EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Suns can tighten up during lengthy homestand after challenging open to season
PHOENIX — Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams was chatting with a buddy from another team and they “were both whining like old men” about both of their squads starting the season with three games in four days.
That seemed to play a real factor in the Suns starting 1-2, not looking much like themselves in losses to the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers, the latter of which being the second game of a back-to-back.
But now the Suns are two days into a 14-day stretch at home, and it’s only five games, giving them plenty of time in between to practice.
That is a far cry from last year’s condensed 72-game schedule that presented little to no opportunities to do that.
In the eight occurrences last season when the Suns had at least two days off, it was either followed by a back-to-back or a spurt of three games in four days.
After Saturday’s loss to Portland, Phoenix gets three days before hosting the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, followed by two more days between a Saturday matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Even in the three other games on the homestand, there are still days off between each game.
The Suns will go three weeks without a back-to-back.
With the opportunity, the Suns practiced for two hours on Monday, a rarity for them.
The homestand will be about tightening up what they still need to work on, with all of that being aspects of the game they were great at last year.
“I think so, but also a chance to really get sharp at what we do,” Williams said Monday when asked if they can use this time to improve with new stuff. “Typically you might add a few things and I don’t think that’s where we are right now. I want to get really good with what we have as opposed to adding a wrinkle here or a wrinkle there and I think we have to get into Suns basketball shape.”
Communication was the main takeaway on what was lacking defensively in the losses, specifically on some switches and ball screens against Portland.
“Just connectivity,” forward Jae Crowder said of the issues. “I just felt like we wasn’t connected. As a unit, as a team in the spur of the game. I felt like our defense was loose, those guys felt comfortable and made 20-plus 3s that night because they didn’t feel us from the start of the game and that just can’t happen.”
Williams said that comes with, as he said, getting into Suns basketball shape.
“I think that with conditioning, thank you NBA for three (games in four (days) right out the gate … I’ve always felt like the teams who are in great shape have the wind to communicate. When your legs are gone and you’re a little tired or your first back-to-back, that’s a bit different.
“I think as we go forward we will be a lot better in all of our communications, our sprint-and-turn.”