The Suns’ training camp in 2006 will be a European vacation. Tuesday, the NBA confirmed what has been known since early October — that the Suns would head to Italy as one of four teams that will hold camp and part of the preseason overseas.
"NBA Europe Live" will also include the San Antonio Spurs (Lyon, France), Philadelphia 76ers (Barcelona, Spain) and Los Angeles Clippers (Moscow, Russia), all of whom will hold training camp, compete against top European basketball clubs and each other in seven European cities in five countries.
With general manager Bryan Colangelo and coach Mike D’Antoni’s roots, Italy was the natural home for the Suns. They will hold camp at La Ghirada, a state-of the-art training center in Treviso (one hour north of Venice) and will play a game against Virtus Lottomatica Roma in Rome on Oct. 6.
The Suns have several players with international roots from Leandro Barbosa (Brazil) to Pat Burke (Ireland) to Boris Diaw (France), but others like Kurt Thomas have never visited Europe.
"It’s going to be a great team trip and an experience they won’t forget," said D’Antoni, who holds Italian citizenship and speaks Italian fluently after playing 13 years (1977-90) for Philips Milan and coaching Benetton Treviso for two different stints. "And personally, returning to a place with so many great memories is very exciting."
Phoenix will end its trip in Cologne, Germany, in a four-team tournament that will open with games between the 76ers and the Suns and the 2005-06 Euroleague Basketball champion and runner-up.
The winners and losers of each game will meet on Oct. 11 to conclude the tournament.
"Training camp isn’t everyone’s favorite time of the year, so to have a chance in a setting like this is really exciting," said Suns guard Steve Nash, one of several Phoenix players who are immensely popular overseas. "I love to travel and I love Italy, and for me to get a chance to go with the whole team and bond will be great for everyone. Italy has its own very special culture and traditions."
The Suns have never held training camp outside of the state but have played exhibition games in Israel, Italy and Germany and opened the 1990-91 regular season with two games against the Utah Jazz in Tokyo.