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Suns Rising - A Phoenix Suns blog
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Unlike what we saw during last season's lockout, the Suns will have a full preseason slate in 2012. Phoenix will open up training camp on Oct. 1 in beautiful La Jolla, California and then will have their first preseason contest on Oct. 10 against the Kings in Sacramento.

Here is what the full preseason schedule will look like, according to Suns beat writer Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic.

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One of the biggest items that the Suns needed to do this offseason was to make sure they have payroll flexibility for the future and they passed that with flying colors. If they don't add on any payroll, Phoenix will have about $15 million to spend next offseason.

The big name in next year's free agent class that every Suns fan on the planet wants is Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard James Harden. Harden attended Arizona State for two years and has voiced being interested in playing in Phoenix, although he has taken those comments back a bit and said he would like to remain with a championship contender in OKC.

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The biggest question during the NBA offseason wasn't about where a certain free agent would end up signing, but what uniform Dwight Howard was going to end up wearing come next season. Early on, it appeared as thought the Nets were the heavy favorites, but a blockbuster deal fell through and the Magic were back at square one of having to deal with their disgruntled superstar.

There were whispers last week that Howard was set to join the Lakers in Los Angeles. Of course this wasn't a new development so I was included on the long list of those who were skeptical of a trade getting done, but this time around it came true and Howard joins up with Kobe Bryant in LA to form a dream team that might be the favorite to win the whole thing next season.

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Just weeks after dealing Robin Lopez to New Orleans, the Suns have found their guy to backup Marcin Gortat at center. On Friday, the Suns and Jermaine O'Neal agreed on a one-year deal, that will pay the 16-year veteran $1.35 million next season.

Coming straight out of high school, O'Neal has had a very solid NBA career. Even with getting less playing time in recent seasons, JON career wise has averaged more than 13 points and seven rebounds per game. A six-time All-Star, O'Neal's best years came in Indiana where he was considered one of the best power forwards in the game at the time.

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Heading into this offseason, the Suns franchise was at a crossroads. The front office could continue going down the path of being a marginal playoff team and have a roster made up of veterans at the ends of their careers or they could go the younger route and start to rebuild in order to be good for future years to come. Luckily for Suns fans, the organization decided to go with the latter rather than the former.

What a difference a year can make. At right around this time last year, the Suns had an older roster highlighted by Grant Hill and Steve Nash in their late 30's and Michael Redd in his early 30's, but with his best days clearly behind him. Their average age was right around 28.5, one of the highest in the league and an extremely poor number to have for a borderline playoff team.

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After being one of the busiest teams during this offseason, the Suns roster heading into next year is pretty much set. Phoenix will more than likely have a starting five of Goran Dragic, Shannon Brown, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat with some quality talent coming off the bench for Alvin Gentry.

The only real remaining hole on the current roster is the backup center position after the trade of Robin Lopez to New Orleans a few weeks back. Channing Frye has experience playing the five, but there is no guarantee that he will be ready for the start of the season after having offseason shoulder surgery. Scola could spell Gortat as well, but he is best suited to play the four.

The Suns front office will more than likely look to address that situation with the start of training camp not too far away. Here is a list of my top five options who I believe the Suns should look at for the backup center spot.

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In an already busy offseason with lots of roster turnover, the Suns front office will have a different look come next season. Brad Casper stepped down as president of the Suns and now former Chief Operating Officer Jason Rowley took over his position, the organization announced on Thursday.

Here are some comments by Casper, who plans to seek other business ventures.

“I enjoyed my time with the Suns,” said Casper in the release. “It was a wonderful opportunity for me, but ultimately serving the Suns while continuing to juggle a portfolio of other business interests became too much.  I’m grateful to have worked with so many gifted professionals and I look forward to cheering on the team next season.”

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