Training camp opens for Suns, point guard competition underway
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Despite training camp starting on Tuesday, the expectation is the Phoenix Suns will make a trade for a point guard before the start of the season.
There is, quite simply, no other way to look at it given the current roster and how the Suns have been adamant about the team’s rebuild ending.
After finishing with the league’s worst record last year, the Suns want to win now. It’s hard to do that if Isaiah Canaan, Shaquille Harrison, De’Anthony Melton or Elie Okobo are starting at the most important position on the court.
Canaan has spent most of his career on the end of NBA rosters, Harrison has under 30 games of NBA experience and both Melton and Okobo are rookies picked in the second round.
With that being said, that trade is just theoretical for the time being, and that means there’s a position battle underway in Flagstaff and throughout the preseason.
“We’ll go up to training camp with this group, but throughout the preseason — and probably up until the trade deadline — we’ll continue to evaluate trade possibilities as well,” general manager Ryan McDonough said Monday at the Suns’ media day.
They will also treat the position differently.
“One of the things we’ve talked about is being creative with our wings,” McDonough said.
“Even if we might not have a traditional, established point guard, [head coach Igor Kokoskov] and his staff have been thinking of creative ways to get the ball moving side-to-side and get it in the hands of our playmakers,” McDonough said.
After Tuesday’s practice wrapped up, there weren’t many strong takes from head coach Igor Kokoskov on any player.
“It’s [the] first practice, I wouldn’t go that far,” Kokoskov said regarding the competition heating up in a non-contact practice.
Tuesday, more so, was about the team’s first practice and establishing ground going forward.
“A lot of teaching, a lot of stations, a lot of breakdowns,” he said. “Being familiar with the concept, being familiar within your terminology you are going to use once we start playing for real and against each other and for [that] we have to speak (the) same language, use the same terminology.”
That moment will come later on Tuesday for a second practice when the team will go head-to-head against each other for the first time during training camp.
That will include the point guard battles, something the coaching staff will surely be keeping a close eye on compared to other matchups on the floor.
“They’re excited, they’re anxious — in a good positive way — and they know they have to (compete),” Kokoskov said. “It’s open competition so whatever (the) team needs they will have to perform.”
Kokoskov elaborated on what he wants to see from the young floor generals.
“They have to be solid, in (their) best shape, they have to know the system, they have to put the guys in the right spots when it comes to executing the game plan,” he said. “They have to know what we’re doing and it starts with the defense.”
At the end of the day, the Suns and Kokoskov can’t treat the situation like that starting-caliber point guard is coming. It’s too late for that this close to the start of the season.
“I love my team,” Kokoskov said when asked about the buzz regarding the acquisition of another point guard. “I love my team and they can sense it and they can feel it.
“This is our team, this is our group, and if we go and we have a basketball fight and this is what we have, then we’re gonna fight with the tools and kind of players we have today.”
— Outside of shooting guard Devin Booker missing training camp due to the surgery on his right hand, the only other name missing is forward Darrell Arthur due to an undisclosed medical situation.
The 30-year-old veteran Arthur was originally headed for a buyout after being traded to the Suns in mid-July, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi. Arthur, though, could be seen as an asset for the Suns on the trade market. His $7.4 million expiring contract could serve as a way for the Suns to match salary numbers coming back to them in a trade.
— Speaking of Booker, he is with the team and worked out with his left hand exclusively after practice. Booker said he is just now able to move the joint where the surgery took place. He has physical therapy twice a day and isn’t sure when he will be able to get the splint off and start using his right hand.