Earlier in the week, Brian Windhorst reported that former Phoenix Suns center — and fan favorite — Aron Baynes would be signing with the Brisbane Bullets in the Australian National Basketball League (NBL) “with goal of returning to NBA” down the road. This is no small feat for Baynes, who’s had a long road back to the court.
While representing his nation of Australia in the Tokyo Olympics, Baynes had a freak accident falling while running to the locker room after a game, causing a spinal injury that left him unable to walk for a time. Windhorst explained:
“[Baynes] spent the next two months in hospitals in Japan and Australia before being able to return home and didn’t pick up a basketball until January.”
Now, after months of “grueling rehabilitation” and a workout in Las Vegas in front of NBA representatives, Baynes finds himself back in Australia with Brisbane, who finished 8th out of 10 in the NBL (10-18) in 2021-22.
Baynes chose Brisbane over European and Chinese offers due to a smooth road back to the Association with the NBL season ending in February, and the two-year contract he signed contains an NBA out, so it’ll be interesting to circle back around the trade deadline and see if he deserves a spot back in the league.
Then, even more news about former Suns broke on Friday that Tyler Johnson would be joining Baynes in Brisbane. Johnson played 44 games for Phoenix and was part of the “Valley Boyz” era.
Over Johnson’s final eight out of a total 13 games played in his first Phoenix season, the Suns went 5-3, the first glimpse of winning in Devin Booker’s career. Johnson reached double figures in seven of those 13 games, with a high mark of 29. He dished out at least five assists six times, including a high mark of 7.
Brisbane head coach James Duncan stated in a press release:
“He brings so much to the table and his shooting, court vision and versatility will help our team tremendously. He has good instincts defensively and wants to compete.”
The Phoenix-to-Australia connection is well-established at this point with Torrey Craig, who is a Brisbane alumnus himself, the two former Suns joining now, as well as the three NBL players who played for Phoenix’s Summer League squad: Duop Reath, Dejan Vasiljevic, and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr.
Other former Suns with NBL ties include Miles Plumlee and Josh Childress, both casualties of the decade-long playoff drought in Phoenix.
If you want to catch any Brisbane games to see Baynes, Johnson, or possible future NBA guys, the NBL streams their games in full on their YouTube page.