SALT LAKE CITY • As a team, the Suns have struggled in the summer league called the Rocky Mountain Revue.
But the whole point of the league has much less to do with winning than developing players' skills.
And here, the Suns (1-3) have come up winners in at least two cases. Along with rookie Zarko Cabarkapa, who has been a revelation, veteran Joe Johnson has excelled.
Through the Suns' first four games, Johnson has led the team in scoring with 20.5 points per game. For good measure, he also has rolled up 6.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.
Johnson blossomed into a consistently effective defensive player last season. But his offense veered up and down.
This week, Johnson has scored at least 19 points in three of the four games, with a high of 32.
"I have no doubts about myself," said Johnson. "I'm playing with confidence."
Mike D'Antoni, the Phoenix assistant who is helping guide the Suns’ entry in the league, credits the 6-foot-7, 235-pound Johnson for losing about 8-to-10 pounds from last season.
"We think that will help his quickness without losing any strength."
JACOBSEN STILL LEARNING
Making less of an impact in the summer league is Casey Jacobsen, who will be entering his second year with the Suns.
Jacobsen had a big game in the Suns opener, a win over Utah, with 23 points. He's been less impressive since then, but still has posted overall solid numbers: 11.3 points on 47 percent shooting plus 3.8 rebounds per game. Jacobsen's shooting was a disappointment last season. D'Antoni said Jacobsen "has been working hard on his shot" this summer and is learning to make the transition from being the "go-to player" at Stanford to learning to pick his most effective spots in the NBA.
The Suns have made a couple of staff changes. Gone is Robin Pound, the team’s strength and conditioning coach for 12 seasons. Some of his duties will be picked up by assistant trainer Casey Smith. Also gone is Ron DuBois, the assistant video coordinator and a former player at Arizona State. He has accepted an assistant coaching spot at California-Davis.