PHOENIX -- Grant Hill was the center of attention Friday at US Airways Center, having agreed to re-sign for a fifth season with the Phoenix Suns, but the two newest Suns were quietly starting to get comfortable with their new teammates.
With the free agent additions of Shannon Brown and Sebastian Telfair, the Suns bolstered their defense and added speed to a system that requires it.
Brown and Telfair both arrived in Phoenix on Thursday and worked out with Suns teammates for the first time Friday. Shortly after the lockout officially ended at noon MST, Suns coach Alvin Gentry praised both players' defensive ability.
"Both of those guys bring a little bit of a defensive presence that can help us as we try to transition into consistently being solid defensively," Gentry said.
Considering the Suns' track record as a subpar defensive team, it's no surprise they made defense a priority in their free agent pursuits. Last season, the Suns allowed more points per game on average than all but one team (Minnesota).
Having played the past two seasons for Los Angeles Lakers, Brown knows the Suns well, particularly what they must accomplish to contend for a spot in the playoffs.
"Of course we know we can score points, but if we can play a little defense and get some stops I think we scare a lot of people," Brown said Friday. "We have a chance to go a long, long way."
Gentry said he sees Brown matching up with the likes of Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade. Telfair is closer to average as a defender, but Gentry noted the Telfair's particular aptitude for on-the-ball defense.
More than their defensive abilities though, Brown and Telfair were recruited for their youth and athleticism. Both are 26 years old and can play an up-tempo game. The Suns knew that, and so did both players.
"The style fits how I do it," Brown said. "I like to get up and down, I like to run, I like to shoot."
Telfair, who agreed to a one-year contract with the Suns, echoed that sentiment and went so far as to call Phoenix the "perfect situation" for him right now.
"This team is an up-and-down team," Telfair said. "That's the way I've been asking to play my entire career and I'm going to get a perfect opportunity to do that right now."
Telfair's ability to play the Suns' fast-paced style will be particularly important, as he'll likely back up Steve Nash at point guard. Gentry said Telfair and Zabian Dowdell, whose contract is not guaranteed, will compete in training camp for the spot, though Telfair seems a clear favorite.
Now on his sixth team in eight NBA seasons, Telfair has been a bit of a journeyman even at 26. A lottery pick out of high school in 2004, Telfair has bounced around the league in trades. His best season so far came with the Timberwolves in 2008-2009, when he averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 assists per game. For his career, Telfair has averaged 7.8 points and 3.8 assists per game.
"I've liked Sebastian since he came into the league," Gentry said. "He had this reputation of what he should have been, and because he wasn't a LeBron James type everybody has a tendency to kind of look at him a little bit as a failure. I don't look at that at all. I think he's been a good solid player in this league.
"I think in a system like ours he'll be able to thrive."
Telfair said the Suns were at the top of his list when free agency began, but he didn't know they would be interested in him. It didn't take much to convince him to choose Phoenix over other offers, and he believes this to be the best opportunity he's had so far in the NBA.
"I knew if I got an opportunity to come here this would be where I'd go," Telfair said. "If I can't be successful here, I don't really know what to do with myself."
Much like Telfair, Brown has been somewhat of a journeyman despite his youth. Prior to joining the Suns, Brown's career featured three D-League stints and stops with four NBA teams. Brown declined a reported 2.4 million option with the Lakers after the best two seasons of his career to join the Suns on a one-year contract reportedly worth 3.5 million. Last season, Brown averaged 8.7 points per game, a career high.
Brown could use his opportunity in Phoenix -- where he'll compete with former Charlotte teammate Jared Dudley for the starting shooting guard spot -- to further elevate his career while no longer backing up Kobe Bryant. The Suns' offensive style, less restrictive than the triangle utilized in Los Angeles, should help as well.
"This benefits my style of play," Brown said. "I think if I get out there and I'm able to play a lot of minutes, good things are going to happen."
Among other things, Brown was particularly drawn to the Suns for the chance to play with Nash. The Suns used Nash's tendency to make the players around him better as a key selling point in recruiting Brown. After their first workout together, Brown was impressed with Nash in a whole new way.
"He's one of the best guys to ever do it as far as giving the ball up," Brown said. "The way he finds people and the way he gets them ball, it's like not only does he trick the opponent, but he tricks his teammates too."
The Suns haven't made any glamorous additions this offseason like many fans would like to see, nor have they change all that much. But in Brown and Telfair they addressed weaknesses of the 2010-2011 team that missed the playoffs while also creating flexibility for the 2012 offseason when they'll be face with Nash's free agency.