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Center of the Sun, Part 1: Could the Suns target a “mercenary” in free agency?

Your weekly roundup of Suns news, rumors, notes and videos from the prior week plus a preview of the week to come.

2021 NBA Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

With free agency starting today at 3 PM AZ time, it’s going to be a very busy week for the Suns’ front office. Even after a very strong showing in 2020-21, they still have some weak areas that need strengthening and there could be additional weaknesses added if some of their own free agents decide to jump ship and sign elsewhere.

Everything we’ve been hearing lately points to Chris Paul returning which alleviates the team’s biggest offseason concern. Number 2 is re-signing Cameron Payne. That one is still kind of up in the air but owning his Early Bird rights gives the Suns the ability to offer him up to $10 mil per year for 2 to 4 years. I have no doubts that Payne wants to return to Phoenix and that it is unlikely that another team offers him much more than that. Payne played extremely well at times but not quite well enough that anyone will likely throw huge amounts of cash his way.

If things go as planned with those two, the Suns will have 10 of their 15 roster spots locked in and can then work to bolster already identified weak spots. Torrey Craig may or may not be back next season. I think the Suns would like to get him back but I doubt they consider him a priority. Depending on what other teams might be willing to offer him, they may let him walk and look to other players to fill his roster spot. Re-signing Nader, Galloway, Moore and Kaminsky are likely even further down on the Suns’ to-do list than Craig although they’re all high-character guys that helped build the positive team culture that was a big plus for the Suns.

We all know that culture is a big deal with James Jones. The following is from an article by The Ringer published on March 4, 2021:

“It’s not like good organizations take clay and immediately mold it into something spectacular. They build a good foundation, and then grow it from there. A front office must find high-character, hardworking, and competitive professionals who love the game and want to have team success.”

While high-character guys will always be at the top of Jones’ want list, even he admitted in that same article that under certain circumstances guys who don’t quite fit that description could also be considered:

If you have team success, only then you can throw in a selfish individual — or as I call them, a mercenary — into the bunch and be able to withstand it.”

Have the Suns reached that point yet? Making it to the NBA Finals would seem to point in that direction but the Suns’ success has come on quickly and hasn’t yet proved to be sustainable... even though we fans might think otherwise.

So the question is, will Jones go after a player or players in free agency that not only fit team needs but are also a very good fit with the team culture over a possibly more talented player who might not mesh as well with the culture? If we’re talking about adding potential starters, I think it’s too soon to think about adding someone like this but if we’re talking about bench depth - specifically a backup big that won’t be a liability while Ayton is getting a breather - I think that could be a possibility this year.

There are likely a few players that Jones just wouldn’t want due to certain issues but don’t be shocked if the Suns add someone in free agency - or through a trade - that on the surface doesn’t quite appear to be a great fit with team culture.

2020-21 Season Highlights

Top 10 Phoenix Sun’s PLAYOFF Plays!

Landry Shamet Highlights! Welcome To Phoenix!!!

Quotes of the Week

“I don’t work out in the summer thinking that my season’s gonna be over after 82 games. I put myself in a mental space where every shot counts. I try to envision the physicality, even when I’m out there by myself. When you’re in there taking every rep serious as if it is the playoffs or as if it is the Finals, you get some really good work in.” - Devin Booker

“It became such a habit to work so hard, to put in all the extra work, that whenever he (Devin Booker) doesn’t do it, it just doesn’t feel right to him.” - Melvin Booker

“Now people know Book is tough. They knew he was a scorer, but he’s legit” - Deandre Ayton

News & Notes

Built For This.

Suns’ deal earns raves, critiques.

15 Potential Phoenix Suns Free Agent Targets. Zona Hoops

2021 NBA Free Agency: Ranking the Top 50 Players. Sports Illustrated

“Hey Ronnie2K, get these Adidas off my feet “: Mikal Bridges roasts NBA 2K for messing up the Phoenix Suns swingman’s shoes on their game. The Sports Rush

Will The Phoenix Suns Return To The NBA Finals In 2022? LWO Sports

This Week in Suns History

On August 3, 2005, following the Quentin Richardson trade to the NYK and while in the extended process of shipping Joe Johnson to Atlanta, the Phoenix Suns signed shooting guard Raja Bell to a five-year, $23.75 million contract. A hard-nosed defender, Bell also shot 39.0% from 3 the previous three seasons.

On August 8, 2000, Kevin Johnson retired from the Phoenix Suns for the second and final time. KJ was called back into service during the regular season after Jason Kidd broke his ankle. After his brief return to the court in Phoenix, KJ immediately went to the NBA on NBC studios to call games beginning in the 2000-01 regular season.

Suns Trivia

Phoenix will opt out of the 75th Anniversary mashup uniforms and retain their City Edition sets from this past season in 2021-22.

Danny Manning, the 1997–1998 Sixth Man Award winner for the Suns, was the first NBA player ever to returned to play after reconstructive surgeries on both knees.

Charles Barkley, who won two Gold Medals in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, was also invited to try out for the 1984 Olympics Team (before pro-athletes were allowed to play). Head coach Bobby Knight cut Barkley from the team due to “poor defense”.

  • “Yeah Ernie, its called defense, I mean I wouldn’t know anything about it personally but I’ve heard about it through the grapevine.” - Charles Barkley

Previewing the week ahead

Monday, August 2 - 2021-22 season Free Agency period begins 3 pm AZT.

Monday, August 2 - U.S. vs Spain Olympic Quarterfinals game 9:40 pm AZT (NBC)

Friday, August 6 - Moratorium ends at 9:01 am AZT. Free agents can officially be signed.

Sunday, August 8 - Summer Suns vs Lakers 7:30 pm AZT (ESPN2)

Important Future Dates

Aug. 9 - Suns vs Jazz 7:00pm (NBATV)

Aug. 12 - Suns vs Nuggets 7:00pm (NBATV)

Aug. 14 - Suns vs Trail Blazers 6:00pm (NBATV)

  • All 30 teams will play a fifth Summer League game to be scheduled. There will be no tournament. The teams with the two best records will play in the championship game.

September 28 - Training camps for 2021-22 season open.

October 19 - First day of the 2021-22 regular season.

February 20, 2022 - NBA All-Star Game.

April 10, 2022 - Regular season ends.

April 12-15, 2022 - Play-In Tournament.

April 16, 2022 - Playoffs begin.

June 23, 2022 - NBA Draft.

COTS2 : Inside the Suns with the Fantable will be published later this week.

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