Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 12/11/11
PHOENIX -- Last season's attempted mid-stream remedy was a solemn gathering referred to as the "Circle of Power." With uninspired defense and lackluster rebounding credited as motivation, the CofP was designed to seize the attention of Phoenix Suns players. After this NBA version of a pep rally -- which co-starred coaches, players and management -- the Suns had a momentary uprising on their most historically-troublesome side of the basketball floor. This season, they're attempting to avoid the formation of emergency circles by emphasizing defense during training camp. "That was the main thing," Center Marcin Gortat, who's not exactly reluctant to speak up when things go sideways, said after Saturday night's official opening of camp at Grand Canyon University's Recreation Center. "That was our biggest problem last year and that's what we started on ... our biggest problem." OK, let's get to the context. The Suns were 25th in defensive efficiency, 26th in field-goal percentage defense and 28th in defensive-rebounding percentage last season. Mix in a slight dip in offensive prowess, and it's not difficult to understand why they finished 40-42. So do they improve upon those numbers by just trying harder? Well, yeah ... that's part of it. But the Suns also are hoping the addition of assistant coachdefensive "coordinator" Elston Turner will be the impetus for an uprising. Turner, whose philosophies and history were detailed here last week, was hired by the Suns after spending several of the previous 10 seasons (six in Sacramento and the last four in Houston) running the defense for former Kings and Rockets head coach Rick Adelman. When Adelman -- who since has been hired to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves -- was fired by the Rockets, Turner became available. After one session with the Suns, the players he's been hired to make more defensive seemed pretty optimistic. "I think he's going to be really detailed in what he wants from us and what he expects," Suns guard Jared Dudley said. "I think there's going to be accountability. When we mess up, we go again ... there's no cheating it, no shortcuts or cutting corners. It's going to be good for us." To Gortat, who arrived from Orlando in last December's big trade with the Magic, said having Turner brings to mind the time spent with his former team. "He has that type of defensive mentality that Stan Van Gundy has," Gortat said, comparing Turner's focus to that of the Magic head coach, "so I think he's going to be good for us. He put a lot of new things to the team and started working on it and I think he's going to be good. "He's changing a lot of details in the team and if you're someone who's done it as many years as Coach Turner then, obviously, it's easy for you to give it to someone else." Other potential reasons for defensive hope include the re-signing of defensive stopper Grant Hill, the drafting of rough-and-tumble-oriented power forward Markieff Morris, the hire of former Los Angeles Lakers guard Shannon Brown and the free-agent acquisition of Sebastian Telfair. The ultra-athletic Brown defended both guard positions with reasonable gusto while working with the Lakers and is quite aware of how accomplished Steve Nash and the Suns have been at scoring. "If we can play a little defense and get some stops, we can scare a lot of people and we can go a long way," Brown, who's capable of helping to make some of those stops, said. Telfair's name may not be the first NBA fans think of when calling defensive roll among point guards, but he figures to use his considerable quickness to far better defensive advantage than previous Suns backup Aaron Brooks. If Morris demonstrates the capacity to provide the Suns with important minutes backing up Channing Frye, that might cut into the minutes parceled out to Hakim Warrick, who has yet to provoke any accusations of competence as a defender. With those variables seemingly in the Suns' favor, it's up to Turner to make defensive hay during the abbreviated preseason. "I believe that he's teaching very well," Gortat said. "He's explaining with patience and saying it the way everyone can understand." It's better to explain it now than have to do some explaining at Circle of Power, Vol. 2. DAY ONE NOTE Based on salary-cap-related details, the Suns opened camp with only nine players available. Those missing until Vince Carter and his cap number clears waivers were Hill, Telfair, Morris and Zabian Dowdell. The training-camp roster also will include former Seton Hall guard Jeremy Hazell, who averaged over 20 points per game over his last three seasons as a Pirate.
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