The Suns don't necessarily look like a different team to start the 08-09 season, but they have displayed some new game plans already. Led by head coach Terry Porter, Phoenix is certainly a lot more deliberate, both on offense and defense. It looks like they practice defense vs. the quick run-thru's that D'Antoni did when he was here. Guys are rotating on defense and staying on the ball-handler better than they have in the past. Tony Parker burned them on occassion, as did Brandon Roy, but they were able to contain the teams' effectively.
This team has been up (solid 4-1start then a 17 pt loss to ex assistant Vinny Del Negro and The Chicago Bulls).
Turnovers are still a problem, which is unexpected considering the team's age and experience level. Players tend to struggle in new systems, however, so I would hope that the turnovers slowly reduce throughout the season. Sure, they will have lapses and bad games, but they need to get under 20 per game to compete effectively.
Several players that D'Antoni hand-picked for the team are struggling w/ their new roles. Leandro Barbosa, for instance, still thinks he's supposed to run and score as fast as possible. Several times, this has led to trouble and turnovers (charges, missed shots, etc.). Dan Bickley and other local radio guys are already suggesting that Barbosa be traded (to the Knicks, nonetheless), which is most definitely just a knee-jerk reaction to a couple bad plays. Give Leandro some time to adjust and he should be fine. Let's not forget that he missed training camp and the pre-season due to his Mom's illness in Brazil. He's really not played w/ the team or the coaches for very long, so he doesn't know any better. I think its also going to be a problem, that his buddy "Dan D'Antoni" is no longer w/ the team.
Amare Stoudemire looks good, even w/ the the awesome goggles he's wearing after suffering a torn iris in the pre-season. He is easily the Suns best player at this point and has helped in the 4 victories - scoring in the paint against the Spurs and Pacers and cleaning the boards against the Blazers, and Nets.
Raja Bell seems to be the only player complaining about his role right now, which is a shame, because he's come from defensive-minded teams in the past. His complaints/statements recently that "I'm going to shoot when I'm open" stink of selfishness (ala Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, etc.). Let's hope the statements were just out of frustration after the Hornets loss and then he's going to continue being the team's best defender and one of our top 3-point shooters.
Steve Nash looks ok, although it looks at times like he's handling the ball too much. His shot is still there, as is his tendency to push the ball on the break - something Suns fans are no doubt loving.
Shaq looks terrific to start the season - scoring in the paint, rebounding and generally helping on defense. Worth $20+ million?? Probably not, but at the same time, quality centers are hard to come by and O'Neal can still play. He looks pretty good running up & down the court.
Playing time and bench management appear to be a constant strategy for Porter - he's playing the starters less and using the bench more. When the starters come out, however, the 2nd team has failed to protect the lead so Terry has been quick to get 1-2 starters back in the game. In the game against the Trail Blazers, Amare was the one who Porter left in - he's the youngest, so there shouldn't be any harm in playing extra minutes. The time management is also helpful on the back-to-back games, when the team will need the extra energy in the 2nd game. Lou Amundson is playing to much, Porter needs to give those minutes to Alando Tucker when he comes back...Something he wasn't doing when Tucker was healthy.
Overall rating so far.... B- (Could've been a B+, but last night's game brought them down a bit)