Sans Amaré, split Suns tie scrimmage

By Michael Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, October 10, 2005

Team showcases fast-paced style in McKale exhibition

The Phoenix Suns showcased their fast-breaking, 3-point shooting offense Saturday in McKale Center in an intrasquad scrimmage that ended in an 83-83 tie.

Suns guard Steve Nash dribbled down the clock but missed on a contested drive to the hoop as time expired.

Neither squad hesitated to shoot early in the shot clock or push the ball up the court, as per the Suns' style of play from last year, when they advanced to the Western Conference Finals and won an NBA-best 62 games.

"I thought it was very competitive, (a) pretty good start," said Suns head coach Mike D'Antoni. "They put up a lot of points in a short amount of time. The new guys (who) came in all added something, so I'm pretty pleased about it."

D'Antoni said that forward Shawn Marion and guard Raja Bell had great games for the Orange team.

Marion led all scorers with 29 points and also grabbed eight rebounds.

"Everybody came out pumped up," Marion said. "The fans has us geeked up around here tonight, and we were out here just playing ball, having fun.

"They love basketball in Tucson just like they love it in Phoenix, so it was a great turnout."

Nash led the White team with 22 points and 11 assists on 9-of-12 shooting, while forward James Jones chipped in 21 points.

Even without a winning team in the game, it was a success for the Suns in integrating 10 new players into their breakneck style of basketball.

That success extended to expanding the Suns' fan base, as 7,688 came out to watch Phoenix's first showcase in McKale since 2000.

The biggest winner may have been the university athletics department's fundraising for a new practice facility, made possible largely through ticket proceeds from the game.

Game receipts raised about $24,000, and a halftime 3-point shooting competition earned another $13,000 in donations.

Suns investors promised to pledge $1,000 for each 3-pointer made by former Suns players Dan Majerle, Vinny Del Negro and former Arizona star Steve Kerr in six tries.

Kerr hit five shots before allowing his son to nail the final shot.

While fans witnessed the up-and-down basketball the Suns trademarked last year, they missed the team's most exciting player, forward Amaré Stoudemire.

Stoudemire's sore left knee, which bothered him through training camp, will likely keep him out of the entire preseason, team sources said.

"He'll go see another doctor to get a second opinion and then we'll have a better picture," D'Antoni said.

The players on the court looked much like the Suns of last year who tossed up more than 2,000 3-point shots in 2004-2005.

Bell scored 24 points off a team-high four 3-pointers. With the offseason trades of swingmen Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson, who were responsible for 1,000 of the Suns' shots behind the arc, Bell figures to have many chances to shoot the long-range shot.

"I was excited that the game kind of opened up, and I was able to see where I fit in," Bell said. "I wasn't necessarily feeling that earlier in the week. We were really spaced, and the game kind of flowed (Saturday) night."

"He'll be shooting it up," D'Antoni said. "He'll get used to it real quick."

The White team jumped out to a 19-8 lead before the Orange team closed the first quarter with a 9-0 run and kept the game close throughout.

Marion sparked an 11-0 Orange run with the first eight points to open the second half, but neither team managed to take control for long.

Marion said he was disappointed the game ended up in a tie.

"My team's won every year, but we're not playing any overtime," he said.

Center Kurt Thomas of the White squad helped keep Marion's team from the win, scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in his first action in a Suns uniform since his trade from the New York Knicks in the offseason.

"I just wanted to come out and be a threat on offense, and I wanted to play good, solid defense and rebound the ball," he said. "I think I did that."

As the Suns left Tucson for their home in the Valley of the Sun yesterday, they can feel good that the team's new pieces like Bell and Thomas started to morph the Suns into a more defensive-oriented team perhaps better suited for the playoffs.

But, as Saturday's exhibition showed, this team can still score.

"The teams split up," Marion said. "We're one team, so we've got 166 points together."