Six players worked out for the Phoenix Suns on Saturday, and there's a strong chance the team's first-round draft pick was among them.
Flashy point guard Brandon Jennings and forwards James Johnson, Earl Clark, and Austin Daye were among those trying to impress the Suns, who have the No. 14 pick overall in Thursday's draft.
"This is just a really, really good group — motivated,” said David Griffin, the Suns' senior vice president for basketball operations. "James Johnson did a great job of leading these, quite frankly. He was really kind of the one who rallied everybody's effort level today, which is interesting.”
The 19-year-old Jennings, who pulled out of a commitment to play in college at Arizona and spent last season playing sparingly in Italy, said "It wasn't my best workout, but I played pretty well today.”
"I'm a little fatigued, just from traveling all the time,” he said. "I've got to go to Milwaukee tonight and then work out for them, and then New Jersey, so it's been a tough grind for me so far.”
Jennings said he's already worked out for New York, Washington, Indiana and Minnesota.
General manager Steve Kerr said that this year's draft is so unpredictable that Jennings might be available, especially considering the player's background.
"He's really, really skilled and quick but he doesn't have the track record because he didn't play a whole lot in Italy,” Kerr said. "…Chances are he probably is gone by the time we pick but there's a chance he'll be there.”
Johnson, 6-feet-9 and 245 pounds out of Wake Forest, had a workout that was a vast improvement from the one he had for the Suns in May.
"`He was the guy to me that, relatively to expectation level, delivered the best today. We really want people who want to play,” Griffin said, "and James came to play today and proved he wanted to play and that was important because his first workout he really didn't show that.”
Johnson said he's out to prove that he can consistently work hard.
"I'm not afraid to go in there and crash a little bit, rebound a little bit, anything,” he said. "`I'll be a great practice player until I get in the rotation, until I deserve to be in the rotation.”
Kerr praised Johnson's ball-handling ability.
"We've talked a little bit about Rodney Rogers,” Kerr said. "He reminds us a little bit of Rodney, at that size and strength and ball-handling skills. That's an interesting combination.”
Saturday was the Suns' first chance to look closely at Clark, a 6-9, 225-pound forward out of Louisville who said he's worked out for 10 other teams.
"He's a versatile defender. You can see he can get out on the post,” Kerr said. "A couple of times he stayed in front of Brandon Jennings and didn't let him penetrate, which is really tough as quick as he is and as big as Earl is. That's not an easy thing to do, but it's an important skill these days in the NBA to be able to switch off on to smaller guys and guard them.”
Clark, who had to cancel an earlier workout for the Suns because his girlfriend gave birth to their daughter, said he's out to prove his toughness.
"A lot of people look at my body language and think I'm out there cruising,” Clark said. "`I guess I make it look easy. I just want to come out here and be myself and show these teams that I really work hard.”
Daye, a stringbean 6-11, 200-pounder out of Gonzaga, didn't talk to reporters but the Suns already were very familiar with his abilities.
"We know about his shooting range and his length,” Kerr said.
The others who worked out Saturday are 6-6 guard Nick Calathes out of Florida and 6-8 forward Jonas Jerebko, who was born in the United States but grew up and played professionally in Sweden.
After the practice, Kerr briefly addressed the many trade rumors involving the Suns' Shaquille O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire. He said he is considering all possibilities.
"My answer hasn't changed,” Kerr said. "We're not good enough to sit here and say 'Well, everybody's untouchable. We're going forward. We're going to win a title next year.' We're not in that realm, obviously. My job and our job upstairs is to take in as much information as possible and consider every deal and then you go from there. You just try to make your team better.”