Friday, September 19, 2008

Tired Legs and Phoenix Suns Fantasy Camp

I was fortunate enough to attend a Phoenix Suns fantasy camp earlier this week. The best line I've heard so far about my participation in the event was from my coworker when she asked, "is that for adults?"

Think what you want about these type of things but know this: they're a good time. A really good time.

The day started off with registration and various legal mumbo jumbo. After assuring the corporate sponsor and the Suns that I wouldn't come back to haunt them if my hamstring exploded, a team representative led us downstairs to the visitors locker room.

After burying my desire to firebomb the room the Chicago Bulls celebrated a championship in, I found the locker with my name above it. There was a brand-spanking new, Shaquille O'Neal Suns home jersey in it. While I would surely prefer an Amare or Nash, or even Raja jersey, this was still pretty damn cool.

We head to the main court (did I mention we're in US Airways Center?) and are able to shoot around for a bit. Eventually, Tim Kempton, former Suns benchwarmer and current radio color analyst for Suns broadcasts comes to center court and gathers us around. Tom Leander (Suns play by play announcer for away games,) John Shumate (former Sun and current head scout,) and the great Alvan Adams soon join him. These four gentlemen will be our coaches for the afternoon.

We're broken up in two groups, orange jerseys and white jerseys. We white jerseys follow Shumate and Leander downstairs to the practice court, where we're divided into two more groups. Shumate will run us through defensive drills and Leander will run us through shooting drills.

We visited Leander after Shumate, and his part of the clinic was more casual and relaxed. Layup drills, pick and pop, things like that. Nice and easy.

Shumate, on the other hand, made us work, and had fun doing it. I haven't had to "break it down" since high school. I blame him for my still tired legs but can't hold a grudge. The man is a joy to be around.

Next up was Alvan Adams and some tips on passing and rebounding. Adams is about the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet. He even ably handled a Laker fan in our midst (lets call her CT,) a woman who refused to wear the O'Neal jersey "because she HATES Shaquille O'Neal and LOVES Kobe Bryant."

Once our time was up with Alvan Adams, we moved down to Tim Kempton's side of the court where we worked on our ball-handling. Getting ball-handling tips from a 7-footer was a first for me, but Kempton did a nice job and moves much better than I originally gave him credit for.

The clinic portion of the day complete, we're given a much needed break. While myself and the rest of my fellow out of shape basketball fans are toweling off and attempting Gatorade IVs, Cedric Ceballos strolls to center court, and the Suns Dancers and Gorilla appear in the tunnel.

Turns out that before our full court, four quarter scrimmage, Ced will introduce us one by one, the lights will go out, and the standard Suns intro will play on the scoreboard and the speakers while the dancers gyrate and the Gorilla does his thing.

In the midst of grinning ear to ear and soaking it all in, I hear Ced bellow out my name, my cue to run to center court, give the Gorilla a high five, and pose for a picture with the Suns Dancers, the Gorilla, and our four coaches for the day.

To say this was the highlight of the day to this point would be selling it short.

Unfortunately, we were soon brought down to earth again, because it was scrimmage time. Four ten minute quarters, where despite plenty of substitutions and breaks in the action, my legs would turn to rubber and not one of my three attempted shots would fall.

By the fourth quarter every attendee save for a few with young legs was totally gassed. One of these young'uns broke free for an uncontested layup late in the game but to help keep things close and to probably knock this young man down a peg or two, Alvan Adams casually strolled onto the court, slapped the ball out of the kids' hands on his way up, and cool as a cucumber walked off the court. When you're in the Suns Ring of Honor you're allowed to do those type of things.

Last but not least, after cleaning up from the scrimmage, we were served delicious food and ice cold beer, while Rick Welts, the Suns President and Chief Operation Officer, spoke to us about the direction of the franchise on the business end of things and what to expect from the team this season.

Welts was fantastic.

After listening to him speak and engage us, it's easy to see how the man has been so successful in everything he has done. He's very, very excited for the upcoming All-Star Weekend, and looks forward to the Suns proving the media and their predictions wrong.

Welts explained that earlier in the day all the owners came to the arena to watch the team practice and after discussions with the coaching staff, they agreed the team had ably filled its three biggest holes:

-Robin Lopez is a big body in the paint who will bring energy, toughness, and rebounding, and will be a guy who can easily step in for Shaq if/when the big man goes down.

-Goran Dragic is better than advertised and there's very good reason the Suns' scouts have been drooling over his talent and what he brings to the table.

-in a roundabout way, Matt Barnes adds depth to the team, as he will be starting and Grant Hill will move to the bench this season.

This last point just about floored everyone in attendance, but it sounds like this is what Coach Porter and Hill want to do.

Once again, Welts was fantastic, and I very much enjoyed listening to him. What's more, he took a great number of questions and answered each and every one in great detail.

After he had the chance to knock a few softballs out of the park, I threw him another one and asked if there was any concern for Amare going elsewhere after exercising his early termination option in 2010, despite the fact that the collective bargaining agreement allows the Suns to offer him the most money.

Welts was very direct in answering my question, letting us know that Amare has always been part of the Suns family and always will be. The team will be taking a proactive approach to his next contract and hopes to get something done before the option can even enter the discussion.

Thrilled to have listened to Welts and been a part of a great day, I gingerly walked to my car, Shaquille O'Neal jersey and picture of me with the Suns dancers and those other guys in hand.


Robert said...


Gantry said...

Did you get any pictures of yourself with any famous "Bulls celebrate title #3" landmarks in said locker room? Because I would have...

McLane said...

I dislike that Gantry fellow a great, great deal.

clydesdale said...

that sounds like a good time.

clydesdale said...

what did "CT" stand for?

Sashka25 said...

Wow.. I was at this camp also. Kind of cool to read about it from a link on TrueHoop.

Josh Rogers said...

Where did you sign up for the camp? How much did it cost?