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Kelly comes back to The Valley, struggles against the Suns

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The man who inspired The Valley movement had an awful showing in his return to Phoenix.

Golden State Warriors v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

How do you like those City Edition uniforms? Are they “fresh?” Maybe you prefer “cool,” “sexy,” or “dope.” If you are a younger Suns fan, rumor has it words like “on fleek,” “snatched,” or “drip” are your adjectives to describe the black uniforms with a pixelated sunset and “The Valley” across the front. Note, those terms are rumors; I’m 38 and have no idea how kids these days talk. I Googled it, mmmkay?

Make no mistake about it, the #WeAreTheValley tagline the Phoenix Suns are promoting this season would not exist had it not been for Kelly Paul Oubre, Jr.

The inspiration for embracing the Valley moniker has direct ties to the former Phoenix Suns’ forward. He and Deandre Ayton, on a plane ride from Sacramento to Phoenix, discussed the term that would define his time with the team. Their phrase “Valley Boyz” would lead to a clothing line, pop up shops, and a fanbase that finally had an identity.

The culmination of Oubre’s influence was officially announced on November 12, 2020:

Five days later the Phoenix Suns would trade Oubre to the Oklahoma City Thunder as a part of the deal that brought Chris Paul to the Valley.

Ouch.

Oubre subsequently was traded to the Golden State Warriors following the injury of All-Star Klay Thompson. The team was in need of shooting and their hope was Kelly would provide a spark.

Justified or not (I’ll let you be the judge and jury), Kelly had some parting thoughts on his time in Phoenix as it pertained to the Valley movement:

“That’s something I created, went through all the legal processes about it all, just went through trying to help a city come up from the ashes,” Oubre said of Valley Boyz moniker. “That’ll always be an energy that’s in the air. I can continuously just be proud of that, when I look back at who the Valley Boyz were, who the Valley Boyz are. I think they changed the Valley Boyz to the Fellaz. They can have the Fellaz, man.”

Come Thursday night, Kelly Oubre had his first game against those Fellaz. Human nature brings to reason that this was a date that Tsunami Papi circled on his calendar; a return to the city that adopted his appellation then sent him packing. It should have been January 15, but due to health and safety protocols, that game was postponed. So January 28 it was.

Was this going to be the Kelly Oubre Revenge Game? Would he make the team feel sorry for trading him? Was Charles Barkley right for stating at halftime that the Suns should have kept him as a member of the team?

Entering the game, Kelly hadn't been having the year he or the Warriors had envisioned. His per-game average of 12.1 points was down 6 points from last season. While he was a 34.1% three-point shooter in Phoenix, his abysmal 22.3 percent on five threes a game was underwhelming. Infamously he shot 4.8 percent from three in December. Golden State has a net rating of +12.5 points per 100 possession with him on the bench.

Would this change against Phoenix? Would he be inspired to dominate his old team? Would he be blowing kisses to an empty Phoenix Suns Arena? No. Nope. LOL, no.

Oubre’s performance on Thursday night reminded Suns fans why he was traded.

Do we respect the man for who he is as an individual and what he has done for the city? Sure. That is a sperate conversation. But as a basketball player? The guy can become a black hole on offense, doesn’t effectively pass, and lacks defensive prowess. Watching him play last night we were reminded that not much has changed.

Kelly has started every game for the Warriors this season. He averages 34.9 touches per game, fourth most on the team. His passes made per game? 20.0; eighth on the team. He is tenth on the team in assist points created at 3.3 per game. This is just an advance metrics way to justify some of the statements above.

Thursday night was a rough one for Kelly. 4 points. 1-for-11 from the field. 0-for-5 from deep. To add insult to injury, he butt flopped on a drive against Cameron Johnson midway through the 4th:

Oh. Then there was a missed dunk. No kisses or shhhh’s after this one...

In his 5-year NBA career, only an 0-for-5 shooting night against the Brooklyn Nets in 2017 was a worse starting performance than he had last night. He undoubtedly wanted to perform better and, fortunately for the Suns, he didn’t.

As much as I loved Kelly in Phoenix, I didn’t love his game. Couple that with the fact that he is in the last year of his deal, and what Charles Barkley said relative to keeping Oubre is downright ridiculous. His price for valued paid on the hardwood and knowing that he was a flight risk made it an easy decision for James Jones.

Chuck was right.

The Suns may lack an identity right now. But the team has a ceiling much higher without Kelly on the team. Callous and cruel as it may be to hear it, it is a facts. Oubre has not shown the progression he (and we) had hoped for this year. He has solid wing potential but he was replaceable.

When asked about playing against his former teammate, Mikal Bridges stated is his postgame presser, “I miss my guy.”

Frank I-carried-the-team-to-victory Kaminsky added, “It’s good to see him. Obviously we miss him around here.”

We wish him the best on his journey, hoping that he finds all he is looking for. I wish nothing but happiness and health for him. I truly do. There is no maliciousness ever towards him especially considering what he did for this organization.

If it it wasn’t for Kelly, we wouldn’t have stuff like this:

You never want someone to fail. On nights when he plays the Suns, however, I hope for just that. Too many ex-players come to Phoenix and remind us that we made a mistake.

Thank you Kelly for reminding us we didn’t.