I had a blast at my second Phoenix Suns Media Day getting to know some of the newer players while deepening my understanding of the returners. Plus, it was just great to be back in that building again in general and to see all the other wonderful Suns media and PR folks.
All that in mind, I wanted to use this as a mini-media day diary, propping up some of the players that made me perk up after the livestream portion ended. Starting with a former San Antonio Spur and potential starter:
Keita Bates-Diop is a basketball junkie
“Being able to be a defensive stopper on a winning team is almost like a dream,” is a pretty great way to start off a tenure if you’re looking for fan approval, not that Bates-Diop is.
Nevertheless, he has the skillset to potentially land in the starting lineup, where fans may quickly learn to appreciate what he’s able to do. Plus, he was San Antonio’s nominee for the NBA Cares Award a season ago, so lots to like here.
He also said “it was really quick decision” to choose Phoenix during free agency despite the Suns being limited to minimum contracts given the championship expectations here in the Valley. And for what it’s worth, even getting his ~$2.3 million this year will be a career-best number by about half a million, which could jump up another half million with an NBA Cup title this winter.
But what really stood out to me was how willing Bates-Diop was to go in-depth talking about the little quirks he’s learning, detailing some screen fundamentals I’m not used to hearing mentioned:
“Screening angles, rolling, where to look on the option; that’s going to be big here obviously... Learning how to set screens, get out of them, make some sort of miscommunication happen on the other team’s defensive end that makes it easier for [the stars] and me on the backside.”
Josh Okogie continues to be an absolute delight
Coming off his best season of basketball yet, Okogie is now the third-longest tenured Sun behind Devin Booker and Ish Wainright. He only signed 15 months ago, but he says some of the newcomers are “looking at me like a vet, but I’m still trying to learn my street names.”
You and me both, Josh. Downtown Phoenix can be so confusing.
Right before he took the podium, Chimezie Metu, who has played with Okogie for Team Nigeria in past FIBA events, was talking about the depth of the team, calling out some guys by name, including Okogie. Right on cue, Okogie pokes his head out from behind the backdrop with the biggest grin.
Good vibes and team chemistry already being built.
There was also the funny anecdote Okogie told about meeting head coach Frank Vogel at All-Star Weekend in 2020 where the two found themselves in an elevator. Okogie says Vogel turned to him and said, “I like your game. You’re tough.” Suns fans know all too well already.
Nassir Little will rap circles around you any day
There was quite an uproar when the Suns announced the new jersey numbers for the incoming players in the Deandre Ayton trade, and Nassir Little was set to don #25, made famous by Mikal Bridges.
Not to fret! Bridges said, “Take care of that 2-5,” and Little replied with, “I gotchu twin” which hit the soft spot from seeing Phoenix’s since-moved-on twins, Bridges and Cam Johnson. With the torch passed, Little may provide some of that same Bridges flavor to the court with his energy and defense.
Little defended the move further, pointing out how he was the 25th pick in his draft back in 2019. Still don’t like it? Grab a mic and take it up with him yourself:
nassir little told me about his passion for rapping which comes from his dad who was a “hip-hop junkie” and *not* from the years he shared with dame dolla in portland pic.twitter.com/bgm1fRyAah— damon (@iamdamonallred) October 3, 2023
If you’re interested in seeing the other questions I asked, there was Eric Gordon talking about what skill of his will most benefit the team and Drew Eubanks, an Oregon State alum, talking about the death of the PAC-12.