Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
Current Record: 31-27, 5th seed in the Western Conference
Offensive Rating: 113.4 (17th, ↓3)
Defensive Rating: 112.0 (7th, —)
Net Rating: +1.4 (9th, ↓1)
Well, that was a hell of a week, wasn’t it? I went from wanting to run through a wall for Mat Ishbia following his press conference to shaking with excitement until 2:00am following the Kevin Durant trade. This might have been my least productive work week in years, and that’s why I’m working on a Saturday.
Week 17 of the regular season brought the trade deadline, and the Suns were
surprising active participants in the affair. Mikal, Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Jae Crowder, and Dario Saric were all members of this organization this time last week. Now they are scattered across the NBA and we have two new, and one old, members on the team.
Welcome to Kevin Durant and Darius Bazley. Welcome back TJ Warren.
As if that wasn’t enough, the trade deadline was preceded by the Suns welcoming a new owner for the first time since 2004. Mat Ishbia spoke in front of a crowd of media personnel on Tuesday, and passionately referenced how he was going to rebuild this organization.
WATCH LIVE: Mat Ishbia's First Press Conference https://t.co/dMcKGUMf5F— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) February 8, 2023
Hours later, he did.
He made one of the most historic trades, not only the history of the franchise, but potentially the history of the NBA upon acquiring Kevin Durant. I’ll get into my thoughts on that later but take that in. Reflect for a moment. Go outside, take a deep breath, and exhale.
Kevin Durant is a Sun.
Chris Paul. Devin Booker. Deandre Ayton. Kevin Durant?! This doesn’t happen in Phoenix. This happens in Los Angeles or New York, Boston or Miami, not in the city that is 118° in June.
But it has happened. Now we anxiously await the arrive of KD in PHX.
There was still basketball to be played this week, and we saw the return of Devin Booker to the starting lineup, albeit on a minutes restriction. It was quite simple, when Booker played, the Suns won. When he didn’t, they didn’t. The team went 2-1 on the week with Booker sitting during the game against the Atlanta Hawks.
What did we learn this week? Josh Okogie might have a rotation spot in the postseason.
Despite what many national pundits believe, the Phoenix Suns do possess depth. Losing Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson hurts, but Dario Saric didn’t play often – 37 games, 14.4 minutes – and Jae Crowder didn’t play one minute this season. Other players have stepped up in their stead, and Josh Okogie is one of those players.
No, I don’t believe that Monty Williams will have Okogie as part of his normal substitution patterns in the postseason. Teams generally run with 8 to 10 guys, but the last two are substituted in when in-game adjustments need to be made.
Okogie is an adjustment kind of player. He possesses a tenacity on the defensive end that equates to instant offense. Those guys are always valuable come playoff time.
Could a three-point shot use a little tweaking? Sure. But if you look at his last 11 games, he’s shooting 43.8% from beyond the arc on 2.9 attempts. He can be a highly beneficial asset Monty can deploy in April, May, and hopefully June.
Josh Okogie 3PT stats by minutes played:— Jon Phipps (@jphipps88) February 11, 2023
Less than 10mins: 22 GP: 3/19 (15.8%)
Less than 20mins: 32 GP: 6/33 (18.2%)
More than 20mins: 16 GP: 22/52 (42.3%) pic.twitter.com/TudsP51Bdp
The Suns aren’t done adding depth, I assume, seeing as they have an open roster spot. The buyout market will be interesting. Names like Terrance Ross, Will Barton, Reggie Jackson, Russell Westbrook, and John Wall are just some of the names that will be attractive to fill that spot.
But don’t second-guess the depth of the Phoenix Suns. They are still without Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet. You have a sharpshooter and Damion Lee, an “eff stuff up” guy in Okogie, versatile depth at the five Bismack and Jock, and I’m sure we’re anxious to see what newly acquired Darius Bazley brings to the table.
So go on, ESPN. Question the depth of the Suns. I believe James Jones has put this in position for a deep postseason run.
Player of the Week
26.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists
70.2 FG%, 87.5 FT%
Back-to-back stellar weeks from DA.
Ayton has played much better since Robert Sarver hasn’t been leading the organization, hasn’t he? I’ve been facetious, but these past two weeks from DA have been just what the doctor ordered.
With Kevin Durant help on the way, Ayton will fit in nicely to his new role. What role is that? Third or fourth offensive option, although due to his efficiency he will be most likely third in points, and the interior defense of presence that is sustainable in the playoffs. That is where Deandre Ayton’s true value lies. You can’t play him off the court in the postseason like so many other big men.
This week he took advantage of small front lines, and only the Hawks could contain him on the boards. Sure, he had only two rebounds in that game. But go back and watch it. It wasn’t due to lack of effort, rather, it was strategic game planning by Nate McMillan and the Hawks.
Atlanta was not going to allow Ayton access to the boards. Monty Williams started Jock Landale, who isn’t necessarily athletic. He doesn’t know how to navigate as the four as well as Torrey Craig does. He was a step slow to the rebounds while Atlanta boxed out DA, and that’s why the Suns got killed on the glass.
I don’t put that one on DA.
Highlights/Post Game Podcasts
SUNS at NETS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | February 7, 2023:
421. Suns (30-26) @ Nets Post Game Pod:
SUNS at HAWKS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | February 9, 2023:
424. Suns (30-27) @ Hawks Post Game Pod:
SUNS at PACERS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | February 10, 2023:
425. Suns (31-27) @ Pacers Post Game Pod with Fanning the Flames:
News & Notes
The Athletic: Inside new Suns owner Mat Ishbia’s drive to direct ‘an elite NBA franchise’ in Phoenix
ESPN: ‘We’re going to win together’: Ishbia formally takes over Suns
Arizona Sports: Suns owner Ishbia’s culture commitment tested by Isiah Thomas report
Total Pro Sports: Kyrie Irving Could Join Kevin Durant In Phoenix, NBA Insider Suggests
Burn City Sports: Mikal Bridges reveals how he found out he was traded
ESPN: Suns expecting newly acquired Kevin Durant to provide ‘jolt’
Arizona Sports: Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson thank Phoenix in farewell message to Suns, fans
Dime Mag: Report: The Grizzlies Offered The Nets Four First-Round Picks For Mikal Bridges
AZ Central: ‘Phoenix is on fire right now’: Charles Barkley on Kevin Durant trade
The Wall Street Journal: Trades Like the Kevin Durant Deal Never Happen. Here’s Why This One Did.
Hoops Hype: Mavericks, Suns interested in Terrence Ross
Quotes of the Week
“This was the dream.” — Mat Ishbia
“The Phoenix Suns definitely are the favorites in the Western Conference right now.” — Stephen A. Smith
“Did a lot of crying already. Once I know my guys, the Twins are good. I’m back to business.” — Deandre Ayton
“Everybody was in the hallway. We all started talking and we keep talking. It just shows how close the guys are and we are. We were out talking until 2 a.m. or something like that, 2:30, 3.” — Bismack Biyombo
“I got to see them before they took off and it was emotional. Those two are near and dear to my heart. They literally are like my family.” — Monty Williams
“We’ve got to finish the job. The expectation are way higher and it’s just a whole new team. The vibe has changed and I can’t wait to step on the court and go into my 1st battle with those guys.” — Deandre Ayton
“I didn’t know he got traded. I thought when the trade was closed, we still got guys. When I was getting on the bus, somebody told me, ‘Have you talked to your boy. He’s on his way to the airport.’” — Bismack Biyombo on Dario Saric getting traded
“I felt like he never got a fair shake. I didn’t give him a fair shake.” — Monty Williams on Jalen Smith
“He’s a guy that loves the game. Plays the game at a high level. One of the greatest to ever touch the basketball. His smarts and intelligence is what he’s known for and showcased in this league since he first came in.” — Damion Lee on Kevin Durant
“The realization about who we are going to be going forward, that was there tonight, and we have a number of guys, if not all of our guys, who are just sore losers.” — Monty Williams
“All he does is watch basketball. I’ve been with him a few times, been over to his house a few times. That’s all it is, highlights and games on.” — Devin Booker on Kevin Durant
Number of offense rebounds averaged by the Suns in Week 17, second in the league behind the Atlanta Hawks,
Injury Status Report
Cameron Payne (right foot sprain) is OUT
Landry Shamet (hip) is OUT
Kevin Durant (MCL sprain) is OUT
Yes. KD on the injury report. I’ll be pinching myself over here, don’t mind me.
This Week in Suns History
February 17, 2009
Remember Terry Porter?
I’m sure some of you do, and you instantly roll your eyes and remember the coach who went 28-23 in 51 games at the helm while trying to re-invent the Suns offense. Others might not know who I’m talking about. If you don’t...ah, I just want to tussle the hair on your young head and tell you a story.
That story is for another time, however, as I want to focus on the game that occurred following Porter’s departure. The Suns parted ways with Porter and hired Alvan Gentry as the Suns new coach. Gentry had spent years as an assistant under Seven Seconds or Less architect Mike D’Antoni and his promotion was a step towards retiring that offensive philosophy.
Under Porter in the 2008-09 season, Phoenix was averaging 104.4 points, a far cry from the 110.1 points the team had averaged the previous season.
In the Suns first game with Alvan Gentry as head coach, the team scored 140 points. In regulation. The team had 81 points by halftime over the Los Angeles Clippers and boat raced them to the tune of a 140-100 victory.
7SOL was back.
Tuesday, February 15 — Phoenix Suns vs. Sacramento Kings
Thursday, February 16 — Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Clippers
A “light” schedule awaits the Suns next week in that they have two games on the slate. The All Star break is just around the bend, and numerous players are surely awaiting a chance to take a break, relax, and spend a few days away from the game.
In order to get there, however, they must play against two teams that are in the thick of the Western Conference standings.
The week starts on Valentine’s Day. Thanks, Suns. Now I have to spend another V-Day ignoring my wife and trying to convince her it’s okay that I’m watching the Suns.
Sacramento comes to town, as team Phoenix has played just once thus far this season, defeating them 122-117 on November 28. This is the first of three more meetings with the Kings, a team the Suns are looking up to in the standings.
The Kings have been impressive this season and are sending Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox to Salt Lake City for the All Star Game this season.
First Kings All-Star duo since Brad Miller & Peja Stojakovic in 2004 ⭐️⭐️ pic.twitter.com/wbwqqQhdLp— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) February 10, 2023
Sac Town scores the most points per game, and do so by moving the ball around (5th in the NBA in assists), scoring on the interior (67.5 FG% inside five feet, 4th best in the league), and shooting 36.3% from deep (7th best).
Sacramento was fairly quiet at the trade deadline, sending David Minchineau (who?) to the Brooklyn Nets for Kessler Edwards. That was it. GM Monte McNair likes what he has and is looing to break the longest playoff drought in pro sports this season. He’s not rocking the boat to do so.
The Suns end the first half of the season by playing the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that did plenty at the deadline. They parted ways with John Wall (sent to the Houston Rockets), Reggie Jackson (Charlotte Hornets), and Luke Kennard (Memphis Grizzlies). They received back Bones Hyland (Denver Nuggets), Mason Plumlee, and Eric Gordon.
The Clippers have been healthy for the majority of the season and it wasn’t working. So they shuffled the deck around Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Weekly Prediction: 1-1
It’s a short week with not a plethora of options to choose from relative to their Week 18 record, but I’m going with 1-1 this week. I don’t know which game it will be, but Phoenix will drop one of these. Entering the week, the Suns are 8-0 against Pacific Division.
What will the Suns record be in the short Week 18?
This poll is closed
Bringing it Home
I spent the back half of last week’s Center of the Sun article referencing the simple fact that I never get what I want when it comes to sports. I was preparing myself to once again be disappointed in the Suns trade deadline decisions, noting that James Jones typically is satisfied with the assets he has and doesn’t do much to approve the fringe of the roster.
I failed to get what I wanted once again. This year, I received more than I ever could dream of.
The Suns’ acquisition of Kevin Durant is a game changer. How often do you see someone of his caliber get traded, especially mid-season? Answer? Never. The Phoenix Suns organization has accomplished what the vast majority of us believed to be impossible. They acquired somebody who instantly and put you in the conversation as a title contender. Instantly.
I couldn’t be more excited.
Kevin Durant was on a prestigious list that for the first time in my life, he is no longer part of. That is a list of basketball players that I love that are not a member of the Phoenix Suns.
Michael Jordan. Allen Iverson. Kevin Durant. By era, that’s the list.
While I share the sentiment that the majority of the fan base does with the loss of Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson, the acquisition of Kevin Durant is special. I think back to Tokyo. I think about how it felt to root for Kevin Durant as a member of my team.
It was fun watching basketball and having Kevin Durant on your side. He remains my favorite non-Sun in the NBA.— John Voita (@DarthVoita) August 7, 2021
Back to reality…
That is now true.
I’m excited for the direction in which this organization is heading and I’m a ecstatic for what the future holds. Kudos to James Jones. Kudos to Mat Ishbia. Kudos to all of you who get to experience this moment in Suns history. They are few and far between and hopefully it leads to the ultimate fan experience.
Winning a title.