Ready or not, here comes the return of NBA basketball.
For the Phoenix Suns and General Manager James Jones, the time is now as the club prepares to depart for Orlando with “preseason” games tipping off in just over two weeks from Walt Disney World.
Life inside the bubble and the compacted continuation of the regular season are unchartered waters for Phoenix, as well as the other 21 teams fighting for or trying to improve playoff positioning.
“It’s going to be a grind,” Jones said on a Zoom call with the media Monday morning. “We’re playing every other day.We do have youth on our side. Young guys recover quicker but I can’t put it any other way besides saying it’s going to be an extreme challenge. [It’s] probably the toughest stretch of basketball – not just the players but the players, staffs, the organizations will have faced probably in the history of the NBA.”
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) July 2, 2020
Another juggling act is playing time and possibly overextending your elite players, like Devin Booker, when it may serve both the individual and team better by limiting the grind on their bodies with a crowded schedule in Orlando.
Jones believes, communication between coaches and players will be at a premium when the regular season resumes later this month.
“We don’t need any heroes, we’ve said that before,” he said without hesitation on the topic. “We need a team of heroes, not a hero. If our guys can go in and push themselves to that limit and give feedback to Monty [Williams]. We’ll monitor their minutes. We will…make sure we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves…collectively, we should be able to maximize what we can do in this short window but you can’t stop players from pushing themselves. The great ones will push themselves and perform.”
“They’re going there to compete,” Jones continued. “I don’t want our guys to go there thinking we’re just coming with eight games to get back in shape so we can ride off into the summer feeling good about our momentum.”
As for the finalized Orlando roster it appears, according to Jones, that’s still a work a progress as the majority of the traveling party leaves on Tuesday.
“We will have players traveling at a later date at some point,” he explained. “Who those players are, we haven’t determined yet.”
One player whose status for Orlando is still uncertain is Kelly Oubre, Jr. who’s been sidelined after having right meniscus surgery earlier this season before the pandemic shut down the season in March. Jones said, despite several unique hurdles Oubre’s had to deal with due to COVID restrictions, he’s hopeful the talented forward will be back on the floor before the season ends in Orlando.
Phoenix’s first regular season game back will be against the Washington Wizards on July 31st at 1:00PM Arizona time.