- There’s a “growing belief” that Brandon Knight would draw a bigger trade return for the Suns than Eric Bledsoe, given Bledsoe’s injury history, writes Kyler. ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently indicated that Knight would be a more likely trade candidate than Bledsoe for the club. Still, sources tell Kyler that the Suns like the “vibe” and culture in Phoenix right now, and are in no rush to clear their backcourt logjam.
- Marquese Chriss may be a 19-year-old rookie, but he is impressing his Suns teammates by standing up to veterans in preseason games, relays Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. His latest skirmish was with Mavericks’ center Andrew Bogut on Friday night. “’Quese has to show that he ain’t scared,” said Eric Bledsoe. “Once one of those players or a veteran player feels like he got fear in you, as a young player, it will ride you for the rest of your career. ‘Quese is setting the tone early.”
- Suns rookie point guard Tyler Ulis has been receiving extensive preseason minutes as the team wants to get him as much experience as possible, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes. “It’s perfect for me,” Ulis said of averaging 17 minutes in four preseason games with two preseason games to go. “I know I’m getting valuable minutes right now. They want to see what I can do. I’m learning more and more. [Coach] Earl [Watson] is teaching me which spots to go at. This is fun. It’s a process. I’m happy to learn and it’s better to learn in a game than watching.”
- Suns coach Earl Watson believes shooting guard Devin Booker is a star in the making, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic relays. Booker lit up the Trail Blazers for 34 points in three quarters this preseason and Watson marvels at his scoring ability, Coro continues. “He scored every way possible, so you like everything that he did,” Watson told Coro. “You can tell 19 years of age and his maturity and patience in the half-court and the way he can score is very unique. I’m not sure there’s a lot of people his age or a lot of people in the NBA who can do that.”
All three players signed with Phoenix on September 25th, but none saw any playing time during the team’s first three preseason games. They will all likely wind up with the Suns’ D-League affiliate, suggests Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. (Twitter link).
Bakumanya was an international early-entry candidate who hails from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was part of the Rockets’ summer league team and spent last season in France.
Cooke has a history with the organization. He played for the Suns’ D-League affiliate in Bakersfield last year and was part of the Phoenix entry in the summer league.
Harrison went undrafted after playing college ball at Tulsa and earning All-American Athletic Conference second team honors.
All teams must cut their rosters down to 15 players by October 24th.
- As P.J. Tucker makes his return from back surgery, his focus is not on his impending free agency after the season, but on helping the Suns make it to the postseason, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes. “This might be the most highly motivated year I’ve had in my career,” Tucker said. “People tend to think you get comfortable because you’ve been on a team so long. I’m pushing myself. I’ve been on the sideline pushing my teammates. I’ve been here a long time and I haven’t made the playoffs yet. It may be a contract year, but more than anything, I want to make playoffs. That’s the only thing I’m thinking about right now.”
- The Suns believe Tyler Ulis can be part of the team’s long-term plans and they plan to bring him along slowly, Tyler Emerick of NBA.com writes. Ulis may not see many minutes this season because of the team’s backcourt depth, but coach Earl Watson has a plan for the Kentucky product. “He has to be close to our coaches – in the next seat over,” Watson said. “He has to read the play calls of the other team. He has to call them back on the bench and learn the other team’s offense. So when he gets the opportunity, he’s well-prepared mentally.”
If the Suns have interest in moving point guard Brandon Knight, a strong start would help create a “palatable” market for him, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.com (Links here). Knight, who has four years and approximately $57MM remaining on his contract, has become a backup behind Eric Bledsoe and shooting guard Devin Booker.
The Suns’ current blueprint has Knight, who is not a classic point guard, transitioning into a Jamal Crawford, instant-offense type of role player. That wasn’t the original plan when they gave up a protected first-round pick they possessed from the Lakers and forwarded it to the Sixers, Lowe points out. There isn’t much of a market for Knight now, but that could change if he plays well early on, due to the lack of quality wings around the league, Lowe adds. The club is not interested in moving Bledsoe, sources told Lowe.
Former UNC standout and 2005 lottery pick Rashad McCants hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since 2009, but he has played in Puerto Rico, China, Brazil, Lebanon, the Philippines, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic since then. Could his next stop be back in America? According to Chris Reichert of Upside and Motor (Twitter link), McCants may sign with the D-League in the hopes of making his way back onto an NBA roster.
While we wait to see what McCants’ future holds, let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the league…
- According to a report from Marca in Spain (translation via Sportando), Sergio Llull‘s buyout with Real Madrid was increased from five million euros to 12 million euros in his most recent contract extension with the team. This runs counter to a 2015 report that suggested Llull’s NBA buyout had been reduced with his new deal. If it’s true, it will make a signing even trickier for the Rockets, who would like to bring the Spanish star to Houston in 2017.
- The NBA D-League is making changes to the way it populates its pool of draft-eligible players. Adam Johnson of D-League Digest has the details, along with his thoughts on the adjustments.
- Kenneth Faried, who reportedly remains on the trade block in Denver, is one of the Western Conference players most likely to be traded this season, according to Kevin Pelton and a group of ESPN.com writers (Insider-only link). In addition to Faried, the list also features multiple Suns and Kings veterans.
- ESPN.com’s NBA Insiders also took a look at the Eastern Conference players most likely to be traded this season, including Jaylen Brown, Mario Hezonja, and a pair of Sixers bigs.
10:16am: Cole drew some NBA interest from the Cavs, Nuggets, and Suns, but no team was willing to offer him more than the minimum, according to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net, who adds that Cole’s deal in China is believed to be worth about $5MM.
8:56am: Norris Cole is headed overseas for the coming season, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando, who passes along a report from Zhang Duo (Twitter link). International basketball reporter David Pick confirms (via Twitter) that Cole has signed with the Shandong Golden Stars of the Chinese Basketball Association, per the guard’s agent.
Cole, who turns 28 this month, appeared in 45 games for the Pelicans last season, starting 23 of them. He set new career highs with 10.6 PPG, 3.7 APG, and 3.4 RPG, though his FG% (.405) and 3PT% (.324) were a little below his career marks. Before joining the Pelicans, the former first-round pick had spent three and a half seasons in Miami with the Heat.
A recent report suggested that Cole was drawing interest from Cleveland as the team considered adding point guard depth, but the Cavs ultimately decided to add Toney Douglas, perhaps prompting Cole to accept an offer elsewhere.
By signing with Shandong, Cole will be joining the team that signed NBA free agent Jason Thompson earlier in the offseason. According to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net (via Twitter), Cole’s deal is believed to have an NBA out. The Chinese regular season typically ends in February, with the playoffs wrapping up in March, so assuming Cole didn’t sign a multiyear pact – which seems like a safe bet – he should have the opportunity to return to the NBA before the end of the 2016/17 campaign.