I ask the question almost every season perhaps with the hope Sean Miller will say: “yes, we’re going to run and run and run some more.”
Every time I ask, he doesn’t say that. Not even close. He hints that his team will be more of an up-tempo team, one that will run and stun with the best of them. In the spring there was hope that he might go that way given his roster would be chock full of gazelles who seemingly could extend the defense, spread the court and, well, run.
He hinted it would. But Monday afternoon in Arizona’s meeting with the media to officially start the season, he took a step back from that … sort of.
“We try to run as much as we can,” Miller said, “especially off misses and makes it’s tough to shoot quick and win on the road. I think a quick shot has to be a great shot.
“A lot of time pace of play is dictated by not when you have the ball (but) when you don’t have the ball. It’s denying passing lanes, trapping and that leads to the other team shooting quicker. All of a sudden the pace of play is up. We want to be good on both ends.”
Then he kind of went there, saying there will “be more space on the court” compared to last year when he played 7-footers Dusan Ristic and Deandre Ayton together most of the time. This year there will be more ball handling and one big on the court and if that makes play a little bit faster than so be it.”
Without saying, he’s saying it. Maybe? But, the preseason conditioning has said it all. With guys like Brandon Randolph, Emmanuel Akot, Brandon Williams, Dylan Smith, Chase Jeter and Ira Lee – all athletic and guard/forward wing types who can run the court well – Arizona will be unlike it has been … even by default.
“All of us can take the ball up the court and make plays and stuff like that,” said Randolph, who is expected to be a key to this team’s success. “That’s the difference between this year and last year.”
What Miller won’t have is the great, deep talent he once had given he lost Ayton, Ristic, Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins and Parker Jackson-Cartwright – all starters. But the group comes in ready, hungry and with some (some) experience. It also has the ability to play different positions, save for the center spot where Jeter will likely be most of the season. But he, too, runs the court well for a big man.
Sean Miller talking about how Brandon Williams can contribute on offense:
“We were always going to play him at more than one position.” pic.twitter.com/cSMNeDMsR9
It’s almost a case where Miller has no choice but to go fast and play in transition, likely not anything similar to the Lute Olson days when he went with a mostly guard-oriented offense behind Damon Stoudamire, Khalid Reeves, Reggie Geary, Joseph Blair and Corey Williams or Mike Bibby, Miles Simon, Mike Dickerson, A.J. Bramlett and Bennett Davison. But, it’ll be one where there will be plenty of interchangeable parts.
“Even with our conditioning program it was way different,” said Lee. “Guys are in better shape and all of us are below 10 percent body fat.”
He added: “It’s better and everything is faster. That’s how we want to go this year. We conditioned hard this year so we expect a lot more running.”
We will believe it when we see it, but I’m guessing we will see it more than ever under Miller.