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Point guard biggest question as Suns open camp

September 24, 2018

Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton poses for photographer Mark Rebilis during media day at the NBA basketball team's practice facility in Phoenix, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix Suns have made a host of roster moves for what they expect to be a vastly improved season ahead.

“I feel like we checked most of the boxes on our to-do list this summer,” general manager Ryan McDonough said at the team’s media day Monday. “We have more shooting. We have potentially a better defensive team. And we have a lot of veteran guys to teach our young guys how to win and help them win.”

But one glaring question remains. Just who is the point guard?

There is no experienced point guard among the 17 players who head north for the Suns’ weeklong training camp at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

“I figured that would be the first question,” McDonough said. “We’re young there. We’re inexperienced there.”

The team has four point guards, including rookies Elie Okobo and De’Anthony Melton. The veterans are Isaiah Canaan, who was playing well for Phoenix until a gruesome leg injury ended his season, and Shaquille Harrison.

A trade remains a possibility.

“We don’t have the proven players there that I think we have to some extent (at positions) two through five,” McDonough said. “So we’ll go up to training camp with this group but throughout the preseason and probably up to the trade deadline we’ll continue to evaluate trade possibilities as well.”

The goal, McDonough said, “is to be the most improved team in the league.”

To accomplish that the Suns have shaken up the roster, including the addition of the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in Deandre Ayton, and brought in coach Igor Kokoskov, who said he wasn’t interested in hearing how young and talented the team is.

“We don’t want to be young and talented,” said Kokoskov, the top assistant to Quin Snyder with the Utah Jazz before coming to Phoenix.

If he wasn’t before, Devin Booker is the unquestioned face of the franchise after signing a five-year, $158 million contract. Booker will miss training camp after undergoing surgery on his right (shooting) hand but has set opening night as his goal to return.

He said he welcomes the responsibilities that come with the big money.

“I’m not representing myself anymore, not representing my family, but representing a whole franchise, a city, a storied organization,” Booker said. “With fans that are ready to win, with a whole organization that’s ready to win. It’s a good pressure to have. That I feel like I’m built for. With a great supporting cast around me I think it’s going to be a very exciting year.”

Suns fans sure could use some excitement. The team has missed the playoffs for eight years in a row. Last year, Phoenix had the worst record in the NBA (21-61) and second-worst in franchise history.

McDonough has said it’s time for some wins.

Newcomers include small forward Trevor Ariza, signed as a free agent, and power forward Ryan Anderson, acquired in a trade with Houston. Forward Josh Jackson is back for a second season after a strong second half to his rookie year, and high-scoring T.J. Warren reportedly is working on his outside shot, an aspect of his game that’s been missing.

The 7-foot-1 Ayton is literally at the center of it all. The big guy played some power forward collegiately at Arizona but he will be strictly a center in the NBA.

“They take this life very serious,” Ayton said of his short time as a pro. “Like this is really a job. You’ve got to take care of your body every day. You’ve got to watch what you’re doing off the court as well.”

Ayton has had a most good-natured Twitter rivalry with Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid but he wasn’t talking about that Monday, saying he couldn’t talk until he’d played the game.

Acknowledging he has a mischievous side, Ayton was asked when he would let more of that show.

“As soon as I put the ball in the hoop,” he said.

And what do most people not understand about him?

“The monster about me,” he said.

Suns fans can only hope.

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