Amaré Stoudemire hasn’t been on the floor for Terry Porter’s new offensive and defensive schemes. Leandro Barbosa has barely seen them.
As for the rest of the Suns, one week isn’t enough to turn them into the San Antonio Spurs from a defensive perspective, but they will show the new points of emphasis tonight when they open the preseason against Atlanta at US Airways Center.
Ex-Sun Joe Johnson will see some familiar faces tonight — but the style of play his old team will unveil might be unrecognizable. The Suns are now a team that will lean on set plays and half-court execution.
“We’re working hard to be better defensively and we have a vision of what we want to accomplish,” Suns guard Steve Nash said. “On offense, we’re slowing everything down just so we can learn to play at this pace.”
Nash is relying on general manager Steve Kerr’s edict that the Suns will still do what they’ve done best and Porter’s offensive teachings are an add-on to help them paint with a broader brush.
“We need to have more structure and more options, but we’re obviously still a team that’s going to get out and run in transition. Hopefully, the truth will lie somewhere in the middle.”
Tonight’s game is the first of three in four days — a rare scheduling quirk for the preseason — and Porter said he will play 10-11 people tonight, which accounts for just about all the available bodies. Those who play more against the Hawks might play less Thursday, when the Suns are in Utah to play the Jazz.
Neither Barbosa, who remains in Brazil with his seriously ill mother with no set timetable for his return, nor Stoudemire will play for at least a week.
Stoudemire was sporting his first attempt at goggles as he rode the exercise bike and worked out on the side Tuesday. He had some difficulty with sweat buildup and fogging, but remains determined to wear them in practices and games.
He will take part in this morning’s shoot-around and extra work with coaches to begin the road back, stamina-wise, from ankle and eye injuries that have kept him on the sidelines most of the last three weeks.
“It’s definitely frustrating because I worked so hard in the offseason to be ready. I was working out four times a day at one point,” he said. “But having to sit out with the ankle first and then the eye puts me back to square one.”
Stoudemire said he’s on track to play in at least three or four preseason games, which is enough to prepare for the Oct. 29 regular-season opener at San Antonio. And he’s had no problem with his knees, which loomed as a big concern at this point last season.
Porter said he will use the first three games and the strange scheduling quirk (“What is this, January already?” he asked) to look at different combinations and units before settling into a rotation next week. The starters tonight are expected to be Nash and Raja Bell at guard, Grant Hill and Boris Diaw at forward and Shaquille O’Neal at center, with Matt Barnes, Goran Dragic and Robin Lopez the first subs off the bench.