Welcome to the weekly news roundup of the week that was and the week yet to come for your Phoenix Suns.
Two weeks of 2023-24 Phoenix Suns basketball are in the books, and while the team doesn’t look like the team you watched the last few years or the team you expected to watch this season, quite yet, the games keep on a coming anyway.
Here’s the WEEK AT A GLANCE.
What a week. It started with a crazy how’d that happen ending when the Suns led for all but 1 second, but they picked the wrong second to be behind. Two days later, they got an unleashed Wemby with his first unstoppably great NBA game. Even the one return game from Booker (31 points, 13 assists, 9 rebounds) wasn’t enough for a win. Then it was high-flying Philly where the Suns didn’t even stand a chance.
Thankfully, Detroit was on the schedule next and the Suns finally got that win. Booker out again, Beal still out, so it’s still Big One lineup. This time, the whole team was sick of losing and they gutted out a necessary win on the road. “I think we all had that mentality. Everybody was making plays tonight,” said Durant, who led the way with 41 points while 5 other players added at least 98 points, led by Eric Gordon’s 21.
In bad news, all Devin Booker got out of his one return game was a loss and a new injury, this time to his calf. All these things are connected (foot to ankle to calf), in that when something isn’t fully 100% healed, other parts of the body overwork. Book hadn’t been able to fully ramp back up conditioning, and here we go. Best case he’s back practicing hard in a week or two, but this time he needs to make sure he’s really really ready for before taking the court again. Booker’s two games this year have been stellar: averaging an incredible 31.5 points, 10.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds per game with 57/53/100 splits.
In GOOD news, it looks like Bradley Beal is on the doorstep to returning, possibly as early as the next game. “I’m excited for him. I know he can’t wait to start,” said Durant on Beal’s soon return.” Ya’ll haven’t seen Beal much yet. He’s not a pure point guard of course, but healthy Beal is good for 25/5/5 with a chance to double any and all of those numbers any night. And that’s a nice add to the Big One lineup. He will relieve Durant of a lot of those stagnant ‘toss it to Kev who we already know is triple teamed’ possessions. Clutch time should look better too.
Notable Quotes from the Week that Was
Josh Okogie, recently demoted to bench role: “For me. it’s just winning the game.”
Vogel, on relieving some of Durant’s playmaking load: “We’ve got a point of emphasis to play through our fives a little bit more.” (Nurkic 2nd on team with 4.3 a/g; Eubanks 2.3 a/g)
Jusuf Nurkic to AZCentral/Duane: “They want me to play a certain role. I’m trying to do the best I can.”
Note: if you want to hear Nurkic encapsulate everything I put in my Sunday morning column on what’s happening out there, check out Duane Rankin’s shared full interview with Nurk from yesterday postgame.
Eric Gordon, via Duane Rankin on road in Philly: “It’s (Suns 2-3 record) nothing to be too worried about. Still got 76 games left. You can’t be too discouraged. Guys are in and out but it is always good to figure out ways to win when guys are out.”
Durant, on Bradley Beal getting healthy, via AZCentral/Duane: “I know he can’t wait to start.”
Vogel: “Stay together. No excuses. Gotta be better. Gotta win games with guys out.”
Suns Around the Web
- NBA.com: Durant passes Hakeem for 12th on All-Time scoring list
- AZCentral/Duane Rankin: Five things learned from win over Pistons, including Vogel’s comments on Beal and Booker status
- Arizona Sports: Suns great and Ring of Honor member Walter Davis has passed away #RIP
- Shams/John Wall podcast: John Wall, currently out of NBA, would love to join the Phoenix Suns to help the playmaking behind Book/Beal
- NBA.com with more on the Suns ‘El Valle’ city edition jersey
Good Bright Side reads you probably missed
Each week I’ll highlight some Bright Side articles that didn’t get as many eyeballs as they should have. It’s worth your time to give these unique takes a look before they’re lost in the ether forever.
- Damon Allred dives into Yuta Watanabe’s constant motion leading to production
- Rod, OldAz, Brrrberry on silver linings, rotation thoughts and Ring of Honor
- Stephen dives into Kevin Durant’s usage, from Williams to Vogel, that forces too many stagnant possessions and too little movement on the catch
- Stephen talks about these early big minutes from the bench can lead to late-season success
It’s just here for easy reference. I’ll let you know if anything changes, and I’ll leave all the ‘what does the second apron mean to the Suns stuff here’ too. Just look for a Suns Weekly for a reminder any time.
Contracts in black ink are guaranteed, meaning the Suns have to pay those salaries whether or not the player is on the team, and would only be offset by the salary that player would get by signing with another team.
If Johnson is not outright claimed, the Suns are still 2.4 million over the second tax line.
They will have to make a trade later in the year that nets -$2.5+ million in return salary to get under the second apron.
*Note: Spotrac has the Suns still $4.869 million over the second apron. I got most of the way there realizing Goodwin’s non-guaranteed portion counts against this number, but still looking for the other 800k.
Team owner Ishbia has said over and over again he doesn’t care about the cost, but roster management gets more and more difficult if they stay over. Keep reading...
What does the ‘second tax apron’ mean to the Suns?
Today through end of regular season:
- cannot sign any high-salary buyout guys (who had more than $12.4 million or so)
- cannot acquire > 10% more salary than they send out in any trades
If they are still over when the 2023-24 regular season ends:
- cannot pay more than league minimum for free agents from another team
- cannot trade the “seven years out” first round pick (2031)
- cannot acquire any players in sign-and-trade
- cannot send out cash in any trades
- One-for-one player trades trades only (no salary aggregation of multiple players)
- every trade must return same or less player salary back to Suns
If they remain over the second apron twice in the following four years (i.e. three of five), starting NEXT season:
- those future frozen draft picks they keep are moved to the END of the first round (they can later be unfrozen if the team gets below the second apron 3 out of 4 years)
In short, trades get TOUGH for the teams over the second apron, especially after this season ends. That’s they these biggest spenders are accumulating the biggest salaries they can right now so they can at least start from the top on the trade.
Important Future Dates
- Nov. 10: Suns NBA In-Season Tournament slate begins; Suns host Lakers
- Dec. 7: NBA In-Season Tournament Semifinals
- Dec. 9: NBA In-Season Tournament Finals for inaugural NBA Cup
- Feb 8: Trade Deadline
- Feb. 16-18: NBA All-Star Weekend 2024
- April 14: 2023-24 regular season ends
The Week Ahead
- 1 Away at Chicago Bulla
- 2 at Home: Friday vs. Lakers, Sunday vs. OKC Thunder
The Bulls are 2-5 this year and there’s more talk about blowing up the team than making a run for the playoffs. So, I’d say this is a pretty good opponent for the Suns, all things considered. Could the Suns get their best game of the year? Sure. They’ve all been healthy and could cook, so the Suns need their best road game yet. Maybe Beal joins them? We’ll see.
Then they head home for the weekend against two VERY tough teams. Pray for Beal.
In-season tourney begins for the Suns on Friday, against the Lakers
Last week the In-season tournament’ started for the NBA Cup for some teams. This is something that
soccer football has done forever. Just a way to spice up the regular season for players and fans. And you saw last Friday — all those games were much more competitive than they would have been because it’s pool play, so one loss hurts chances to make the next round in December. Here’s more on how it works, including tiebreakers.
Except there’s a problem for anyone looking down on the game from above.... they came up with these strange courts and uniform combos for the occasion. Probably doesn’t matter to the players due to floor-level perspective, but watching from the stands or TV makes it hard to even follow the ball. That’s something that
soccer football overseas doesn’t do.
The Suns jump into the fray start this on Friday, hosting the Lakers in Footprint Center. Again, it’s single elimination. Here’s the images you’ll see.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have a friend like Paul and to have been able to obtain this jersey while attending a doctor's appointment today. With all of the small embellishments scattered throughout, the Jersey appears even nicer in person.— (@Suns_Armband) November 2, 2023
El Valle Phoenix Suns… pic.twitter.com/8mOM3L3bdu
Purple and black jerseys on purple court... gonna be a challenge.
This week’s poll
What’s the Suns record this week, in three games?
Predict the Suns record this week vs. Bulls, Lakers and Thunder
This poll is closed