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The Associated Press

Suns hope to run, gun

Addition of Richardson has them reminiscing about heady days with Barkley aboard.

The Associated Press

PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns believe the signing of Quentin Richardson heralds a return to their run-and-gun days when a strong backcourt and Charles Barkley at power forward made up for the lack of a dominant center.

There also may be a return to the flamboyance that marked Barkley’s years in Phoenix.

Richardson showed up for a news conference yesterday with actress-singer Brandy on his arm, sporting an 11 1/2-carat engagement ring valued at $1 million.

“Getting engaged,” Richardson said, was about the best thing that happened to him this week.

For the Suns, the best thingwas the Los Angeles Clippers’ refusal to match Phoenix’s $43.9 million, six-year offer to the shooting guard, one of four in the NBA to average 17 points and six rebounds last season.

Richardson signed his contract Thursday.

He averaged 12.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 281 career games over four years with the Clippers, with career-bests of 17.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season. He said he believes his best years are ahead.

“The biggest thing I take away when I talked to (Michael) Jordan is, he was the best player in the world, and he felt like he could get better,” Richardson said. “So I feel like I definitely could be better at everything I do – even the things I do well.”

The Suns signed free-agent point guard Steve Nash on July 14, and Richardson gives them potentially their best backcourt since Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle in the early 1990s. They and Barkley, who joined the Suns in 1992, were major factors in the Suns’ run to the 1993 NBA finals.

Amare Stoudemire, the NBA’s 2003 rookie of the year, is established at power forward, and Richardson said he is excited to play with Stoudemire.

“He’s still developing,” Richardson said. “Once he starts getting that much better and he continues to grow, I don’t think he’ll ever lose the nastiness, you know?”

But the 6-foot-10 Stoudemire has no intention of playing center, leaving Jake Voskuhl, Maciej Lampe and rookie Jackson Vroman in the middle.

Coach Mike D’Antoni said the team gained leadership, a better work ethic and young talent this summer, and he declared himself satisfied about playing fast and small.

“A lot of these guys, as soon as you get their contract in front of them, you go, ‘Now, how can you get rid of them?’ “D’Antoni said. “We didn’t want to do that, and it would have been easy to do just by panicking, because everybody says we need a center.

“I believe what we have is good enough, and I think what we have on the perimeter is really good. So I’d rather go that way and take my chances of going into battle with these guys.”

Raptors keep Peterson

NEW ORLEANS – Morris Peterson will stay with the Toronto Raptors, who are matching New Orleans’ three-year, $15 million offer sheet, Hornets general manager Allan Bristow said.

The Raptors wouldn’t confirm that they’re keeping Peterson, but Bristow said Toronto general manager Rob Babcock told him of the decision and sent along the paperwork.

Peterson was Toronto’s first-round pick in 2000. He played in every game for the Raptors last season, starting 29, and averaged 8.3 points and 3.2 rebounds.

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