EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Phoenix Suns keeping practice gym lively leading up to season opener

Oct 16, 2021, 4:20 PM
Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams, right, talks with guard Cameron Payne during the first half of t...

Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams, right, talks with guard Cameron Payne during the first half of the team's preseason NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns won 117-105. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — A cycle of training camp and preseason games before the real deal of an NBA season may seem pretty simple to most, a one plus one equals two type of deal, but there is an intricate art to teams and players finding the right balance of preparation heading into the regular season.

After the Phoenix Suns wrapped up the preseason on Wednesday and don’t play again until the opener the following Wednesday, they’ve got to try and get their conditioning and flow for the game in the right spot with a week off of games. On a typical schedule with a game every 2-3 days, that takes care of itself eventually.

But starting with those two factors in as good of a place as possible is important.

Head coach Monty Williams will tweak practices and their intensity based on what his group needs. Small conversations between him and the players will allow him to assess where guys are at and what is required.

Thursday was not only a day the Suns didn’t practice but also a “blackout day” as Williams calls it, where just about everyone is out of the gym. That includes the coaches, trainers and so on. Williams said players can still come in and get shots on their own if they want but that’s the extent of it.

Friday was cardio work mixed in with a focus on schematic things, and the players knew Saturday was going to be what they wanted, a practice mostly filled with 5-on-5 scrimmaging.

Williams said coaching his players at the start of the day was “almost like holding back a pack of bulls” because they have a certain desire to compete and were chomping at the bit to get after it.

He took in that notion, running just one warmup drill before letting them go full bore for over an hour.

Veteran forward Jae Crowder emphasized how days like Saturday help the players get in the right spot before the season gets underway.

“Trying to find that shape and that rhythm part of it,” he said. “Just trying to get back into that basketball flow. You can work out and do drills all day long but there’s nothing like playing the game with four other players on your team.”

As you can imagine with this group especially, the scrimmages get competitive, and forward Mikal Bridges was sure to inform the media that the black team (normally the starters) has been outperforming the white team (normally the reserves) in those scrimmages.

“Nah I ain’t even gonna start with Mikal,” guard Cam Payne, a frequent member of the white squad, said.

“That’s what it’s about. That makes everyone better when you know, ‘Man, if I don’t win today I’m gonna hear it until tomorrow.’ It just makes everybody come to work ready because everybody want to have that nod and say, “Aw yeah, y’all won yesterday?'” he added.

Crowder likes to mix it up on both teams, implying with a smile and a laugh that he likes to run with the white team sometimes to help them out.

This chatter obviously is shared on the court.

“It’s always someone constantly talking or boost themselves and get their team going,” Bridges said.

It’s certainly a gym environment that is conducive to success, which was proven to be the case last season and very likely will again this year.

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