems, T.J. Warren, Jon Leuer and Alex Len build a double-digit lead against a squad led by Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin, Tyson Chandler, P.J. Tucker and Mirza Teletovic. But that squad would rally from a 50-39 halftime deficit to win 67-66 on Bledsoe’s layup with six seconds left.
“It was good to see now the competitiveness in front of the crowd, how the guys responded,” Hornacek said. “We’re not there yet. You saw plays where they just barely missed the pass, they had some extra turnovers, they’re just not familiar with one another.”
MORRIS SITS OUT
Power forward Markieff Morris wore street clothes at the scrimmage due to a hip strain that Hornacek said was not a major injury. He was introduced mostly to cheers, but he also received some boos after his roller coaster of an offseason.
TIP OF THE HAT
The Suns honored the heritage of their first home, bringing back greats like players Walter Davis and Alvin Adams, plus trainer Joe Proski and former owner Jerry Colangelo.
The Gorilla descended from the ceiling during one timeout and a marching band provided a unique sound in the arena. The dim lighting of Veterans Memorial Coliseum added to the old school setting.
“It’s a place I think the noise reverberates around here,” Hornacek said. “I think the guys enjoyed it.”
HE SAID IT
“I hope the trainer took those things. The guys in the locker room got a kick out of it when I put it on, but then they were saying, ‘Hey, those are pretty cool. We should get a set of those.’ ”
— Jeff Hornacek on his old school warmups that he wore before the game
BOX SCORE HEROES
Bledsoe led all scorers with 15 points for the Black Team and he was matched by 15 points from rookie Devin Booker. Mirza Teletovic had 12 points and Tyson Chandler added 14 boards on the night.
For the White Team, Weems led the charge with 14 points and went 2-of-5 from three-point range. Leuer (12 points, nine rebounds) and Knight (10 points, five assists) also scored in double figures. Len picked up seven personal fouls — there was no fouling out in the scrimmage – and had 11 rebounds.
WHAT WE LIKED
– Leuer looked capable as a roll man early in what started out as an organized scrimmage. His White team took a double-digit lead before the Black squad led by Bledsoe and Chandler got on the board with Archie Goodwin forcing a foul call. The former Memphis Grizzlies power forward hit a short floater off a screen and took a one-dribble pull-up jumper in transition. He also showed good awareness, making the extra pass to Len when a guard found him rolling to the basket, where he was met by Len’s man. Later, Leuer led a fastbreak and held the ball until the lone defender back committed, then made the pass to Weems for a layup.
– Weems looked ready to take Gerald Green’s role as an exciting bench scoring threat. He drilled a transition three-pointer, hit a fadeaway over a defender and got to the foul line early on. Weems showed solid focus on the defensive end and even when plays broke down didn’t force shots, as exemplified by his four assists on the night. Of course, Goodwin and Booker will challenge for his minutes as well.
– Perhaps it’s an overreaction from a scrimmage, but it was promising to see the Suns settle in after an ugly start. When they got into their sets, they emphasized dumping the ball into the post and running sets from there. That led to a number of extra passes, a good sign to see even if they often ended in turnovers.