It was a busy 18-hour or so span when the Phoenix Suns went from being one of three teams without a single two-way slot filled to having both filled by Duane Washington Jr. and Ish Wainright, but beyond that we’re reaching a bit of a dead period in the offseason.
Even now that we’ve reached August and camp looms, a couple loose ends still need tying, so we’ll touch on each here.
Kevin Durant’s opportunity to play hardball
Speaking of those Durant scenarios that Crowder may play a part in, we finally have some action that may push the whole deal forward in one direction or another. Steve Bulpett at Heavy.com had the report, featuring a few key points:
“What I’m hearing is that KD is going to meet with the owner this week,” the source told Heavy Sports. “He’s going to go directly to the owner, Joe Tsai, sometime this week. We’ll see how that works... I have no idea what’s going to come of that meeting. There are some things that KD is unhappy about, and I’m not sure any of that gets fixed here. But maybe it does.”
At an apparent fork in the road in the trade discussions, this meeting can go one of two ways in my eyes:
- Durant starts playing hardball, insisting he won’t play for any team other than “preferred destination” Phoenix.
- The relationship is mended and Durant returns to play for the Nets.
I continue to firmly believe there’s no ending with Durant on another one of the 28 teams; it’s going to be Phoenix or Brooklyn. Those 28 other teams appear to be scared off from even putting their names in the hat, as well.
A personnel exec from another club expressed disappointment with the process... “I think there’s some teams that aren’t very happy that when they talk to Brooklyn it gets in the papers,” he said. “That doesn’t help. I’ve talked with a couple of teams that are not happy with the rumors that creep out of there through all this. It’s not a good way to do business.”
Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks may have flown too close to the sun in trying to drive up a bidding war by using the media any chance he got. Suddenly, the Suns’ package of picks and salary filler seems a whole lot more intriguing since it’s the only offer, especially if Durant does activate “hardball” mode.
The anonymous source quoted in the story made the case that Durant won’t activate “hardball” mode, saying “If they can’t get a deal done, he’s just going to say, ‘[Expletive] it,’ and he’ll play — and he’ll play hard like he always does. I know KD, and he’s not going to sit out or anything like that. He’s not that kind of guy. There’s no way.”
We may see later this week whether Durant is that kind of guy or not, and for Suns fans’ sake, we should hope he is.
An update on the Sarver investigation
Since we last heard from Adam Silver on Jul. 12 that the investigation is in its final stage, there have been a couple small developments in the Sarver storyline.
Former Sun Goran Dragic spoke out about Sarver’s frugality a week later when he shared that after missing the All-Star game in 2013-14 (the season in which he was named to the All-NBA Third Team), Sarver told Dragic he was happy he missed out.
Sarver would’ve had to pay a $1 million signing bonus if Dragic did make the squad.
Another week later, Rev. Al Sharpton — who spoke out against Sarver when the allegations were first made public — spoke once again, expressing frustrations with the never-ending nature of the investigation:
Enough is enough. I was patient when the NBA told me the Sarver investigation would be wrapped up by April; but April came and went. Then they told me in June to wait a few more weeks; but June came and went. It is now almost August, and there is no end in sight on the Sarver investigation.
That point about a June target date matches something I heard about a month ago that there were people around the league preparing for that to be the drop date as well. It, as Sharpton notes, came and went, and August became the new target date.
We’re in August.
Final roster spot remaining open... for now
I was included in the group of many that believed the last full roster spot was being saved for Wainright, who was recently brought back on “just” a two-way slot. Without an obvious candidate on deck for the final spot now, what are the options left?
For the believers enduring on the Kevin Durant front, there’s always the possibility that if it happens and Phoenix loses a lot of depth in the process, players around the league might be intrigued by the opportunity to join a contender and ask to be bought out. FLEX From Jersey alluded to as much in a recent podcast, stating as many as three players around the league would be interested.
Given the financial constraints of Phoenix’s current payroll as well as the lack of free agents still on the market, the other options are few and far between. The Suns can only offer minimum contracts at this point, which isn’t the worst thing since the remaining options aren’t necessarily working up bidding wars.
Dennis Schroder is the biggest name still available, and he performed well as recently as last month representing Germany in the 2023 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, including a match against Poland where he put up 38 points (10-25 shooting) in 31 minutes in a 10-point win.
However, there’s the point about Schroder having arguably his best NBA season playing alongside Chris Paul in Oklahoma City, so if Paul had interest in a reunion, it likely would’ve happened already.
I personally believe that after training camps are underway and cuts are made, there will be a value player to be added; that’s the kind of luxury afforded to contending teams — players want to play for your team, especially when your organization includes Monty Williams and Devin Booker.
The thing that really sucks about August in the NBA is it takes a lot patience, which is sometimes easier said than done. But if in April, you were told that a 64-18 team would successfully run it back with Ayton on a smaller deal than it could’ve been, I think most of us would be happy with the offseason that happened.