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Suns heading to training camp with high hopes – and guards aplenty

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PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns defied expectations in 2013-2014 by recovering from the second-worst season in franchise history and narrowly missing the playoffs.

With the team set to start training camp, Lon Babby, president of basketball operations, said the Suns and coach Jeff Hornacek are starting from a much better position this time around between last season’s success and offseason signings.

“Jeff can start from a higher teaching level, and our players already have a camaraderie that’s in place,” Babby said at the Suns’ media day Monday. “I think all of this was designed to make sure that we can move forward from that higher level and give ourselves the best chance of having a great season.”

The team, which went from 25 wins in 2012-2013 to a 47-33 record last season, heads to Flagstaff this week for training camp at Northern Arizona University’s Walkup Skydome.

The Suns are heavy in point guards between sealing a five-year, $70 million contract with restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe and a sign-and-trade deal that brought Isaiah Thomas from the Sacramento Kings. Star point guard Goran Dragic is under contract through next season. And the team selected Tyler Ennis from Syracuse with the 18th pick in the 2014 draft.

The team extended deals for forwards – and brothers – Markieff and Marcus Morris.

The team is also taking to Flagstaff another 2014 first-rounder: T.J Warren, the 14th pick overall, a small forward from North Carolina State.

General Manager Ryan McDonough said that going into last season, the goal was just to give young players an opportunity to play.

“This summer, we were in a different spot,” he said. “We had good success last year. We were the most improved team in the league.”

Hornacek said the team’s focus will be improving execution on offense and one-on-one defense but also how players work together.

“Hopefully just like last year they cheer each other on, they want each other guy to do well, and that makes our team better,” he said.

Siblings Goran and Zoran Dragic, a rookie guard, will be playing together for the first time in the NBA.

“They just kind of innately know what they’re doing.” Hornacek said. “It’s obviously they’ve played together forever, so they know each other’s moves and when they’re going to cut, so hopefully we can get that throughout our whole team.”

While Isaiah Thomas joked that he wanted to find a cousin or distant relative to join the team, the Morris twins joked that they a family advantage over the Dragics.

“We’re twins, so it’s a little different,” Markieff said.

The Morris twins, who even have all of the same tattoos, said the only option for them was to play for the same team.

“Ever since day one, the first day we picked up a basketball, this has been our dream to be on the same NBA team,” Markieff said. “We did it in college, we did it in high school and now the Suns made our dream come true.”